Yesterday when I researched my father’s work with the International Association of Machinists, I found a couple of troubling facts. I feel proud of his work as a union employee but it should come as no surprise that the IAM was a severely flawed organization.
First of all, the “IAM is regarded as one of the most corrupted unions in the country!” This bold declaration comes from IAM Exposed which is loaded with documented facts. Remember Jimmy Hoffa? That was Teamsters but it should give us a clue. After all, as Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
My Dad died all too early at 56 years old in 1968. So, I guess today’s bloated and dishonest IAM leadership does not directly apply. But, undoubtedly it was part of his experience. Maybe that is why he got out when did. Two steps ahead of the FEDS? May be.
The second and much more troubling discovery was the White Only stance of the IAM. Once again, I should not be surprised. I lived in Jacksonville, Florida and experienced plain, old racism and bigotry on a daily basis. Read this from the history of the IAM in Wikipedia:
“In 1892, IAM signed a contract with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, establishing the first organized shop at a railroad in the United States. Because IAM had a color bar, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) did not accept IAM right away.After IAM finally did join the AFL, AFL President Samuel Gompers urged IAM to drop its whites-only rule. But IAM maintained racial segregation, arguing that it needed to retain southern members. IAM chief Talbot’s wanted the union to be “a fraternity of white men born in the United States who possessed good moral character.”
It wasn’t until my father had moved out of the IAM that in 1948 it finally opened itself to all regardless of color. I suspect it was a bit like major league sports. Workers of color were needed in the unions just like Jackie Robinson was great baseball player.
One big reminder: We are not just talking the 1940’s and 50’s. Those days just continued the heritage of the European occupation of North America and the new settlers securing African slaves to work for them. Though White Supremacy pervaded my father’s life and times it was certainly not new and was still completely acceptable to those around us.
But worst of all: White Supremacy lives on in our days. Heaven only knows, if the our federal government promotes it, then how can anyone deny it is still present.
As for me, I continue to listen and try to understand. One the other hand, my two sisters sadly continue to think just like the white population of Dad’s days. What about you and yours?