And here's a link to the first half of the interview transcript: Accompanying vs Organizing as a Mode of Activism and Change: Transcript of an interview with Staughton Lynd
Thanks to Don Caldarazzo for doing the transcript.
We pick up from the first half of the interview:
Staughton Lynd: I believe that once the company was handed this power - nothing in the law required it - once the workers were required to surrender their only practical weapon to do something about it, namely the right to strike, it was all over. Yes, there was McCarthy, yes there was etc., etc., etc., but I think the die was cast from the CIO's very beginnings.
Rob Kall: Now, you say in your book that collective bargaining agreements were, for these men, an obstacle. That's what you're talking about here, that once they...
Staughton Lynd: Well, I don't mean the workers should never enter into a contract, I don't mean that at all; that may be the right thing to do. I'm talking about the substance of what has been the typical trade union contract in this country since 1937, and if any of your listeners are covered by a union contract that doesn't require surrender of the right to strike during the life of the contract, I'd like to hear from them, because (laughs) I don't think are many such contracts.
Rob Kall: And you say that once the have such a contract, the shop steward becomes a "cop for the boss."
Staughton Lynd: That's right; and that I learned from another rank and file worker named Marty Glaberman, who was not a steelworker, he was an autoworker. There is a pamphlet that he helped to write not long after WWII in which he described the trajectory of the man or woman who is chosen by his or her fellow workers to be their representative, to get in the foreman's face, to be the person who wasn't afraid to speak up, and they thought that the way to do that was to elect that person shop steward. Well, the problem was that if you have a contract that says the workers can't strike, then the next time the people in your local "wildcat," you've got to stand at the plant door and pretend to be telling them to go back to work. I think it's an accurate analysis. The pamphlet is called Punching Out, and you can find it in a collection of Marty Glaberman's writings published by the Charles Kerr Publishing Company in Chicago.
Rob Kall: OK. What you're saying in your book is that unions became top down, the unions deals that they signed basically emasculated and eviscerated the power of the union, and that once the deal was signed, the leadership of the unions became the police for the employers!
Staughton Lynd: That's a fair summary.
Rob Kall: No wonder that the unions are just flailing and failing now! There is a great quote you have in here from Frederick Douglas that I have to read, and it goes just like this:
" Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are people who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out what people will submit to, and you will find out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them , and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. "
Staughton Lynd: You like that? (laughs) And as I say in the book: imagine a local trade union in the Midwest in a community like Youngstown, where there is a substantial African American Community, but the whole tone, the majority tone of the community, is set by White immigrants from Eastern Europe, and Italy, and the Catholic Church that has represented them over the years. And in that community, my friend the late Ed Mann said "Now, I don't like to read to people, but I want to read you these words," and he read exactly the words that you've quoted, and then said "We've been listening to politicians all morning saying next to nothing, but I'm telling you that I'm going down that hill to occupy that US Steel headquarters, and maybe some of you would like to come with me." And people sprang to their feet, charged out the door, ran down the hill, broke in the door, and occupied the building. It was quite a day.
Rob Kall: That's change! That's how it happens. It doesn't happen by some representative of the union saying "Don't do anything, because we made a deal and now we're getting screwed anyway." You know? What you're also writing about, the Archbishop, Romero, he stood up to a lot of people, a lot of administrators who said "You can't do that." Apparently, at least the Pope who he was Archbishop under gave him some encouragement and support.
Staughton Lynd: Initially, yes. And then there was a change in the Papacy, and Romero had the experience of holding in his arms the blood-soaked body of the first young man that he had consecrated as a Priest. And when he went to Italy to speak to the new Pope, he took with him pictures of this young man who had been not only murdered, but brutally murdered. The Pope said "Well, didn't they say he was a Communist?"
And Romero said "Yes. They said that."