Worker’s Rights for Women Oral History Project

This collection chronicles the life of Suzanne Feliciano and her role in unionizing the Kenco Plastics factory in Owensboro during the 1970s. Feliciano first worked in the G.E. factory in Henderson right out of high school, which was unionized. She then got married and had two children and then divorced and subsequently got a job with Kenco plastics in October 1976. The vast majority of factory floor workers were women.

At the time that Feliciano started working there, workers were beginning to investigate getting union representation. 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). Between 1977 and 1978, the plant saw its first female foreman and had several walk-outs or strikes between 1976 and 1980, while Feliciano worked there.

Feliciano became a union steward and after negotiating a 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, Feliciano 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, and the couple moved to Lexington and Feliciano attended the University of Kentucky and obtained a degree in political science. Feliciano then got a job with the Southeast Women’s Employment Coalition, where she  worked from 1986 – 1888. In this role, Feliciano was responsible for setting up training and advocating for better employment opportunities for women in road construction. In 1991, she attended Western Kentucky University and earned her bachelor’s degree in Photojournalism and has worked in that field (mainly for newspapers) since the mid-1990s.