Nomesia Iria Oral History Interview

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Nomesia Iria Oral History Interview


Oral History Interview with Nomesia Iria, April 18, 2018

Biographical Note:

Born on the Azorean island of São Miguel in 1953; Ms. Iria’s mother was a homemaker; her father worked as a chauffeur; similar to many children of this period, Ms. Iria attended public school through the fourth grade; eventually she married and had two children while living on São Miguel; in 1980 she, her husband, and two children immigrated to the United States, settling initially in New Bedford, Massachusetts; at the suggestion of her husband’s brother, who lived in Lowell and worked in a higher-paying electronics job, she and her family moved there; for a short time Ms. Iria commuted to Lawrence, Massachusetts, for a job in a shoe factory; however, upon obtaining a job in the Prince Pasta factory, which was located in South Lowell and had nearly 400 workers, the majority being Portuguese; she began working as a machine operator close to her home in the city’s “Back Central” neighborhood; owned by the Pellegrino family, Prince Pasta had a company union; in 1995 a group of Prince Pasta workers, including Ms. Iria, campaigned to affiliate with United Electrical Workers Machine of Workers of America (UE) and, in an intensely fought union election, the workers voted in favor of the UE;  Iria was then elected chief steward; two years later the Pellegrino’s sold the company to the Ohio-based Borden Corporation; soon thereafter Borden cut a number of employee benefits and instituted a 12-hour work day; despite union concessions Borden suddenly closed the Lowell factory; Ms. Iria joined with other workers, as well as city and elected officials in an attempt to save the plant, but to no avail; she subsequently worked as an organizer for the UE, before returning to a job as a machine operator at a beverage company; she remains involved in community work.

Scope and Contents:

Interview conducted by local historian Mehmed Ali; included is information on Ms. Iria’s family on São Miguel, prior to her immigration to the United States; much of the interview covers her working career in factories, initially in New Bedford and Lawrence, and then Lowell; she discusses in some detail her experiences at the Prince Pasta factory, the nature of the work and the division of jobs by gender and nationality, the change from a family-owned business to a corporate-controlled manufacturing facility, as well as the change from a company union to one affiliated with the United Electrical Workers Machine of America; her role as a union organizer and shop steward is discussed, as well as her attempts, along with coworkers, to keep the plant open following the Borden Corporation’s sudden decision to shut it down; she also discusses the tensions within her family stemming from the demanding roles as mother, wife, homemaker, worker, and union activist.



UMass Lowell, Center for Lowell History




Iria, Nomesia


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Ali, Mehmed, “Nomesia Iria Oral History Interview,” Portuguese American Digital Archives, accessed December 6, 2021,

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