The voice of labor
Jack Lessenberry made some valid points but there is not enough space here to tell the whole truth about labor’s ineffectiveness (“Labor and other pains,” Metro Times, Aug. 27-Sept. 2).
As a former union representative for the United Steelworkers, I speak from practical experience. I came up through the ranks from shop steward to local president (1982-1994) and tried to do the job right, only to be told by my own staff representative that I was “rocking the boat” and “we have to go along [with the company] to get along.” Some leadership!
It’s been nine years now since my plant was closed and I am still being harassed by anti-union people who vowed, “We’re going to bury you.” Companies spend millions of dollars on “consultants” who effectively destroy people’s lives with rumors and lies, and unions can’t seem to find a way to thwart these tactics. When I asked my district’s legal representative how to go about pursuing this matter he said, “go ahead and pursue it if you want to become a martyr, because that’s all that’s going to happen.” So much for “brotherhood.”
People aren’t stupid. When they see this kind of crap and how ineffective union leadership is in battling it, it’s no wonder they shy away from organizers. I doubt that we’ll ever see another true leader like Walter Reuther. —Brian Melkus, [email protected], Hamtramck
Jack Lessenberry’s piece made me feel sad, because I believe the unions and their members played the critical role in building the infrastructure of this country. And like that infrastructure, the unions are crumbling to nothing. I carry a union card and pay my dues to the American Federation of Musicians.
In the mid-1980s, a very eccentric retired engineer told me that if we keep busting up the unions and continue to allow our education system to crumble, our country would resemble a Third World nation controlled by the ultra-rich. I was young and full of myself then, and I passed it off as the paranoia of an old man. Not realizing what I would face in the working world in the next few years, I was confident that the United States would always be that comfy place where Walter Cronkite came on the tube every night to tell us, “And that’s the way it is.” Now I am beginning to think that old dude wasn’t so wrong after all. —Mark “Mad Dog” Barringer, Farmington Hills
One bad meal
Reading the Aug. 27-Sept. 2 letters to the editor section of Metro Times, I must respond to a letter entitled “The politics of knowledge” by Steve Merrill. He must have had a huge, hot slice of right-wing cornbread and washed it down with the Rev. Jim Jones special Kool-Aid.
The Republican Party is for the working people? Trying to roll back safety regulations, trying to end overtime pay, trying to bust up unions and giving tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of the population is something I don’t think the working class supports.
And Merrill further insults mine and other black folk’s intelligence — the only time white Republicans want to hear from blacks is when they’re cheering louder for Bush or their lame-brain policies. And Merrill seems to be trying to say only uneducated blacks support the Democratic Party, for which I call him misinformed and out of touch with reality. —John Conner Detroit
One good man
I really appreciate Jeremy Voas’ column about R.J. Spangler and his tragic loss (“R.J.’s house of blues,” Metro Times, Aug. 20-26). I have known R.J. since he was 9 years old. R.J. is a very fine human being. I can’t wait for the benefit concert to come for such a deserving man to whom the almighty dollar isn’t (and never was) almighty. I hope the culprits read about who and what they did that to before meeting with justice. Thankfully, R.J. is alive and well, and it was only “things,” however valuable, that were lost forever and not the man himself. His own awesome music will go on for the lucky ones who go hear it. —Carol Quinn, [email protected], Grosse PointeSend comments to [email protected]