UNION MAN by David McDonald


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Pointing with pride to a lifetime in the labor movement, the former president of the Steelworkers (recently retired by his membership for dictatorial practices), now offers his story. A protege of Phil Murray, a CIO founder, McDonald rose to head his own union which, over thirty years, raised the wages of members to fifteen times what they had earned when unorganized. The strike, the battles with the Pinkertons and management spies, and the gruelling bargaining sessions these gains cost are noted here; as is the tale from the great years of labor's political power, when union leaders could claim to deliver members' votes, and even ""make"" Presidents. Also appearing are the titans with whom the author worked--Murray, John L. Lewis--often seen at their most petty and vituperative in intra-union power struggles. Writing in a gosh-whiz, good guys vs. bad buys mode, the author analyzes little. There's no explanation for the changing climate following World War II, when after a decade of triumphs, labor fell under public and Congressional opprobrium. Where McDonald is personally involved, the narrative overinflates (he credits himself with a very large role in JFK's nomination) or hedges half-truths. Save for bemoaning the ""hypocrisy"" and ""deceit"" of his successor as union chief, the author gives no reason why his constituents might have tired of him; nor does he really tell why Murray disowned him. Ironically, the book does shed light on the basic conservatism (McDonald sneers at ""bleeding heart liberals"" as well as ""card-carrying Communists"") and on the massive egotism of some who sit in labor's executive suites.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1969
Publisher: Dutton