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."
And the Pope said "Well, Mr. Romero, I am directing you to create a better relationship with the government of El Salvador."
So, (laughs), that was no longer encouragement from the top.
Rob Kall: Yes. And you say a page later in your book that you came away from this struggle with another conviction as well, that "Only local unions, not any national union, or federation of national unions, could be looked to for visionary energy and seeds of change."
Staughton Lynd: That's right. There was such a local union, at least one, here in Youngstown when we first came. It was Local 1462 of the Steelworkers. Above the union hall were written the words "Home of the Rank and File." The two men on account of whom my wife and I moved to Youngstown were President and Vice-President of the Local, and they put up a fight, but they lost. The mill closed, and we weren't able to re-open it.