Philip Dray

  • Aired:  10/06/10
  •  | Views: 54,710

Philip Dray remembers the struggle that workers went through to set the standards for workplace safety, hours and conditions that are now taken for granted. (7:04)

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, AN AUTHOR

WHOSE NEW BOOK IS CALLED "THERE

IS POWER IN A UNION: THE EPIC

STORY OF LABOR IN AMERICA."

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM

PHILIP DRAY.

[APPLAUSE]

THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

>> Jon: THERE IS POWER IN A

UNION.

HAVE WE IN THIS COUNTRY, DO YOU

THINK, HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THE

STORY OF LABOR IN THIS COUNTRY?

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THE STRUGGLE

THAT PEOPLE WENT THROUGH AT THE

TURN OF THE CENTURY, LAST

CENTURY?

>> I THINK TO A GREAT EXTENT WE

HAVE.

THAT'S REALLY WHAT PROMPTED ME

TO WRITE THE BOOK BECAUSE I FELT

THAT THIS MOVEMENT, WHICH OUR

GRANDPARENTS AND GREAT

GRANDPARENTS WERE SO INVOLVED IN

AND THAT ACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH, A

LOT OF THE STANDARDS OF

WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HOURS AND

CONDITIONS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED,

THAT STORY HAD LARGELY BEEN

FORGOTTEN.

IT'S A GREAT STORY OF A SOCIAL

MOVEMENT.

AND I THOUGHT IT WAS WORTH

REMEMBERING.

>> Jon: IT IS, YOU KNOW, THE

VIOLENCE THAT CAME ALONG WITH

FIGHTING TO NOT HAVE TO WORK IN

A MINE FOR THE HOURS THAT THEY

HAD TO OR NOT HAVE TO SHOP AT A

COMPANY STORE.

HOW WERE THE WORKERS ABLE TO

WITHSTAND THE KINDS OF ASSAULTS

THAT WERE ON THEM?

>> WELL, IT WAS... YOU'RE RIGHT,

IT WAS VERY VIOLENT,

PARTICULARLY IN THE 19th

CENTURY.

THE WORKERS REALLY HAD... THE

GOVERNMENT TOOK HANDS-OFF

ATTITUDE UNTIL THEY STARTED

SENDING IN FEDERAL SOLDIERS, AND

WORKERS WERE OFTEN PUT DOWN

VIOLENTLY.

YOU KNOW, THE ARMORY BUILDINGS

WE SEE IN OUR BIG CITIES TODAY,

MOST OF THEM WERE PUT THERE SO

TROOPS WOULD BE ABLE TO GATHER

NEAR PLACES OF WORK.

>> Jon: THE STEEL STRIKE IN

PARTICULAR, THE PINKERTON FELLAS

WENT IN.

>> THE HOMESTEAD STRIKE OF 1892,

VERY VIOLENT.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN, YOU CAN

IMAGINE THE NATION WOULD BE

OUTRAGED AT THE VIOLENCE, PEOPLE

HAD BEEN KILLED, THERE WOULD BE

PROMISES OF REFORM, AND THAT

ACTUALLY DID SLOWLY KIND OF MOVE

THINGS FORWARD TO THE POINT

WHERE WE REACHED IN THE

PROGRESSIVE ERA WHAT THEY CALLED

INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY, A FEELING

AMONGST GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

THAT THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY

TO DO THIS.

IT'S HURT PROGRESS DUCK

DIFFICULT AND PROFITS AND WE

DON'T WANT TO HAVE THIS KIND OF

LARGE GROUP OF UNRULY, ANGRY

PEOPLE IN OUR NATION'S CITIES.

>> RIGHT.

THAT'S GOTTEN US TO THE POINT

TODAY WHERE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM

IN THE WORKPLACE IS YOU'RE JUST

NOT SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT THAT

MUCH PORN.

[LAUGHTER]

HAVE THE UNIONS, THOUGH, THE

JOURNEY NOW, AND I IMAGINE THERE

IS ANOTHER MOVEMENT AFOOT, SO

THESE GROUPS THAT FOUGHT SO HARD

TO GAIN THE BASIC RESPECT AND

RIGHTS FOR THE WORKERS, HAVE

THEY THEMSELVES NOW BECOME SO

ENTRENCHED AND BLOATED THAT THEY

HAVE BECOME THE AGENTS OF

CORRUPTION?

>> WELL, I THINK TO A CERTAIN

EXTENT THAT'S BEEN ONE OF THE

PROBLEMS FOR UNIONS OVER THE

LAST HALF CENTURY OR SO.

THE PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN

SELF-MADE.

A LOT OF THE BIG UNIONS BEGAN TO

MIMIC BIG BUSINESS.

THEY HAD HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY

ON HAND.

THE LEADERS TENDED TO BE PEOPLE

WHO HAD NEVER ACTUALLY BEEN RANK

AND FILE, SO THERE WAS A

DISTANCE.

>>

>> Jon: AND THEY USE THE SAME

TYPE OF INTIMIDATION IN SOME

RESPECTS.

>> EXACTLY.

MANY OF THE LEADERS WERE

CHARISMATIC FIGURES WHO COULDN'T

BE QUESTIONED FROM BELOW.

ON THE OTHER HAND, EVEN THOUGH,

OF COURSE, A LOT OF THESE

CORRUPTION CASES ARE FAMOUS, I

THINK ONE HAS TO BE CAREFUL NOT

TO TAINT THE ENTIRE LABOR

MOVEMENT WITH THIS IDEA THAT

IT'S CORRUPT.

I THINK PEOPLE HOLD IT TO A

HIGHER STANDARD BECAUSE IT'S A

SOCIAL, ECONOMIC JUSTICE

MOVEMENT, BUT FOR EVERY HEADLINE

ABOUT CORRUPTION, THERE ARE

HUNDREDS OF LEGITIMATE LEGALLY

FUNCTIONING LOCAL UNIONS ACROSS

THE COUNTRY AND ALWAYS HAVE

BEEN.

>> WHERE DO YOU SEE THE VIBE SI

OF THE UNION MOVEMENT RIGHT NOW?

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE BEST WORK

IS BEING DONE, AND WHERE DO YOU

THINK THE MOST WORK NEEDS TO BE

DONE TO REIN IN THEIR POWER?

>> WELL, A COUPLE DIFFERENT

THINGS?

ONE, OF COURSE, IS THE LAST... I

THINK FOR MANY YEARS UNIONS WERE

KIND OF ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.

I THINK THEY'VE COME ALIVE A

LITTLE BIT IN THE LAST

GENERATION OR SOME YOU SEE A LOT

OF ORGANIZING OF PEOPLE WHO HAD

NEVER REALLY BEEN ORGANIZED

BEFORE, JANITOR, HOSPITAL

WORKERS, JUST A COUPLE WEEKS AGO

OUT IN LOS ANGELES, THE CAR

WASH, 10,000 CAR WASH WORKERS

BEGAN TO ORGANIZE, SO YOU SEE

THAT IN AMERICA.

YOU ALSO SEE KIND OF AN ATTEMPT

FOR LABOR TO SORT OF GO GLOBAL

REALLY, IN OTHER WORDS, THAT'S

WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW WITH

GLOBALIZATION, BECAUSE JOBS HAVE

BEEN SENT OVERSEAS, LABOR HAS TO

FIND A WAY TO COORDINATE WORKERS

OVERSEAS.

AND THAT LABOR MOVEMENT, ONE

THAT INVOLVES HUMAN RIGHTS

GROUP, WOMEN RIGHTS GROUP,

ANTI-SWEATSHOP ORGANIZATIONS

INVOLVING CONSUMERS, THAT'S SORT

OF PICKING UP SPEED.

WE HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER TEN OR

15 YEARS TO SEE IF THAT WILL

REALLY EVOLVE.

>> RIGHT.

AND IN TERMS OF THE AREAS WHERE

YOU THINK IT NEEDS REFORM, THE

ACTUAL UNION MOVEMENT ITSELF

NEEDS REFORM, WHERE DO YOU SEE

THAT?

>> WELL, I THINK YOU SEE THAT IN

A LOT OF UNIONS NOW BEING ASKED

FOR ACCOMMODATIONS OR PUSHBACK,

IN OTHER WORDS, TO KEEP

INSTITUTIONS OR COMPANIES VIABLE

>> Jon: HAVE THE UNIONS BEEN

GOOD PARTNERS TO THE AUTOMOTIVE

INDUSTRY, HAVE THEY BEEN GOOD

PARTNERS IN EDUCATION?

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THOSE UNIONS

HAVE BEEN GOOD PARTNERS?

>> THE UNITED AUTOWORKERS DID

GIVE A NUMBER OF THINGS BACK IN

TERMS OF PRIVILEGES AND BENEFITS

THEY HAD ACCRUED.

IT'S ALWAYS HARD TO GIVE UP

SOMETHING YOU FOUGHT FOR AND

WON.

THIS GOES BACK TO THE 1950s

WHEN THEY DECIDED THEY DIDN'T

NEED FIREMEN ON LOCOMOTIVES

ANYMORE.

THEY DIDN'T WANT THE LOSE THEIR

JOBS.

THEY WERE PROTECTED BY THE

UNION.

THERE'S BEEN VARIATIONS OF THAT

ALL ALONG.

NOW YOU HAVE THE TEACHERS UNION,

AS WELL, TRYING TO WORK WITH NEW

CHARTER SCHOOLS, TRYING TO FIND

A WAY TO ACCOMMODATE REFORM

WITHOUT JEOPARDIZING THEIR OWN

RANK AND FILE.

>> YOU WERE IN THE MUSICIANS

UNION.

>> YES.

>> Jon: APPARENTLY THERE WAS

AN INCIDENT.

>> THIS WAS MY INTRODUCTION TO

BEING A UNION MEMBER.

I WAS IN THE MINNEAPOLIS

MUSICIANS UNION MANY YEARS AGO.

AFTER HAVING TO SWEAR I WOULD

NEVER PLAY A MELATRON, AN

INSTRUMENT THAT COULD EMULATE

OTHER INSTRUMENTS AND TAKE

PEOPLE'S JOBS, THEY SAID, WE

HAVE TO STOP THE HARLEM

GLOBETROTTERS.

>> Jon:, YES, THE HARLEM

GLOBETROTTERS, THE MAN.

>> THE UNION WAS UPSET BECAUSE

THE GLOBETROTTERS WERE COMING TO

TOWN, BUT THEY DIDN'T WANT THE

HIRE AN EIGHT-PIECE ORCHESTRA.

THEY WANTED TO USE A TAPE

RECORDING OF "SWEET GEORGIA

BROWN," THEIR THEME SONG.

SO THE OLDER MEMBERS BEGAN

CALLING PEOPLE LIKE ME SAYING, I

NEED YOU ON THE PICKET LINE.

WE WERE INCLINED TO SAY, OF

COURSE THEY WANT TO USE A TAPE

RECORDER.

THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

THAT WAS A GENERATIONAL SWITCH,

A DIFFERENT WAY OF LOOKING AT

THINGS.

I DON'T BELIEVE THEY EVER

STOPPED THE HARLEM

GLOBETROTTERS.

>> Jon: UNFORTUNATELY FIFE

PEOPLE DIED, BUT...

[LAUGHTER]

BUT IT IS, YOU KNOW, IT'S SO

IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO

REMEMBER, THOUGH, WHERE THE

MOVEMENT CAME FROM AND THE

STRUGGLE THAT IT DID JUST TO GET

PEOPLE THE BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS

THAT WORKERS SHOULD ENJOY.

IT'S A REALLY FASCINATING AND

GREAT STORY.

THANK YOU FOR WRITING THAT.

THERE IS POWER IN A UNION.

Loading...