‘Introduction to Labor Studies’ – My First-Hand Account


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On the first day, there was a discussion about the tactic of a sit-down strike, in which union members occupy a plant in order to prevent their replacement, and to hold the property of the business owner hostage.  When I asked Prof. Giljum why workers wouldn’t be prosecuted for doing that, he laughed and said:

Negotiations.  I mean the–there’s nothing that would prevent them from pressing charges other than making it a condition of the agreement. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be an agreement, and the sit-down strike would not end, and your equipment could ultimately be destroyed. And how much money does a group of workers in a union have, OK? That’s what is key here. A lot of the tactics I’ve used with employers, you know, they’ve got a right to sue us, but Jesus Christ, you know, suing our union is like maybe picking up one hour of production, OK?  It’s going to cost them a hell of a lot more than what they are going to get in return.  So what they really need is their property back.  They need their equipment back so that they can be profitable.  If it’s gone and they sue us, they’re not going to be able to replace their property. Not with something like that, OK?  And often times your insurance policies, unless you take out specific strike violence policies and things like that, aren’t going to cover their equipment and that when it’s (waves hands) as a result of a labor dispute. Most of the time there’s exceptions to that in their insurance and that. So those are why.  And again, personally to this day, and you know, again, the things that led up to accomplishing legislative change and reform in this country that were positive for labor weren’t done through legal methods, OK? (Laughs).  They were done by violating the law.  Even this, after the passage of the Wagner Act, you still had to bring people along, kicking and hollering, to comply with it, OK.  And it required taking property over, which then and now is illegal because, what is it?  It’s trespassing. All right? But, I can tell you, nothing gets an employer to respond better, especially one where you’ve got facilities, large facilities like that still today.  And I had this with Ameren [company supplying power in Missouri and Illinois] in the negotiations.  I told my guys and put the word out… ‘Start bringing supplies in. I want you to start stocking up your shops with foods, with all kinds of bedding equipment, stuff like that, in preparation for a work stoppage.  You know, and they kept scratching their head saying, ‘What the hell are these guys doing?  They’re bringing all this crap in here. They’re bringing televisions in. They’re bringing radios in. They’re bringing all this stuff to work and unloading it here. What the hell’s going on?’  Well then one of them realized: ‘Oh shit! We’re going to have a hell of a time getting these guys out of here.’  You know? And I got a call, [and he] said: ‘You know, what you’re doing is  –will be illegal?’ and I said, ‘So what?  I don’t give a shit! Sue me! Arrest me! I don’t care! I could use a break. I could use a vacation.’  OK? So, but then what happened is when they realized that, well, this ain’t going to work, [they said] ‘Okay, let’s negotiate, let’s resolve the dispute,’ because now they’ve got some real skin in the game….  You have to be able to do that, you know, the strike itself anymore is useless.  Once you go out and you go on strike, generally the employer is going to continue operation, they’re going to bring people in, they’re going to get enough security to protect their property and protect the replacement workers, and it’s useless, so what you’ve gotta do is create other alternatives.  Even the threat of a strike is greater than the strike itself.  But you’ve got to do things during that period of time when you’re trying to threaten a strike.

It was clear to me that Giljum was not merely drawing from past examples, but from his ongoing experiences as a union leader.  He told students that these are the tactics they must use in order to be effective against employers.

So let’s be clear: Prof. Giljum was teaching tactics which are, by his own admission, illegal and destructive because, in his view, the ends justify the means.  Is it really the position of the University of Missouri that this sort of instruction is appropriate?

Giljum discussed tactics such as these numerous times throughout the semester.  In the third class, for example, the professors described various ways to strike.  Giljum then talked about actions that can be taken when unions do not have a credible strike threat. He said:

[I]f you don’t [have a credible strike ability], what can you do then to maximize your impact on the employer’s operation that can bring about pressure for them to make concessions to your proposals? That’s the key. You generally have to have a coordinated strategy between how you are going to approach negotiations at the table along with a membership action plan so as to bring that about. You know, an example right now.  You don’t have a credible strike threat, really within the electric utility industry, in the power houses, because employers can idle their units and transport power in from across the country and operate for months, and months, and months.  So that doesn’t become a viable threat.  However, taking control of their system is a viable threat, OK?  If they can’t get in there to idle or do things, you can really create some havoc.  So that’s why you look at, OK, ‘Let’s set it up to where we’re not going to go on strike, we’re going to strike in.  Everybody is going to lock the doors.  We’re going to slam the doors shut, we’re going to occupy and take over the plant, and we’re going to lock management out.”

You would think that Prof. Ancel, being the director of the Institute for Labor Studies at UMKC, would have taken that opportunity to say something along the lines of, “Hey Don, we at the University of Missouri aren’t in the business of teaching students to take over power plants when they don’t get their way.”

She, however, said nothing like that.  Instead, she interjected to tell her own tale about a friend in Peru who helped to destroy the power plant at which she worked by setting numerous feral cats free inside to short out the system.

But wait–there’s more.  In the fourth lecture, we learned about bargaining tactics.  Prof. Giljum, having bargained with many employers in the past, was able to draw from his experience in order to inform the students about some creative tactics that could be used to get employers emotionally invested in the negotiations.

He said:

You need to make the negotiations personal to the man across the table from you.  You’ve got to put a face to the demands and that, and to the demands he’s making on you to show you that these are not in the best interest of these people. Because, they’re going to want–that’s why you don’t have CEO’s at the table a lot of times.  They don’t want to–they can make the decisions in a vacuum, and they don’t have to see the consequences of them.  That’s why they put other people out there to do that for them. But in this case, we did have the CEO there at the table, so he could see what the consequences are.  We had to make him feel the concern and the anxiety that he was going to have to live with.  So we, you know, made all kinds of overtones about sabotaging the equipment, OK? We downloaded a lot of articles off of the Internet and laid them around the plant (Prof. Ancel laughs), about this equipment being sabotaged or that equipment being sabotaged. That’s all they were, nobody was doing anything.  (Prof. Ancel interjects: “You never said anything, did you?”) No, no! We just downloaded the articles and laid them out there, OK, for people to read. ‘Hey look at this article I found!’ You know?  It wasn’t us, it was members that would do that. We had a group of guys that would always end up at the same shopping center, at the same church as the CEO would on Sundays and that in the evenings. Wouldn’t say nothing, just kind of bump into the guy and say, ‘Hey, how you doing?” you know, that’s it, “How’s negotiations going?  Heard they’re not going too well.’  And then walk off, OK?  It got to a point where the guy became very paranoid, very concerned, when he would walk out into the plant he would wear a flak jacket and a helmet with a face guard on it because he was afraid of being shot.  I don’t know why, nobody did anything like that or threatened anything like that….. We had no bargaining power before that. As Judy said,  It’s a power struggle there.  They’ve got all the power, especially if you’ve got people who aren’t willing to go on strike or be militant, so you’ve got to make it as if they look militant, OK?  You get a few guys to do a few things and that’s it. Very mundane, very quiet things, very non-threatening things…

So let’s recap.  In our lesson on bargaining we learned that we should use fear and intimidation–which Prof. Giljam falsely described as “mundane” and “non-threatening”–to play on the emotions of management.  We were told that we should frighten a man to the point where he is so afraid for his life that he wears body armor at work.  And all the while we were learning these profound academic insights, Prof. Ancel was heard in the background laughing, just tickled pink at the idea of terrifying management by making one’s union appear more militant than its workers actually want it to be.

I will give one more example.  In the sixth class, we watched a movie about Memphis sanitation workers and the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before his life was cut short horrifically.  In the video, some of the civil rights leaders expressed impatience with non-violence. Following the film, there was an intense discussion about the propriety of the use of violent tactics as a means to accomplish unions’ political goals.  It was in that context that Prof. Ancel, now somewhat infamously, misquoted a person in the film by saying, “Violence is a tactic and it is in your toolbox of tactics.”  (The man in the film actually said, “Non-violence is a tactic.” Minor details!)  A student responded by pointing out several revolutions that would not have occurred without violence.  Ancel responded to that by saying, “Also, the CIO wouldn’t have made it either [without violence].”  There was more banter back and forth between students, and Prof. Giljum chimed in and said:

I think if you look at labor’s history over the years, you’ll find that, you know, we’ve had a very violent history, with violent protests, and reaction to suppression, OK, but as time has changed the tactics have changed or the need for those have changed, OK?  Now, you know, that’s not to say that in certain instances, strategically played out and for certain purposes, that industrial sabotage doesn’t have its place. I think it–it certainly does. But, as far as–you know, and I can’t really honestly say that I’ve never wished, or have never been in a position where I haven’t wished real harm on somebody, or inflicted any pain and suffering on some people (“We’re all human,” someone interjects) that, you know, didn’t ask for it, but, you know, it certainly has its place.  It certainly makes you feel a hell of a lot better sometimes, but beyond that I’m not sure as a tactic today, the type of violence or reaction to violence that we had back then would be called for here, and I think it would do more harm than good.

So there we have it.  At least at the end, Prof. Giljum was reasonable enough to deem looting and riots en masse as an ineffective approach to social change. Of course, the professors now point to the few caveats they applied, as above. Still, as I have demonstrated, at various junctures throughout the course, Prof. Giljum proudly endorsed industrial sabotage, the destruction of property, the use of fear and intimidation, and limited violence, “strategically played out.”  Prof. Ancel, was delighted when Prof. Giljum told these stories, and shared similar, second-hand anecdotes or histories.

The professors, however, seem to have the utmost respect for the law when it comes to the remote possibility that I may have violated a copyright in releasing the footage of our class. They have since said that whoever could do such a thing, in Prof. Ancel’s words, must be “part of a broad agenda to weaken unions and the public sector as well as public education,” and “to undermine the academic freedom that is required to study, better understand, and hopefully improve our conditions of life.”

Let me be clear: I am none of those things. Both my grandfathers were proud union men, and I respect their hard work, which provided my parents and my family with a comfortable lifestyle today.  I resent the fact that these professors’ irresponsible approach to this course has made legitimate union members appear ridiculous. I hold academic freedom as one of the most important tenets of our Constitutional Republic. It the stubborn unwillingness of radical professors like Prof. Ancel and Prof. Giljum to provide unbiased information from which students can freely draw their own conclusions that has really destroyed academic freedom in this country.

In fact, I believe, they are the real opponents of academic freedom. Prof. Ancel wants to make classes like hers “part of every school’s curriculum, certainly in our universities.” That kind of indoctrination is directly contrary to the mission of a university.

Concerning privacy, both the professors and students knew that they were being recorded and that their recordings were not only posted on the class website, but also broadcast simultaneously across the state.  To suggest that there was any reasonable expectation of privacy in the class is laughable.  The videos did not have a copyright mark on them, and at no point did the professors say that the videos could not be shared or ask students to sign a release. In fact, Prof. Ancel said: “All labor education materials are uncopyrighted and to be shared.  We do not believe for the most part in intellectual property rights.  That’s one of the principles of labor education: we share.”  Well, Prof. Ancel, by that standard, I guess I should get an A.

Around the nation, there have been similar reports in the past few days of university professors using their classrooms to push their students into left-wing politics. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, for example, has investigated a professor who told students to sign a petition demanding the recall of Republican governor Scott Walker. The chancellor of that university stated that students “should benefit in an unbiased, open-minded classroom where everyone is informed.” Incidentally, in our own classroom, both professors actively supported Gov. Walker’s recall as part of a broader political campaign. Prof. Ancel stated: “I heard that they can’t recall Scott Walker for a year after his election. So–so then we’re gonna see a recall petition on him, and hopefully they’ll keep this thing alive all the way to 2012.” And Prof. Giljum responded: “I hope so.”

UMKC Provost Gail Hackett holds that “A number of the clips [in Insurgent Visuals’s videos] were pulled out of context” and do not accurately portray what occurred in the class.  Insurgent Visuals is standing by their edits.  As interesting as that debate may be, in my view it distracts from the real issue at hand: the abuse of a public university classroom for far-left political organizing and indoctrination.

Today, UMSL has released a statement defending the course. It is shocking that the university, after watching the entire course, could conclude that nothing inappropriate had occurred.

The University of Missouri system needs to stop stalling with semantic debates and apologize for its abject failure of oversight in these classes. I hope that it will have the courage to admit that it made a mistake, and to take steps to ensure that classes will not be taught in this highly inappropriate manner in the future.

I believe that it is my obligation as a student, and an American, to expose what occurred in these classes.  People on the left, right, and center should be able to stand together and agree that public classrooms should not be used to teach activities that are criminal, or to promote the political causes and organizations that professors support.  Let us take this opportunity to put aside our individual differences and work together to ensure that students are taught legitimate material in an unbiased way.  I urge anyone who has taken the time to read this to take the next step and tell the university, their state legislators, and Governor Jay Nixon that the time to clean up Missouri’s college classrooms is now!

 

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  • kafir4life

    Whenever possible, I purchase right-to-work goods and if I have a choice between union made and not union made, I buy non-union. I have nothing against union workers, I know many, and used to be one myself (forced as most are). I try to prevent my hard earned money from going to the tip jars of the likes of a pelosi, reid, capo schumer, or barry the (not so) great through forced union dues.

    Most union workers (at least the ones who want to be productive) wouldn't join a union unless forced. By "forced", in my case, I was informed that even if I didn't join, they were entitled to take my money in union dues, and it would get expensive replacing tires and windshields.

  • aspacia

    Yikes, this is horrible. Those professors should be disciplines and dismissed. I have had many communist professors, but they were fair to the more conservative students, and my grade never suffered for my opposing opinions.

    It is important to remember, that workers often need protection from unscrupulous supervisors and businesspeople who forced employees to work in unsafe conditions and many died or were maimed.

    I am a union member who at the moment, along with several other teacher holding seniority are fighting an administrator who actually argues that a person does not know a subject unless he or she has taught it. His hit dog Dean, is thrill with the pretty posters my students draw, but not their formal and informal typed essays.

    Okay, I am off my soapbox.

    • qpro4inc

      You would be much more persuasive if you could write a sentence in correct English. If you are a teacher, as you claim, you have no business teaching student until you can write proper English.

      • GKC

        Nothing to add, I take it?

      • aspacia

        Yikes, you are correct, I made numerous mistakes in my previous post. I am duly reprimanded. Just remember, this is an informal board, and most do not proofread their posts, and my eyesight "sucks" (metaphor), and I am nearly blind in my right eye.

        • Jim_C

          Don't even sweat it. It should be understood that you are posting to a message board and that we all make a few errors, here and there. People who have nothing to say go after the grammar.

  • tanstaafl

    A larger question is what purpose does a union serve once workers have gained safe working environments, reasonable hours and wages? Once the revolution is over, what do the revolutionaries do?

    • coyote3

      A very good point. Unions are kind of a victim of their own success. Many of the things they originally struggled for have been enacted into law, and agencies now exist to protect the working environment that did not exist when unions began. What this is, is a struggle to keep a power structure in place. Indeed, the proof of that is in the public sector unions. I remember working in the public sector when unions could care less about those employees. In fact, they even socialized with the politicians who were doing things to their employees that no union would tolerate. For all sorts of reasons, the private sector union memberships, and jobs, decreased dramatically. The unions had to do something to preserve their power. That is the only reason they went into the public sector.

  • Questions

    If these "professors" seek to be union organizers, then they should do the honest thing: Leave academia and become organizers. There is no place in higher education for indoctrination like that. These professors not only are rigid ideologues, they also are getting a whole lot of naive, well-meaning kids in trouble.

    • SM ISAC

      Seems like they are there to recruit and brainwash America's youth. That's exploitation

  • StephenD

    There is a place for an advocate to speak for a worker to ensure safe, healthful and fair practices prevail in the work place. This is ultimately to the benefit of the Company as well as the worker. We've all had those tyrannical bosses and maybe a safety hazard that would otherwise have been looked over. Now after having said that, I can tell you that there is absolutely NO NEED for National and International Labor Unions to effect such conditions in the American work place. They have served their purpose and are now a tool for Fascists and Marxists.

  • 080

    I can't give you an exact citation but during a strike unions are permitted by law to use violence.

    • Questions

      What you have in mind is a case that went before the Supreme Court, U.S. v. Enmons (1973), in which the Court ruled that union violence is exempt from prosecution under the Hobbs Act, the 1946 law making it a federal crime to inhibit interstate commerce through robbery or extortion. Union bosses have used this decision repeatedly to engage in intimidation, violence and vandalism against nonunion workers and employers.

      • Amused

        080, you are in error ,you can't give "an exact citation " BECAUSE THERE IS NONE > As for "Questions " statement , I suggest you reread what you wrote , it is self-contradictory and wrong . There is no exception under any US law which exempts ANYONE from prosecution for VIOLENCE . Do you guys make this stuff up as you go along ?

        • Questions

          You're barking up the wrong tree. I did not say there are laws permitting union violence. I said that a misguided Supreme Court ruling in 1973 exempts such violence from Hobbs Act coverage so long as it furthers "legitimate" union objectives. That's right in the decision. And yes, plenty of unions have used this loophole over the years to justify their members' violence.

          Maybe you should do some homework before questioning the competence of others. Check with the National Right to Work Committee before being a crabby fool.

  • Jim_C

    I agree with posters here. If you want to go be a union advocate, do so. But if you are teaching a course called "labor studies," you have an obligation to present the material non-ideologically.

    This does not mean the professor can't have a point of view. This does not mean the material can't have a point of view. But the other sides need to be represented and taken seriously. Students should be aware of all points of view.

  • BuschmanBob

    I assume that getting an A in this class requires one to agree with everything the professor says, So, when they ask you to write an opinion and your opinion differs from the professor's opinion….. nevermind. I just answered my own question.
    O.K., how about this:
    If a union member is performing his loyal union member duties during a "lock-in" style strike by sabatoging his employer's machinery and then the machinery malfunctions causing a massive fire killing himself and several other fellow union members, does he or she become a hero to the cause? Will the union then pay for the upbringing of the children of those that died? Does the ends justify those means?

  • Oren Cookingham

    Nah, he is only gay to the insecure straight men who for whatever reason actually feel threatened by a picture of him.