RIGHT TO CHALLENGE: People and Power in the Steelworkers Union by John Herling

RIGHT TO CHALLENGE: People and Power in the Steelworkers Union

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A narrative history of the steelworkers' leadership and their internecine battles since David McDonald rose to power. McDonald -- whose vanity, energy in purchasing a palace guard, corrupt ties, and increasing commitment to ""sellout"" collaboration are graphically rendered came under increasing challenge in the late '50's despite the autocratic structure of the union. A fight against a dues increase and a series of unfavorable contract settlements led to the I. W. Abel insurgency. The preelection maneuvers, the campaign itself, and the 1965 election which Abel won constitute the heart of the book. Hefting, a columnist and publisher of John Herling's Labor Letter, relies heavily on psychological imputations and gossip without attribution. His disapproval of McDonald comes through forthrightly, but other issues remain up in the air: exactly what kind of corruption was there, and how did it work? Did Arthur Goldberg really run the union in McDonald's early days? By contrast with McDonald, Abel remains rather faceless, and there are no strong judgments about his administration, just an outline of structural changes made and a suggestion that power maketh defenders of the status quo. Hefting ventures no comment on the likelihood or desirability of Abel inheriting Meany's job, and the afterword ends without assaying the present situation in the union. No great interest is taken in the steelworkers themselves: the book never identifies any of the ""local issues"" aggravating the men, nor indicates how the 1971 contracts were received. But as a chronicle of intrigue, patronage, rebellion and bureaucratic disequilibrium, it's a fascinating source.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row