Dark money from the U.S. is supporting truck riots in Canada. Can you see why?
Can you see why Republicans block legislation that would benefit their districts? Some Republicans even try to take credit for beneficial legislation that they voted and campaigned AGAINST! Why? Why did the Republican National Convention condone the January 6 insurrectionists? Why are Republican think tanks supplying scripts for crazies who disrupt school board meetings? Why are apparently sane Republicans who get vaccinated arguing that other people shouldn’t? Why take the side of disease over good health? Why underwrite chaos?
The reason that normal Americans can’t understand today’s political events is that nothing like this has ever happened in our country before. It is outside our experience. The only historical precedents are from other countries like, say, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Spain, and Germany. In those countries, chaos was used to help bring down participatory government to benefit autocrats. Possibly the best example for us, because a number of us are old enough to remember it, and because we know more about it, is Chile in 1973.
If you think about it, you might see that, for certain politicians, chaos is a good thing. It worked for the CIA and General Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1973. Truckers were involved then, too, as some of them are now. Google “Trucks AND Chile.” Read the New York Times article from August 18, 1973, “Chile Calls Truck Strike ‘Catastrophic.'”
It says that a 23-day trucker’s strike has had “catastrophic’ repercussions on Chile’s already ailing economy.
“This is a political strike aimed at overthrowing the Government, with the help of imperialism,” said Gonzalo Martner, Minister of National Planning and one of the chief policy makers for President Salvador Allende Gossens’s socialist government.
I’m not sure how reliable the Times’ account is, because they were probably in on it. But it is well known now that the chaos in Chile was designed and abetted by the CIA, United States of America! For would-be dictators, chaos has its uses, then and now!
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. My podcast, “Workers Beat Extra” is posted on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
In 1985, I had a tiny role in a part of the revitalization of American labor. I’d like to get it written down.
After a wonderful upsurge that started around 1932, labor leaders lost their way in 1947 and became isolated. Fortunately the membership couldn’t be ignored for long.
The revitalization actually began well before my time, in the 1960s. It was an extension of the civil rights upsurge that began around 1954. African-American unionists carried the lessons and tactics of the civil rights movement into their unions. For the most part, they were rebuffed by their leaderships, but nothing is ever completely lost in the progressive movement. People learn. People remember.
The newest, possibly most important, twist in the labor reform movement happened in 2021 when over 60% of United Auto Workers members and retirees voted to do away with the old delegate system of electing top leadership and move to the more democratic “one member one vote” method.
It was a setback to the old Administrative Caucus that has dominated the UAW consistently since 1946. I think a look back at earlier reform efforts gives some perspective to today’s important developments.
REFORM IN THE MINERS AND STEELWORKERS UNION
Reform was strong in the Miner’s Union after Jock Yablonski and his family were murdered December 31, 1969. In the Steelworkers, reform was clearly on the agenda when Ed Sadlowski ran for president around 1975. I think Sadlowski might have been the first union candidate since 1947 to allow reds to help him campaign, and that was a very big deal. I campaigned for Sadlowski, but my real role in labor’s reform was a lot later and in my own union.
NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE UAW
For me, it was 1985-1992 and the New Directions Movement in the United Auto Workers. My part, and the origin of the New Directions Movement, started in the middle of a contract fight with LTV Corporation in Grand Prairie, Texas. The fight started in March, 1984. The first 9 months or so showed everything that was wrong in the UAW and in most of the labor movement.
Our union, Local 848, didn’t have a clue about carrying out a fight. The blame for that goes back to 1947 when the anti-union Taft Hartley law passed. It outlawed the most progressive unionists and left the opportunist “business unionists” in charge. Business unionists had no fight in them. They put their full confidence into working with management and gave up on informing and mobilizing their union members.
Local 848 members, like most Americans, had never fought for anything and certainly not for a contract. “Unionism” consisted of working with management for crumbs from their table, then working on a grievance procedure to keep them from stealing their crumbs back during the life of the contract.
But LTV was a profitable corporation when it offered giant takeaways in 1984 contract negotiations. The Assistant Director of UAW Region 5, Jerry Tucker, was experienced in plenty of fights – not necessarily in unions but in the civil rights movement. He pushed the Negotiating Committee to turn down the contract and design a new strategy for a fight.
Tucker called the strategy “Running the Plant Backward” or “Work to Rule” and called it a new strategy. History-conscious workers, of whom there were hardly any, recognized it as an old-fashioned slowdown. Union members were asked to do exactly what they were required to do and nothing else. “No contract, no overtime!” was our big slogan starting out. On May 21, four workers and I were fired for refusing to work overtime. Tucker had previously arranged to call a walkout when/if anybody got fired. Later, a few dozen more were fired, mostly for participating in the walkout.
Initially, it didn’t work at all. Our local union leadership hadn’t the slightest idea of how to run a slowdown. The membership certainly didn’t know. I don’t even think Jerry Tucker had a clear idea. The big walkout and rally on the day after we were fired netted no more than 300 workers. I counted them carefully. That was about 6% of the bargaining unit! I knew then that we were in a lot more trouble than anybody was saying.
The company implemented their “last and final offer,” which included their takeaways. Then they stopped collecting our dues for us.
WE HAD NO IDEA HOW TO COLLECT UNION DUES!
American unions in 1984 did not have the first clue on how to collect their own dues. They had “dues checkoff” from companies since before World War II. In 1941, Mr Ford voluntarily GAVE dues checkoff to the UAW, because he wanted the union to depend on him financially. It worked.
Local 848 made its biggest, nearly fatal, mistake as soon as it was clear that we had to collect our own dues. Leadership assumed that people would voluntarily come to the union hall and pay their monthly dues.
Let me pause to brag: I told them that people are not accustomed to paying their bills in person. I asked them to send out a monthly bill, but the Financial Secretary told me, “If they won’t come over here and pay their dues, they don’t deserve this union!” I heard that over and over again for the rest of the year while my union went broke. By Christmas, fewer than 20% of our members were caught up on dues. Insiders said it was 10%.
Our financial disaster was hardly the worst part of the story. Our program of “No contract, no overtime” fell flat on its face on the day I was fired. Even though I organized pickets every Saturday morning through that winter, our members grabbed up the overtime. Our top officers did, too. I found out later that the Chairman himself was telling top officers to work overtime!
My part, up to the end of 1984, had been to organize the 65 fired workers and keep them in the struggle. I had zero leadership role in directing the struggle, but I made sure that the firees were not forgotten by getting a big bunch of us to every meeting, by picketing the plant when people went in to work overtime, by publicizing our events, and by helping a series of publicity stunts to keep people thinking about our fight.
December was a miserable time for everybody, but especially for the 65 fired workers. Only about 30 of the 65 were doing anything to keep up the fight. News from the International Union was particularly depressing. Leadership told us that the International UAW wanted us to take the concessions and end the struggle, even if some of the firees were sacrificed. One “settlement,” we were told, was negotiated between our UAW International Financial Secretary and LTV management on a golf course!
President Carroll Butler and Assistant Regional Director Jerry Tucker weren’t giving up, but they were certainly ready for some new tactics.
THE LOCAL MAKES A TURN
Our local union leadership did a major turnaround in January. They decided to collect dues inside the plant. Elected union stewards were issued receipt books and every activist we could find was asked to help get the members to pay up.
It wasn’t just a financial decision, or a minor organizational change. It was a turn toward mobilizing the membership – exactly what the union movement hadn’t been doing since “business unionism” took over. It worked, too. Our “percent” of dues-paying members rose steadily from January until we won our victory in July.
As the receipts and cash dollars started pouring into the hall, we bogged down as accountants. Fortunately for the local, I had accountant training, computer training, and I could type. I rigged up a Commodore 64 – it had 64 kilobytes of memory – to two floppy disk readers and kept track of all dues. An extra benefit was being able to tattle on the elected leaders as to who was collecting their dues and who wasn’t. Every time Tucker visited, I could present him with graphs showing which departments and which job families were “on the program” and which weren’t.
By June, 1985, we still didn’t have an impressive “percent” in plain numbers, but my trusty little computer could show that we were pretty solid in certain critical units. For the first time in the entire struggle, we thought we might have the potential to shut LTV down. Leadership called a strike. Management asked for a settlement before we even went out, so the strike lasted only 11 hours!
On July 5, 1985, all the fired workers put on our union shirts and lined up at the LTV gate. We stayed in line while Chairman BJ Meeks took us, one by one, to our proper departments and let us go back to work. I posted a video of this. Our little battle was won!
I have a longer account of the 1984-85 struggle on http://lilleskole.us. On my “GeneLantz” youtube account, I have 52 videos about it. Each has “struggle” in the title.
Our victory was celebrated all through the union movement. I was given credit and a new nickname, “golden fingers” for my typing, accounting and computer work.
I guess that some of us thought we had really helped curve the union movement in a good direction, but we were disappointed in due time.
The most bitter part for me personally came almost immediately. When the 1985 contract was settled, I hoped to keep our super-active fired union members together. But we fell out over how to deal with demands from the International UAW. The new contract penalized the firees by withholding 3 months from our full back pay. We were told, though, that we would not have to pay back the strike pay that we had accepted while we were outside. It balanced out.
But the International UAW demanded that we pay back every cent, immediately! When I protested, a toady little International Rep called me a “freeloader!” I had been standing outside the plant and fighting for my union for one year, one month, one week, and one day; but he called me a “freeloader!”
The firees broke up over this demand. Some of them said they would never pay it because it was grossly unfair. Three of them even got out of the union and became scabs. Some of the better-off firees had the money and paid off right away. I circulated a petition to get a year’s delay while we paid it off in monthly installments, and that’s what I did. But I was not able to get the other firees on that program. We never pulled together again.
I resolved then and there to join a reform movement, if there was one. And there soon was. Riding on the success of Tucker’s “new” tactic at Local 848, he launched the New Directions Movement and ran for Regional Director.
He won that election, but the International was able to keep it all tied up in court, so that Tucker was only able to serve about 1 year of his 3-year term of office.
Meanwhile at Local 848, the International provided an even bigger problem. When we elected officers, we expected our top leaders who had worked with Jerry Tucker to win, to ride their popularity into re-election.
I remember that one of the people who was most against Jerry Tucker’s fightback program ran for local union president right after the 1985 contract was settled. His son was on the Election Committee. A particularly nasty cartoon was circulated against Carroll Butler, the President who carried us through the big 1984-85 fight. I called up the printer to see who had created such a nasty and underhanded attack. The printer told me candidly that it was an International Rep!
The good guys won the election, but, acting on a complaint from the losing candidate’s son on the Election Committee, the UAW International ruled the election illegal and made us hold it over. When a local is forced to hold an election over, the incumbents look bad. President Butler held his office barely, but Chairman BJ Meeks lost. We were furious! My notes at one meeting read, “BJ says int’l forced this local into another election… ‘you have not seen people as vicious as this International!’”
New Directions supporters started holding meetings around the country. At Local 848, we held our meetings after the official union membership meeting. I attended them and, compulsive note taker that I am, kept a lot of notes. I also attended several national NDM meetings.
We had some terrific supporters. Paul Shrader, a close assistant of Walter Reuther’s, supported us. Film maker Michael Moore, fresh from his success with the satirical movie about the UAW, “Roger and Me,” gave us $1,000 and a very nice endorsement speech. Our really big gun was Victor Reuther. The Reuther Brothers were associated with some of the UAW’s biggest historic successes. People told me that Victor was “the best of them.” He certainly stepped up to help Local 848 and was totally committed to New Directions.
Victor made speeches at fund raisers for us. I was pleased to serve as Master of Ceremonies at one of them. Victor also made cheeseboards that we auctioned off to raise money.
A related historic event occurred in the period. The Canadian section of the UAW, carrying some of the same reform program as New Directions, split off and formed the Canadian Autoworkers Union. Victor infuriated the International by speaking at their first convention.
Jerry Tucker always referred to New Directions as “the real Reutherites,” even though the Administrative Caucus (UAW leadership) we were trying to defeat had been set up by Walter Reuther. It was hard to argue with Jerry Tucker when he had the only surviving Reuther brother standing right there with him!
New Directions had a very clear program and solutions to the major issues in the union movement: outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, ”team concept,” new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. NDM especially hammered on the idea of “one member, one vote.” As everyone knows, we won that in 2021 in a government-supervised election. I’m glad to get it, but I’d rather that the members had chosen it by voting for New Directions 30 years earlier.
I can’t claim to have been a leader of New Directions. I certainly wasn’t, but I played a role. I tried to line up an obscure UAW Local in the Southern Part of Dallas. It was a battery plant with maybe 50-60 workers. I took the union president out to Steak and Ale at my own expense. I gave him a sales pitch for change, but he voted with the Administrative Caucus.
At Local 848, I wrote and distributed our own New Directions pamphlet called “The Arrow.” I still have a few copies. Jerry Tucker put out a 3-fold pamphlet with parts of the NDM program on it. I have a few copies, including one devoted entirely to “one member one vote.”
At one national meeting, we discussed going all-out to reform the UAW. The argument was over whether or not to run Jerry Tucker for International President. I remember speaking strongly in favor. In fact, I think I made the motion nominating him. Maybe I just motivated for the motion. I remember saying that if Jerry was willing to take all the chances for our cause, why would any of us want to stand in the way?
WHY THEY WERE/ARE AFRAID OF THE UAW INTERNATIONAL
Even though we like to think about the UAW’s great history in organizing and standing up for all workers, especially workers “of color,” the main business, practically the only business, of local UAW officers after 1947 was contract negotiations and enforcement. The International, with their expert reps, lawyers, and top researchers, usually dominated.
For example, take the problem of terminations. When companies terminate a UAW member, we grieve it. Usually, the company forces us to grieve it all the way to arbitration. The professional UAW International Reps and the legal staff, experts that they are, handle most of those arbitrations. Without them, local union officers would feel pretty helpless, and companies would soon be firing anybody they wanted to, especially union officers!
The International UAW sat on top of union democracy, too. I have been told that professional union business agents/reps are not allowed to attend union conventions, but in the UAW they sit right at your table and watch every move you make. Or, worse, they stand behind you. International Reps tell the members when to make a motion, when to make a second, and when and how to vote. Anybody who steps out of line is carefully noted, and they can expect trouble during their next elections, negotiations or arbitrations.
I attended my first convention during the New Directions period. Our International Rep sat at Local 848’s table through the entire convention. BJ Meeks and others bravely voted their own convictions, but the intimidation was heavy. Years later, I attended another national convention, and the International Reps orchestrated literally everything that happened.
Have you ever heard of the Praetorian Guard? They were crack soldiers who were charged with guarding the Roman Emperor after democracy had disappeared. They did a great job. That’s how I see the legions of International Reps in the UAW.
So, one may very well ask, how did UAW active and retired members work up the courage to defy the UAW International and vote for “one-member-one-vote” in 2021? Because the government ran the election and gave us a secret ballot. Secret ballot!
At the convention, Jerry Tucker failed to win the presidency. Our vote counters had expected it, but they were sure that we would win the directorship of Region 1 (mostly California). In an excruciating evening of hand-counting the votes, we lost that one, too. I took an historic picture of Victor and Sophie Ruther, glassy-eyed in defeat, as UAW President Owen Bieber announced the result.
The UAW then disbanded Region 1, so New Directions lost its strongest foothold. Anybody who had supported New Directions braced for the wrath of the UAW International, from Victor Reuther to the smallest.
As I was never in the circle of leadership, I don’t know what discussions and decisions came about, but I had a personal experience that pointed downward for me. Here’s how I remember it:
UAW Local 848 President Carroll Butler, the stalwart of our 1984-85 contract fight, one of the strongest supporters of New Directions, and I were standing on a hotel veranda looking out over San Diego. Out of the blue, he handed me two $100 bills. He told me to donate it at the next New Directions meeting. He wouldn’t be attending, he said, and he didn’t want anybody to know where the $200 came from.
In other words, one of our bravest and strongest men was disassociating from New Directions. That’s when I knew it was over. I kept trying, but the rigor mortis was already setting in. I still have a copy of a letter I wrote to Jerry Tucker dated October 29, 1992: “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether.… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene.” I didn’t get a reply.
SOME NOTES IN MY FILES. Folder dated 12/19/92 and titled “New Directions.”
3 copies of “The arrow.” I scanned one in Pictures/arrow1192.jpg
I scanned 4 photos: tucker-jerry, tucker-mrsjerry, reuther-victor,
I found a photo of Butler with Roy Kinney & Pancho. Another with Silva. They are in “pictures” now.
Copy of “The Arrow,” January 1991 //I wonder if that’s an error and it was 1992?// “Don’t blame Local 276!” about the whipsawing battle where GM in Arlington beat out Willow Run, Michigan. //I had completely forgotten that I wrote and published “The Arrow” to build New Directions in North Texas. It was a 1 page, letter sized, newsletter. Looks like my printer was a dot-matrix.//
Handwritten notes from 7/21/91 NDM meeting starting at 15:15. “There are 18 folks here.” “Dot goes to St Louis meeting next Thursday. Dick proposes that our cake sale money go to Dot for her expenses. Passes.” “Urges New Directions meeting at 2 on 3rd Sunday of August. Passes” 23 people here.
Handwritten notes from 8/18/91 “Joe Silva says agents in Local 148 are circulating an anti-Tucker leaflet that says Tucker negotiated a contract here that cut out overtime. Butler sent back a a letter pointing out that 1) we still have overtime 2) tucket didn’t negotiate it.” “BJ [Meeks] gives history of NDM: fightback at 848 was origin. Int’l made deals, agreed to give up COLA. Afterward, we decided int’l should be accountable, just as a local is… Not just Jerry Tucker… “Really what NDM is all about is fightback” –BJ Meeks.
“Dot reports on national coordinating meeting. Ken Fout of TDU, Ray Rogers [subject of movie Norma Rae], Dan LaBotz, Jane Slaughter all there helping to formulate ideas and experiences.”
“ND campaign platform 1) internal democratization & reform 2) collateral bargaining 3) organizing 4) pol action and relations with other unions 5) internationalism” “Vote was 14-3 in favor of a national candidate. 3 felt the movement had not come far enough along.” “Glen Plankett of Local 148 reports that they want no less than 7 days to review contract.”
“Nov 2nd in Detroit will be national meeting of ND” “Ralph says we must stop automatically endorsing democrats. Says reactionary Republican Dick Armey is the best rep he ever had.” “BJ mentions possibility of getting Arrow out through interplant mail.” (never happened)
Copy of “The Arrow”: October 1991 “Local 848 getting ready to win” includes a short article “New Directions national conference. UAW members are invited to attend the 3rd Annual National Conference of the New Directions Movement in Detroit November 1-3. “The discussion going on in the New Directions Movement is designed to reverse the general downward trend in strength of our international union. NDM has proposed positive solutions to problems of outsourcing, runaway plants, whipsawing, team concept, new technology, democracy in the union, and giveaway contracts. Registration for the conference is $35 per person. Hotel reservations have been arranged for $39 per night. Air fares are cheaper when reservations are made as early as possible. For more information call (3140 531-2900 (NDM office).”
Copy of “The Arrow,” November 1991 Headlines: “The Race is On! New Directions will challenge International in 1992!” It advertises a ND meeting at 848 on Nov 17 “after the membership meeting.” “Checks should be made to ‘New Directions’ and sent to PO Box 6876, St Louis, Missouri, 63144” //I could scan this//
Copy of “The Arrow”: May 1992 Calls for a May 17 NDM meeting on May 17 “after the union meeting.” Includes a call from Jerry Tucker to support 13,000 Caterpillar workers who had struck through the winter.
Excerpt from “A Troublemakers Handbook” named “Inside Strategies” The story of contract victories the UAW leadership does not want told.” Reprinted by New Directions Educational Fund. There are some quotes from Jerry Tucker. There are a lot of quotes from Joe Silva, who was always carried away with his fantasy version of what was really happening. It paints a much rosier picture of the struggle. In this version, everything we did worked great. In reality, it was a lot harder.
Inside strategies, in this version, were first developed by Tucker at Moog, then at Schweitzer and Bell Helicopter before it was successful at LTV.
A NDM three-fold leaflet. UAW a “one-party state.” “Steelworkers, Mineworkers, Mailhandlers, and now even the Teamsters have one-person, one-vote elections for national officials. Why not the UAW?”
Another 3-fold leaflet. This one has a quote from Vic: “Our union is drifting aimlessly. No longer democratic. Trapped in the corporate agenda. Unwilling to fight for our members today. The UAW needs new policies and new leadership. Through the fight for true democratic voting rights at the rank and file level, and for a true vision of a new direction, we can fulfill our historic destiny and restore real accountability and solidarity.” Signed “Victor Reuther, UAW Co-Founder”
This leaflet is all about “one person one vote.”
Three lightly printed sheets showing contributions to NDM from Elaine and me. Includes our $5/month contributions and my record on button sales.
Very lightly printed letter dated 10/29/92 from me to Jerry Tucker. “Dear Jerry. ND activities at Local 848 have stopped altogether. …one page single spaced… Wish I had better news. In solidarity, Gene”
Tioga is 50 miles north of Dallas. Politically, it may be in another world.
When we made our little road trip, the first thing we noticed were the big campaign signs for Don Huffines hanging on barbed wire fences. He seems to think that Governor Abbott is a liberal. HIs main slogan for getting votes in rural areas, based on an outright lie, seems to be “Stop Giving Our Money to Illegals!”
Our second clue came when we arrived at Tioga and stopped for barbecue. By the way, we liked the food, and apparently lots of other people like it, because the crowd was pretty good for a town with population 803. While we were scarfing it down, though, we noticed that we hadn’t seen a mask anywhere on the trip. Pandemic or not, they just don’t wear them up around Tioga!
After the restaurant, we tried to fit in by taking off our masks for our walking tour. We went right down Gene Autry street. We thought there might be some kind of statue, plaque, or other tribute to the great singing cowboy who is, among many other things, who I’m probably named after. The tribute is probably there, because being the birthplace of Gene Autry is Tioga’s only claim to fame, but we couldn’t find it. Right next to the street sign where we paused for a photo, a sign hung from a tree: “Trump: Make America Great!”
By then, we city people had begun to get a little uneasy. A couple of blocks further, we saw our first “Trump 2024” yard sign of this political year. By the time we got to Race Street and saw a certain house, we were downright nervous.
When we saw the confederate flag and the posted threat of violence, we decided that it might be good to get back to the car before anybody noticed my “Bernie” bumper sticker. As soon as we got back to City Hall, where we had parked, we checked the car for possible painted swastikas. Then we got out of Tioga.
On the way home, we wondered if there were any dark-skinned people in Tioga. More importantly, we wondered why people in the rural areas of Texas seem committed to the Republican Party despite all facts and information. We think it might be racism.
Erik Loomis “A History of America in Ten Strikes,” The New Press, New York, 2018, 301 pages
I got my Kindle copy free through the Dallas library. People might think it’s just a blow-by-blow account of ten very interesting and dramatic strikes, but it’s more than that. Each strike is put in its economic, political and historical context. One couldn’t, for example, understand the Bread and Roses textile strike without knowing, first, that New England farmers were so desperate that they were willing to give up their daughters. One couldn’t understand the success of the Flint Sit-Down without knowing, first, that labor’s political efforts had paid off beforehand.
Every history has a framework. Usually, they are based on the idea of “great men” who “made” history. This book’s framework is much more realistic. Its ribs are certain especially interesting contests between working people and their bosses. Its spine is the class struggle in America. It’s a very good way to make history understandable.
Since the book was submitted for publication, we have seen a nascent strike wave in America. People who never could organize before are joining unions. That includes techies, retail workers, and even Starbucks employees. At the same time, a recent (2022) poll said that we have lost another half-percent of the total workforce. I assume that brings us down to around 10.4% as we descend down a ladder of destruction that began in 1947 when we had about 35%.
One could argue that I am being completely subjective, but I don’t agree with the book’s conclusions. The author seems to think that the future for American labor lies in organizing in the service sector, whereas I cling to the older idea that basic industry and transportation are primary. The difference has to do with how one thinks change might come about.
Most activists today, whether they would admit it or not, believe that labor’s role is to strengthen progressive electoral efforts. The more people that join unions, the stronger our voting power. Once we have enough voting power, we will win elections and depose the bosses. I think that major union leaders share that view, but I don’t.
Labor’s strength goes far beyond electoral statistics and is, in fact, a matter of confrontation. Service workers have never been able to confront the bosses fundamentally and never will. I’d love to have more of them in the union movement, and I’d love to win elections, but only basic industry and transportation can shut the bosses down.
I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. KNON publishes my “Workers Beat Extra” blog Wednesdays on Soundcloud.com. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site where I put my life’s lessons.
Every New Years, I’ve tried to get people to make predictions. Hardly any of them will. The best I have received so far is a stock broker who called KNON. After I prodded him, he responded, “The rich will get richer.” That’s about the safest prediction I ever heard.
My 2022 Predictions:
Massive evictions will put millions into the ‘homeless’ category.
Vigilantes and illegal militias will flourish.
Political violence will become commonplace.
Police will tend to allow the anti-worker outrages to flame, while suppressing any activity of pro-worker forces. This was the precedent set in Germany in the 1920s and has generally held.
Poverty and hunger will grow, especially among children.
The formal educational system will continue to deteriorate as Republicans undermine them with schemes like “charter” schools and assaults on officials. More and more parents will begin to seek out internet solutions.
Big corporations will try to privatize the internet and everything else, including all utilities and municipal services.
Persistent inflation will force the federal reserve to cut back on “quantitative easing” and near-zero interest rates. Stocks and bonds will crumble but the “real economy” won’t be hit so hard.
Little if anything will get done about the environmental crisis. Freak weather disasters will increase and worsen.
As world economies teeter, governments will advocate new wars.
Omicron will hit early and hard. After it peaks early in the year, a solid majority of Americans will have some immunity from vaccination or from having already suffered through COVID. By late summer, it will no longer be the top of every news story
The democratic party will continue unraveling while the Republican Party will grow more homogeneous and harder.
Independent movements, particularly the women’s movement, will grow. We will see a revival of unemployed and homeless advocacy groups similar to those of the 1930s.
These independent movements will be larger, better informed, and better integrated than anything we have ever seen in history. This is because people are better informed and have infinitely better communications.
Unions will not initially lead these powerful independent movements. Unions will be drawn into the larger movement. They will play an important role in guiding and financing the movement.
The 2022 elections will show people voting increasingly for 3rd or 4th parties, Greens, Working Family, Democrats, and Independents.
One thing that the strong progressive organizations will agree on is this: vote for no Republican!
Americans will begin to experiment with the kind of political strikes that have been known in other countries.
And slowly, the way forward will begin to show itself.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. The program and a supplemental “Workers Beat Extra” are podcast on Soundcloud.com every Wednesday. My January 5 podcast includes these predictions. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
H.W. Brands, The General vs the President. MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War. Doubleday, New York, 2016
William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 1978
Readers who want to know how the Cold War was fine-tuned will find good discussions in these two books. However, both books are based on questionable assumptions that undermine their historical value. Also on the downside, much of the information in the 2016 book seems to have been taken directly from the 1978 book, or from the same sources. I think that both MacArthur and Truman wrote autobiographies that provided much of the original information, but, of course, without a critical eye.
The two authors do not really explain the war. Even worse, they buy uncritically into the U.S. State Department version of what happened. The Americans were heroes, the South Koreans were incompetent, the North Koreans and the Chinese were evil and aggressive imperialists.
The differences explored in these books were not the differences between the U.S. and North Korea, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and the U.N. nor the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The only differences explored are the minor differences between committed anticommunists, especially Truman and MacArthur.
MacArthur, everyone in the book and the authors agree, was a brilliant military strategist. He was also an arrogant gloryhog who wanted to be President. Truman was an outstanding politician. Various other generals and politicians exalted MacArthur, but eventually came around to Truman’s side. The difference between the two main protagonists had to do with the conduct of the Cold War. Basically, MacArthur was ready to risk everything for a military victory against all communists; Truman wanted military containment of the communists while draining them economically. Truman’s version is the one we lived with, but he had to fire one of the most popular military leaders in modern history to establish his program.
MacArthur wanted to destroy the Chinese Army. Truman and his cohorts thought that a long-term effort to destroy the Soviet Union was preferable. The American people were divided, as we are now.
I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on soundcloud.com on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
In one of them, government spokespersons complain about the falling birth rate in India, the worlds most populous country. The other lamented falling birth rates in the United States, the richest. Both of them complained that economies would suffer if people didn’t rev up their baby production. Both of them offered no explanation for declining birth rates except to say that people just don’t want kids like they used to.
Do People Want Kids?
People are hard-wired to have children whether they want to or not. The difference between today and the past is that more people have a choice. Thank Margaret Sanger for promoting birth control. Thank millions of women for fighting for their rights. The fight is certainly not over, but women have made some gains, and one of those important gains is that they get a little bit of say-so over when and whether they will have children.
At the risk of offending the religious and anti-woman crazies, one could make a strong case that people don’t really want children, or at least they don’t want a considerable number of them. Start with the scandalous treatment of foster children in Texas, for example. The Texas Tribune says there are 28,000 of them. Many have no foster “families.” Some of them sleep unprotected in Child Protective Service offices!
The United States has 12,000,000 children living in poverty, according to The Anna E Casey Foundation 2021 report. Texas has 1,401,000, or 19% of its total. Texas ranks Texas 46th in taking care of children. It has the most severe anti-abortion law on the books. Texas, one might conclude, has no use for children after they are born!
Is More Population a Good Idea?
At last count (2020), this planet was supporting 7.753 billion human beings. It was 7.673 billion the year before. Some of them are at war. Some of them are dying from disease. Some are being killed by the effects of climate change. Many of them are transient immigrants. 1 in every 10 is undernourished.
Campbell, Randolph B, “An Empire for Slavery. The Peculiar Institution in Texas 1821-1865.” Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
I had Dr Campbell on KNON once, years ago. He was teaching at North Texas University in Denton.
Dr Campbell has strong factual basis for his description of slavery in the Lone Star state. There are 15 pages of bibliography notes that include census figures from 1840, 1850, and 1860 as well as the recordings that were made in the 1930s by former Texas slaves. He had judicial proceedings against slaves and civil cases concerning squabbles between one “owner” and another – as well as squabbles over slave “rentals” and “mortgages.” He has a lot of wills in which “owners” divided their “property” among their heirs. Campbell knows his subject.
This is a dispassionate work of history, not a polemic against slavery nor one of the many apologies for it. He just tells what happened, and that, by itself, makes riveting reading. Given the many misleading accounts of Texas history that exist and are pushed by Chambers of Commerce and politicians, this one is a genuine relief. By looking at the facts, one can finally see through some of the mythology and deliberately misleading versions. Certainly in reality, Texas slaves were not happily playing their banjos and loving their “masters.”
There are some revelations. For example, every Texas child knows that Stephen F Austin, “The Father of Texas,” spent considerable time in Mexico as a representative of his group of settlers. What I hadn’t realized is that a lot of Austin’s Mexico mission consisted of pleas to the Mexican government to allow slavery. During the entire period that white settlers poured into Mexican Tejas, slavery wasn’t legal. The law just generally wasn’t enforced, not for ideological reasons but simply because Tejas was rough country and far away from Mexico City. Many of the new settlers brought their slaves.
Campbell takes a position on the role of slavery in motivating the white settler’s eventual rebellion against Mexico. He says that it was certainly a factor, but not the immediate cause. He does note that the constitution of the Republic of Texas strongly favored slavery, as did state laws after Texas joined the United States. At the beginning, and from time to time, Black freepersons were not allowed anywhere in Texas. After Texas joined the Confederacy, manumission was outlawed.
As to the theory that white settlers intentionally moved to Texas in order to steal the land from a weak Mexican Republic, Campbell offers no opinion in this book. This is just about slavery.
Speaking of laws, Campbell explains that slaves were not legally equal to other forms of “property.” The law had to recognize that slaves were people as well as property. Slaves endured all kinds of punishments, including legal jailing and execution. Dallasites who have read the transcript of the trial of Jane Elkins, the first Texas woman officially executed, may have wondered why it included her dollar value ($700) along with the rest of the proceedings. Campbell says that the “owner” of executed “property” was legally entitled to half their “value.” Apparently, someone got $350 from the county when Jane was hanged.
It is interesting that lynching was never popular in Texas until after African Americans were freed. There were no laws protecting them from lynching, but there were plenty of laws protecting their “owners” from losing money.
Even though I know that farmers regularly try to upgrade their livestock through selective breeding, it had never occurred to me, until I read to page 154 of this book, that some “owners” did the same thing with their human “livestock!” Some male slaves were rented out to stud!
Did slaves and abolitionists fight for freedom in Texas? Well, Campbell estimates that about 4,000 slaves managed to escape to Mexico or to a few friendly native tribes, but most slaves just tried to “get by” with things the way they were. Many of the Germans who migrated to Texas after 1848 did not use slaves, some opposed it, and at least one editor, Adolph Douai of San Antonio, made a public fuss, at least for a while. Seventy percent of free Texans did not own any slaves, but they voted the slaveowners into all important offices; consequently, we may assume that they took no stand against it. Slavery was apparently considered an economic question, not an ideological nor moral one. During the Civil War, Campbell says that 98,594 African Americans took up arms with the Federal Army. Only 47 of them were from Texas. The main reason is that Federal forces never invaded Texas; consequently, no Texas slaves were freed before Juneteenth.
Was slavery worse in Texas than elsewhere? Campbell says there is no evidence of it. As one reads of the horrors endured by Texas slaves, we can take no comfort from the idea that it was better elsewhere. Campbell says that the treatment of slaves, which varied greatly from “owner” to “owner,” was nevertheless about the same throughout the South.
I am on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. Programs and my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts are posted on soundcloud.com on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site
Book Review: Dubofsky, Melvin and Warren Van Tine, “John L. Lewis, a Biography.” Quadrangle, the NY Times Book Co., NY, 1977.
If one is interested in the American labor movement 1919-1959, then one needs to know about John L. Lewis. This is a thorough version of 529 big pages in 8-point type! The authors paint a consistent picture of a history-maker who was an autocrat, an egomaniac, and a shifty manipulator who achieved a certain amount of relatively undeserved success. It’s well documented and presented in a balanced way, so I wouldn’t challenge its veracity, but only its conclusion.
John L. Lewis was a union man. The authors point out that he could easily have made more money if he had left the labor movement and joined his many capitalist friends. They do not explain why he didn’t, but I will: he was a union man. Union men care about others. They may, and apparently Lewis did, use all sorts of questionable strategies to serve their union members; but their goal is to make things better. I challenge anyone to say that John L. Lewis failed in that noble effort!
Lewis started the CIO and guided it to its great success. He was lionized everywhere for it and was one of the greatest heroes of the period 1935-1939. Afterward, he opposed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he opposed entry to World War II, he encouraged a big coal strike during World War II, he opposed President Harry Truman; and he allowed himself to be made one of the most despised public figures in America afterward. Loved or hated, nobody disputes his outsize role in history.
The authors chose hang their narrative on the biennial mineworkers contract negotiations. Many times, walkouts were involved. Lewis was a master strategist who knew how to manipulate the mine owners, his enemies within the union, government supervisors, and whoever else was involved. Because of economic realities, every contract was not a great victory, but many of them were, and much of those victories came about because Lewis was really good at what he did. But it wasn’t mine worker contracts that drew me to the life of Lewis. It was the dramatic change he made in the American labor movement. Lewis implemented industrial unionism when he formed the Committee for Industrial Organizing, known later as the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Before 1935, the “official” labor movement was characterized by craft unions. They avoided organizing women or people of color. They sought out the elite workers, the ones with irreplaceable skills such as electricians or machinists. Someone who pushed a broom had no chance to get the benefits of labor organization. At the same time, certain progressives tried to implement industrial organizing targeting everybody who worked. The IWW is often mis-called “International Workers,” but their real name was “Industrial Workers of the World.” They tried to organize everybody and were so successful at it that the government arrested, deported, and killed enough of them to hold them back.
After that, the communists tried to infiltrate the AFL with newly-organized industrial workers and industrial ideas. They wanted all unions to be like the United Mine Workers, who organized everybody that worked in their industry. John L. Lewis, head of the mine workers, agreed with them and decided, in 1935, that he could get the AFL to accept it. The 1935 AFL convention, and Lewis’ role, makes a great story. When it was over, industrial unionism had a firm beginning at last and American labor was never the same again.
AFL leaders during the period accused Lewis of splitting the labor movement, but this book makes it clear that John L. Lewis did not precipitate a split and that he spent the his career trying to re-unite the movement. In 1955, they did re-unite to form the AFL-CIO. Unfortunately, the twists and turns of history had left the UMW out of the AFL, the CIO, and the AFL-CIO. None of that was Lewis’ fault.
The book is not a grand view of all labor developments. The IWW is barely mentioned. The communists, who did a great deal of the organizing, are only mentioned when they were being excoriated by Lewis or other people. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal that I hadn’t known before. Here are notes I took as I read the life of John L Lewis:
I was surprised to read that the United Mine Workers were demanding a 6-hour day and 5-day week way back in 1919! Also, they demanded that coal mining be nationalized. Lewis joined in the slogans, but not the implementation. I’m up to page 134, and the authors paint him as a gross opportunist.
Lewis rose through the ranks because he cultivated relationships, not because of some meteoric personality. One of the people he cultivated was 40-year AFL leader Samuel Gompers. Another was head of the Harriman bank. After he got the presidency, he beat down the militant miners. He used red-baiting generously. Some of his supporters beat up his opponents.
The government called out airplanes against the miners in the Battle of Blair mountain in August 1921.
Page 82: “On April 1, 1922, he thus led the largest single coal miners’ strike in United States history.”
June 21, 1922, there was a massacre of scabs in Herrin County, Illinois. After winning an armed battle with strikebreakers and guards, miners took them prisoners. As they drove their prisoners along, they got carried away and murdered 19 of them. “The Herrin Massacre.” Lewis blamed it all on communists.
William Z Foster and his Trade Union Education League targeted the UMW because it was the largest of all American unions and because it was organized industrially. Lewis used the occasion to slather his enemies with red paint and destroy them all. After 1926 or so, Lewis was unchallenged within the union. But through his ascent, the union was in descent. In fact, the authors say that Lewis was able to overcome various District Directors because they were losing so many members and, thus, so much clout. The union apparently dropped from 500K members to 100K. They only won the 1922 strike with a $2M loan from the Harriman Bank.
As Lewis reigned supreme, the union was nearly finished.
Even in 1932, Lewis supported his poker playing buddy, Herbert Hoover, for President. FDR took office March 1933. Even before that, John L Lewis was touting the outline for the New Deal. At AFL-CiO conventions beginning in 1933, he spoke up for industrial organizing. Even before that, he wanted to increase the Exec from 8 to 25 in order to represent more of the union movement. Along about page 190, John L starts being the good guy in this narrative. Befrore that, one might claim that his great accomplishment was keeping the union together through hard times, if one were generous. These authors aren’t.
Lewis had a great lifelong friend in Herbert Hoover. According to the authors, he prized his friendships among the high and mighty, be they capitalists or not, much more than other unionists or the common people.
Pg147: In 1921, UMW had 500K. In 1928, 80K.
Pg 148: Campaigned for Hoover
Pg165: Mother Jones opposed Lewis
Pg167: “Third period” reds were a problem
Pg178: At 1932 AFL Convention, Lewis urged the formation of the United Electrical Workers. He presaged the New Deal
Pg 174: Economist and reformer W. Jett Lauck worked with Lewis for decades. Wrote most of his speeches
Pg 183: The New Deal, Lewis said, was a way to avoid communism. He blasts communists all through his career
Pg 192 “Captive mines” were owned by steel companies. They refused national agreement under Section 7A of NIRA. Some historians claim that Lewis only wanted to form the CIO so that he could organize the captive mines. Clearly, it isn’t true because he went to great lengths to help the United Auto Workers form and win their big action against General Motors.
Pg 201: Opposed women’s auxiliary for UMW
Pg 205: 12% of the American workforce was organized in 1935. That was less than in 1922
Pg 276: GM settlement caused U.S. Steel contract. Lewis did not call nor control the sit-downers at Flint. He dealt with Michigan Governor Murphy and FDR
Pg 277: “What the AFL had failed to accomplish in half a century, the CIO had accomplished in three weeks.”
Pg 278: By the end of August, 1937, the CIO had 3,419,600 members, which was more than the AFL had.
Pg 306: 12-21-37 failure of unity conference\
Pg 307: AFL chartered dual unions, red baited, and linked with Chamber of Commerce to change the Wagner Act to disallow industrial unions. They undermined the New Deal, too.
Pg 307: Nov 1938–CIO is separate. Dubinsky pulled the ILGWU out of the CIO and went back to the AFL. CIA stooge Jay Lovestone was Dubinsky’s adviser.
Pg 314: FDR and New Dealers sold out Steel Workers Organizing Committee even after the Memorial Day 1937 massacre. August 1937 began “Roosevelt Depression.” Lewis criticized FDR and began the break that festered from then on
Pg 319: 1-25-39 Homer Martin resigned from Presidency of the UAW and took his own version of the union into the AFL
Pg 344: Lewis used his oratorial skill to destroy his enemies. He used the word “hottentot” to make his enemies sound like barbarians, savages, or cannibals
Pg 350: Spoke to NAACP and was for full rights for African Americans
Pg 351: Hoover 1940
Pg 351: Puissant is a word the authors use to mean “overly powerful.” FDR was becoming a puissant president, Lewis thought
Pg 358: He endorsed Wendell Wilkie for President in 1939 and swore to resign from the CIO if unions did not follow him. They didn’t and he did.
Pg 369: Phil Murray, anti-communist like Lewis, was elected to lead the CIO. During the war, Lewis tried to rejoin the AFL. In fact, he continued efforts to re-unite the labor movement to the end of his career. The authors blame him for some of the problems, but they record that he did try over and over again.
Pg 457: Jan 24, 1946, UMW re-admitted to AFL
Pg 458: Strike wave of 1946: “In November, 1945, two hundred thousand General Motors employees walked out of their plants. Two months later, 300,000 meat packers and 180,000 electrical workers struck, and were followed shortly thereafter by 750,000 steelworkers. In all, 4,630 work stoppages, involving 5,000,000 strikers, and totaling 12,000,000 idle work-days occurred in the twelve months following Japan’s surrender. While little physical violence characterized these stoppages, they generated violent emotions as middle- and upper-class Americans feared that unions would disrupt their economic security.” After the strike wave, Americans were bitter toward organized labor. This may help explain what happened in 1947.
Pg 468: Truman defeats Lewis in 1946 contract negotiations. Lewis had demanded mine safety.
Pg 474: Centralia mine explosion kills 111. Lewis uses it to push for mine safety
Pg 473: Taft Harley passed June 23, 1947. Lewis fought it before and after (pg 474)
Pg 476: Lewis continued to oppose Taft-Hartley after many unions accommodated themselves to it. In 1953, Lewis also made statements against Wagner Act and said unions were better off without government intervention
Pg 492: He always sought unification
Pg 493: AFL-CIO united in 1955, but they excluded the UMW
Pg 501: “The Jones Boys” were union hoodlums who beat up scab miners. Sometimes the would stop work at a scab mine and line up all the workers, then force them to join. Apparently, Lewis countenanced this through his career, but the book only mentions it this once. This page is also the first mention of Tony Boyle. Boyle took over the UMW and ruled it until he was convicted of murdering Jock Mahoney, his opponent.
Pg 506: Describes Lewis’ banking empire, which began in the 1920s and was gigantic by the 1950s. By then, the coal industry had fallen so low that its great financial achievements began to erode away
Pg 513: For his legacy, Lewis did not ask for statues or honors so much. He chartered 10 hospitals in mining districts. Apparently, Lewis always voted Democrat as he aged.
Pg 528: Died June 11, 1969. Left no papers nor any clear explanation of his lifelong motivations
Pg 529: The book ends with Dec 30, 1969, when Yablonski and his family retired for the night. That’s when Tony Boyle had them killed