Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Battle of the Overpass

NOB HILL--68 years ago tomorrow Walter Reuther (in vest) and 3 other United Auto Worker organizers got the shit kicked out of them by company goons in front of Ford Motor Co.'s Gate No. 4, in what became known as The Battle of the Overpass. My father was also an organizer for the UAW, but in Rockford, Illinois. He was also President of Local 449 of the UAW in the 1950's.

I was walking a picket line with Local 449 in front of the National Lock Co. in Rockford before I was old enough to go to kindergarten. It was around Christmas. It must have been 1947. There was quite a bit of snow falling and I was huddled around a fire in an oil drum in front of the plant. My dad was wearing an old army jacket.

I grew up in the C.I.O. hall. This was before the C.I.O. (The Congress of Industrial Organizations) merged with the A.F.L. (The American Federation of Labor). Every night after supper my dad would take me down to the hall where I would play around, sometimes do homework, but mostly listen to the union men and women from all the factories in Rockford. They would tell stories of bargaining campaigns, the awful Kohler strike in Wisconson, and sometimes whisper about paint-filled eggs, scabs, and goons. I was also there passing out boxes of groceries to families when they came to pick them up at the hall during strikes.

My dad worked at National Lock for 38 years. My mom worked there for almost 30. When they retired they received a pension until the day they died. It was fully funded. The union made sure of that. They also got medical and prescription benefits until the day they died. The union made sure of that as well.

I belonged to the union as a teacher for 31 years. Even retired, I am a member of the Albuquerque Teacher Federation, American Federation of Teachers, A.F.L.-C.I.O. New Mexico teachers make at least $10,000/year more that can be directly traced to the efforts of NM teacher unions. We have a good retirement system. We have good health and prescription benefits. As the song goes, "Oh, you can't scare me I'm stickin' to the Union!"

Thanks to Democracy for New Mexico for turning me on to a wonderful calendar featuring peace and social justice issues that is emailed to me every week. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to sign up.

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