Paul Silver Interview notes

Paul Silver 1.1.1


went to work in 21 to 22 Amer Car and Found,, machinists union
re auto unions in dingman, auomotive vehicle workers union
you might have 50 or 60 people in plant.
T&D various guilds, clubs, organizations.  Strongest union were the dingman’s club.  [See Addes on metal finishers club in Toledo]Dingman was a skilled job required a lot of skill.  Dingman organized club, in such demand that they survivived, they were so skilled and so much in demand that

3:00 ding most powerful group
then tool and die began to organize. MESA  but in the 20s you had the united automobile workres, had a rdical tinge.

4:00 there always was, there had been a drive throughout the 20s, a very small minority, who were actually—they were the workers who had a leftist social phhilosophy for an ind union
PF ethnicity?
it was a mixture a good bit of it was english ands scottish tradesmen, they were german tradesmen in the plants, and there you found some Marxists and other that were very very conservative.  5:20  Tradesmen came from england, scottland, from the shipyards.
Then you had a movement of discontent that came from the mines, that had been blacklisted in the mines as a result of the strikes , militants 6:10

then you had those who came from the upper peninsula who were militants too.  down when the lumbering, who were militants ther too.  A good many of the IWW came into this area.  They were unskilled, but they were militants. [See Bully, Jones re IWW from South]  they had been associate with the inaudible movment.  Came also from Wash and Ore.  As they were being blackballed and black listed and discriminated against in the coal areas and in the mining areas in the west, and from the lumber companies.  big demand for this kind of labor here.

Incidentally the discontented, the unhapy, the disenfranchised in the whole country migrated to auto industry, only place they were hiring to such a degree that nobody ws checking anybody out.

PF 8:20 so a large proportion of these guys coming to det becaue they cant get jobs elsewhere.

PF  Detroit getting a leavening of radical militant labor activists.

 That’s right.  Those who came down from UP scnadinavian, Finns, that which made up UP.  It was your first generation mostly Finns.

PF  9:33 what about migrants from far west, NW

THERE WAS THSE WHO HAD FOLLOWED THE LUMBER, AS THEY CUT DOWN THE LAND THEY KEPT TRAVELLING WEST TO FIND MORE TREES.  UP HAD COPER MINES, BIG STRIKE IN 1920S, which ws broken by employeres,  a very militant strike, mines closed after strike for purpose of  starving out the workers.  many blacklisted

10:15  great strike took place in 20s.  Look at papers of judge patrick o’brien,a circuit judge who issued an injuntion against the copper miners (cos), and they even forced him to migrate, the copper interests, he couldn’t survive up there, migrated down to detroit, get some of hist of pat obrien, who was a friend of the strikng miners.

PF: what prooprtion of these migrants and early labor militants were yankee?

Not too many.  when you say yankee bcg you are talking about new eng, NY.  very little.  difficulty if you go over uaw leadership find many yankee

Eng sk strades  Scotch, english came out of shipyards,mills, very few unskilled workers, very few of the english unskilled workers, the unskilled workers were those that came out of the south.  There was quite an italian migration  13:14
that came directly.  quite a polish migration into detroit, a bulgarian migration, you had the serbs (not too many croatians)

13:50 the italians and the poles, ? ? ? . . .

14:40  hillbillie and then a black migration.  Italians were the foremen the straw bosses, and Poles couldn’t break through, and then as auto ind expanded blacks came in and the Ples started to break in at the lowest levels of supervision, and the Poles started to break in and it ws the black who became the minority. 
Black Legion

 15:40  Then in the late 20s and early thirties black legion came in the ku klux klan in 24 they had a very large klan movement in mich
PF: was it particularly strong among appalachian auto workers?
PS: not only in a auto Bl Leg was an offshoot of the Klan.  BL dominated by the police depts of highland park and detroit and Royal Oak.  Protestant white. (only some Apps)  Look at primary race for gov in 24, catholic ran, and that was the first time the Catholics, Jews and blacks united on ballot a referendum to outlaw all paraochial schools  This was a Klan momvement.   17:30

You take the Yankee migration of the erly 19th century, it came out of NY, a lost of canadians come down too in the twenties, and the Klan had a solid prottstant base, some, you call them yankees, but their leadership  were descendents of Southerners.  To a large degree it was condoned and supported  by the industry.

The leader of the movement in this area was 19:00 was a chap by name of Davis who owned  the LaBelle cleaners in Highland Park.  He was the moving force behind the Black Legion.  See we ceased having a Klan in 24 and 25 after their defeat at the polls on the constitutional amendment.  [See hitories of KKK in this period]  Klan just took name BL and became a very militant force.  You had klan or black Legion chapter in the Chevy Forge plant.  You had then in every one of our plants, but the strongest movement they had was chevy forge Hollbrook in Detroit. 

PF: was that because Chevy Forge has the highest concentration of Appalachaisn?

PS: I don’t know.  20:40 All I know is—that might have been, because you also had a very small militant minority of leftists there too. 
PF: So there was a kind of polarization there
PS: that’s right.  And you had it in the Briggs plant too, you had part of it in all the plants, but it was strong in the Briggs plant
PF: what about Hudson?
PS: hudson plant had a more sophisticated reactionary movement, I don’t believe they identified with the Klan, but for all intents and purposes,  you see in the hudson and briggs plants the co started a very effective sports movement, baseball, basketball, many many teams that they were financing, in order to keep the union out.  . . they organized marksmen’s clubs, every plant centered around plant guard, very strong foremen, supervision organnizations.  one of their important functions was pistol shooting. 22:40  . . . the average worker did not want to get involved, did not want to be a part of anything.  But it was strong movements that got him.  if you played  on baseball team, or you were part of the choral group, you had a better chance of working when the plant was changing over.  it was all a question of survival.  most workers participated only because it meant they would get more ????  (work)


Local 351 early org; numbers of early unionists

When you say strong movements, There were very strong minorities.  We organized—my own plant was oganized, out of 1800 people we had only 40 people in the union, ’35 ’36
Det Steel Prod, two plants.
PF: when you had only 35 40 people in the union.  Were those 40 distinct socioogically?
PS: philosophically they were distinct.  They wanted a revolution.  They wre socialists or syndaliists, some dues paying members, of SP or CP or PP, some were wobblies.  Some were just, some believed that didnt pay dues

25:30  When you struck the Kelsey Hayes plant, you 3600, 3700 workers, you dndnt have a 100 people who belonged to the union.  And when you say belonged to the union belonging meant tht at one time you paid dues, if you didn’t pay dues for six or seven months you weren’t expelled from the union.  couldn’t affort to do it. if you had paid a dollar during that period, you were still considered a member.
PF: what ethnic background, skills? this hard core of union people?
PS:  the skilled tradesmen were in the Mechanics, they actually had a craft background to some degree, they were not industrial union inclined.  The skilled trades in the shops in the 30s had an org of themselves, they came in in 36,37, given two charters one for east side, one for west side.  prior to that they were all part of Mech Ed Soc.  headed by Matt Smith.  Did not take the group into, but John Anderson and Bill Stevenson were the two that led their own local unions, all jobbing shops, amalgamated at that time nothing but jobbing shops [Midland Steel thus an exception]
PF: looking for distictions between groups
PS:  you had three Englishmen, a scotsman, Matt was english, stevenson, scoth, anderson scots english, some welsch.  They were actually strong men, the moving forces, Matt smith could have taken the whole works in [to uaw] if he had wanted to, bill stevenson and j anderson were really the factors in taking their local unions in.  Now, they came mostly out of jobbing shops, not out of the production plants.  Anderson and Stvenson and Smith MESA oh they had an isolated production plant here and there [MIDLAND] small parts suppliers, but they all came out of the jobbbing shops actually.



they must have brought in a good 10%, they were better organized than prod workers, they must have covered the employment of about 15 or 20,000 people between them, these two locals, 155 and 157.  At that time that they came in  the UAW might have had 50,000 members, at least we claimed that much.
PF: asks about Frankensteen
PS: no we probably went to 100,000 when Frank brought in the dodge workers, and Doll brought in the Hudson workers in 36.
PF: uaw made o almost a federation of groups . . .

UAW Geography; NRA

The UAW at that time reprsented everything outside of Detroit.  We had the Ford plants  in Kansas City, St. Louis, GM plant in Atlanta, GM plants in Janesville, around the Cleveland Area, the independent Auto Lite plant and so on in Toledo area, and that was all UAW Frank and Doll and RJ Thomas of Jefferson plant went to 36 convention or the 37 convention in Milwaukee [unclear whether he meant to correct himelf and say 37 instead of 36] and that was in late 36, and they weere elected vice presidents and they were given that to come  in.  they brought in  chrysler and hudson plant not in uaw, that ws the AAWA, Art Greer out of Hudson, they  had a working relationship between Greer and Tracy Doll, Doll was given a elected position as regional direct to bring in the art greer group out of hudosns, Frank group came out of chrysler plants, he had an association with RJ thomas at  jeff plant, and frank at the doge plant.  the other chrysler plants were uaw before that.  That came under the Blue Eagle. 33:30  Frank and greer and thomas built theor organization out the structure that wat set up by govt under NRA, and when NRA declared unconstitional they picked it up and became associations of their own.

PF: re outliying plants social comp of membership?
PS: you can’t genralize.  you didnt have any marxists in atlanta in atlanta, well you had one or two all over—if the wobblies had believed in a form of organization they’d be running the uaw, because it was Wobblies coming in, a wobbly here and there, all over the country, had sort of enticed, created a situation in the plant,
Nick deGaetino papers, wobbly who came into Chrysler jefferson plant.  In Wisc they were just trade unionists
PF: were they english, german etc?
PS: it was made up of wht made up that particular community.  except there was one thing, in detroit you had a migration from all over country.  In Akron yu had that migration because of the rubber industry.  35:25  So you had almost the same thing happen in rubber.  In steel, in chicago-gary area you had the same thing happen.  because of the expansion—gary and chi steel ind grew with the auto ind, so you had the migration of the same type from all over.

when the deprssion took place, discontent started, the radicals—the communists sent in their functionaries, the socialists came in, the lovestonites came in, the trots came in, every splinter group came into the plant, and incidentally worked together in the battlle against—it was only after they got some recognition that they srated to cut each others throats.  But after that there ws an attempt to grab power.  But when uyou get to Wisc you had a native working population, with a radical or two who migrated there to make hay.  And the same thing was true in Kansas City.  Hell, iin KC you had Homer Martin 36:45  a conservative preacher, who actually believed that baptism meant that workers have got to revolt against their employers.  Incidetnally he was quite a militant unionists  in KC . . .

So you see, one of your first sitdowns took place in Atlanta, it was not Yankees they were not englishmen, they were southerners, there could have been some who come out of the mines.
PF: who were the sk workers.  they could not  have been southeriers it seems
PS: but you see sk workers  up to 36 and 37 got some recognition as sk tradesmen, they still did not go for ind unionism

Socio-technical: metal finishers and trimmers

PF: what about trimmers and metal finishers?
PS: trimmers were not a skilled tradesmen.  you could teach a guy how to be a trimmer inside of 3 or 4 hours, how to spit takcs, because you didnt trim the whole automobile, you just were given the job of putting in six or seven tacks in this corner of the headlining, or you were making the armrest.
PF: so then the metal finishers were like the elite of the prod workers
PS: the met fin were not the elite
PF: of the prod worekrs . . .
PS: you see in 36 and 37 you did not have too manymetal finishers, because you were covering up, we were using color varnish in those days, yo got metal finishes when you went to spray, a duco which was more of a p;astic which you had today, before that you were pouring on color bondage, in those days yo didnt have metal finsisher, you had dingman, metal finishers came after 37 38
PF: ref Little John re met finishers
[this is a key issue in the interviews—the varied conceptions of the semi-skilled.  I am working on a four category system: tool and die; mantenance; (machine repair, jobsetters, die setters, die repair)top-rated production workers (welders, trimmers, metal finishers); and the unskilled assemblers and machine opperators and laboeres.  Cliff Williams on possible fifth category: machine repair, set up.  The assumption is that there are cognitive-ontological differences among these groups.]

this is the best description of what I have been trying to formulate: the socio-cognitive cultural historical development of certain cognitive-performative elements that sharply distinguish the "semi-skilled" production and non-production workers from the peasant masses (Ong)
from Paul Silver Interview (Detroit Steel Products, UAW Local 351)

Paul Silver: John [Anderson] was one of those who had an idea that his job should be a skilled trade
 . . . .
What you would also do is you would take . . . glaze a body, a putty like lead coat . . . a lot of our guys have an imagination of what their jobs used to be.  When I describe my job, I can make is sound so fantastic and technically important when it wasn’t.  I use to test the paint, when we used the color varnish and when we were spraying, you had to mix your base paint with oleum, which was your thinner, and then they had to go through the ovens and dry, and based on the production needs you would thin down the paint so that the coat wouldn’t be too thick.  If they needed the bodies fast, so you had to put a thinner coat of paint on so that they would go through the oven and dry fast.  If you didn’t need the bodies you would thicken the paint down to specifications.  So I used to take the viscosity of the paint—sounds important as hell, the average workers don’t know what viscosity [is]; [it] sounds so technical. And hell all I used to do was keep a finger under the bottom of the viscosity pail (?) and fill it up and then take and put a level  on it to see that it was level and then remove the finger and with a stopwatch see how long it takes for the paint to flow out.  By that we would know how much of the paint would flow off the body when it was being poured on.  Then you would take the temperature of the ovens.  Sounds very important.  Hell, I was taught how to do that within an hour of the time I was hired.  Then they took three days 43:25  to show me how to make up the reports, to cheat, so that the Ford Motor Company, when it got its reports, the report would show that they had the right thickness of the paint that the specifications called for.  But the thickness of the paint was always based on how badly they needed the bodies.  If Ford needed the bodies they didn’t give a damn how much paint as long as you covered it.  So you see everybody made their job sound very important,  especially the leadership, the old militants like myself and John Anderson 44:00

[Here Paul Silver makes my point.  The cogno-developmental ontological point, which I did not do a good job in this interview of making clear (In the Williams interview there is much along these lines regarding repair, set up, using micrometer in machine shop)]

Homer Martin and Factionalism

PF: geting into factionaism. HM strength

PS: Homer Martin at time of suuspension was strong all over.  John L Lews and Sidney HIllman devised a very very devious program.  They would accuse Homer Martin of certain things, and then Homver felt that if they were blasting him it must be the right, he had such hatreds, that it would be the right thing to do and he proceeded to do  it, and they would accuse him of doing the very things that would esroy him in the locals.  Instead of denying it and proving that it wwasnt so, he would proceed to do the very thing they were accuing hi of doing.  He was a very arrogant  individual, he waa a genius.  He could give the godanmdedst speech on peace, he was an advocate for peace, anti-war back in the thirties.  But if you had a production standr problem in the shop, or the comany was pushing uyou around, and a membership meeting was called to find out why the union wasnt doing smething about the condition in the shop, and Homer Martin would come to that meeting.  He would brush over the probme that the worker had in the shop and would give a speech on peace.  And when he was through, Ive seen a uto workers stand up and cheer, stand  up on their chairs and acclaim him.  And then w hen he walked at theyd start scratching their headd, now what the hell did he say about the speed  up, what the hell did he ssy about the cut in our rates, what the hell did he say abou tthe unberable condition in the shop?  nothing.  that was HM.
PF: it seems certain sicological division . . .  a lot  of locals began to return to the cio . . .
PS: the first expulsions were  of people  identified with the cP, Moritner, Hall, Addes, these are the ones expelled from bd
PF: but addes wasnt cp was he
PS: no, but you see  yo took sides, the commuists supporte addes.  I dont believe that G. Addes was any kind of political.  I think george was accuded of being an opportuists . . .  END SIDE 1 TAPE 1