Unions and Violence

Big surprise: Fox is twisting the words of Teamsters President Jim Hoffa

During the segment that the bloggers have latched onto, Fox edited out the bolded portion of Hoffa’s comments:

HOFFA: Everybody here’s got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize,let’s take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong! Thank you very much!

In an initial report on Hoffa’s speech at 1 p.m. on Fox News, Ed Henry reported that Hoffa said that “we’ll remember in November who’s with the working people” and “said of the Tea Party and of Republicans, ‘let’s take these sons of bitches out.’”

I’m past even being angry about this crap. I can only think about how much I’d love to watch Ed Henry soil himself if he had to face down REAL violence of the kind I saw perpetrated against union members on Labor Day weekend 16 years ago.

I wrote about this a few years ago:

Back in the 1990′s I worked in organized labor.  I was fortunate that I never missed any paychecks, and I had great health benefits.  Best of all, I had an awesome job that I loved, that combined my skills with my politics and beliefs.  Getting paid to do things you believe makes the world a better place AND that is fun is one of the best things one can ever experience.

During much of my time working in labor, I was involved with a strike between six unions and the Detroit Newspaper agency, the company created out of a joint operating agreement between Detroit’s two daily newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

Like I said, I never missed a paycheck while working on the strike, so I don’t consider myself a striker.  I did, however, make many good friends, some who remain close friends to this day.  Like being on a sports team or in a theater production or on an election campaign, there is a sense of solidarity and camaraderie that comes from getting to know people in a labor struggle that builds bonds for life.  There are people I haven’t seen in years who if I met today I would consider a sister or brother in arms.

But there were many horrible things that happened on that strike.  Marriages ended.  Longtime friends became enemies when one honored the picket line and the other chose to be a scab.  People lost homes, they lost jobs they loved.  Strikers and their supporters were attacked by police and rent-a-goons.  (I came out fine, although I did end one night with some bruises on my back courtesy of the Detroit Police gang squad.)  At least one guy suffered permanent brain damage because he was beaten so bad by the paramilitaries hired by the company ostensibly to protect the company but really to provoke violence.

Going on strike in America can be an act that invites violence.  This is what I experienced on Labor Day weekend 1995:

I was at the back gate of the Detroit Newspapers’ printing plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  There were about 1,000 people still at the front gate at 2:00 AM, but probably only about 300 of us at the back gate.  Very quickly, the paramilitaries opened up the gate, and those of us planning to sit in the driveway almost got run over as trucks game flying out of the gate at about 40 mph.  Only a big log laid in the middle of the driveway prevented a bunch of us getting run over.

Once the truck got stuck on the log, mayhem ensued:

People got beaten, strikers fought back, and the Sterling Heights police blocked traffic to assist the paramilitaries in trying to beat up strikers.  The goons eventually retreated behind the gates, but set some vehicles on fire so they could blame the strikers for the violence.

The biggest contingent of picketers who were attacked that night were Teamsters, members of the union now led by Jim Hoffa. The biggest contingent of non-strikers supporting the striking Teamsters, Communications Workers, Newspaper Guild and Graphics Communications workers were members of the United Auto Workers, whose legendary leader Walter Reuther was nearly killed in an assassination attempt in 1948. Rightwing propaganda like Fox pushes the idea that violence is usually perpetrated by unions. Throughout American history the reality has far more often been that violence is perpetrated against members of labor unions.

Like I said, I’m beyond being angry about the kind of lies spewed today by Fox. Having experienced violence because I was standing in solidarity with union members, having seen in numerous strikes and contract campaigns how the power is disproportionately on the side of employers, having seen how the rapacious economic ethos championed by Fox has devastated by hometown,  seeing Fox take the words of a man who represents the victims of economic violence, both figurative and literal, and twist them around so they can falsely accuse him of inciting violence…well, the only word I can muster to describe my reaction is that what Fox did is profane.

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One Response to Unions and Violence

  1. Damn powerful story. And “beyond being angry” is exactly how I feel about Fox News as well. It’s just pathetic. So sad that so many people in our country watch that channel on a daily basis and believe every damn word.

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