There’s so much complaining about unions, especially our own! But our radio program on the Communications Workers of America revealed some very positive aspects of the American union movement.

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My co-host, Bonnie Mathias is an outspoken member of two CWA locals, including the Dallas dominating CWA 6215. Our guests were from CWA 6171, headquartered in Krum, Texas. Travis Pirotte is the elected president, and Tony Schaeffer is the professional representative from CWA District 6, a five-state region. Tony is the big guy on your left in the photo.

Right now, CWA 6171 is negotiating a new contract with Frontier. A couple of callers wanted to know if they were expecting the company to want big pay cuts. They also wanted to know if the union was doing anything about the national problem of companies’ outsourcing work from union members to low-paid subcontractors. Another caller wanted to know if their union was trying to organize any of the many low-paid, no-benefits workers in the “gig” economy. These were really good questions.

Tony is the expert on negotiations. He said that the company had not made any economic proposals yet. Unions negotiate “economic” and “non-economic” issues separately, with the non-economics usually first, he said. As for the sub-contractors stealing work from the union, Tony said that the CWA has been fighting this nationwide all along.

The Good Part

For me, the good part was when Bonnie and our guests started talking about all the socially responsible things that their union is doing. I knew that Herb Keener from CWA 6215 speaks up for the Blue/Green Alliance between labor and environmentalists. I also know that Claude Cummings, District 6 leader, is a major figure in civil rights activities — whether they concern union members or not. It was good to hear the guests confirm these things.

exxonherb2

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. Podcasts are available from the “events” tab. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review:

The Old Man and the Gun, Directed by David Lowery, 93 minutes

oldmanwith-a-gun

It’s a Robert Redford movie beginning to end, but Sissy Spacek has a single close-up that is worth the entire movie. I guess I had always thought that the way she beams off the screen had something to do with her unfailing youth, but now I know it wasn’t that. Whatever it was, she was great then and she’s great now!

The movie is an old-style semi-documentary gangster movie overlaid with the Robert Redford charm. The dates of events are given to make it more “authentic,” and indeed there really was an old gentleman bandit that was captured around the Dallas area, and he really did have a dramatic back story.

You know it’s a pretty good movie because Redford doesn’t make any bad ones. I’d like to say that there are some eternal themes or important messages, maybe about aging gracefully, to take home with you, but that’s probably not true. This is a movie for people who are crazy about Robert Redford, have been for decades and always will be.

And Sissy Spacek, too.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 Central Time every Saturday morning. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

We are living in a time of great contradiction.

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The more we learn, the stranger is our political world.

People have never been so enlightened. Knowledge, long ago, was accessible to only a privileged few. Most human beings, lacking any real understanding, were guided by dark superstitions and easily herded about by those in power.

We’ve only had public education in America for 150 years or so. Printed words for 600 years, telegraph for maybe 200, radios for 150, movies for 120, TV for 75, and the internet for about 40. It gets harder and harder to herd people around when they are figuring things out for themselves. That’s a tremendous and growing contradiction.

People of my generation can remember when segregation ruled. We can remember that people laughed when Desi spanked Lucy on the world’s most popular TV program. We can remember poll taxes, white primaries, and English-only ballots. We remember when little children were spanked for speaking Spanish. We may have a long way to go, but we have come a long way, too!

If one thinks of human enlightenment as human progress, one sees a continuum of gains that has never completely stopped and is not likely to ever stop. Remember the apelike creatures in the movie “2001?” They huddled in the darkness while predators roamed around them. Then they began to learn. We are learning still, but at an accelerating pace.

The other side of the contradiction is that we are still being herded around by the people in power. They pretend that their arguments are “equal” or “the other side,” but they aren’t. They aren’t “alternative facts,” they are just lies.

Their rulers’ methods of superstition, divisiveness, chauvinism, and general backwardness are less and less effective. Something will have to give eventually, and it has to be them.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program on 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check our my personal web site

 

Movie Review:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal site

 

Movie Review

“The Sisters Brothers,” Directed by Jacques Audiard. 121 minutes

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There’s some really terrific shooting scenes in this movie. It takes place in 1851, and the two cold-blooded professional murderers who are the heroes of this film do not have the traditional movie gun, the Colt 45 Peacemaker. The ones they have throw sparks and nasty sounds as well as lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better shootout scenes.

There’s a Dallas Angle: La Réunion

Another good thing about the movie, something that makes it more authentic to me, is the central idea of something that was going on in Dallas, Texas, during the period. One guy, and only one guy because everybody else in the movie is a cold blooded murderer, has a dream of going to Dallas and joining a socialist colony there. What makes it so authentic is that there really was a socialist colony forming right outside Dallas in the early 1850s. Wikipedia tells the story very well, even though they are a little too definitive about the dates when it started and when it ended.

The one man with his socialistic dream gives contrast to some of the characters and, to a small extent, tends to humanize others.

More Good Things

One could not ask for better actors than Joaquin Phonenix and John C. Reilly. One could not ask for more interesting scenes of horses running across rough western terrain. Some of the dialogue was outstanding.

On the Downside

We appreciated the effort to make an authentic western, but my movie buddy and I didn’t really like “The Sisters Brothers.” I think the problem was explained in a radio interview where the main star, John C. Reilly, explains that it was a labor of love. Apparently, they loved every scrap of film so much that they couldn’t cut anything out. They left everything in — every unrelated, going nowhere, irrelevant detail.

The result is a meandering movie with plot lines and asides going higher and thither. If they had tightened it up and put it into focus, it might have been a horse opera of worth.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON 89.3 FM “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review

“Bisbee 17,” Directed by Robert Greene. 124 minutes

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My movie buddy and I ordered tickets as soon as we heard there was a documentary on the Bisbee Deportation. Good thing we did, because they only scheduled three showings in our town. Most towns won’t get to see it at all. I wonder if they will show it in Bisbee, Arizona?

People who like artsy, independent movies for their own sake might like the film. People who judge movies on their effectiveness probably won’t. People who just want to see some honest working people’s history revealed at last will be glad they made “Bisbee 17,” but even then, I’m not sure they will like it.

The Wikipedia version, just telling the story straight, is a better way to find out about the forced deportation of 1,300 striking miners on July 12, 1917. I have always wondered how they carried it out, but the movie explains that very well.

The Phelps Dodge Mining company and its stooge sheriff deputized over 2,000 men. They made sure to get the Anglo-Saxons because they were targeting virtually every man who wasn’t. They armed those deputies and then started arresting all strikers and anybody who might support them, even people who only attended one meeting “just to listen.” One deputy arrested and deported his own brother, according to the movie, and never saw him again.

Then they marched everybody down to the railroad and loaded them on cars to nowhere. The sheriff announced that he would kill any who returned to Bisbee. The compliant (complicit) railroad company took them out into the desert and stranded them there.

The strikers were with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They were supposed to have been represented by the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers but union complacence gave the energetic IWW a chance to move in. It’s not in the movie, but one of the main IWW organizers was my personal hero, Frank Little. Little ducked the deportation and went on to another copper miners’ strike in Montana, where he was lynched less than 3 weeks after the Bisbee Deportation.

The artistic movie man took advantage of the centennial re-enactment of the Bisbee Deportation to film the local people preparing for and carrying out their re-enactment roles. As they were all Bisbee people, most of them were also the descendants of the perpetrators. Many of them still held the same racist, chauvinist, jingoistic beliefs of their forebearers and said so in the movie.

Maybe the best scene is when one outraged man speaks to a planning meeting of Bisbee citizens and says, roughly, “Some of you are saying we have to tell ‘both sides’ of the story! That’s like telling ‘both sides’ of the holocaust!” He made a good point, but the re-enactors didn’t listen. The movie man didn’t, either. That’s the problem with “Bisbee 17.”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON 89.3 FM “Workers Beat” talk show every Saturday at 9 Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

My summary of history in Texas is that it’s mostly junk. But here’s a great exception:

Book Review:

“The WPA Dallas Guide and History” written and compiled from 1936 to 1942 by the workers of the Writers Program of the Works Projects Administration. Published in 1992 by the Dallas Library

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In 1912, the Houston Viaduct was the longest concrete bridge in the world

Congressman Martin Dies, the Joseph McCarthy of his day, was able to kill the WPA Writers Project before this book was published. He said that the Writers Project was “doing more to spread Communist propaganda than the Communist Party itself.” Fortunately, he died. Scholars used the manuscript as a primary resource, but hardly anyone else saw this wonderful history book for decades.

Years later, the good people associated with the Administration in the City of Dallas were able to get it published by the Dallas Public Library Texas Center for the Book, University of North Texas Press in 1992. I believe the Dallas library owns five copies. I read it in 2010, but it’s such a compelling book that I read it again in September, 2018. All of these WPA Guides are terrific! I just ordered the “WPA Guide to Texas.”

WPA Guide to Dallas is the most comprehensive history of the city. It includes names, dates, and exact places (on a 1940 map) of everything of importance here.

The Writers Project wrote dozens of historical guides. They intended to bring them all together into a comprehensive history of the United States. Martin Dies and the bureaucrats of 1940 were able to stop a lot of the publications. Every one of the “Guides” that I have seen is better than anything else on their subject. This one is certainly no exception.

During the Great Depression:

“Mellon pulled the whistle,

Hoover rang the bell

Wall Street gave the signal

And the country went to hell.”

The Roosevelt administration, faced with much criticism, changed the name from Works Progress Administration to Work Projects Administration and cancelled the writers project. Dallasites had to find a sponsor that would contribute at least 25% of the cost of the program. The Bureau of Research in the Social Sciences at the UT of Austin sponsored the Texas project.

Here are some of my notes from the book:

John Neely Bryan settled, by himself, on the banks of the Trinity 1841. The Beeman family soon came from Mustang Branch (Farmers Branch) to join him and he married one of them. He eventually sold out to Alexander Cockrell, who got killed in a gun fight. Sarah Cockrell then played a big role in developing the town.

Page 50: Jane Elkins was hanged for murdering a man named Wisdom in Farmers’ Branch, May 27, 1853.

Page 50: April 26, 1854 came the advance guard of the La Reunion colonists. They were followers of Charles Francois Fourier. French and Belgians bought 1,200 acres of land on the western side of the Trinity. “The whole population of Dallas turned out to celebrate the arrival June 16, 1855, of the main body of these idealistic European immigrants, and they were welcomed by a committee headed by their fellow countryman, Maxime Guillot, who acted as interpreter. Guillot had remained in the area after the failure of an earlier utopian community. //This was probably the Icarians of 1846//

P54 Account of the downtown 1860 fire, hanging of 3 slaves, exile of 1. Flogging of all the others.

Back in those days, there were so few men in Dallas that they had to take turns on the jury condemning themselves for gambling. Each would defend himself, then return to the jury box after being found guilty.

Dallas was the center of the buffalo hide trade, then a central cotton factoring area.

Mayor Ervay was jailed in 1872 for refusing to leave office after being ordered by carpetbag governor EJ Davis. By 1875 Reconstruction was over in Dallas.

P67 Really good narrative on Belle Starr, who had a livery stable “somewhere near Camp Street” specializing in stolen horses. (1875). She was shot in Eufala area, Feb 1889.

P68 romantic tale of Sam Bass

P90 1918 effort to start fireman’s union failed. In 1919 a widespread sympathy strike involving inside electricians, then building trades, and garment workers. Resulted in a walkout by linemen.

P 97 “The early months of 1934 were marked by agitation among the unemployed, organized by the Workers Cooperative League for rent, fuel, and clothes allowances in addition to groceries. The fight of local initiative against the depression continued unabated, resulting in the launching of an extensive public works program including the $1,000,000 Triple Underpass at the foot of Elm, Main and Commerce Streets .By the end of the year the Works Progress Admministration had also given employment to 3,000 workers in the city.”

P98 “…wave of mob violence and labor disorders in the summer of 1937 which culminated in the sending of Rangers to Dallas by Governor James V Allred, despite protests of local officials.”

P103: list of Mayors

P157: comprehensive list of labor organizing and troubles. Knights of Labor were here before April 1882. Typographers were the first AFofL union: April 6, 1885.

Carpenters had a successful strike May 6, 1890, for a 9 hour working day. “By 1896 there were twenty labor unions with an aggregate membership of about 2,000. On Nov 20, 1899, a charter was granted by the AFofL to the trades assembly of Dallas, the original central organization in the local labor movement. This assembly lasted until 1910, when on January 8 a charter was issued to the Central labor council, which still functions.” (1940)

P158 in 1919 the linemen struck Dallas Power & Light. “On June 11 a pitched battle with clubs and shotguns occurred at Routh Street and Cedar Springs Road, in which AJ Fisher, a former deputy sheriff employed as a guard for a crew of nonunion workmen, was killed and four men wounded, three of them strikers. Seven union members were arrested and on June 24 the grand jury returned indictments for murder against four: Al Shrum, WT butcher, Robert Roy, and WF Bohannon. Al Shrum was convicted of manslaughter October 27 and sentenced to three years imprisonment.”

ILGWU struck early 1935. Strike abandoned Jan 1936.

Just about all the labor actions listed failed.

In 1940, there were 52 local AFofL unions. //The CIO was largely unsuccessful until 1941 when Ford was organized//

Labor Temple at Young & St Paul was formally dedicated by Governor James E Ferguson, Jan 8, 1916.

Dallas [anti-union] Open Shop Association started 1918.

Pgs 157-160 have the best possible coverage of early Dallas labor organizations.

But the book goes on and covers everything of interest in the city and county. It has sections on Negroes and Hispanics.

P286 good account of La Reunion, the socialist colony that contributed so much to Dallas culture, including a good account of its final days at the beginning of the Civil War. There was a standoff with authorities and one man was wounded.

P296 words to “deep ellum blues” Good account of Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson

P311 Jack Johnson worked as a dishwasher in a Dallas restaurant, Delgado’s at 248 Main. He held local fights against other Blacks. This apparently was before he became champion in 1910.

Buy a used copy from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0929398319/ref=sr_1_1_olp?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538072737&sr=1-1&keywords=WPA+guide+to+Dallas

–Gene Lantz

I am on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

 

We always assume that Lizzie Borden was guilty of the axe murders of her father and stepmother.

Movie Review:

“Lizzie,” Directed by Craig Macneill. 105 minutes

Chloe Sevigny produced this film and carries almost every scene as the central character. She does a fine job of acting, but Kristen Stewart deserves tremendous credit not only for a fine acting job but also because she keeps stretching her capabilities by taking on more and more diverse roles. In this one, the vivacious star of all those “Twilight” movies plays a mousy little immigrant housekeeper.

The real Lizzie Borden was never convicted of all that whacking, but the literary Lizzie, it seems, will forever be guilty until proven innocent.  Recently, she’s also become a feminist trailblazer. She wouldn’t have acted out so murderously, we are given to understand in the movie, if she hadn’t been repressed in the 1890’s. I think this movie makes that point very well through the drama itself, through the tension we in the audience feel on Lizzie’s behalf, and decidedly not because of sermonizing.

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After the movie, you might want to decide about Lizzie’s culpability and motivations on your own. Wikipedia has a good treatment. You might also want to check out the 1975 made-for-TV version starring another very good and versatile actress named Elizabeth Montgomery. It’s free on YouTube. It’s also very good.

We liked the movie. It had a lot of tension and, all the way through, seemed very honest. Also, there were three union logos in the last frame.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. They podcast them on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.