Previous | Next
542543544545546547548549550551552553554555556557558559560561562563564565566567568 of 592
He was, though, very careful about maintaining the forms of
democracy in terms of the running of elections, of making public
information. His manner may have discouraged -- this is a question.
I'm phrasing it as a statement, but I'm asking you. Is it correct that
his manner may have discouraged individuals from disagreeing with
him in public forums, but that he was very committed to the forms of
democracy such as the opportunity to speak and fishbowl treatment of
elections and finances?
That's very accurate, and one other thing I would add that I
think is very important for Davis and how he treated me. Oh, I should
mention that he had the highest respect for Elliott.
Elliott Godoff. He had great respect for him and for what he
was doing and how he was doing it, and he had known Elliott for a
long time before he came to 1199. He also had great respect for Frank
Herbst, who had been with Elliott in the Public Workers.
But there was one thing about Davis that I think separates him in this
sense, he would never ask workers to do anything that he wasn't
prepared to do. If he said, “If you do this, you may be arrested and go
to jail,” he said, “I'll be arrested and go to jail with you.” When we
agreed that if we were on strike, nobody will be paid, he said, “If you
are on strike and you don't get anything from us, we won't get
anything.” So he lived carefully on that theory, and I think that was
one of the signs of his greatness, but his identity and close
identification with working people.
One of the caricatures of union leaders is the Cadillac and the big
cigar and the flashy suit. How did Davis live and what was his attitude
toward financial matters?
Oh, he was very, very, very careful on union finances. He
would watch everything. Our secretary treasurer at the time was Eddie
Ayash, and he would check with Ayash -- Ayash was totally
incorruptible -- but on where the money was going, how it was being
spent. He mastered union finances and all of these things, and he was
never trained to do that.
And where would you fall in the financial spectrum ranging from
lavish on the one hand to, say, frugal on the other?
Well, on the one hand I would say frugal. On the other hand, I
would point out that when I came to 1199, friends of mine had risen
© 2006 Columbia University
Libraries | Oral History
Research Office | Rights and
Permissions | Help