Ed Lock Interview partial transcript/notes

Ed Lock


started feb 1931 at 18 years of age, over 40 yrs at rouge
PF what was state of unionization? at the time you started?
EL  nothing excepting the Communists in that period attempt to organize, particuarly in the Highland Park plant, they put out what they called the Ford Worker . . . Actually, in them days we saw very little--at the Rouge anyway--organization by any union.  ref. Ford owning everything surrounding the plant, including Miller road.  there was a ban on any leaflet distribution in Dearborn by Bennet and Ford's control of Dearborn at that time, and you couldn't distribute any leaflets around the plant without getting your head busted or getting run in by the police department.
PF when did the first beginnings of org take place?
EL  around 1935 the MESA made some feeble efforts to organize skilled workres at Fords.  and they made small inroads there, but they really never were able to say that they had unionized . . .
PF  when you say small inroads, could you be more specific if it possible . . .
EL  numerically maybe several hundred (out of several thousands)
PF on bcg ethic age
EL  MESA did not have the money to undertake [163] the kind of campaign that was needed  . . .
these guys were recruited by other people who knew them from jobbing shops and . . . personal contacts . . . .  compares job shops with captive shops  [250]  GOOD STUFF!!!
   .  . .  .  . 
651  I was very active in MESA --- Ford in USSR  petered out in march of 1933, I was laid off.  several months later I found employment in a job shop as a milling machine operator.  I got signed up in the MESA, that was a unionized plant.  job didn't last long  [750]  In that period I would hang out at the MESA hall, Schiller Hall on Gratiot ave.  It was formerly know as the House of Masses,  before it was Schiller hall--it was a German hall.   It was very much a Left hall.  I became very intersted in union . . . i was very young, 20 yrs old.  My father was AFL, a ship carpenter, but I didn't assimilate much from him.  But I became very interested in the MESA, and one of the characteristics the tme was that large numbers of radicals of all descriptions IWW, Communist, Socialist, you name it, would come to this hall, and we would sort of sit around and have big bull discussions which the old timers from the IWW and the Communists and whoever were there . .
PF were there any people who had been through the Knights of Labor?  [885]

EL  I can rember one very old, used to talk about KL, but these were traditional radicals, IWWs, ex IWWs, we would all participate in these discussions, each of them would bring their literature round . . . I got involved so to speak, I was unemplyed, but I would still go because I found these meetings fascinating, and I would particpte in the distribution of leaflets.  I would go out with some  of the leaders, and go with John Anderson or John Mack, who was a leader at that time.  I went to--not so often to Fords,--but I went to the Cadillac plant, Ternstedt, places like this, and GM, and would distribute organizational . . . I got involved in the Detroit Stoveworks strike . . .  The MESA had undertake the organizaton there and had a bitter strike there.  A matter of fact I had guns put in my ribs in this strike threatening to kill us.  But this was part of my education in the trade union movement.
PF  so you were an activist in MESA outside Ford . .  I see the point you are making.  You were intimate with the workers of the organizations, were in a positiion to know what they were doing in Ford.
EL  That's right.  [1041] But I actually didnt paricpate in the organization at Ford.  Dont forget that Ford, as all the auto plants at that time, it was a very difficult thing and avery dangeorous operation because thse companies did not hesitate at that time to beat yu up or work you over.  And also the fact that the police at that time were always on th side of the companies, thats when i was in the toveworks strke, they wod come on a regular basis and break the pickt lines up.  Most of this what ent on with Ford was carrie on with skilled tradesmen,
PF you suggested that MESA had reall success among more highly skilled eng and german, and metioned for people that joined MESA was through contacts outside . . . it sounds like there was what you might call an english and German radical community that these workers belonged to
EL  yeah well, they belonged, of course organizations like the masons, this was part what many of them wokrd thrugh, they had contacts trhough these lodges and the english also had their fraternal orgs outside,they assembld together, they had soccer teams here, they wre invlved . . .
PF  when you say like the soccer tteams . . .
EL  belle isle was a center actvity for these scotch english german, sports, and they also had their fraternal organizations
PF  what kind of orgs?
EL  [1222 ]  not specifically, but they had rather large  [VAGUE]   . . .

. . . .
EL  the whole organizationin the eraly days, not only of the skilled tradesmen, but of the prod workes, much of the activity ws carried out within the framework of these fraternal orgs.  There was in detroit here whole clonies of many ethinc backrrounds, we used to call them lanuae groups.  there ws delray, hungarian.  along mich ave outside of hamtamck from wyoming to 38th st ws aomst solidly polish people, immigrants.  East end of dearborn large numbes of italians.  Each of thes groups had their churches and their fraternalorgs.  the cuhurch was a big--with all these groups--  (?) more so than religion, a place to get together.  My wife was hungaria, lived in delray, I did too for a number of years.  They had many of these insurance, fraternal type of orgs.
Among the left, the communists, there ws big organizations of the IWO, during the McCarthy period it was banned, supposedly CP it was banned.  But in detroit here, it ws the  (pedify?) this was one of these iwo fraternal type orgs, named after an early hungarian fighter for hungarian freedom andd democracy.
PF: I have quesetions of IWO
EL  in detroit the finish were the biggest groups, 14th and McGraw, finnish hall.  Of course there was a Jewish group too, on Joy rd, and a jewish cultural center, between the Finns and the Jeews they were the 2 largest in that period.  howver, nieher the finns nor the jewish people were that numerous in the auto plants, but nevertheless they made poerful contriubtions toward the organziation in the fact that tey let many organizers and raise moeny . . . many of them wre skilled metal workes, but many of them migrated here from norther mich where they worked in the timber industry. [1646] but many of them were skilled workers.
PF  were those skilled workers involved in the auto industry?
EL  yeah, they  . . . their hall was very often used, as a matter of fact their halll was used by the communists for many organizational meetings of that period.  they had a big hall, it was formerly one of these mason-type halls, but they bought it.
PF  what percent iwo in detroit fnnish, jewish?
EL  all i can say is that among the finns, the hunarians also, and the poles--the poles were not so big in the iwo, but we had here a polish organization led by stanley novak,  . . .  We had the so-called stanley novak federation which was utilized by him.  he ran for state senator, but it was a very sizable org on west sie of detroit, was distinct from the iwo group.  The iwo did have a polish group in deray, and i dont belive it was as large as the hunarian or the . . . the italian iwo located in [1779] Oakwood area of detroit.

PF  were the number of italians in iwo same as poles
EL  more italians than there ws poles.  poles didnt seen to, for some reason . . . 
PF  reason I'm asking is that i think were wre a lot of differences between the different slavic groups, particularly take onone hand polish psant immigrants, and on the other hand croatians, they had totally differnet attitidues.  The croations were radical and even revolutionary, as a mass movement.  the poles were pretty much dominated by the catholic church
EL  the catholic church, that's right, thats right
PF  and very conservative
EL  that is right, but, around stanley novak, he had a very good following
PF  on Leo, also Binghampton pole who organized the die shop at endictt jjohnson, I got an idea that there ws a gorup of poles who did [1867] become radical, and are active in militant u iionism, but these Poles are different from the peasant poles, they come from around the cities
EL  You're right, you're right, you're right, you're right, you're right . . .
PF   . . .  they come from artissn backgrounds
EL  I would rather you would talk to stanle about this . . .
PF  but cold you give me your observations on this
EL  well, like yu say, the vast majority of the poles were conservative and found their community center around the churches.  as a matter of fact the west side of detroit probably has--I know this for a fact, because I (?)  more catholic churches in this area (back then) in them days there was the biggest concentration of catholic churches in any part of Michigan was in this west side area where the poles were.  There was some left progressive actvity with the poles also, but, like you say, they wre not predominant, they were not the dominant group among the poles, but they were there
PF did you notice if they were of different backgrouns, more skilled, more urban?
EL  I would say generally ys, but [refers to language problem, didnt speak polish] I couldnt make that fine distinction.
PF  this gets back [2007] to something you mentioned earlier.  In Ford itself, yu mentioned that a number people wer upgraded from production into the tool and die shops, a number of people of different backgrouns, including poles.  did you observe that these poles who were upgraded wre also of this more urban . .
EL  I couldnt give you that.  I would say this about ford though.  Poles were the largest ethnic group in the ford plant.  there was 20,000 poles there wen the org drive started in the forties; 10,000 italians; very close to that hungarians; and then there ws aarmenians.  armenians also had a IWO, they were ver strong, but numerically not as many as there was hungarians, but they--or course, many of thease armeians had strng attachments to the soviet union, they had come from soivet armeinia in the early days

PF particualrly attached to SU because SU sve them from the Turks? [2128]
EL  there were strong attachments (to SU) very strong.  and there was roumanians--the armeians (?)were locted mainlh along fort street vernor highway area, whee ternstedt was locaeted, and also many of them living in the south end of dearborn.  A high percentge of them were ford workes.
PF  a high perentage of the roumanians, or the armidns?
EL  roumanians were not as numerous.
PF  in other words a large proportion of armeians were working at fords
EL  I'm saying this of the old days, I dont say this of the second and third generation.  let me tell you something, very interesting dramtic thing happened.  The sons of these erly imigrants did not go into the ford plants again.  tey became doctors lawyers, many other professions
PF  im looking at that.  the more energetic and radical grops in the plants are precisely the people whose children are moving up--they are not going to work in factories, they are going to send their kids to college
EL  this is very very true [2283] this is what happened.  a matter of fact, this had a profound effect upon the radical movements amng these people.  The old timers still retain their radical outloos, but this was not mnecesarily true of their sons and daughters. . . .
PF  yu were giving figures, the poles about 20000, the italians about 10000 hung about 10
EL I would say armeians about five thousand--this is just an educated guess.  blacks, around ten thousands
PF so we have now about 58 thou of 80 accounted for
EL  1941 40 41 ewhen outbreak of wwII was imminent, ford got large war armament orders, the pop


EL it wsnt until 1941 that ford made a comeback, but he ws in a very precarious psition between 37 and 40.  He had published the protocols of Zion, and the jewish peole had institued  boycott of his product, and it was my occasion to go to NYC and you could look down brodway and not see a single ford ti was alonst all plymouths, you didnt dare drive a ford down broadway.  these kind of things, plus the fact that his bitter antagonism toward unionism had also --other unions--this ws the upsurge of the cio--had boycotted theproduct all the way from harry bridges on the west coast to the taxicab drivers in NYC.
PF  was forde particuarly vulnerable because he made the cheap car tht the working man bought?
EL  by the lat 30s gm chevy had pretty wel caught up with ford as far as being a mass production low priced woriking mans car, chevy was catching on ver fast, plymouth also.  ford no longer enjoyed the moel T market that he had dominted prior to the thirties.  For had also run into in the 30s many production problesm, shut the plant down for long periods of time making changeovers nd stuff, unike the day.  It ws a very fluctuating period . . .
PF  but there's a pickup in employment . . .
EL  this pickup startt s to take place as hitlers armies are . . . even before our entrance into the war america had begun to turn out massive amounts of armaments and war orders are beng allocated. . . ford gets airplanes tanks engines, even before the we actually entered the war.  this sort of sved Ford in a way.  becuase of his to may people almost obnoxious attitudes towards many things, lke his employment of nazis and hs relationship to hitler and the nazis--it was often said that hitler got his ideas for conctration camps from ford this ws a common expression f the time. [224]This went against the grain of many americans at that time, there were polls taken at the time . . .

PF  re census of plant pop re eng and scots
EL most of eng and scots--there was some of them on production, but mot of them were in skilled trades or supervsor ostions--many of the supers of those days were eng and scots
PF  how many thousands?
EL  probably as large as the poles
PF  would yo include germans in that, or sepearate?
EL  germans separate, not big in production
PF but in the tool room?
EL  they wre in tool and die, 3000 in production, much hgiehr in tool and die . . .
outside of like I say, the 20,000 poles, 10,000 italians, thee were figures that the set by the early uaw organizers, 10,000blacks.  these were more solid figures
PF  other figures taken with a few grains of salt?
EL  right
PF   [374]  this is what I get in a small study i did, only 500 workers.  guy drew a sketch, then described workes in each dept . . . . . I go over books results . . . . I GO ON AT LENGTH
EL  I just thought of a group that I left out, the southern whites [479] they was also a substantial number of them, maybe 7 or 8 thousand
PF  you also left out northern whites from the northern farmlands
EL there ws some of them too
PF how did southern northrn whites acti diffrernetly?
EL the southern white, most of their prejudices biasesa and so forth.  Ku Klux Klan grups and stuff like that before the union . . .  Blaack Legion was in Fords
PF  any idea of its strength?
EL [ unclear]  I would say that the Black legion was very influential among the southern whites in the plant.  Let me say this about all groups.  There ws a kind of tightness among them.  As a matter of fact let me say this: Benett played one group against the other.  this was one of the tactics he had of keeping theplace disorganized. [645] And wht he would do, in eachof thse communities he would have peole who would operate through these clubs and bars in the community, who wer able to get jobs in the plants . .

PF  you mean like dispense patronage?
EL  yeah, that's right.  Benett had a big jobs seling racket.  $50, 75, 100 dollars you would pay . . (?)
within all groups, he wold play one against the other in terms of getting jobs.  In terms of production too, who could get it out. And use the southern white aainst the black, and use the black against the southern white  "we got a nigger over here come to take your job", this kind of busness of job selling in this community going on constantly.  You could go the employment office at gate 2.  on any given day you could see as many people being laid off as being hired.  In other words a new group of people who had been hired by the recruiter would be coming in .  .  and they kept the plant constantly interror, you didnt know ehen your number ws up, and you were going to be fired, and somebody cme and take your place  [793]
PF  was most hiring of prod workers through this kind of recruiting system?
EL  a lot of it was, a lot of it was . . .
PF  at least half of it?
EL  oh definitely half, until stanley novak instituted legislation as state senator outlawing the seling of jobs . . . '38 '39 . . .
PF  would you say that Novak's success in stopping this sort of thing aided the union [847]
EL  sure, they were constantly playing one language group against the other
PF  when they hired people in did they mix ethic groups
EL  certain buliding would be designated s  polish building, the fundry as a black building, the motor builidng as a polish building, pressed steel know as the italian building, much of it depended on the mangement in these pants, that includes the ----
EL  I worked in themotor building, and it was know as the polish building, only bcause numerically thepoles were the larest group in there
PF  were poles more than half
EL  maybe forty percent. the were the biggest bloc; then italians . . .  blacks a small number, there were hungarans southern whites, roumanians . . . re. black in industry--almost none in GM plants not even on cleaning up restrooms.  this is one thing about Ford: ford not only had the foundry, but there was black working on skiled trades, black millright, black electricians, production, but not a lrge number.  This was one thing that distinguished ford from all other employers [1088] matter of fact, when the org drive .   that he cold use the gratitude of the blacks to help keep out the union. TURN YOUR RECORDER OFF FOR A MOMENT (apparently takes out document)

PF  what date this is\
EL  it ws put out prior to the org drive probably about 1940 or early 41, itw was ut out during the org drive, when the org drive got underway in late 1940 or 41
EL  that was typical of some of the stuff at that time

PF  re hung arm rouna
EL  workd mostly in prouction.  mot of these had come from backgrouns of pesantry, and were accustomed to hard work, on assembly lines prod motor blocks
PF  a guess: in org drive the hungarians, armeians, maybe roumanians, were the most responsive among the immigrants
EL  well, let me saay this.  this ws not totally tru of  any of the groups.  in all of them there ws a more progressive enlightened with outlooks as far as unins concerned.  dont foget when nlrb election took place 20,000 voted against the union
PF for the afl, who were toe 20,000
EL  they were workers primarily i think who felt insecure with a unon coming.  the union meant seniority.  the union had already established itelf in gm chrysler, others, one of the main program of union establishment of seniority, job secirity based on length of tme worked..   becaue of this heavy turnover at Fords, because of the constant hirign and firign, namy workers had low seniority, and they felt that because of the patrons the riconnections with their recrutiter [PATRIMONIAL], they had more security with him than they hd with the unin senoirity because they knew that in many caes they were low on the totem pole as far as seniority. so they felt I think this ws theprimary thing--of coure many other things just plain ignorance of the union.  dont foget that many were imigrants, most of them they could hardly speak the english languge, hardly knew what ent on, and they were subjct to al kinds of propaganda from ford agents about what the unon would mean.  they had no idea of what the union meant.
PF re black among 20,000
EL  probably true, forde playd uun the gratitude of backs, he was only one tht as a major employer of blacks, this had a froud effect.  plus the fact tht most of thse blacks were fresh off the plantations in the south [1542] they had virtually no schooling, no educaton that would ammount to anything, so they were very easily .  another factor was the black churches palyed a big role too in this thing.  they palyeed a role in the organizing, like the rev hil and the rev miles, but many of these churches wre used by ford agents just like the did in etnic communities . . . even hired these little storefront preachers and put them on the payroll and this guy would keep in line his congregation
PF sems like homer martin grup must have been cmposed of these black workes and appalachaan migrants and maybe a certain number of northe born farmers
EL  much of it ws basred on two things, insecurity re job turnouver, {papers rustling, looking for vote}cio 51,000 afl 20,000

 . . .   PF glaberman hard time  talking about archives . . .
EL  a kind of blackout they mainatain on this early history
PF  talsk about radosh at ccny . . [1930]
2100  EL in old days open terror, servidement walking around with guns, now more subtle labor relations
EL  getting to these etnic groups, the role that the played in the org of ford plant.  there was powerful left Communist orientated movenets in this city [2269] that not only sprang from the organizations like the IWO, but it was a period also in which were were in the depression in which I saw men eating out of garbage cans. . .  it was a period in which the political understandingof the american people ws muc higher than it is today, very much higher. it came through necessity.  we didnt have the affluence of today, we didnt have cars, in 1941 only 25 million cars in this country.  most auto woers didnt own cars.  live in a 40dollar month rented house.  probly the depression itself, groups like the unemplyd councils, in which the communists cominated, so too the WPA unin sprang up(?)  they were communist led organizations.  CP led.  th uemployed councils the WPA unins, other left groups.
Other groups plaeyd a small role.  The thing abot these organzations ws they becme eductional, the became a schol.  rom which many works learnd of unonism, so when the great uion drive began . . . particularly in fords--I was a committeema, the first committeeman in the motor bulding, so it was my experence that you ran into these guys who other commiteement who had gained their experience through their role in the WPA movement, or the unins or the uemployed councils
PF your saying that the committeemen or the other secondary leadership that sprang up at the time were guys who had been through [2591] this experience
EL  right.  the other factor here in detroit came out of the orgs particularly in fords of the IWO


PF your saying that the committeemen or the other secondary leadership that sprang up at the time were guys who had been through [I, 2: 2591] this experience
EL  right.  the other factor here in detroit came out of the orgs particularly in fords of the IWO


sectionof the IWO the Garibaldi sectionof the iwo.  many of these iwo groups took their names from patriots from their own country
PF  I'm wondering about these italians in the garibaldi section.  were they did they have backgrounds in trade uninism in italy?
EL  yeah, many of these first year immigrnats who came here came from sydicalists movements in italy, socialsts movements of italy
PF  so they were not like the mass of itaian immigrants were southern peasants.  these were not.
EL  let me say this about the IWO, like you said before, its basic strength lie in its cheap burial insurance, but it also had a political content to it, mainly of the leaders of these groups--just a minute, I just thought of another group, the Ukranians--they were members of the communist party, the leadership of iwo organization, it was by no accident that during the Mccarthy period they forced them to disolve [89]
PF about the iwo, want to get a sense of, here's the whole foreign language community [100], IWO single most influential group because of its fairly unified structure and its linking different nationalities together
EL  right right, it linnked them all together, and it had a political content . .
PF  so here's the iwo . . . what portion of the influence is shared withh other immigrant groups . . .
EL  the iwo groups at that time were probably the most dedicated for union organiztion of the auto workes at that time, they linked their membership to this effort
PF  which other fraternal groups helped unionizing effort?
EL  most of them not much . . . some of them were anti union . . .
{talks about catholic church being split, about Ford org committee that met in West side local, Percy LLewelyn chaired it, I sould talk to him}  281