[Labor History Workshop: FASH]

An organizing workshop led by activist Staughton Lynd at Indiana University Northwest. This tape features a presentation by representatives from FASH (Fraternal Order of Steel Haulers), an alternative to the Teamsters for independent truck drivers.

00:00Copy video clip URL Footage of men in discussion in a labor meeting. FASH representative, Paul, in mid-sentence is saying, “I’ve got truck payments, tire bills, fuel bill, and bill at shop for repairs. A thousand dollars a month. And I don’t get a dime. I have to wait by my phone. I can’t get go out to go somewhere or get another job, because my company’s sharing work with 150 guys. And if my company calls me–and I might get one phone call a week–and says they have a load for me and I’m not there to take the call I lose my chance at a load. Every three years we have to cut our ranks to thin out.”

02:30Copy video clip URL Another man, George, adds that some contracts state if you don’t haul two loads a week the company doesn’t have to pay health and welfare on you. Which means you can’t collect anything if something happens to you. If you change companies, the records aren’t transferred and you have no evidence that you are owed a pension. You have to go to these companies and get affidavits signed saying that you worked there. This could be 15 years ago and a lot of companies are already out of business. We knew a guy who was 64-year-old and was told be needed to work another 20 years to be eligible for a pension, cause he’d lost his records.

03:38Copy video clip URL Paul adds that “because the union is not representing the steel workers properly they’re not seeing that companies pay health, welfare and pension premiums. We instituted an accidental death policy if you paid your union dues on time. The normal turnover in any industry for an employee is four, whatever that is. We found that we have an average of 9, whatever that is, but it’s 2 plus one over the average for our industry. What it means is very few of us will turn 57 and be able to collect a pension. We think companies are making non-payment plan deals with unscrupulous carriers so they don’t have to pay for pension, health. That means it becomes your responsibility to prove to a pension office that you worked in the industry for twenty-years. The company won’t lift a finger to do anything about it. This is supposed to be a brotherhood. If you die and your widow doesn’t get a lawyer and go down to the union office, she’ll never get a dime. She’s gotta fight for it.” Hoffa supposedly brought syndicate types in, to get muscle. Now the syndicate has their hand in our pension money. Thirteen Las Vegas casinos were built off of our pension funds. Hoffa himself got kick backs. That’s why he’s in jail. Paul continues talking about union corruption and syndicate connections. “Our only recourse is to replace them in elections.”

12:48Copy video clip URL George adds that a court decision makes it possible now for rank and file to vote on choosing officers in Teamster unions but the Teamsters are contesting it. Paul adds that “we can cry about it, but it’s our own fault. It begins with educating our children. Most truck drivers are politically naive; they’re working so hard they don’t even know there’s a war on. They identify with propaganda put out by the local papers, they have no political sense. However, we’ve got a strange thing geographically. The people in Pennsylvania are different. They have bigger organization, and are more politically aware. Here in Gary, Indiana people don’t even know what’s going on. We asked, why is Pennsylvania so aware? We hear them reference things like the Declaration of Independence. We think those events in The Revolutionary War have been passed down generations to those people back East. Taxation without representation means something to them. These people think it’s important, a bloody revolution to rectify things. It’s their heritage. Fighting for your rights.”

18:25Copy video clip URL Another man says it will be the continued breakdown of American capitalism that will lead the way for some American Hitler and raise him over the American workers. When unions become corrupt stop teaching class consciousness and start teaching job security, which keeps the worker down, making sure he is unable to see where he’s at or where he should go.

19:42Copy video clip URL Paul responds that in any political organization, it breaks down because the leaders become corrupt. Another man says don’t you think truckers at CIO, AFOL, are faced with severe problems? Our leadership exploits the workers. We need someone to do away with the corruption and the cause of the corruption.

21:41Copy video clip URL Paul: The unions have managed to get a reasonable worker week, but the worker isn’t given a share in the profits. He should have a place to say in his employment. I don’t think the guy in the plant is any better off than the steel hauler. Steel truckers are very happy. As long as they can at least break even and keep their bills paid, they’re happy because they enjoy trucking. Factory guys aren’t because there’s so much boredom to the job–one job at a plant.

23:30Copy video clip URL Another man asks about the proposal to establish an alternative union to the Teamsters. He says that historically, when you have more than one union in an industry the result isn’t competition between unions, but the use by the bosses of two unions to play them off against each other. You’re not talking about things the union can do to reform within. “I don’t understand the idea of setting up a competitive union.” It seems to be that kind of dual unionism would benefit the bosses more than the drivers.

24:56Copy video clip URL Paul says “in the beginning we’d hope it would improve our situation.” For example, in Chicago there’s a Chicago Truck Drivers Independent Local. In 1970 the Independent members leader, Ed Feder, wanted to produce a better wage package than the Teamsters union. In 1970, Teamsters negotiated a wage package for its members, $1.10 an hour. Feder refused to settle and insisted on $1.65 an hour. The Teamsters in competition with him didn’t dare take the $1.10 package and waited to see if Feder got his $1.65 offer from the national union leaders. They got it. We feel if we can set up 10-15 trucking companies under our contract and negotiate a contract that provides increases, Teamsters won’t have any choice but to match it. But we do expect to be battling Teamsters over members. We’re holding out because we want to use these 15 companies as bait for Teamster leaders. We told them you don’t want to represent us properly so we’re leaving. The Teamster leaders said, well, what do you want? We want charters for steel haulers or broker local for percentage drivers and we want you to turn over all your percentage drivers from the local office. We in Gary, Indiana, want the steel hauler charters out of the surrounding areas: Milwaukee, St. Louis, Rockford, into our local union. They refused us this. So we said, we’ll build our own local union. If we can cause them enough trouble, we hope to get our own charters for steel haulers locals and jurisdiction over steel hauling. We don’t want to leave them and never go back. We’ll go back when they offer an honest representation and some autonomy. It’s a rough way to go, but it offers some opening. If we continued being part of a Teamsters union that didn’t respond to us we become less and less effective.

31:44Copy video clip URL Workshop leader Staughton Lynd asks if there are any more questions and asks George if he wants to say any remarks. George says there are things people can do to help. “We need help”. Paul hands out forms with helpful information.

32:55Copy video clip URL Tape ends in mid-sentence.



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