Different people, all members of Local 659 have told me about submitting articles for publication to find that their time had been wasted in writing. Some have said that the editor even promised that he'd publish their articles and then experienced disappointment because his boss ... (the president of the Local - ed) wouldn't allow publication because it didn't meet with his approval.
What does the Mast Head state on The Searchlight? It says quote -- 'The Voice of the Chevrolet Worker' end quote. Now would you say that any such discriminatory censorship is the real voice of the Chevrolet worker? I don't.(August 2, 1945, p.6)
Also see the article "Constructive Criticism of Searchlight's Policy" June 21, 1945, p.6 Return to text.
A more recent book by Mr. Edsforth, Class Conflict and Cultural Consensus: The Making of a Mass Consumer Society in Flint, Michigan, New Brunswick, 1987, omits the substantial role played in the development of the UAW by The Searchlight. For example, during the 1948-51 period, a period of some ofthe greatest rank and file resistance in The Searchlight to the dictates of the International Leadership of the UAW, Ronald Edsforth claims that there was no resistance. He writes:
In Flint, the rank-and-file movement collapsed. Although many of the rank and file continued to play an active role in local union affairs, and some of the informal shop steward networks survived, the men who led the resistance to "top down" bureaucratic unionism gradually lost heart. By 1950, when Norman Bully (who was by then a member ofthe General Motors Department national negotiating team) returned to Buick to seek the opinions of active unionists on the advisability of a long-term contract, he found most of them having a big sigh of relief because we were going to have labor peace for five years."...When sentiments like this predominated at what had always been the heart of Flint's rank-and-file movement, a long era of working class militance had come to an end.
Compare Edsforth's analysis with the bristling criticisms of the 5-Year Plan which filled the pages of The Searchlight during this period. For example, one such headline, "The Five-Year Plan, Russia or America, 250,000 Workers Get Five Years of Hard Labor," was cited by the International Executive Board when it claimed it had to censor The Searchlight. Return to text.
The German army was falling apart. Those guys were surrendering by the hundreds because they had a bellyful of Hitler and all he stands for. Then the Allies started telling them what was going to happen to them when they were victorious, so the poor devils began to figure. Well, Hell, we're going to catch it worse if we give up. It looks like we'll have to keep on fighting. Anything's better than what the Allies are threatening us with. And God knows how many lives have been lost as a result of this policy of the men who told us of the "Four Freedoms." But they tell us about peace on earth!
The Greek people had the nerve to want to decide what form of government they should have, so Churchill's General Scobie systematically began annihilating them with artillery, tanks and airplanes. (That you and Dad help to build.) "Good will toward men!"(January 4, 1945, p.2)
I include this additional quote to show some of the range and depth of critical analysis that was carried in The Searchlight even during the war.Return to text.
The voting across the river on Chevrolet Ave. had been very light up to 1:00 p.m. on the second day's voting, when the observer judging from previous elections that but few voters would casttheir ballots until after 2:00 p.m. when second shift workers began to dribble in, went to lunch.
Lo and behold, when he returned about an hour and a quarter later the count had jumped to more than 1600....Remember this, the membership books were examined by a firm of Certified Public Accountants and they found that there was a discrepancy of 868 votes between the number of voters registered and the number of ballots found in the ballot box.(March 15, 1945, p.2) Return to text.
The progress of society is always built upon the sacrifices, blood and bones of those progressive militants who proceed us. The contributions by Bert which elevated workers to full stature as humans are like steel bands which bind and reinforce the foundations laid by Parsons and Mooney, by Debs and Haywood, by Lewis and Hillman, and by the host of heroic labor pioneers of other eras.(April 17, 1969, p.4) Return to text.
Local 659 was six years old last March. Out of all those years we've had one president that cooperated with all local union committees during the life of Local 659. He was Bert Boone. At no time have I ever heard anyone accuse him of trying to undermine any committee. Any business brought to his attention was promptly and properly referred to the committee handling said business or problem. That is what the head of any institution should do....Such leadership was unknown before Boone's tenure of office and it isn't being done now.(August 2,1945) Return to text.
Not only is it a loss for us here at Chevrolet, it is a great loss to the whole labor movement, for the 'Old Rebel' was to the Union what Dempsey was to the fighting game or Babe Ruth to baseball. What Roosevelt was to the Democratic Party or Taft to the Republican. He was MR. UNION MAN. There was none better before and there will never be another.
He was liked and respected by all union men and hated and feared by all fakers and scissorbills. His principles were, never give a rat a break. Return to text.
The Searchlight is or was at one time an important function of Local 659. George Carroll, the former editor, was elected when the paper was established and re-elected the two succeeding years making a total of three years he served as editor of The Searchlight, and he served well. He had real qualifications and was as impartial as was humanly possible to be.
Look at The Searchlight now. It hasn't any punch at all. Thnere isn't any shop news to speak of. I've seen the time that two full pages wouldn't hold the shop news. Further, anyone submitting an article for publication need only be a union member in good standing. Whether the editor agreed with it or not made no difference. But one thing sure, it would be published. You can't say that for the present editor.(August 2, 1945) Return to text.
Labor leaders denounced the Taft Hartley Act of 1947 -- enacted under employer pressure to hamstring unions -- as the 'slave labor law'....The labor leaders failed to note, however, that the major effect of the new law, unintentional as it may have been, was to pave the way for making compulsory unionism a permanent feature of our industrial relations.
The sponsors of the Taft Hartley law hoped and believed that the provision for free secret elections under NLRB auspices before a union shop could be granted would free workers from unions and might even abolish unions....Compulsion entered the picture once the majority had voted to make union membership a condition of employment; the majority who rejected the union shop were bound by the decision.
With mandatory union membership, the issue of individual freedom and the rights of the workers becomes more acute and troublesome.
(p. 72) Return to text.
On the first charge, that of printing anti-union material, the convention grievance committee found that the local newspaper, The Searchlight had attacked the Reuther negotiated 1950 contract with General Motors which was to run for five years (sample headline: THE FIVE-YEAR PLAN, RUSSIA OR AMERICA, 250,000 WORKERS GET FIVE YEARS OF HARD LABOR) also attacked the 1949 Ford agreement when the membership was in the process of ratifying it, attacked the international union leaders (sample headline: STATE OF THE UNION, Chiselers and Pork Choppers Attempt to Raise Dues), and finally attack union policy matters by printing a criticism of the union shop at a time that the General Motors department was trying to muster support for it. On the basis of these charges, the convention grievance committee contented that the local had violated the section of the constitution which stated 'Local union publications shall conform with the polices of the International union.'(p. 318-319) Return to text.