Kentucky Historical Society

Oral History Interview with Suzanne Feliciano

Date of Interview: 

Wed, 05/30/2012





General Electric, Radio tubes, Fort Campbell, Ft. Campbell, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Whirlpool, Kentucky Electronics, Punch press, Minimum wage, Arbitration, Arbitrators, Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, United Food and Commercial Workers, Southern School for Union Women, Center for Labor Education and Research, Knights of Labor Union Band, University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, Women employees, Women--Employment, Feminism, Women's rights, Women--Wages, Labor unions, World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, United Mine Workers

Call Number: 


142 minutes. Suzanne first worked in the G.E. factory in Henderson right out of high school, which had a labor union. She then got married and had 2 children and then divorced at which point she got a job with Kenco plastics in October 1976. The factory floor workers were almost exclusively women and just starting to investigate getting union representation when she was hired. The workers joined the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchers union first and within a few years switched to the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW local #227). During this time the plant saw their first female foreman (1977/1978) and had several walk-outs or strikes between 1976 and 1980, while Suzanne worked there. Suzanne became a union steward and after negotiating return from an employee walk-out, she was fired by the company. She and her union requested arbitration, which she won and was awarded her job back with full back-pay for time lost. During another strike, Suzanne was arrested for civil disobedience. She was peripherally active in the University of Kentucky’s Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR), meeting her husband Ronnie Abshire who was a CLEAR employee during a union training in Henderson. They became engaged and married in 1980, where she moved to Lexington and attended the University of Kentucky earning a degree in political science. Feliciano then got a job with the Southeast Women’s Employment Coalition, where she worked from 1986 – 1888 setting up training and advocating for better employment opportunities for women in road construction. In 1991 she attended WKU and earned her bachelor’s degree in Photojournalism and has worked in that field (mainly for newspapers) since the mid1990s.

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