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15

1977-1978: There Ain't No Justice . . . Just Us

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notes

Ranney, D. (2019). 1977-1978: There Ain't No Justice . . . Just Us. In Ranney, D. Living and Dying on the Factory Floor: From the Outside In and the Inside Out. PM Press, pp. 15-76

57

At one point, Maurie comes out with a bunch of flyers. The flyers are urging us to return to work and threatening us if we don't. They also single me out as a "communist member of Progressive Labor Party." I tell the other workers that I am insulted by the Progressive Labor Party accusation. As for the communist part, they can make their own judgment. One of the Mexican workers comes to me and says, "Almost all of us from Mexico are communists, so we are fine with you." The black workers are not at all bothered by the flyer.

We are also visited by a group of Iranian student activists who are trying to depose the Shah of Iran. I had participated in their demonstrations against the Shah, so I know many of them. They march around the factory building with us, and later we get in a group and they explain their struggle in Iran. Lawrence says, "We are with you in this thing. That Shah sounds like a bigger motherfucker than the guy we got to deal with." There are handshakes and fists in the air all around as the students leave. Later some Puerto Rican nationalists come and explain their struggle for Puerto Rican independence. The picket line is becoming a school for a variety of political causes.

during the strike. I LOVE THIS

—p.57 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago

At one point, Maurie comes out with a bunch of flyers. The flyers are urging us to return to work and threatening us if we don't. They also single me out as a "communist member of Progressive Labor Party." I tell the other workers that I am insulted by the Progressive Labor Party accusation. As for the communist part, they can make their own judgment. One of the Mexican workers comes to me and says, "Almost all of us from Mexico are communists, so we are fine with you." The black workers are not at all bothered by the flyer.

We are also visited by a group of Iranian student activists who are trying to depose the Shah of Iran. I had participated in their demonstrations against the Shah, so I know many of them. They march around the factory building with us, and later we get in a group and they explain their struggle in Iran. Lawrence says, "We are with you in this thing. That Shah sounds like a bigger motherfucker than the guy we got to deal with." There are handshakes and fists in the air all around as the students leave. Later some Puerto Rican nationalists come and explain their struggle for Puerto Rican independence. The picket line is becoming a school for a variety of political causes.

during the strike. I LOVE THIS

—p.57 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago
64

[...] I can't seem to find Charlie. I finally locate him in a separate room. It is Bil's office. Bill is in the process of getting a degree in physics. The walls are lined with bookshelves full of books. Most of the books relate to physics and math. But there are other science books, as well as Marxist classics and a good collection of fiction. Charles is standing by himself in the middle of the room looking at one of the books. I am struck by the fact that he was perfectly sober - had no alcohol or reefer at the party or before. He is very still but turns slightly as I enter the room. "Man, all these fucking books!"

"He's a physics student."

"I don't even know what physics is."

"I'm not sure I do either, you'll need to ask Bill to explain."

"I can't make any sense of anything in these books." He is quiet for nearly a minute. "You know what, Dave? I sure as shit wish I could read all these books one day."

He is serious as he says this, looking me straight in the eye. But then he begins to snort and shake, ending in his infectious laugh. He slaps me on the back and goes toward the door. Still laughing he says, "Let's get the fuck out of here." I am laughing too but feeling very sad.

this made me cry

—p.64 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago

[...] I can't seem to find Charlie. I finally locate him in a separate room. It is Bil's office. Bill is in the process of getting a degree in physics. The walls are lined with bookshelves full of books. Most of the books relate to physics and math. But there are other science books, as well as Marxist classics and a good collection of fiction. Charles is standing by himself in the middle of the room looking at one of the books. I am struck by the fact that he was perfectly sober - had no alcohol or reefer at the party or before. He is very still but turns slightly as I enter the room. "Man, all these fucking books!"

"He's a physics student."

"I don't even know what physics is."

"I'm not sure I do either, you'll need to ask Bill to explain."

"I can't make any sense of anything in these books." He is quiet for nearly a minute. "You know what, Dave? I sure as shit wish I could read all these books one day."

He is serious as he says this, looking me straight in the eye. But then he begins to snort and shake, ending in his infectious laugh. He slaps me on the back and goes toward the door. Still laughing he says, "Let's get the fuck out of here." I am laughing too but feeling very sad.

this made me cry

—p.64 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago
67

The cop [...] says, "This is an illegal blockage! Leave or be arrested!"

Charles steps forward. He stands inches away from the big cop, intruding into his space. He tilts his head up so he can look the cop directly in the eyes. "All we want is a fair vote on the contract." Charles' eyes are piercing, his voice clear. "For us this is about how we are going to feed our babies, man. That's somethin' worth fighting for. Movin' us out of here ain't goin' to be easy."

Charles steps back a half step, then smiles his infectious smile. Cruse looks scared. The cop has softened his threatening stance. The engineer steps between the cop and the Cruse. "No way I'm going to cross this picket."

Cruse stammers and sputters. He turns to the railroad man, shouting once again, "You have to; it's your job!"

The engineer looks at Cruse. "I don't work for you. So go fuck yourself." He turns and begins to walk away, then turns back and smiles at us. "Give us a call when you get this straightened out."

There is stunned silence. Then one of the workers begins to play drums. All of us are cheering and jumping up and down. People are dancing right on the railroad tracks. Cruse appears to be in shock. Charles suddenly grabs me in a bear hug and whispers in my ear, "I ain't never hugged a white man before."

—p.67 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago

The cop [...] says, "This is an illegal blockage! Leave or be arrested!"

Charles steps forward. He stands inches away from the big cop, intruding into his space. He tilts his head up so he can look the cop directly in the eyes. "All we want is a fair vote on the contract." Charles' eyes are piercing, his voice clear. "For us this is about how we are going to feed our babies, man. That's somethin' worth fighting for. Movin' us out of here ain't goin' to be easy."

Charles steps back a half step, then smiles his infectious smile. Cruse looks scared. The cop has softened his threatening stance. The engineer steps between the cop and the Cruse. "No way I'm going to cross this picket."

Cruse stammers and sputters. He turns to the railroad man, shouting once again, "You have to; it's your job!"

The engineer looks at Cruse. "I don't work for you. So go fuck yourself." He turns and begins to walk away, then turns back and smiles at us. "Give us a call when you get this straightened out."

There is stunned silence. Then one of the workers begins to play drums. All of us are cheering and jumping up and down. People are dancing right on the railroad tracks. Cruse appears to be in shock. Charles suddenly grabs me in a bear hug and whispers in my ear, "I ain't never hugged a white man before."

—p.67 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago
72

[...] Benn doesn't even look at our notes and puts them aside. We keep the notes coming and Benn gets angry and starts crumpling them up, tossing some on the floor. Benn does not contest any of the company testimony. We begin to disrupt the proceedings. The arbitrator shouts at us that if we persist he will call security and have us ejected from the building. There is further testimony from the company and union. I send Benn a note asking him to put Mason on the stand and ask him if he ever referred to the workers as "niggers." Benn angrily crumples my note and tosses it on the floor.

At this point Lawrence jumps up. "The union attorney is not representing us. He refuses to ask questions we request."

Benn responds, "I'm asking all the questions that are relevant to his case." We disrupt and are threatened again. We walk out. We then start our train ride back to South Chicago in stony silence. John Logan breaks the silence. "If I had known what would happen when all this started I would still have done it. This has been the proudest time in my whole life."

Everyone nods in agreement. I feel like I am about to burst into tears. But suddenly Lawrence begins to laugh. We all look at him like he has gone mad. "There ain't no justice," Lawrence says, "... just us." Everyone smiles the rest of the way home.

the writing could be cleaned up a lot (too spare, too imprecise, too staccato) but this event is amazing

—p.72 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago

[...] Benn doesn't even look at our notes and puts them aside. We keep the notes coming and Benn gets angry and starts crumpling them up, tossing some on the floor. Benn does not contest any of the company testimony. We begin to disrupt the proceedings. The arbitrator shouts at us that if we persist he will call security and have us ejected from the building. There is further testimony from the company and union. I send Benn a note asking him to put Mason on the stand and ask him if he ever referred to the workers as "niggers." Benn angrily crumples my note and tosses it on the floor.

At this point Lawrence jumps up. "The union attorney is not representing us. He refuses to ask questions we request."

Benn responds, "I'm asking all the questions that are relevant to his case." We disrupt and are threatened again. We walk out. We then start our train ride back to South Chicago in stony silence. John Logan breaks the silence. "If I had known what would happen when all this started I would still have done it. This has been the proudest time in my whole life."

Everyone nods in agreement. I feel like I am about to burst into tears. But suddenly Lawrence begins to laugh. We all look at him like he has gone mad. "There ain't no justice," Lawrence says, "... just us." Everyone smiles the rest of the way home.

the writing could be cleaned up a lot (too spare, too imprecise, too staccato) but this event is amazing

—p.72 by David Ranney 1 year, 8 months ago