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  1. 1. STEELWORKERS FIGHT BACK s T E E L s H A v I N G s Inland's Local Union 1010 and the Sadlowski/Balanoff Campaigns Ed Sadlowski Jim Balanoff Rank and File Insurgency in the Calumet Region during the 1970s James B. Lane and Mike Olszanski, co-editors Indiana University Northwest, Volume 30, 2000
  2. 2. Steel City, Stone City by Robert Buzecky Buzecky, Miletich, Debryn, Rodriguez, Kowalak, thousands of Somebodies from all over the planet. Names make them different, blue shirts and steel make them family. Steel threads suspend giant sea hooks from overhead cranes. Steel coils sharp as razors reach out to slice the unwary. Rumbling railroad cars and dump trucks carelessness and exhaustion strike others down. The burial grounds not far from the mills now hold the steel men. Their dates are carved in stone. Between the dates is blank space - their lives where they labored at handwork, double shifts, sweated through their blue shirts, inhaled coal-dust air, smelled the stench of burning coal, and endured monster machines that hammered pounded rendered hauled iron and steel. That is not chiseled in the stones. Editor's Note By James B. Lane In 1986 my wife Toni and I went to an Oral HistoryAssociation conference held aboard the Queen Mary, a luxury linerpermanentlydocked in Long Beach, California. One session featured a tour of the Los Angeles-area waterfront conducted by veteran longshoremen, whose rich vein ofanecdotes evoked organized labor's militant depression-era beginnings. Inspired by their passion, I vowed some day to put together an oral history of Calumet Region steelworkers which would carry their story forward from the union's "heroic" 1930s origins and focus on the lesser-known activities of rank-and-file activists 40 years later. In 1981 , I had devoted a Steel Shavings issue to Work Experiences(volume 7) which included articles about numerous insurgent steelworkers, including Cliff"Cowboy'' Mezo, a charismatic union officerat InlandSteel. In 1990, inspired by Richard M. Dorson's book Land of the Millrats: Urban Folklore in Indiana's Calumet Region, I edited an issue entitled Steelworker Tales(volume 19), which contained lengthy interviews with a number of rank-and-file activists. During the early 1990s I began researching the District 31 Womep's Caucus, whose leaders supported progressives Ed SadlowskiandJim Balanoffintheircampaigns for districtdirector. Then Iturned my attention to the crucial role steelworker unionists played in the Bailly Alliance, a grassroots antinuclear coalition. One of its leaderswas MikeOlszanski, whowaschairman ofLocal1 01O's Environmental Committee and later its president. In the mid- 1990s Mike (or "Oz," his nickname at Inland, as I've come to call him), was a brilliant student in two of my American History courses. When he told me he was looking to use his talents as a historian upon his retirement from the mill, our collaboration on this project commenced. We decided to examine 1970s steelworker insurgency from the bottom up, starting with individual activists and then at the local, district and nationallevel(lnternationallevel really, since the USWA included Canada). It was a natural choice to concentrate on Inland's local union ' 1010, nicknamed the "Red" Local, which had a long history of rank and-file activism. Oz and I sharedthe interviewing duties, myconcentration being some of his old political rivals while his most memorable interviews were with Eddie Sadlowski and Clem Balanoff. Poor health has slowed down Jim Balanoff, but we recorded his succinct reactions to certain queries during a visit to his home on Elm Street in East Chicago, where his wife Betty added her insights and contributed a rich vein of anecdotes. We have supplemented the highlights of our three dozen or so interviews with findings by laborhistorians as well as primarymaterialsgleaned from minute books, convention proceedings, newsletters, Continued on inside back cover
  3. 3. john Sargent: A young fella who hasn't got a broader perspective than just the union, sees the union as a step- ping stone to security for himself, either to get a job in the union or to use the union to get a job with the company, as a foreman for instance. Unless the guy has a socialist viewpoint, or some kind of broader viewpoint, you're not gonna get good leadership. The other side ofthe coin is that some become purists, and like any religion, you can't dissent any more. I was fortunate to be caught up in a great movement, and that doesn't happen very often in one's lifetime. Workers were gonna have a union, come hell or high water. Nothing was gonna stop them. History's important, but if anybody tells you you gotta believe a guy like me because he's been through this stuff, don't listen to him. It's not 1936 now. Use your own ini- tiative. The old guys did what they had to do. Introduction: Hiring In at Inland Mike 0/szanski: My dad grew up dirt poor in a small town in Poland and worked for the church as a grave digger. He left home because there was nothing to eat. He went to Germany, became a carpenter's apprentice, saw World War I about to start, and got the hell out of there. He was lucky enough to get on a boat in steerage and come to America. He arrived at Ellis Island around 1917 and got arrest- ed his second day in the country. Having no money, he started hanging out with hobos, who said, "You can eat with us, but tomorrow you have to bring something." He stole a quart of milk off a door step and got caught. He went before a German-born judge. Because he was able to speak German, he got off. Later on, while I was learning, "Thou shalt not steal," my dad told me, "When you or your family is hungry, it is not a sin to steal." From New York my dad went to Chicago, where his older brother was. How he got to Hammond, I'm not sure, probably looking for work. He did have some dis- tant cousins in the Region. He did all kinds of jobs: baker's apprentice at Wonder Bread, tailor's apprentice. He married a woman who got TB, out of poverty basi- cally. The cure was bed rest, but she couldn't get that or proper medical care and died very young. With no job or income, he put his baby girl with relatives and joined the CCC. He married my mother a couple years before I was born. She was about 20 years younger, probably in her late 20s. I was born in 1945 in East Chicago, at St. Catherine's. My family lived at 813 Hoffman Street in north Hammond -natives say 'Nord Hammond -in an ethnic neighbor- hood similar to Chicago's Southeast side. By the time I was three, my dad was building a place at 4539 1 Johnson, literally digging the hole for the basement with a shovel. One of my earliest memories is of him throw- ing the dirt out of the hole and me throwing it back in. He put a roof on the basement, and we moved in. The place was right next to the South Shore tracks in a Polish neighborhood. The plan was we'd save our money and go upstairs, but every time he saved some money, something hap- pened, like my older sister got polio. I grew up in a basement with a flat roof on the top and tar paper. It was actually pretty deep and came out of the ground a little bit. It was small, but we were happy there. One time somebody tried to sell my dad a deal on building the upstairs. He signed papers but backed out at the last minute when advised it was a bad deal. As a kid, I felt a little different. We were never hungry, but we were poor. My dad spoke with an accent. Most of my friends' parents were second-generation. In ret- rospect, I gained a lot from my father being first-genera- tion but at the time wanted to be "Joe Average." I start- ed off in kindergarten with the nuns at St. Casmir's. I was beaten often but never into submission. Perhaps that inspired my first radical ideas. My dad worked in a small shop called Standard Railway, which made railroad cars. It was on Columbia Avenue, walking distance because dad didn't drive. During World War II, when my dad hired in, they made gun shields for planes and tanks. My dad never got much above laborer. Overtime money was put in the bank as security against strikes and layoffs. There was a lot of them in the 1950s so he never quite got ahead. He was always getting ready for a strike. I was inquisitive and got into everything. I wanted to know how things worked. I built an amplifier for a high fi system. It didn't work the first time, but I kept at it. Once I damn near burned down the house. My dad was tol- erant; he'd say, "Let the kid alone." He was proud of all my experiments. When I wired up a light and got it to work at the age of 12, after blowing a bunch of fuses, he told his friends how ingenious I was. He only went through sixth grade but had figured out a lot of things. We got our first TV when I was about ten and became glued to it. Before that, it was the radio. My dad used to watch the news on TV and curse out the "God damn capitalists." He was an FOR Democrat but with an anti- capitalist twist. I never knew exactly where that came from because he was scared of the communists. It was, "Fuckin' Republicans" and "God damn capitalists." Once I asked, "How do you decide who to vote for?" He said, "I vote for the Democrats." When I asked him about the
  4. 4. 2 primaries, he said, " I always vote for someone with a Polish name." He was very much into the Polish National Alliance. He hated fascism but not communism like those who left after the war. I always knew I was a member of the working class. Most people are raised to think this is a classless society, which is bullshit. When you're working class, you're on one side of that great divide. My father talked a lot to me, like I was his confidant. knew his whole life story before I was 12. Half the time, I didn't know what he was taking about, but I later fig- ured it out and really valued it. He told me that soon after he came to America, he married a woman who turned out to be a hooker. When he found that out, he got a quick divorce. "She was no fuckin' good," he'd say. He could not get an annulment since he didn't have his baptismal papers from Poland. Up until the year he died, the Catholic Church would not let him get married in the church nor receive the sacraments. These old Polish priests wouldn't bend the rules. For a long time he held a grudge. When he was literally on his death bed, a young priest cut the red tape somehow and my parents got married. To me the Polish stuff seemed old-fashioned. They tried to teach us Polish in grade school as a second lan- guage. My dad was thrilled, but not I. Most of the nuns spoke Polish and made us learn our prayers, the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary," in Polish. My dad would take me to the Polish National Alliance Christmas party, stand me on a table, and make me say my prayers in Polish. It was embarrassing, but I couldn't break his heart. My dad was joyous, very happy-go-lucky. He always managed to have a good time. He'd do all the polkas with other Polish ladies while my mother sat and watched. He'd go around and around the floor until I thought he'd drop. My mother worked at St. Catherine's as a nurse's aid and in the kitchen. My father was old- fashioned and didn't want her to work, but we needed the money. My younger sister stayed with mom until she died, never marrying, and still won't move away from the old place. In eighth grade, the nuns wanted us all to go to Bishop Noll and be priests. "Let me out of here," was my atti- tude. I had come to an awakening that I was not a devout Catholic. My parents, had they the money, would have loved for me to go to Bishop Noll. They had actually managed to send my older sister, but it was get- ting expensive and he was about to retire. I told them I wanted to go to Hammond Tech, which at the time had a poor reputation of servicing kids without any potential. But they had shops, and they had just put in a college prep program. Since I didn't know what I wanted to do, I figured I'd cover all the bases, learn electronics and also get myself ready to go to college. At first I made pretty good grades; but after I became a party animal, my grades went to hell. I almost didn't make it. I wanted to play sports in order to be one of the guys. I was skinny and never very athletic but stuck with foot- ball for four years and got my letter. I hardly played but was determined not to be a quitter. Being on the team, I got to hang out with the jocks. We went to Kelly's and Serenades, two adjacent drive-ins on Indianapolis Boulevard which attracted dragsters from all over the Region. I never had a fast car but hung out with guys who did. We'd go to Kelly's with our quart of beer and maybe get one order of fries for the six kids in the car so they wouldn't kick us out. Many school nights, we'd sit there chug-a-lugging beer. We could always find some- body to buy it for us. Of course, when my dad wasn't looking, I'd take some of his. Dick Biondi on WLS was the closest thing we had to Wolfman Jack. He'd tell you where the dances were and be live at Madura's Danceland, across from Lever Brothers. Sunday nights we'd go to Midway Ballroom in Cedar Lake. One time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis there. They had good deejays. The cops would take you away if you got too wild. Effie and Steve were the best dancers in the Region. At some point they'd do "the bitch," a dirty dance. Everybody would clear the floor. Half-way through the song troopers would kick them out; they'd be back the next week. There were four or five guys I ran with in a fairly tight circle. We had pretty wild adventures. Sometimes I wonder how we survived. If we weren't going to a dance, we might cruise 119th Street in Whiting, whistling at good-looking high school girls and trying to pick them up. It was like a ritual, all summer long. They'd be in shorts, and we'd try to get them in our 1953 Cadillac. Once we actually got two of them in the car. We chased a lot of girls but almost never caught them. I had a lot of dates but was a teenager right before the sexual revolution and drugs got to be widespread. Only one or two kids in our school did reefer, and we thought that was scary. One kid we called "Beatnik" because he wore sunglasses, even at night. He'd come into Kelly's with this beautiful 1957 Ford. One night he had cut the top out of his car with a torch. It was really jagged all around the top edges. He was stoned. Then it rained and he had to stay under Kelly's awning. After graduation in 1963, most all my friends went into
  5. 5. the mill. We had been on that track. Steelworkers could make big bucks with no experience. I planned to work a couple years, make a bunch of money, buy a car and start college. I had no intention of spending my life there. I wanted to go to college; my mother liked that idea but my dad thought college was for rich kids and that learning a craft was more practical. When I was an electrician at Inland, he bragged on me. My father told me to work in a union shop: otherwise, ''they'll work you to death and can fire you at any time." Of course, I had to test that for myself, and sure enough he was right. I worked in a nonunion shop for about a month, and the boss's son wanted my job so I was let go. There was no security. "I told you about that," my dad said. He always went to union meetings. It was like a regular duty. He never got involved in union poli- tics to my knowledge but instilled in me the idea that you went to union meetings. He always talked union. Labor history filtered in to me by osmosis from my dad. He died at age 72, of smoking too much basically and from living a hard life. My first job after high school was at Shopper's World for minimum wage, a dollar an hour. When I graduated in the spring, Inland wasn't hiring, but by September they were losing college kids. I went to their employ- ment office, and it was like the military. They treated you like dirt. It was, "We're not hiring today; come back next week." They wouldn't even give me a form. The follow- ing week they said, "Well, we ain't hiring now either. Here, fill this out and we'll contact you." In other words, "Don't call us, we'll call you." Somebody told me I had to go back every day to show them I really wanted a job. That's what I did. Plus I put down that I knew Mr. Richards next door, who was a foreman. After two or three times, the guy said, "Oh, all right." I was green as grass. I knew nothing. I finally got an interview with a guy who wasn't so gruff. He asked me where I wanted to work. I said, "To be honest, I don't know one department from the other." He smiled at me and said, "I'll tell you what. I'm going to put you in the blast furnace. I guarantee, in six months you'll be sign- ing up for college." The first day at the blast furnace they handed me metatarsals, a hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, a broom, and said, "Sweep." It was all dirt. "What are we sweeping?" "Never mind, just sweep." Around 11 o'clock a guy said, "Have lunch, then go sweep some more." Next day they put me near these huge cylindrical stoves. I started sweeping and came upon a big sign which said: DANGER! CARBON MONOXIDE. COLORLESS. ODORLESS. DEADLY. I thought, "Oh, this is nice. I'm not gonna see it. I'm not gonna smell it. It's gonna get me." 3 Mike 0/szanski I went to college at night, but the shift work started interfering, so I tried to get a job which allowed me to go to school. I ended up working shift work for 30 years. Meantime, Barb and I got married, right after my 20th birthday. We were young and foolish and in love and started having babies. She was 16 and had to quit school. I was still living at home. When I first mentioned her to my dad, he had asked, "Is she Polish?" I said, "No, dad, she's German." Then he said, "Well, is she Catholic?" Pulling his leg, I said, "She's Jewish." Actually, Barb's parents were Protestants. He swal- lowed hard, rubbed his head, and said, "Well, do you love her?" That's the kind of guy he was. In the fall of 1965 a letter commanded me to take a preinduction physical. I went up to Chicago with a bunch of guys from Hammond. After we got off the bus, a sergeant lined us up and ordered us to be silent. I'm thinking, "This isn't boot camp. I'm not in yet." A guy next to me was laughing until the sergeant got into his face and said, "Son, I can have you in Vietnam in six week." Suddenly it dawned on us that he probably could. Barb and I had kids before they started taking married guys, but at any time they could put me in a foreign country and tell me to shoot at somebody I don't even know. I learned Democrats could screw you as bad as Republicans. Maybe worse. Johnson did a lot for minorities and the working class, but I hated him because of Vietnam. In 1966 I had been out of the mill for a year. I had flown the coop. Now I was coming back with my tail between my legs. Rob was a year old and Barb preg- nant, so I was facing two kids to support. I was a little depressed but made the best of it. Inland had just start- ed up an apprenticeship program at night so I couldn't
  6. 6. 4 continue with college like I wanted. Inland had a con- tract program with Purdue Calumet, and they taught electrical engineering technology courses that weren't much different from regular college courses. It took three years to become a standard electrician. It was a working apprenticeship, answering calls and fix- ing things. You had the shit jobs to begin with, natural- ly, that required little skill. I was in Number Three Cold Strip, a rolling mill where we pickled coils of stripped steel after they had been hot-rolled in the hot strip. We put them in a tank of acid to remove rust, then through big rollers which mashed the steel down and got the gauge down. From there the steel got put through a temper mill. Mills are run by big, sophisticated electric motors. We had every type of electronic control imagi- nable in Number Three Cold Strip. For a motor inspec- tor the work was dirty, hot, and nasty. You'd strap on a bunch of tools when a craneman would have a problem and go trouble shooting. Sometimes problems would almost reach out and bite you; other times they were harder to find. Once you found the problem, then you might have to go down and get some parts. It was all bull work. Our mill was divided into three areas; each had three or four electricians per shift. A technician was the brains of the outfit and an expert at delegating. He'd carry a flashlight and maybe a screwdriver and say, "Don't make me pull out this screwdriver." Under him was an operator, who'd carry a small pouch with little tools in it but didn't do heavy work or go on cranes. Then there was a motor inspector and finally the vocational motor inspector, who was below whale shit and carried the heavy duty tools. The most embarrassing thing was when an apprentice couldn't find the problem. The tech- nician would call you stupid and tell you to try harder. They wanted you to learn the hard way, which was in some respects good but dangerous. Gradually you got to be the older guy. After a couple of years, it became clear I was going to be in the mill for a while. Every once in awhile I'd put out a resume. A couple guys got hired at Illinois Bell, and I thought, "Maybe that's my ticket out of here." I applied and had a bunch of tests. I did so well they said, "We don't even want you to be an installer. We want you to give presentations." Unfortunately, they offered me about half of what I was making at the mill. There was no way I could do it. The mill's golden handcuffs had me. I hated the shift work. We'd swing shift every week, the worst possible way, backwards. Sometimes they'd switch you every four days. Your days off would change. You never knew if you were coming or going, especially on midnights. It helped break up my mar- riage. The final nail was the union. Between being a grouch on midnights and being active in the union, it was too much. Somehow we made it last 15 years and got the kids almost raised. At one point I was a real chau- vinist. It took exposure to social movements to realize what an asshole I was and embrace the women's move- ment. I was getting more political. I gradually decided that I had to do something. I had no idea what; I had no con- nections except for one friend who was a dissident in the Democratic party. In 1968 he wanted me to run for county commissioner. I said, "What are you, crazy?" He said, "No, there's this guy named Olszewski and his name's just two letters different from yours. And his first name is Stanley and yours is S. Michael. You could draw votes off this sonovabitch." Since he was with Democratic boss John Krupa, whom I hated, I agreed. I didn't know what I was getting into. My name went on the ballot, and shit hit the fan. Krupa's people went to my father and tried to intimidate him. Olszewski won in spite of me. But that gave me a taste for politics. I ran for state representative and for the Hammond city coun- cil but wasn't going anywhere as an independent Democrat. So I started going to union meetings and fig- ured how that worked. The union had not been on my mind when I first hired in. Hardly anybody went to meetings. It had dropped out of favor. I saw right away, however, that it could help you out. One time I worked a Sunday and wasn't paid time and a half. Another guy and I went to our griever, a black guy named Alexander Bailey. It was quite an experience. Bailey had fixed up a shanty in the pig mill like an office. He did his business behind a table that looked like a desk. The guy weighed around 300 pounds and looked to be damn near seven feet tall. He towered over us as he squeezed the hell out of our hands. We explained our problem, and he said, "That sonovabitch is always cheating people. Don't worry, I'll take care of it." Afterwards, the boss called us into the office and said, "So you went and saw Bailey, did you?" He pretended it was an oversight, but the next pay- check, it was taken care of. In union meetings Bailey would stand in the back, against the wall where he could view everybody. After others were pretty much wore out, he'd take one step forward and in his booming voice say, "Bullshit!" His tim- ing was perfect. Having everybody's attention, he'd give his position. He became chairman of the grievance committee, then went on staff. We had a parting of the ways, but he never failed to impress me.
  7. 7. -------~- - - - - ------- -- Part One: Roots of Insurgency Philip Roth (uom I Married a Communist, 1998): [From the South Shore train] I saw block after block ofsoot-cov- ered bungalows, the steelworkers' houses, with gazebos and birdbaths in the backyards, and beyond the houses the streets lined with low, ignominious-looking stores where their families shopped, and so strong was the impact on me of the sight of a steelworker's everyday world, its crudity, its austerity, the obdurate world ofpeo- ple who were always strapped, in debt, paying things off, it inspired the thought: For the hardest work the barest minimum, for breaking their backs the humblest rewards. Trade Union Democracy Curtis Strong: The democracy movement was a phase of the 1970s. AI Samter: Rank-and-File is a generic term adopted by progressive opposition groups, a favorite name for cau- cuses formed to protest the union leadership. In the 1970s many progressive unionists throughout the coun- try independently formed rank-and-file groups. Philip Nyden: While the ultimate cause of rank-and-file militancy was the reaction against company policies, militancy often surfaced in opposition to autocratic or corrupt union practices which dulled the ability of the union to protect members' workplace rights. Mary Hopper(1978): The way they run that International union, it's a little private organization all their own. We can't tell them anything. They are very cocky about it. They say,."We don't have to listen to the membership; we're going tp run it our way." Seymour Martin Upset, Martin Trow and James Coleman (Union Democracy, 1976): Democracy is strengthened when members are not only related to the larger organization but are also affiliated with or loyal to subgroups within the organization. Alice and Staughton Lynd (Rank and File, 1973): What do working people mean when they say "rank and file." In a general way, it refers to workers on the job, not paid union leadership. Rank-and-file activity usually means people on the job taking whatever action they think is necessary, doing something for themselves rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them. Rank-and-file activity may be directed against an intol- erable employer or an unresponsive union bureaucracy. Too many unions have become bureaucratic corpora- 5 tions, like the craft unions of the old AFL. At best they are concerned with material benefits for their members, not with the welfare of working people everywhere. At worst they have become a new kind of company union, financially and politically independent of the rank and file. Some union members say that they have two ene- mies, the company and the union leadership. After World War II the labor movement fell silent. But working people are stirring again, beginning to question foremen and corporate executives and union officials who have lost touch with their members. The groups which took part in the cultural revolution of the 1960s are moving into the workplace. Blacks have become a majority in many steel mills, veterans are returning from Vietnam, women have gone out to work in larger num- bers than at any time since World War II. A new rest- lessness is evident in wildcat strikes, in rank-and-file rejection of contracts, in demands for humanizing work and a safe, hazard-free work situation. Origins of Inland Steel Edward Zivich: The depression of 1893 destroyed the Chicago Steel Co. Its chief creditor, Block-Pollack Iron Co., bought it up and incorporated the new Inland Steel Co., which became a highly prosperous rolling mill. By 1897 corporate expansion seemed absolutely neces- sary. Inland worked out an agreement with the Chicago- based Lake Michigan Land Co., which held title to over a thousand acres of marshy land destined to become Indiana Harbor. The Blocks got 50 acres of prime lake- front land and assurances of railroad ties with Chicago. Inland agreed to construct a $900,000 open-hearth plant on the Harbor site. The promoters would get an indus- trial "boom town," Inland its expansion. The Blocks sold their interest in various East Chicago forge enterprises to finance the building of the Harbor works, which in July 1902, poured its first ingots. Ed Sadlowski: The Blocks were chiselers, despite the myth that they were paternalistic. Edward Zivich: By the 1930s the works had expanded to include four blast furnaces and 31 open-hearths. Despite some outside influence, the Block family ran the company personally and held a reputation for paternal- ism. The corporation influenced East Chicago commu- nity affairs and politics. Republicans favored by the company held power. Republican Andrew Rooney was elected mayor in 1936, despite the Democratic landslide that swept neighboring cities. Inland weathered the early years of the Great Depression and was operating near capacity as the CIO drive approached, turning out 60,000 tons of steel per week.
  8. 8. 6 1010: The "Red" Local Edward Zivich: Between 1936 and 1942 relations at the mill were conducted without a signed labor agree- ment. Local 1010 enjoyed a period of success unequaled in its subsequent history. Through a variety of militant "on-the-job" actions, particularly as military orders increased the need for uninterrupted production, the union secured unprecedented improvements in wages and working conditions. It obtained the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of Harbor steelworkers and the active participation of the rank-and-file in the daily conduct of union affairs. James Kol/ros: The fact that Inland had only one main steel plant gave the local union much more leverage over "its" steel company than locals of other steel pro- ducers. The local union was always inclined to negoti- ate on its own and to disregard directions from SWOC's top leaders. Cliff Mezo: Many organizers were radicals who got the job done. Roberta Wood: Communists played a major role. Edward Zivich: There had been a union at Inland since 1902, the Amalgamated Association, but it remained underground and small until it became part of the new CIO. SWOC obtained several thousand dollars from the CIO for organizing expenses and borrowed dis- trict staff from John L. Lewis' United Mine Workers. SWOC charged no initiation fee and only a dollar per month dues. Despite its general "top-down" structure, SWOC at the Harbor works was built primarily by young, Left, rank-and-filers, like the remarkable Socialist Party member Bill Young. Bill Gai/es: Bill Young was a hell of a guy. If somebody come to him with a grievance, he'd pick up the phone and call the foreman. He'd say, "God dammit, if you don't put this man back to work, I'll do this and I'll do that." He could tell people off. He kicked tail. Mike 0/szanski: 1010 had a long tradition of militancy. Local leaders negotiated their own contracts before the International had solid control. Bill Young, whose father was beaten during the 1919 Steel Strike, recalled being clubbed on the head at the Memorial Day Massacre, where ten union men, including three from Local 1010, were gunned down by "Chicago's Finest." "They beat me pretty good, but I was on the picket line the next morning." When asked why he joined the union, Bill Young replied, "You had no rights the boss was bound to respect." - - --- ------ ---- ------- Two Left groups held the most influence - Pete Caracci, Max Luna, Manuel Trbovich and other Socialist Workers Party Trotskyites on the one hand, and John Sargent, Nick Migas, Bill Maihoffer and fellow Communists on the other. Migas' father had been a member of the IWW and Big Bill Haywood influenced his views on class and race. Sargent had been a leader of the Young Communist League. A militant local union, largely defiant of bureaucratic district leadership, would prove to be the Left's legacy at the Harbor. During 1936- 37 radical factions stood united and formed the nucleus of the two or three hundred men in a work force of over 12,000. 1010 began to pick up thousands of new mem- bers in the winter of 1936-1937. By spring the drive had recruited a majority of Inland's workmen. Mass Meeting at Indiana Harbor Philip Nyden: The use of strikes, lasting a few hours and involving a few workers in a work setting, was effec- tive in pressuring company officials to expedite settle- ment of grievances. When supervisors refused to deal with pressing issues, the men thought nothing of stop- ping work and letting gondolas full of molten steel hang in midair. The approaching danger that production would be interrupted acted as a time clock forcing the company to bargain. More often than not, the supervi- sors settled before much production time was lost. Edward Zivich: In May and June of 1937 one of the bloodiest industrial conflicts in American labor history took place. In March U. S. Steel had signed a collective bargaining contract. When Youngstown, Bethlehem, Republic and Inland refused to sign similar agreements, SWOC called a nationwide strike against the compa- nies. Violence by company thugs, police and militia wrecked most of the urban centers of the "Little Steel" strike. East Chicago suffered no major trouble due to several factors. The governor, a New Deal Democrat, played a key conciliatory role, restraining city officials more inclined to use the militia. The union maintained
  9. 9. Memorial Day Massacre good discipline and enjoyed the support of most Inland employees. Community pressure kept down police vio- lence, and township relief kept many workers from feel- ing the full pinch of the strike. Lodge 1010's three strike deaths occurred away from the Harbor. On Sunday May 30 fifty cars full of Lodge 1010 members, families and supporters demonstrated their solidarity with the workers on strike against Republic Steel's plant in South Chicago. That day 1010 members Alfred Causey, Kenneth Reed and Sam Popovich were gunned down with other steel union mar- tyrs in the infamous Memorial Day Massacre. The May 31 parade scheduled previously for the Harbor thus became a commemorative demonstration for the dead and wounded. Bandages from the previous day's assault were in evidence in the crowd. That evening plant police brutally clubbed four SWOC pickets as they attempted to prevent an unannounced freight train from entering the mill. This proved to be the only violence that occurred during the walkout. When Inland announced it would reopen if provided police protection, Mayor Rooney petitioned for sheriff's deputies and militia to protect people returning to work. SWOC vowed to maintain its picket line by any means necessary. Yet Governor Clifford Townsend refused to answer the Mayor's pleas for deputies and militia. The corporation finally set the reopening for eight a.m. July 1. Worried about civil disorder, the Mayor ordered the 7 taverns closed. SWOC held a dance to bolster its mem- bers for the anticipated picket-line defense of the next morning. At midnight, strike director Jack Rusak received word of a compromise and announced the agreement to the astonished crowd. The dance sud- denly became a victory party, as thousands sang Solidarity Forever! The crisis had passed, despite incredible tensions. Behind the scenes, Governor Townsend had been working hard for a settlement. In the end Inland and SWOC signed an agreement not with each other but with the Governor. Inland's labor policy was now in writ- ing, and the State of Indiana assumed responsibility for settling disputes unresolved by the plant's grievance procedure. While the union was unrecognized in the other three Little Steel companies, Inland's strikers had obtained a binding written settlement. Lodge 1010 was at Inland to stay. Renewed depression dampened union activities and temporarily prevented Lodge 1010 from following up on its victory. Orders for steel dropped, followed naturally by a large number of layoffs. Dues money dipped and the union reduced its staff. There was great pressure from the district not to strike or carry out any other job- actions despite anti-CJO abuse by supervisors. In January 1938, Local 1010 elected a slate of militant offi- cers, led by William Maihoffer. As outlined in the Townsend agreement, grievances moved from the shop floor to Superintendent Fred Gillies' office by several intermediary steps. Most were handled verbally on the shop floor; they covered the spectrum - discipline, dis- charge, safety, wage rates, anti-union and racial dis- crimination, sanitation. The union was able to establish a seniority basis for rehiring laid-off workers through its monthly meetings with Gillies. 1939 brought financial recovery. Defense orders played an especially important role in reviving Inland's sagging sales. Lodge 1010 was signing up new mem- bers, 1,500 in a single three-week period, and employ- ing a dues picket line famous among CIO officials in the Midwest. For two or three days each month members would mass picket the mill gates, demanding to see paid-up union books from each worker. Nonunion work- ers had to climb the high company fences to get to work. Once in the plant, they faced the silent treatment and other persuasive digs from unionized coworkers. 1010 staged a Labor Day parade and picnic in Wicker Park involving an estimated 60,000 people. By the end of 1939 union grievance handling changed drastically. To cut through red tape and counteract Inland's stalling, 1010 engaged in numerous strikes, sit-ins, and slow- downs. Croatian steelworker Matt Vuxinic recalled five
  10. 10. 8 departmental walkouts between 1939 and 1942. The union took advantage of a unique pre-war situation that made uninterrupted production (and profits) Inland's goal. African-American Bill Young was a leading figure in nine stoppages in the Structural Department. In April of 1940 the Structural Department struck for weekly pay- checks called for by state law and won. In May 1941, steward Louis Abrams led a work stoppage in the cold strip mill over an unsettled grievance. In June 1941 Inland obtained a restraining order against 101O's dues picket lines. SWOC members were arrested for violat- ing the order in August while organizing the Blast Furnace. The CIO shut down the blast furnaces, threat- ening Inland with the costly job of rebuilding them, and Inland's action against the dues picket lines stopped. A November 1941, walkout in Structural failed to gain pay- checks for the day before Thanksgiving but won such checks for Christmas Eve. A February 1942, Structural strike won equal pay for women. While these job actions had local union approval, they were primarily movements from below. The walkouts received the total condemnation of the International. The stoppages were generally successful in regaining jobs for discharged or disciplined workers, removing safety hazards, disciplining abusive foreman, getting wages raised, and the like. By 1942 Lodge 1010 mem- bers enjoyed the best wages and working conditions of any steelworkers in the world. Philip Nyden: 101 0 was organized by "insiders" who formulated bylaws which encouraged rank-and-file involvement. Union offices, such as assistant grievers, safety stewards, and committee heads, were elective, in contrast with most USWA locals. The democratic mechanisms stimulated grassroots involvement. As one insurgent put it, "The lining up starts a lot lower on the totem pole than it does in most locals." Cliff Mezo: In the old days, organizers had to sell their product. Mike Mezo: Local 1010 has a history of militancy. The early organizers left a legacy and a model for dealing with a brutally militant company that made you earn every damn thing you got. Inland fought the union until the end and still had an arsenal of weapons during the 1950s. If it hadn't been for World War II, we'd probably still be fighting for recognition. The local never got com- fortable because they knew the company would stab you in the back if you let down your guard. AI Samter: Local 1010 led the area in progressive pro- posals, due to Nick Migas, John Sargent and the Rank and File Caucus. When the question came up of "30 for 40," meaning a 30-hour week for 40 hours pay, only Local 1010 made it part of their demands. Germano verses Patterson, Round One James Kollros: At the 1942 convention Joe Germano was re-elected to the post of district director by the dis- trict delegates. In the end he ran unopposed, but that fact masked an intense political struggle behind the scenes. Germano's opponents nominated George Patterson to oppose him. Patterson agreed to run at first despite threats and appeals to withdraw. In the end Patterson realized that the meeting was being "stuffed" and that he could not win. At the last minute he declined to run. David McDonald(Union Man,1969): All the results were in but District 31 . I dispatched Howard Hague to find out the cause of the delay. He hurried back to tell us our candidate, Joseph Germano, was in trouble. He was being challenged by a man who had consistently followed a Marxist line and whom we believed to be a Communist. He had been in the Memorial Day Massacre and was looked on as a hero by many mem- bers. One of Germano's friends was presiding and trying to delay a vote as long a possible while Germano's hench- men beat the auditorium for votes. I told Hague to round up members of our auditing staff who could circulate unnoticed among the Chicago delegates. Then I offered chairman John Doherty a hand. He didn't need it. He was pretending to be confused about the vote tally and doing a magnificent job of stalling. I watched Hague's recruits drift into the room and counted them. When we had enough to swing the election, I nodded to Doherty, and he called for a vote. A Dubious Contractual Breakthrough John Sargent(Rank and File, 1973): Inland Steel Company said they'd rather shut their place down forev- er than recognize the Steelworkers Union. The workers developed the most militant and the most inspiring type of rank-and-file organization that you can have. When the company realized what was happening, they became smart and understood that they had to recog- nize the International leadership and take the affairs out of the hands of the ordinary elected officials on a local scale. Local 1010 Steel Worker (Aug. 28, 1980): John Sargent gave his time and energy in the days when
  11. 11. 9 Local 1010 Pres. John Sargent witnesses signing of 1942 contract by J. Doherty, J. H. Walsh, Fred Gillies, P. Murray and J. Germano nobody was paid for organizing and many got fired. He was Picket Captain in the 1937 strike and in 1942 was elected President of the Local, then reelected in 1943 and 1944. In 1944, he resigned to join the navy for 3 years. When he returned in 1946, he was again elected president and held office almost continuously for 20 years. James Kollros: In 1944 John Sargent beat James Johnson for the presidency by a vote of 1,658 to 1,168. Harry Powell beat Joe Jeneske for vice-president and replaced Nick Migas, who had gone onto the district staff in 1943. A couple months later Sargent resigned and enlisted in the Navy. Powell took over as president for the rest of the term. Bill Young (sitting) and Manuel Trbovich Edward Zivich: The War Labor Board provided Philip Murray and national SWOC with ultimate victory in the longstanding feud with Little Steel companies; but the contract, coupled with America's involvement in World War II, ended Inland SWOC's militant strike years. The International obtained institutionalized collective bar- gaining. An era had ended. On August 5, 1942, Inland became the first of the Little Steel group to sign a union contract. The agreement granted a retroactive wage increase but drastically modified 101O's grievance han- dling. Local 1010 could not strike to settle grievances; some would be tied up for months or years. A strike on grievances could now bring jail sentences and firings. Direct-action labor tactics were now costly and illegal. Mike 0/szanski: President Sargent's 1943 letter to the War Department, threatening to strike Inland in defiance of the CIO (and CP) supported wartime no-strike pledge, brings into question Sargent's adherence to any "party line" during the war years but adds weight to his image as a militant rank and file oriented leader. Edward Zivich: With 101O's CP radicals pushing for unhampered war production, the ban on strikes only dis- turbed one ideological faction, the Trotskyites. Trbovich and others, at great risk, led a departmental strike over a discharge to a successful rehiring. But the strike tac- tic was clearly dying. A plant-wide stoppage after the war, again on a discharge case, was pinned on "Wildcat Johnny" Sargent and the CP faction.
  12. 12. 10 Germano verses Patterson, Round Two James Kollros: Germano conducted a dirty campaign. Patterson's supporters were threatened. The Local 101 0 nominating meeting was stopped by the chairman before its business was finished. Subsequently, the International tellers ruled that the nomination for Patterson was invalid. Nick Migas, Local 101O's staffman, was excluded from staff meetings. Except for Migas and Mayerik, the staff supported Germano and did not hesitate to use their influence for him. In fact, many Patterson supporters expected Germano to win and campaigned only in the hope of raising issues. The most disruptive problem for Patterson was that he was drafted in the middle of the campaign. He had to report for service some six weeks before the vote. It was insin- uated that the Germano forces may have been respon- sible for Patterson's induction. AI Samter: Just before the election, Germano used his contacts on the Draft Board and got Patterson drafted. Otherwise, he surely would have won. He was President of Local 65 and had support from all the Left- led locals, including 1010 and 1011, in addition to 1014. John Mayerik got fired from his staff job for supporting Patterson against Germano. He got rehired at U.S. Steel and about six months later got elected President of 1014 again. The charismatic Mayerik, an original organizer at Gary Works, had gathered around him many leaders of the Eastern European groups, includ- ing Russians, Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, plus leading black activists. Later Mayerik ran against Germano, the last guy to make the ballot before Sadlowski. From Tokenism to Anti-Discrimination at 1010 Betty Balanoff: Local1010 stayed militant longer than most locals. It stuck out like a sore thumb in that respect. Inland was very involved in civil rights, in get- ting city Fair Practices laws passed, for instance. Morris Janowitz(The Community Process in an Urban Setting, 1967): Trade union democracy is not merely the formal elections but the system of coalition between ethnic groups. The emergence of blacks rep- resents the latest stage of leadership succession. Mike Olszanski: Nick Migas, an open member of the CP and an ally of John Sargent, led a wildcat strike in number one Open Hearth when the company refused to promote a black man to second helper on the furnace. He recalled telling his fellow workers, "Discrimination starts, maybe, with a Negro, but next it will go to the Mexican worker and then maybe to the so-called hillbil- ly. And where will it stop?;' The man got the job. Ruth Needleman: Leftists made civil rights an integral part of the Local's culture. William Maihoffer, John Sargent, and Nick Migas, each of whom served as pres- ident, spoke out strongly against discrimination. In 1938 Bill Young became 101O's first vice president. During World War II he served as chairman of the grievance committee. His position and credibility, however, seemed to be linked to his identification with "real union issues" acceptable to the white majority. Still his leader- ship position demonstrated that blacks could be elected to top office. James Alexander: Alexander Bailey and Bill Young were strong black leaders at Inland, but it didn't seem that their intentions were to get doors open for others. Each seemed to be saying, "You've got me." Bill Gailes: Bailey was a good union man but con- cerned mostly about his own department. A real leader is concerned about the whole ball of wax. Ruth Needleman: After the war, more blacks spoke out at meetings, and more positions were set aside for minorities. Glover Gary, chairman of the East Chicago NAACP, complained about the company's barring blacks from certain departments and about the union's failure to challenge employer practices. Clarence Royster, AI McClain, Eugene Blue, Eugene Jacque and William Gailes gained visibility. I~ time African Americans used the political rivalry between caucuses to secure white support. Initially, caucuses began to set aside positions for blacks but then slated them to run against each other so fighting developed between groups of black activists. The vital factor in moving beyond tokenism was inde- pendent organization, an insight eventually acted upon by Bill Gailes. Bill Gailes: In Fairfield, Alabama, I had worked for Tennessee Coal and Iron. Their company union had a sadistic initiation ceremony, like the Klan. When they assigned me to the sheet mill, I thought I'd be making sheets. I had black and white shoes on, that's how little I knew about what I was getting into. I quit the mill five times. I had the wanderlust. I wanted to finish college. I went to U. S. Steel once. After I came back to Inland, they put "No more hire" on my record. That would be my last chance. I never missed a day after that. It was time to settle down. After the war, they hired D.P.s before they'd hire blacks with honorable discharges. I saw one guy tear up his discharge papers and throw them on the ground. That was the position they put us in. When they moved the first black man up to heater, all the whites quit. When they put a black women in the tin mill, the whites
  13. 13. there walked out. Don Lutes stuck with her. He said, "If you want to quit, fine." Ruth Needleman: On April 25, 1946, Local 1010 sent a resolution to union president Philip Murray protesting ''the segregation of colored delegates attending the con- stitutional convention" and urging "that those who made the arrangements be condemned." On October 2, 1947, Local 1010 sent a communication to the International criticizing "the small number of Negro representatives on staff." In January 1949, at a union meeting a worker observed that Local 101O's basketball team still played only in Whiting, a Jim Crow town, and, as a result, had no black players. In September 1950, Local 1010 debated whether to provide support for a Mexican youth organization. President Bill Maihoffer urged the Local to allocate $500 to help organize Mexican workers recently recruited into the mill. This motion drew substantial opposition. At the next meeting Recording Secretary Mary Kelley (later Mary Gyurko) suggested that an organization open to all young people would not be discriminatory. In fact, the Local bought tickets for events and organizations that excluded blacks. Maihoffer pointed to another request from a group of lady bowlers. He asked if the union should drop the request "because the women who wish to bowl are all white women." After a voice vote, hand vote and division of the floor, the president's motion was defeated. As late as 1952 a resolution asked Inland to "allow the Negroes to have their own bowling team." Local 1010 helped integrate East Chicago theaters, restaurants, and bars long before apprenticeship pro- grams or craft jobs were open to black workers. In January 1952, when Jesse Godwin transferred into the Power and Steam Department, workers threw three gal- lons of torch oil on him while he was smoking a ciga- rette. The grievance officer brought Godwin to talk with top officers, but there was disagreement over whether to charge all three white workers, or just one, as the com- pany wanted. Union elections being a few months off, politics prevailed. Maihoffer feared a white backlash while grievance committee chairman Don Lutes saw an opportunity to establish his anti-discrimination creden- tials. Eugene Blue, chair of the Anti-Discrimination Committee, was outraged but backed off when Maihoffer warned him not to aggravate racial tensions. When Clarence Royster insisted that all three men be charged, Maihoffer accused him of being obstinate and urged him to sign the majority report. Bill Gailes stood behind Royster. Bill Young and Buster Logan, the two African-American old-timers, were cornered by white financial secretary Tom Conway, who persuaded them to 11 try to change Royster's mind. ''They told me," an unmoved Royster recalled, "that my attitude was too harsh and white people might rebel against finding three white men guilty of discrimination. If I persisted in going for three, I might lose all three as well as commit politi- cal suicide." The incident seemed to mark a turning point in black activism in Local 1010. Bill Gailes convinced his all- black sheet mill crew to attend the union meeting at which the vote would be taken on the trial board's rec- ommendation. The presence of so many African Americans must have been intimidating. Only five peo- ple voted against the recommendation of the trial board to bring all three up on charges. The strategy won over Don Lutes, who had spent the previous evening repair- ing his relations with the white workers in the Power and Steam Department. It took the International more than a year to consider an appeal and in the end ordered punishment for only the ringleader. He was denied participation in union affairs for two years and prohibited from holding office for five years. The Power and Steam Department remained white, although a few months later Bill Young thanked the Grievance Committee for advancing "the first Negro ever to hold a machinists' job in the mill." The company took no disciplinary action against any of the three. Experiences of Mexican-Americans Mike 0/szanski: Some Mexicans were brought in by Inland as scabs in 1919. Many were housed in a com- pany-owned flea bag hotel in the shadow of the mill known as the Baltimore. Many helped build the union. Cliff Mezo {The Great Divide, 1988): There were two halves to East Chicago. One is the Irish and Polish end. Closer to the mills is where you had all the hotels and where they recruited Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and blacks from the South. They imported the Mexicans with one thought: to weaken the union. Actually they became our staunchest union people. Ed Sadlowski: My dad started in 1936 or so in the labor yard. Some Mexican guys had been there 15 or 20 years. Some had come during the 1919 strike. My dad had been trying to get into the open hearth, which paid much better, and this Irish foreman kept giving him the run-around. Finally, when the 1937 strike started, the foreman promised to get him transferred if he didn't walk out. My dad said, "No, mac, I'm going out." They were sitting by the shanty, and the foreman asked a Mexican, "How about you?" The Mexican said, "Mac,
  14. 14. 12 you fooled us in 1919, but you're not going to fool us again." Nick Migas(Rank and File, 1973): We had a lot of Mexican workers in my department. They were con- stantly kept on small, menial jobs - scrap yard, labor gang, furnaces - dirty, menial, hard work. And no chance of promotion. That's why the union swept like a wildfire through the mills. James Kollros: In the summer of 1943 the company fired several Mexicans at the urging of the FBI. The union managed to put a stop to that. In 1944 the local asked the national office to print copies of the contract in Spanish so that Latino workers could read it. The local also bought 100 fund-raising books from the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee (defending several Mexican youths in Los Angeles). In the summer of 1945 two union leaders investigated how the company recruited Mexican workers in South Texas. They dis- covered that Inland paid for their transportation in advance and housed them in company housing in Indiana Harbor, thus creating a compliant group of work- ers. Roberto Flores: My father was a veteran of World War I. After his discharge, he heard about Hispanics getting jobs in steel mills in the Chicago area. He came to the Region in 1924, the year before I was born and worked at Inland. I started working there in high school, while attending East Chicago Washington, before I went off to World War II. Inland executives recruited about a hun- dred of us at an assembly to work from 4:30 to 8:30. Those under 18 had to wear a red badge, which meant you couldn't handle mobile equipment. It was hard work in the open hearth. If we stayed until11 :30, they paid us for eight hours. Many times we stayed. It was difficult to get up for school, but a lot of families needed the money. On weekends we worked eight hours. I played on the Midwest Mexican All-Stars. My uncle was manager. One day at Block Stadium we played against Satchel Paige. I was the first Hispanic to pitch for Inland in the Industrial League. Many of us who played baseball did well in union politics. Once you've played sports, you want to keep competing. I was work- ing in the 44-inch mill. We were only working four days a week, so I transferred to the open hearth, where they were working six days, plus overtime. I became a safe- ty rep and steward. I was aggressive in pushing for bet- ter conditions. I bid on the clerical sequence and became a weigh master. After the strike of 1959, so much steel was stockpiled, they didn't call everybody back. After a seven month layoff I ended up in the met- allurgical section. Hispanics weren't being slated by union caucuses until we allied with one slate, and it made other caucuses realize they'd have to slate Hispanics, too. In 1956 the leader of the Union Builder Caucus, Don Lutes, Sr., took a foremen's job, so I was asked to run for recording sec- retary. Later on we merged with the Rank and File Caucus for the convention delegates election. When I won; I was amazed. I was the 29th out of 30. AI Samter and Civil Rights Committees AI Samter: After the war I had worked for a small record store in New York and then got laid off. The big chain stores started reducing prices on phonograph records, which forced mom-and-pop stores to cut back. I was finally hired as an organizer for the union, but then the union itself suffered because of the cutback in the retail business. I was off and on the unemployment rolls and finally decided to make use of my G.l. Bill of Rights and get into an apprentice program. Everybody was going to the big industries, so in April of 1949, I came to Northwest Indiana and applied for an apprenticeship. They didn't have any such programs open but were hiring for the summer. They sent me out to the coal chemical plant, as a pump operator. At that time there was a lot of movement among employees nationwide. If you stayed in one place, you could move on up. The summer job turned into a permanent job. I stayed 37 years. I never did get into the apprenticeship program. My job, especially after they built a new coal chemical plant in 1955, paid more than I would have got- ten in any of the craft jobs. My department took light oils which come off the coke-making process and separated and distilled them into the industrial oils benzene, toluene, and xylene. I became a shop steward and got acquainted with Curtis Strong, who was running for grievance commit- teeman to replace a man retiring in the middle of his term. I wrote some of his material. After he was elect- ed, I became a shop steward. One of my jobs was to sign up new members. The agreement in force at that time had a "maintenance of membership" clause. If you signed the people up, they remained union members until the termination of the agreement, at which time they had the option of withdrawing from the union. There were still some old-timers who were not union members, but I kept signing them up until our depart- ment was 100% union. Because of all the new people coming in, I was pretty busy. Shop stewards went to Political Action Committee meetings once a month, and during election campaigns we got dollar donations from union members. On elec-
  15. 15. tion day we went out on our off-hours and took people to the polls. A few of us would be paid to take time off from our jobs. We were an effective force. Partly as a result of our efforts, we elected a member of the Local 1014 executive board to the Gary City Council. Within the John Mayerik caucus at 1014, black leaders such as Jacob "Jake" Blake, Curtis Strong, Pat Riley, and John Howard were beginning to form their own coalitions in order to push for more representation. John Howard went on the slate as vice-president as a result of this pressure. Blake persuaded Mayerik to form the 1014 Civil Rights Committee. He then appointed Blake as chairman, and added me and several others. The committee elected me secretary. Jake Blake was a great actor. He was a trustee on 1014's executive board and an assistant grievance committeeman. He could charm an audience. His whole family was very religious. There was pressure on him to get into the religious field and eventually he became a minister in East Chicago. At one point we decided to have a joint civil rights committee meeting at Local 1014's headquarters. At that time Fred Stern was working at Youngstown. He was an officer in his civil rights committee. Jim Balanoff was part of that civil rights group. At that point the International decided they better recognize us, so they sent somebody in from the International. It was one of the things that pushed them into having a civil rights divi- sion. Red Scare James Kollros: Many of the leaders in 1010 had a left- wing analysis of class struggle. They believed the real strength of the union depended on mass support. They encouraged rank and file involvement in organizing. The fine union built up in the early years eventually suc- cumbed to bureaucratic leadership. The main reason was because the top leadership of the country and the district replaced the left-wing, democratic leadership. The process of this replacement lasted well into the 1950s and was not the result of one magic moment. Part of the process involved being in a national union and in a world war against fascism, where local groups had to sacrifice special benefits for the common good. The divisions of the Cold War years further undercut the left. AI Samter: Open communists played a leading role in the formation of the CIO. Used because of their dedica- tion and ability to organize, they were thrown out when it was felt they were no longer needed. Mike 0/szanski: Phil Murray was probably a virtuous 13 man; but after he kicked out the communists it was all downhill. Jesse Reese: The Communists built the union, but John L. Lewis and Philip Murray fired every Communist organizer, and the union's been going back, back, back, ever since. Edward Zivich: Made bold by the Taft-Hartley Act and the Cold War, the company fired over 80 workers in a flurry of red-baiting. In 1950 1010 lost its monthly griev- ance meeting with management. Contract bargaining moved to Pittsburgh with little direct input on local con- ditions. A local that once had unbelievable membership participation became the concern of the few. Conditions in the mill deteriorated. Grievances remained unsettled. As John Sargent concluded, in making the International part of the establishment, they took the guts and the fight out of the union. Philip Nyden: McCarthyism had a dampening effect on the formation of political opposition groups. Many dissi- dents were prohibited from holding union office. Conservative union leaders used anticommunism as a license to squelch dissent. The top union leadership fur- ther consolidated its control as a result of dues "check off" systems and by using its right to take control of a local union in the event of "questionable" practices. They consolidated their control over bargaining, conven- tions, finances, staff, committees, and district leader- ship. At the 1950 Convention, the International leader- ship was made the sole "contracting party" for all collec- tive agreements and took from District Directors their discretion in interpreting contract language. Mike 0/szanski: When the Left was run out, it left a vacuum, and pulled the teeth out of the union. Left lead- ers were no longer in positions to remind others that the adversarial relationship was basic and fundamental to capitalism. Still, 1010 remained a rebel local and did not tow the line. The Taft-Hartley Act's anti-communist affi- davit requirement put increased pressure on non-com- munist union leaders, who by signing would not only throw their more militant brothers and sisters to the reac- tionary wolves, but also demonstrate their total disre- gard for Constitutional rights of free speech and associ- ation. Many capitulated. To those brave trade unionists who refused, the USWA constitution branded them as "devoid of principle and destitute of honor." I don't think union leaders were on the take, but they didn't need to be. If they "do the damn deed," what's the difference if they got paid for it directly. It was probably more insidious that they did it because thought it was the right thing. Being anti-communists, they felt they had to
  16. 16. 14 Striking tor Pensions, Steelworkers demonstrate at Plant 2 South defend the company to the workers paying their salaries. They were class-collaborators. John Brophy(C/0 leader quoted in Labor's Untold Story, 1955): The real objective of redbaiting is to kill the CIO, to destroy collective bargaining, to destroy the unity of the organized and unorganized workers, that the CIO is building throughout the nation. Mike 0/szanski: John Sargent, Joe Gyurko, and Nick Migas, who negotiated the workers' first contracts, got beaten up on the picket lines, and collected dues at the plant gates, were hounded by the FBI, dragged before HUAC, and redbaited in union elections. Gyurko had started at Inland in 1939 and paid his first union dues before his probationary period ended. During the war he packed tin-plate in crates destined for our ally the Soviet Union and admonished coworkers who, in his words, "nailed the crates just any old way 'cause it was for the Russians." FBI agents sat in a car in front of his house day and night, watching his every move. Migas was beaten by USWA goons for exercising his right of free speech at the 1948 convention, where as a duly elected delegate, he challenged President Philip Murray over his Cold War positions. James Kollros: Nick Migas was a former griever, a for- mer staff man and president of Local1 01 0 during the big wildcat strike in 1945. At the 1948 convention a leaflet was put on the delegates' seats over the lunch break, signed openly by Migas. Its two linked themes were that the steel workers needed a large raise and that Philip Murray and the union leaders were sellouts for not win- ning such a raise. Ostensibly, the leaflet was issued as a way to force Murray to call on Migas to speak. Migas was recognized and made a speech, but the pro-Murray delegates drowned him out. After the speech, Migas was escorted outside by Murray's personal bodyguard, where a gang of thugs beat him up. After Migas was elected griever in June of 1948, Germano induced 15 workers to bring charges that he should be removed because of his membership in the Communist Party. The local trial committee refused to remove him. The local voted to support the trial com- mittee. Germano's people appealed to the International Executive Board, and it decided that Local 101 0 must remove Migas or face administratorship. Migas quit his job and moved to a farm in Wisconsin before the final verdict was issued. Mike 0/szanski: An especially poignant example of guilt by association was the case of Stanley Rygas. In 1953 he was removed from office as assistant griever by President Don Lutes for allegedly rubber-stamping his name to Communist literature and mailing it to other members. While he "emphatically denied this forgery'' and subsequent charges of violating the USWA's anti- Communist clause, the International's secretary-treasur- er upheld Lutes' motion to terminate his union member- ship subject to appeal in Pittsburgh. He subsequently kept his membership but never again ran for union office. When Sargent's eligibility to run for office was challenged in 1954 and when he was called before HUAC in 1958, his association with Rygas was in turn used as evidence against him. Betty Balanoff: The union had a rule that no commu- nist could hold office. They tried to get rid of both Stanley Rygas and my husband Jim, but they said they weren't communists and challenged them to prove they were and the union backed off. Otherwise, Jim would never have got past griever. AI Samter: When they used the communists as whip- ping boys, they also threw out all those who opposed the administration. Union leaders redbaited as bad as HUAC and Joe McCarthy. If you weren't virulently anti- communist and opposed the administration, you must be a communist. The participation of the left-wing was drastically reduced. In its hearings in Gary HUAC tried to put me in a category, and I refused to say, "Yes, I was an active member of the Communist Party." I wouldn't give HUAC any names. As far as I was concerned, I did- n't know who was and who wasn't. Roberta Wood: My worked at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point. He was fired during the McCarthy era. He and some others refused to testify before HUAC, to name names. They hadn't done anything
  17. 17. wrong at work. They had a rule that anybody who had worked in the Henry Wallace campaign couldn't be an officer in the Steelworkers Union. It was part of the cam- paign to purge Communists and progressives. The International told the local, don't touch these cases. So they wouldn't file a grievance. People collected petitions for them, which was pretty brave in those days. Because of McCarthyism, my parents had the habit of not discussing their CP affiliation. People still have these habits, even when there's no rational basis any more. It's like some secret, shameful thing. It's really hurt not only the Party but the labor movement. A lot of "Red Diaper Babies" feel like their life was scarred by growing up in a Communist family, especial- ly during the fifties. That was such a terrible time for working-class people. It was so stifling. There was this TV ideal that nobody lived up to. Everyone felt deficient. To me I think I was better off in an activist household where it was O.K. to be different. But a lot of people felt bitter and at a certain point left. Then naturally they came up with a rationale for leaving. Other people I worked with in the mill, when I met them years later, would remark, "Oh, yeah when I was in the Party..." And they were never in the Party, at least as I saw it. We were afraid to ever ask them to join, yet they felt like they were in it all along. These kind of experiences have given me, in my "old age," a broader idea of the Party's role in the working class struggle. From Murray to McDonald John Herling (In Right to Challenge): The last days of Philip Murray were days of disappointment. He died suddenly on November 9, 1952, five days after Adlai E. Stevenson had been defeated for the national presiden- cy. The Stevenson campaign had represented not only a deep political commitment for Murray but also a large- scale investment of money, energy, and union manpow- er. He was also weighed down by a more intimate bur- den: the necessity of dealing surgically with an unpleas- ant personal problem, the removal of Secretary- Treasurer David J. McDonald. For many years Murray had regarded him almost as a son, whose career in the union he had launched and advanced but was now determined to halt. During Murray's serious 1951 illness, McDonald had taken over the reins and instructed his public relations men to revise the Murray obituary. But Murray recov- ered and learned of McDonald's meticulous prepara- tions. He exploded to a visitor, "See what the dirty little son of a bitch has done to me. He's got me buried." For weeks this was his constant refrain. On the eve of the 1952 convention, Murray made it clear McDonald's days 15 Director Germano listens while President McDonald Speaks were numbered. After his death, however, McDonald won the board's agreement that he take over the presi- dency, which now embraced powers heretofore resident in the secretary-treasurer. McDonald had indeed inher- ited it all. Staughton Lynd (The Guardian, Feb. 1973): McDonald never enjoyed the genuine affection which Murray commanded. He was immensely vain and soon earned the phrase ''tuxedo leadership" for his high living, his hobnobbing with celebrities, and his disdain for work- ing people. H. W Benson (Union Democracy Review, 1973}: In 1955 President McDonald ran a handpicked candidate for vice president to fill a vacancy created by the death of an incumbent. His man won, but only after stubborn resistance from within the official family. Joe Molony broke ranks to run against McDonald's choice. When Molony supporters tried to campaign in Germano territo- ry, thugs invaded their rally and four Molony backers ended in the hospital after a beating. In that campaign, Germano showed how effectively his organization could perform. Molony did well almost everywhere but in Germano's district was swamped 50 to 1. Dues Protest Movement Philip Nyden: Between 1948 and 1956 the International leadership's domination of Constitutional Conventions allowed it to win dues increases three times despite considerable opposition. This helped build up a substantial treasury, much of which could be
  18. 18. 16 used at the leadership's discretion. When a rank-and- file reform organization did emerge, it was weak but did represent a changing consciousness among dissidents. The Dues Protest Committee, formed as a protest to a dues increase at the 1956 convention, pursued issues related to democracy, accountability, honesty in elec- tions, protection of local autonomy, and better shopfloor union representation. Initial recruitment centered around a petition and local resolution campaign calling for a special dues rollback convention. Betty Balanoff: Goons threw Curtis Strong out of a third-floor window after he protested the dues increase. Curtis Strong: Steelworkers didn't go as far as the Teamsters or Mineworkers, but the leadership was not adverse to certain persuasive measures. There were times when I felt in danger, but I was young and crazy and not intimidated. At the 1956 convention these guys had gotten into my hotel room and jumped me while I was putting my pajamas. One held me, and another hit me so hard he broke my jaw and knocked me out. If I had not been unconscious, the doctor said, the fall prob- ably would have killed me. I landed right next to an iron fence; in fact, my pajama top got caught on a spike. Staughton Lynd: When McDonald proposed an increase in his own salary from $40,000 to $50,000 and an increase from $3 to $5 in monthly membership dues, rebellion broke out on the floor. The leader was Donald Rarick, then a politically conservative grievance com- mitteeman from McKeesport. McDonald gavelled the dues increase amid a storm of booing and calls for a roll-call vote. Rarick and others used the long train ride home from Los Angeles to good advantage. On Oct. 19, 1956 the Dues Protest Committee (DPC) was organized at a meeting of some 50 representatives of Pittsburgh- area locals. John Herling: Confronting the Dues Protest movement was the problem of communication. Internal channels were under the strict control of the International office. Anybody bucking the leadership would have to piece together the necessary lists over a period of many weeks. The process of instructing local supporters to petition for a special convention was slow and discour- aging work. There was no experience to fall back on. Out of about 700 locals needed, no more than a hun- dred petitioned for a special convention, but among them was the largest, Local 1014 of Gary. Staughton Lynd: After the petition drive failed, the DPC then decided to try the electoral route. Rarick put himself forward as a candidate for president. The McDonald administration tried desperately to head off the challenge. According to reporter John Herling, Rarick was offered $250,000 to withdraw. He refused. AI Samter: Rarick traveled around the country in his own recreational vehicle. He came to 1014 and parked in this little lot behind the union hall. While he was speaking to us, Norman Harris, a staff representative for Joe Germano, came over with a bunch of goons from Chicago. A few of them came upstairs and started a ruckus while Rarick was trying to speak. Meanwhile, Harris and a couple of other guys set fire to Rarick's RV. All of a sudden somebody comes up the stairs yelling, "Hey, there's a RV on fire in the parking lot." Ed Sadlowski: I hadn't been working long but got active in the Rarick campaign. That's when I met Curtis Strong. Stealing elections was so common, guys would sit around drinking and brag about it. John Herling: McDonald defeated Rarick 404,172 to 223,516. Detailed charges of vote rigging were made by Rarick backers. Although Rarick claimed to have won Local 1014 in Gary by 9,000 to 3,000, he said the count had been turned around through fraud. Rarick's charge was labeled ''fantastic" and "sour grapes." H. W Benson: Rarick's followers claimed that votes were stolen wholesale and demanded a local by local breakdown instead of an overall count. In those days, there were no federal controls over union elections. McDonald simply turned down their demand, and that was that. Staughton Lynd: Despite widespread fraud, Rarick received 36% of the vote, an astonishing showing for a grievance committeeman unknown six months before. John Herling: At the 1958 convention the International I. W Abel, in Gary for a school dedication ceremony, hosts dis- trict leaders, including African-American John Howard and bow- tied Orval Kincaid, April 19, 1959
  19. 19. attempted to expel the DPC leaders on the charge of dual unionism. 1959 Strike Michael Bayer: The 1959 strike was a combination of rank-and-file militancy and timidity on the part of the International. A pent-up demand for improvements in working conditions forced McDonald to lead a strike he never wanted and tried to sabotage. Even though the result was at best a draw, steelworkers got a 13-week vacation and a sense of their power. Jack Parton: I came out of the coal fields of Virginia and hired in at U.S. Steel five months before the strike. My father had worked for the Pocahontas Fuel Company in the 1930s. We lived in a company house. The only thing that wasn't from the company was electric power. The company paid in scrip. Any safety equipment that the workers felt they needed, they had to buy it from the company. The place was really a company town, like the line in the Tennessee Ernie Ford song Sixteen Tons, "I owe my soul to the company store." My dad was very active in the union, which finally forced the company to pay out real money that workers could spend wherever they wanted. Coming out of the coal fields, I saw that the only way workers could ever share in the wealth that they helped create was to form unions and do collective bargaining. I went into the Marine Corps in 1956. I was 17 and wanted to get away. I had dropped out of high school. My mother agreed to sign for me if I could get my older brother to join, too. He didn't have a job. There were no jobs in the area at that time. It took me about a month, but he finally agreed. I served in Okinawa and Korea and got discharged in February of 1959. I really liked the Marine Corps, and it was my intention to remain in the service. Meanwhile, my brother had gotten married, had a son, come to Gary, Indiana, and got work at U. S. Steel. He called me and said, "How 'bout bringing my wife and son up here." That's what Southern folks did; they got a job and an apartment and then sent for their families. I arrived on the afternoon of March 20, 1959. My brother said, "Why don't you put an application in for U.S. Steel?" They were hiring a lot of people because they were stockpiling in anticipation of a strike. I told my brother I didn't want a job, but he put me on a guilt trip about having agreed to go into the marines. He took me to Virginia St. gate around 4 p.m. I said, "If they don't call me by tomorrow, I'm leaving." About the time we got back to his place, they called and said, "Show up tomor- row." 17 The contract was up July 31. Then there was a two- week extension before the strike began. I spent a little time on the picket lines but couldn't afford to stay in Gary. I went back and lived with my parents. That was the longest industry strike we had ever had. Then I came back, worked a very short period and then there was a big layoff. In fact, my first five years of employ- ment, I probably didn't work a solid year, but I always came back. I worked in the No. 4 open hearth, where there was great camaraderie. I liked the Region and became involved with the union. William Andrews: I was born in Alabama but have lived in Gary since I was six months old. I graduated from high school in 1957. I went to work for a company in East Chicago for two years. I got laid off, so I reapplied at Inland in February 1959 and got hired. I told the guy in personnel that I didn't want to work in a coke plant, a blast furnace or an open hearth. He said, "I'm going to give you a good job." And he did. He put me in the slab yard, where were very few blacks or Latinos. We made good money. I worked there over 17 years. I did a little moving around in the early 60s because of the layoffs, so I got a chance to see other parts of the plant. I was interested in the union from the very beginning. Of course 1959 was the year of the 116-day strike, so there was a lot of anticipation about what was going to happen when the contract was up. At union meetings I'd sit and listen, just to keep up with what was going on. When we went back to work after the strike, I just con- tinued to go. I never said anything, but you can learn a lot by listening. I've always been interested in my sur- roundings, in what I can do to make things better. 1960 Convention Roberto Flores: Conventions could get stormy. In 1960 McDonald supporters beat up Donald Rarick and two of his friends. Some of us heard a commotion behind the curtain at the entrance. We jumped in and pulled them off. It just wasn't right. Sometimes you'd be at the mike, and some 300-pounder would come and adjust your mike as a form of intimidation. Joseph P. Molony(Convention Proceedings): No man who is a member of the Communist Party or the Ku Klux Klan can be a member of this union. Why in heaven's name don't you add "dues protesters" to that group? This man who covets the presidency has the effrontery in God's daylight to come here and to sit among decent trade unionists. I identify the traitor-Rarick, the strike- breaker. Donald Rarick(Convention Proceedings): I would like
  20. 20. 18 very much to debate Mr. Molony at any time. I heard Mr. Molony and if he calls anybody a strikebreaker, my God, Joe, you had better look in the mirror. John Sargent(Convention Proceedings): This union must strengthen the seniority clause in order to protect people being unjustly displaced by the introduction of new technological processes in the mill. Change of Administrations at 1010 Mike Olszanski: Before appointed subdistrict director by Joe Germano, former Trotskyist Peter Calacci was President of 101 0 from 1956 until 1962. An opponent of John Sargent's center-left Rank and File Caucus, he supported the USW~s redbaiting anti-communist line. Roberto Flores: I moved around from caucus to cau- cus. Calacci, the head of 1010's Unity Caucus, gave representation to blacks and Latinos. In 1962 John Sargent lost a close election to Joe Wolanin. We felt the Rank and File Caucus didn't have the strongest Latin slate so we didn't support it. Two years later, I ran on the Rank and File slate and was elected guide. In 1960 Sargent had wanted me to run for financial secretary against Jesse Arredondo, but Calacci's Unity slate was so strong, I knew I didn't have a chance. Hank Lopez was on the Membership First slate so I told Sargent he should consider double-slating Hank. I had nothing against Jesse but thought it would be a good strategy. I told Sargent I'd run for trustee, but he didn't want to slate me for that. So I didn't run. Hank was dou- ble-slated and barely beat Jesse. Not winning that office started some division in the Unity slate. James Alexander: I joined the Rank and File Caucus during Joe Wolanin's administration, when there was not one black person on the executive board. I worked on the open hearth, on the pit side. What you found there were blacks, Mexicans and Polish. It was a death zone. So far as safety was concerned, the union didn't get anything for us. We'd make a complaint, but it wouldn't get anywhere. It was treated like a joke. Finally in 1962, five years after I hired in, we decided we were going to change things. I got everyone together, and we talked to the griever, Joe Gyurko, who said he'd slate one of us to run department wide. We agreed and they picked me. They ended up combining our depart- ment with two others, but I won the election. John Sargent said he was going to slate four blacks for the 11 executive board positions. We tossed names back and forth, and finally John asked me to run. I did- n't think I was well enough known to have a chance, but he said I'd balance out the ticket and added: "How can you complain about conditions if you don't go out and do something about them?" So I agreed and got elected, as did Bill Gailes and C. C. Crawford. Balanoff got elect- ed secretary of the grievance committee. In 1964 we expected the opposition to use redbaiting tactics and were ready for it. We hit the gates with liter- ature on all three shifts. The redbaiting never bothered me. I knew Balanoff was trying to help blacks. I didn't care about 20 years in the past. We did very well. Hank Lopez, Bob Flores and Gavino Galvan were the only successful opposition candidates. Mike Olszanski: John Sargent was just leaving when I was coming in. He was a tremendously positive force in our union. In 1964, all over the mill were hand-made fly- ers claiming that he was a commie. His enemies used excerpts from six year-old HUAC hearings to incriminate him. Despite his being cleared by HUAC's inquisition, Sargent's opponents posted copies of excerpts of the testimony with "commie" scrawled across them in red marker. I remember thinking, "He must be pretty good at raising hell if they're calling him a commie." Most of the blast furnace electricians were for Sargent, and none of them were communists, but as a joke called each other "comrade." I thought that was cool. Sargent over- came vicious redbaiting and won reelection as President in 1964. Ed Sadlowski: I met John Sargent around 1964 when we were flying to a wage policy meeting. I was wearing my old man's retirement watch from Inland. He noticed it and said, "You're not old enough to have that watch." We started up a friendship from there. We often drove together to Pittsburgh and even roomed together a few times. Sargent was at the first steelworkers convention, as were Patterson and Mayerik. He was just 23 or 24, but so were most of the other guys. I guess the lesson is, if you want radical change, get some young guys. Roberto Flores: Sargent was aggressive. At conven- tions he wasn't afraid to get up on the floor and chal- lenge the dues structure. He had a good voice which would reach a fever pitch by the time he was finished. Mike Olszanski: In 1965 John Sargent and the local officers refused to sign the contract agreement, but the International had the power to approve contracts, whether the locals agreed or not. James Alexander: In 1965 while attending labor lead- ership classes at Indiana University, I asked how we could get more people involved in the union. Later Bob Hoggs berated me. He said, "Dummy, we don't want
  21. 21. people to come out to union meetings. That's your job. If they come out, they're eventually going to run for office." He said, "Just watch. If a griever sees some- body from his department attending a meeting, he's going to get real concerned." He was right. Three times during my tenure as griever somebody came up to me packing a gun. I had a guy point a pis- tol right at my head. He had been off sick, and they gave him a vacation check with dues deducted. He got his check. Another guy didn't put down on his application that he had a police record in Arizona. During his pro- bationary period Inland found out about it and terminat- ed him. He came down to get representation, and I said no because he hadn't finished his probationary period. He said he had paid union dues during that time and showed me his check stubs. I said that didn't matter. He said, "Mr. Alexander, I don't have any problems with you. I don't want to hurt nobody, but I'm going to be back in two hours and if I don't get all the money you took out of my checks, somebody is going to get hurt." I said, "I don't know what to tell you." He said, "Well, when I come back, we won't be doin' no talking." After the guy left, I took the check stubs over to Hank Lopez's office and said, "I don't know what's wrong with this fool." Hank said, "Well, what was he in the peniten- tiary for?" I said, "They robbed a bank, and somebody got killed." Hank said, "You go back over there and make that monkey out a check." We both signed the check, but we needed the signature of Bob Flores, the treasurer. When the guy came back, he had a pistol with him. I told him the check needed Flores' signature, and he hollered out, "Where is Bob Flores?" Meanwhile Hank had called Bob up and he was right outside, ready to sign that check with no questions asked. Bob nor- mally kept a log of every check he signed but didn't log that one. Little Joe & Cowboy Joe Gutierrez (Race, 1992): My father worked at the Ford plant in Detroit when he first came from Mexico. Then he came to Chicago and the steel mill. During the Depression he paid a guy 50 cents a week to teach him how to weld. My mother was a hillbilly from Georgia. She married at 14. We're 15 children. She didn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English. I didn't know two words of Spanish until I got out into the mill. Studs Terke/ (Race, 1992): [Gutierrez] has worked in the steel mills ever since he was 18. He is now "union full-time for Local 1010." Joe Gutierrez: I hired in at Inland Steel when I was 18 19 on June 16, 1959, right before the strike. I had spent four years in a seminary, studying to be a priest. Three months after I left, I'm in the steel mill. People would say, "Jesus Christ" and I'd bow my head. When the strike started, nobody asked me to join a picket line. I worked at number three cold strip, which was only about a year old. I got laid off and in 1961 went to the galva- nized department, which was a world of its own, even though it was near the 24-inch bar mill, the weld shop, the machine shop, the 100-inch plate mill, and the spike shop. There was not much sense of unity. You identi- fied with your department. They were islands unto themselves except for a common canteen. I got drafted in 1963, went into the army and came back to that department. I never expected to stay past the summer. My first union meeting, it seemed like a closed set of people and that they wanted to keep it that way. It looked like the Mafia sitting up in front. I was totally turned off. I did not have the historical background in terms of knowing what unions had done. That wasn't taught in school. The only union person you ever heard of was John L. Lewis. Unless his father was a steel- worker, the average kid didn't know anything. The union was like, "that place over there." The company had taken advantage of the workers for so long because of poor union leadership. Most grievers eventually became foremen. People would be one-term grievers. It was a stepping stone. CliffMezo: Coming from a southern Illinois coal mining family, I'd been involved with unions all my life. There's nothing like miners for union loyalty. It's a religion. Nobody crossed a picket line. It took me a while to get used to the steel industry's slow-ass grievance proce- dures. When miners had a grievance, they immediately shut the mines down, until it was settled. Miners carried their water for the day in a bucket. When they threw out their water, that was it for the day. I hired in at Inland in 1962. I'd been working con- struction after I got out of the service. That's what paid. I helped put in sewers. We used air spades to get out the clay. A crew of tunnel men could cut 12 feet a day. I wanted to be an iron worker and went to welding school in Chicago, but it was getting hard to get work. I had to go further and further from home. Then my wife had two sets of twins within two years. My buddy kept telling me, "Cowboy, come into the mill. It's just like being on pen- sion, compared to construction." In fact, I had been working for Great Lakes Dredging and Dock Company at Inland and Youngstown, putting in sea walls and underground intakes. I kept watching the guys in the mills and figured they had a pretty good deal even though I took a pay cut.
  22. 22. 20 I made noise about how little we made as skilled craftsmen. Most people thought I'd been there for years. I hadn't been there ten months when I put out The Percolator. I was editor, publisher, chief writer, car- toonist and distributor. I organized the Committee on Field Force Improvement. We had badges and hat stickers, which bugged management. A foreman told me to take the stickers off. There wasn't any way I could because there were guys all around looking and listen- ing. I said, "Well, Eddie, you've told me. Thank you for carrying the message." And I walked off. Figuring they weren't going to back down, I found out about all the stickers they had out, commemorating various things. Even though hats were supposed to be clean, I was ready to argue that if their bright colored ones weren't a distraction, then neither was my yellow one. But I heard nothing more about it, so we kept wearing those god- damn stickers. In 1964 when Sargent was running for president against two other guys, I went and heard all of them because I was new in the mill. I was impressed with Sargent's ideas and said to myself, "He's my man." He projected a picture of progressive unionism fighting the status quo. Jim O'Connor headed what was called the Blue Slate, which was favored by the International. He was a good griever but very conservative. A lot of steel- workers were almost rightwing at that time. This was a trend nationally as well with AFL-CIO President Meany. Palace Coup Philip Nyden: Given the absence of any grassroots organization, it is not surprising that the next electoral challenge came from within the top ranks. In 1965 Secretary-Treasurer I.W. Abel ran against McDonald. Abel organized grassroots support by using his position as an officer to enlist the help of staff reps and District Directors. John Herling: The 1962 convention had drastically increased the number of nominations required to run for district and International union office. This helps to explain why an I. W. Abel rather than a rank and filer like Rarick finally beat McDonald in 1965. Steel Labor(June 1977): A native of Magnolia, Ohio, Abel went to work for the American Sheet and Tin Mill in Canton in 1925, learning the molding trade. Losing his job in the depression, he fired kilns in a brickyard for 16 cents an hour, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. He helped organize the Timken Roller Bearing Co., eventu- ally becoming local president. The next year he was singled out by President Murray for the fledgling staff. The first elected director of District 27, he served for ten years before being elected International secretary-treas- urer in 1952. Staughton Lynd: In October 1964, McDonald announced he was not going to reopen the basic steel contract before the 1965 contract expiration date, that is, he did not intend even to threaten a strike. Opposition erupted. Abel, Burke and Molony met that evening and decided to run. John Herling: Abel's challenge was undertaken with considerable misgivings. The campaign was mounted not in hot blood but largely as a result of cold exaspera- tion. The candidate had carefully prepared the ground- work. He was the No. 2 man in the union; respected dis- trict directors were with him, and he had the majority of the weighted vote of the executive board. Some hailed Abel's campaign as a crusade, but his most influential backers wanted it to be a "quiet" one, not wishing to be embarrassed by an excess of unaccustomed fervor. For they were challenging the leader of the establishment whom they had largely sustained for twelve years, even as they were often dismayed by him. Over those years, they had stockpiled- or slag-heaped- their suppressed rages, their postponed indignation, their ulcerous frus- trations. All of which ultimately served to fuel the open hearth of the political campaign. Curtis Strong: The union had started losing its militan- cy under David McDonald. When I was supporting Abel, I chaired a meeting in Chicago Heights. Germano got us the use of a tiny hall. So many black people showed up they called the fire department. They thought it was dangerous. They had a shit hemorrhage about all these blacks getting together. George Bogdanich(Nation, May 7, 1973): McDonald became identified with management. Dressed in a tuxe- do, he toured mills with company executives, promoting what he called "mutual trusteeship" and infuriating steel- workers. Abel expressed the sentiments of many rank- and-file steelworkers, saying: "So long as management is primarily concerned with profits, the interests of man- agement and labor cannot be identical. Mike 0/szanski: After he got elected, Abel became a McDonald. There's a history of this in the union. Staughton Lynd: The rhetoric lasted only as long as the campaign. Philip Nyden: Once in office, Abel consolidated his power and insulated the International from the rank and file. Those who accepted his campaign promise of "return the union to its members" were quickly disillu-