Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Jose Yglesias
Ybor City was an island in the South [figuratively; actually a Tampa, FL, barrio]. When an American got mad at any Latin, he called him a Cuban nigger. This was one of the first fieeling I remember: I want to be an American. You become ashamed of the community. I was an ardent supporter of Henry Ford at the age of twelve.

The strike of 1931 revolved around readers in the factory. The workers themselves used to pay twenty-five to fifty cents a week and would hire a man to read to them during work. A cigar factory is one enormous open area, with tables at which people work. A platform would be erected, so that he'd look down at the cigar makers aas he read to them some four hours a day. He would read from newpapers and magazines and a book would be read as a serial. The choice of the book was democratically decided. Some of the readers wer marvelous natural actors. They wouldn't just read a book. They'd act out the scenes. Consequently, many cigar makers, who were illiterate, knew the novels of Zola and Dickens and Cervantes and Tolstoy. And the works of the anarchist, Kropotkin. Amon the newspapers read were The Daily Worker and the Socialist Call. The factory owners decided to put an end to this, though it didn't cost them a penny. ...

It was an extraordinarily radical strike. The cigar makers tried to march to City Hall with red flags, singing the old Italian anarchist song, "Avanti popolo," "Scarlet Banner." I thought it was Spanish because we used to sing "Avanca pueblo." You see the bonus march mad them feel the revolution was here. ...

There were attempts to organize the CIO. I remember one of my older cousins going around in a very secretive manner. You'd think he was planning the assassination of the czar. He was trying to sign people up for the CIO. The AF of L International was very conservative and always considered as an enemy. They never gave the strike any suppor. It was considered the work of agitators

Th first successful "sit-down" strike began at GM's Fisher body plant in Flint, MI, Christmas Eve 1936 and expanded to four additional sites. It lasted 44 days and was organized by the UAW-CIO. A striker like Glenora Dollinger didn't see herself among the "communists" GM claimed had commandeered its property.

Victor Reuther was there.

I get angry when I see hard-won gains given away as concessions to arrogant employers, who are ven more greedy than they were in the '30s. I am embarrassed that the labor movement which once foughtso hard to win these gains now [1995] appears to be the junior partner in a corporate world. So, hitting eighty-two, I want to get out and keep fighting.

Good thing he's dead. I don't think he'd be much impressed by middle-class demands for tax-cuts to make their benefits more "affordable."

I was with the rise of the CIO in the late '30s, when a new kind of labor leadership came into office. They came up through the ranks: textile workers, auto workers, chemical workers. They knew what it was to be in the shop, to be tied [or locked in, as at Ford] to the assembly line.

As time has passed and the trade-union movement has become bureaucratized, the leadership tend to look upon themselves as corporate executives. The spend so much of their time in paneled, air-conditioned offices that they've lost touch with the rank and file. They do not realize the degree of discontent in the ranks. ...

I may be the sole survivor of a group that went to the Soviet Union in the '30s to help build the first automobile plant there. Later, refugees from Hitler's Germany and Austria fled to Russia. Many were fleeing Mussolini in Italy. Canadian and American Finns by the thousands went to Karelia, where Walter and I helped build this first factory. The Ford Motor Company was officially participating, at the request of President Roosevelt. In the end, Stalin practically liquidated the whole international community that had sprung up there. I'm one of the few still around to tell the story.

He died June 3, 2004.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 03:23:53 PM EST
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