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Session:         Page of 592

fighting for more democracy, more participation, and that kind of thing. We used to think we had lots of participation, but it was controlled participation. We controlled it, and controlled it effectively.

Of course we were built -- as I say in a state of siege. The union was built in opposition to management all the time. That's why when the contract comes up it's the perfect thing for our leadership to say, “Now we can tolerate no criticism. Of course now it's all in the hands of the union to get what we need. Anything else is doing the boss' work.” It's a problem that oppositions have always faced in unions. It's a serious problem, and how to deal with that. I see it now -- you know Doris has learned well. She knows how to use it. Why did she want to prevent an election from taking place in February or March? She wanted it closer to the negotiations, where you can link it and say “Now we've got to be united.”

Q:

So would it be unfair to say that in the kind of leadership you developed, you created only a more sophisticated version -- and a better version -- of the kind of top-down unionism that characterizes the rest of the labor movement?

Foner:

It's a top-down leadership -- there's no question about it. The fact that you have decisions being made in an executive council that meets every week, the fact that you have a delegate assembly that takes up these issues, but a delegate assembly that's like 300 people, 400 people when you can, and it meets for two hours and you can't put everything on the agenda and it meets only once a month, means that it tends to become a ratifying group. If it gets in to heavy debate it gets in to the way of the union moving to carry out the proposals. Because the delegate assembly structure was designed primarily, I think, as the vehicle for action. In other words, if you could reach 1,000 delegates once a month at meetings, and each delegate could rally two or three, four or five people, you have within your grasp a fantastic army to move. You could do most anything. That's how we operated, and that's how we saw the thing. Is that like the old unions? Well, at least you had a formal structure that you had to meet, so that there is an opportunity for people to raise questions if they wanted. Like here, (in Local 342), the union I was serving as a consultant and Bob Master, the interviewer, as health and safety director, this executive board structure is the worst kind of thing. Because there's no steward structure at all. You can't even accomplish what you want to accomplish. You have to settle for this paternalism kind of thing. So I think it's quite different. But it's not the last word in democracy.



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