Sporting a yellow "Go Teamsters" T-shirt, Vicki workers like an evangelist, her fingers stabbing the air, her voice loud and insistent.
"We don't ask anyone to join us," she shouts. "We're here to offer a product and if you gets us you'll be damned lucky . . . because we're getting calls from around the state."
Such a claim from a union organizer seems unlikely in North Carolina, a right-to-work state that has the second lowest manufacturing wages in the country. But the Teamsters are making surprising inroads here.
And Saporta, a 26-years-old organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is probably the best - and most unconventional - organizer the Teamsters, or any other union, has in the state.
A self-described "Yankee and Carpetbagger," she signs, dances and leads rallies like old-time religious revivals. She dresses herself and her supporters in the bright yellow T-shirts and sticks phosphorescent "Teamsters are Beautiful" plastic daisies everywhere. She leads cheers, holds picnics and organizes midnight pickup truck parades.
"I'm just a little girl on a white horse leading a crusade," she says with a grin. "And I'm out to win."
And she wins. Last summer, Saporta organized five union affiliates with about 3,500 workers, a forth of the local work force around Lexington, in the central part of the state. The victories rangedfrom a Coble Dairy to a fiberglass plant owned by PPG Industries Inc.
She also helped win four other Piedmont-area elections, including a large Miller Brewery in Eden, taking on about 1,200 new workers in a 16 month period. She has lost only two elections.
Saporta's success has not gone unnoticed by employers and industry groups. She is accused of using mass hypnosis and intimidation. She is attacked in handbills, called a conartist, skunk, communist, member of the Mafia and worse.
"It's almost a compliments," Saporta says."If they didn't think I was being effective, they wouldn't bother."
Rhodes Batson, vice president of Lexington's Chamber of Commerce, compares Saporta's organizing ability to that of Adolf Hitler and the Rev. Jim Jones, head of the ill-fated People Temple.
"It's charisma, the art of persuasion, the use of language and body language, an understanding of human nature," he said. "These people have the ability above and beyond the normal person."
Whatever the reason, the Temamsters are holding and winning more elections in the state than any other union. Last year, for example, they won 14 elections and lost 18. They are now running a highly publicized campaign to organize police and public employes in Winston-Salem. The next most active union, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, won two and lost five elections last year.
North Carolina had 6.8 percent of the workforce in unions in 1976, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Labor Department. South Carolina had the lowest rate, with 6.6 percent. The national rate was 24.8 percent.
Saporta figures she will be able to petition for an election soon for the 2,200 workers at fiber Industries Inc., nine miles west of Salisbury. Fiber is a partially owned division polyester fiber for clothing, furnshings and tires.
In a telephone interview, Fiber plant manager Gene LeGrand said he is "very confident" the company would win, saying his employes have heard "horror stories" about the Teamsters.
Employers and antiunion groups frequently cite the Teamsters' negative image, telling workers of Teamster pension fund fraud, corruption and brutality elsewhere.
Saporta gets angry about the charges, angry that PPG accused her of intimidating PPG employes with a toy gun during last summer's election. The union won 698 to 639.
"We had little toy blue guns that went 'errrrrr,'" she explained. "We went up and down the line with "em for 30 seconds and laughed and then some kid ran off with 'em. They [PPG] went out and said Mafia and violence and Teamsters."
A National Labor Relations Board official at the regional office in Winston-Salem said a hearing officers is investigating the toy-gun complaint.
"People might say, 'My god, that's a threat?'" said the official, who asked not to be identified. "That's not as facetious as it sounds. Certain things that are innocuous to us might not be innocuous to voters in a tense election."
The daughter of a Rochester, N.Y., custom tailor and homemaker, Saporta joined the Teamsters five years ago after graduating from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
She is the international's only woman organizer and makes $33,250 a year.She lives in San Francisco but spends most of her time on the road. "It becomes like a religion," she says of her work. "I feel like a missionary sometimes."
Labour experts say the Teamsters have concentrated on organizing skilled workers of large companies that have union plants elsewhere, instead or organizing the local textile and furniture industries.
But Daniel Pollitt, professor of law and labor expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,said the "ground is ripe" for unions because there are more women, blacks and young people working than in the past.
"They've got rising expectations, they've been exposed to television, they're smarter and have had more education," Pollitt said.
Saporta attributes her success to worker involvement and education.
I came armed with facts," says Saporta "I live with my people 24 hours a day. I care. I make them care. And I make them work."
She looked through her briefcase. She had been working 11 hours, and a might organizing meeting was due to start noon.
"I don't know if I'll start them singing yet," she mused. "It's too early for that." CAPTION: Picture, Vivki Saporta: "I'm just like a little girl on a white horse leading a crusade." By Dorgin for The Washington Post