INTERVIEW: JULY 22, 1980
INTERVIEWER: NEIL O. LEIGHTON
INTERVIEWEE: MAYNARD (RED) MUNDALE [BALDWIN, GEORGIA]; ALSO PEGGY J. MUNDALE (INTERVIEW TAPED WHEN MR. MUNDALE WAS VISITING HIS SON GERRY AT OTTER LAKE, MICHIGAN)
LEIGHTON: Well, one of the things I wanted to start off with and ask you was what we don't know much about regarding Fisher 2, is how you prepared for the strike at Fisher 2. Now we are pretty sure that you guys just didn't on December twenty-ninth say, "We are gonna sit down."
MUNDALE: Oh no, no, no. It wasn't really planned, but, to begin with, I stood at the boss's desk and signed the boys up. We had got to the point where we had to do something.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Let's go back to where we got to that point because that's what I want. You know, where was the dissatisfaction and how long standing had that been?
MUNDALE: Well, you see the point was when I first met Bob Travis, he had been in town just a few days. And my neighbor Bert Harris was the one that got ahold of me and he lived right across the street. Bert said, "We got a new organization." He said, "This is not the A F of L," because you couldn't have sold the A F of L to any of these boys. You know, they'd been through that. In fact, I had too. I had got hit over the head with clubs when them cops come down there on horseback at Fisher 1. See, I got fired out of Fisher 1.
LEIGHTON: Was that in the 1930 strike?
MUNDALE: That was in the 1930 strike. I got fired out of there.
LEIGHTON: That's when you got chased into Oakland County or they came over after you?
MUNDALE: They chased us down to the old Bucket of Blood. There used to be a dance hall called the Bucket of Blood. We went out there; it was outside the city limits. We went out there and we organized or we got together again. And we hadn't more than got together and here they came again and beat the hell out of us. You know what I mean, we just... So then when I came back to work they broke the strike right there. You know what I mean. So everybody went back in and, when I did, why, I was told that I was done there. I couldn't work there. But it wasn't fair, because I wasn't that interested in the strike, because I didn't know what it was all about.
LEIGHTON: I was going to ask you. Did you meet any of the people who organized that strike, that 1930 strike?
MUNDALE: No, I didn't even know them. All I know is that they started walkin' out and they said, "Everybody out on strike, everybody out on strike." So I just walked out the door and when I did. Of course, I was out there with some of those old metal finishers, and we was talkin' and trying to run a picket line. And that's when they come down with the horses.
LEIGHTON: The metal finishers were the guys who were kind of in the lead or...?
MUNDALE: No, I don't think so because they came up...as I remember, I was in Fisher 1. As I remember they came up out of the press room and in them areas and came through there towards the front door and that's when they was hollerin', "everybody's on strike; come on out," see. So I just dropped my tools and walked out. But at that time I didn't really know what it was all about, you know. But that's when the bitterness built up in me. It was due to the fact that I went back in the next day and the general foreman had a personal grudge against me and he says, "I want to get rid of that Red Mundale." He said, "I don't want him in here." And the superintendent said, "Well, it's just a personal grudge." He says, "I don't think that's fair. But if you don't want him," he says, "you're running this department." So Whitey Willamoser was the superintendent and he said, "Red," he says, "Homer Campbell don't want you." He said, "He wants you out of here," and he says, "He thinks you're a troublemaker." I said, "I've never caused any trouble in my life." But he said, "Well," he says, "What are you gonna do? He don't want you." He says, "You're gonna have to go." That's the way they run it in those days. Personality, it didn't make any difference. So I said, "What am I gonna do?" I said, "I'm married, we got a baby." I said, "I don't think it's fair, firin' me for something." Everybody else walked out just along with me." "Well," he said, "I'll tell you what you do." He said, "You go over to Fisher 2 and contact the general foreman over there and I'll call him, because," he said, "you are a good worker." And he said, "I'll contact him and they will probably hire you over there." That's how I got over to Fisher 2. But I was bitter because of the fact that they did that to me. So I went into Fisher 2 and they started to sign me up and the employment manager says, "How come you quit Fisher 1?" I said, "Well, I didn't quit." I said, "They let me go." So they called over there and the guy said, "I don't know whether we can hire you or not. They said you're a troublemaker." I said, "Well, I'm not a troublemaker." I said, "I never have been, but" I says, "Campbell don't like me, so they got rid of me." So he said, "Well," and he called the general foreman, and the general foreman said, "You give him to me and I'll take care of him." So they put me down there and they put me on a pretty rough job and he says, "Now I don't want you to open your goddamn mouth." He said, "Don't even ask for the time of day." He said, "You just work." That was his orders.
Well, I worked away there, and the one guy said, "How do you like it?" I raised my head up and I said, "Jesus, if I had to work this hard at Fisher 1 where I was, I'd be gettin' twice the money I'm gettin' here." And he run and told the general foreman. I was down there workin', squatted down and he reached down, got me by the shirt and picked me up like that and said, "I thought I told you to keep your goddamn mouth shut." I said, "What did I do now?" I was scared to death, see. He said, "You're talkin'. You're tellin' these guys here that you had better workin' conditions over at Fisher 1." I said, "Goddamn it, I don't know." I said, "I probably did." I said, "Maybe I did." But I said, "I'm satisfied with my job." And I was workin'. I mean to tell you, you really worked in those days. He says, "Don't
let me catch you opening your mouth again." I said, "Okay." So it went on like that. It was either '30 or '34. I think it was the '30 strike. I'm almost sure because I know I was at Fisher 2 longer than two years before we went on strike.
LEIGHTON: So you had a...
MUNDALE: So I had a bitterness towards supervision----you know what I mean----because I didn't think they were fair. They weren't fair with me at Fisher 2. They wasn't fair, and you worked! My god how they worked you! I remember they had us on the old Fisher Body. They had a conveyor there where you finished seat backs, what they called the back of the car. And it was hot in there and I got sick and I told my foreman, I said, "God I'm sick." My shoes were full of sweat then, you know. I was just soakin' wet and I quit sweating. And I said, "Boy," I said, "Jack, I'm sick. I've got to get some place where you get some air." "Oh," he said, "Get up there and work up a sweat. You'll be all right." And I went back up on the line again and, hell, I fell right on my face, see. And that scared 'em because I was in pretty bad shape. And they finally got me squared away. So it was just those things that accumulated, you know what I mean.
LEIGHTON: Yes. You worked on the line all that time?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, I was a metal finisher. I was right with all those Polish boys. You know what I mean, them big husky boys. And of course I wasn't that husky, but I was wiry and tough.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned Polish. Were they mostly eastern European guys there?
MUNDALE: Well, no, but you always saw so many what they call "polacks" on the bull jobs, where it was rough work, just like you found your blacks in the foundries in those days. Fisher Body didn't hire blacks. There wasn't many blacks workin' at Fisher Body up until after we organized. Outside of they had 'em as janitors or something like that. But there wasn't any on production.
LEIGHTON: Did the guys that you worked with, did any of them have experience with unions?
MUNDALE: Yes, with the old A F of L, see. And they had sold us down the river before.
LEIGHTON: They did that in '30 and then '34 again, did they?
MUNDALE: Yes, right, right in '30 and '34 both. Of course, your skilled trade, they took care of them. But the production worker had no help at all whatsoever from 'em. So you couldn't have sold A F of L to these guys. But I stood at the foreman's desk there at noon and of course we would talk. And when I would talk to somebody, they would tell somebody else. Well, it's the CIO. It's a new name. It's something different. And I said, "It's an industrial organization and they're going to organize everybody into the same union." And that's about all I knew is what Bob had told me down there in Bert Harris's basement, see.
LEIGHTON: Let's come back to that. I want to catch all of that so we can get it all on the thing. When you were at Fisher 2 in the period before...well, you remember '34. Of course, Buick led that strike out, didn't they?
MUNDALE: Yeah, I believe so, yes.
LEIGHTON: And then was it Frey who was the A F of L guy, the labor faker who left them hang out to dry?
MUNDALE: Right, right, that's what I mean. They just left us there, you know what I mean. And you got back in the best way you could. That was all, see.
LEIGHTON: Right. But during that time, were there any people that came around even within the A F of L but who were good organizers, who wanted to help?"
MUNDALE: No, not really, not really. They were old tired boys, you know what I mean, that didn't seem to really much give a darn anyway. They had their skilled trades and that's about all they had. And there was very little left. Back there when the CIO came in, there was very little of the A F of L left.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, I was gonna ask you also, were there any guys who came up and maybe spoke to you like in the Masonic Hall or in the Pengelly Building? But not the old guys, but guys like the Reuthers or maybe some of the guys from the political parties at the time?
MUNDALE: No, no. You mean before the CIO?
LEIGHTON: Before the CIO.
MUNDALE: No, no, no, there was no talk or organization at all. The first time that there was any discussion at all of joining a union was after Bob Travis came into town.That was at first and the minute I heard it I went over there. Bert Harris says, "Come on over, I want you to hear this guy. He's from Toledo and they're organized over there and he'll give you an idea of what the hell you can do if you're organized."
LEIGHTON: So you met down in Bert's basement?
MUNDALE: That's right. That's the first meeting I had was down in Bert Harris's... And you know then, after that you would meet in different people's. You couldn't have it in the same place because at that time your police department here in Flint was starting to get wind of what was goin' on and they were tryin' to find out what the hell was goin' on, see. So we didn't meet at the same place every time. By word of mouth why they'd say, "We're gonna be over to so and so's house tonight." And you would get whatever guys you could from your plant and you'd take 'em over there and let 'em listen to Bob Travis. You know the minute they found out that we had an organization that wanted to help the guy on the line, you know what I mean, without havin' to be skilled trade, they got interested. Because your working conditions in those days had got to the point where the men were desperate, anything, anything for help was a help is the way they felt, see. So I had no difficulty. I had that plant eighty percent organized before we went on strike.
LEIGHTON: I knew that but I wanted to come back to that. Did you know any of the other fellows or women in Flint who were doing the same thing inside their plant in that few months right before the strike?
MUNDALE: By word of mouth. You know, like Bert Harris says, "Boy," he said, "Fisher 1 is coming beautiful," see. But Chevrolet, there was very little connection with Chevrolet at that time.
LEIGHTON: Oh, even though they were across the street?
MUNDALE: That's right.
LEIGHTON: I'll be darned.
MUNDALE: I didn't run into any of 'em in any of these little meetings that we had with Bert and with Bob Travis.
LEIGHTON: Did you know Kermit in those days?
LEIGHTON: You didn't know him either until the strike.
MUNDALE: We didn't know anybody at Chevrolet. And of course, everything was more or less hush-hush, because we knew that when this busted there was gonna be hell to pay, see. But we more or less kept it quiet. And when we got the plant about eighty percent, why, it wasn't Bob; it was Roy. Roy Reuther said, "Well, Red, you got your plant pretty well set. You got about eighty percent of your plant." I said, "Right." He said, "Why don't you guys all put your buttons on tomorrow and walk in there with your union button?" So I said, "Now wait," I said, "Let's have a meeting tomorrow night." He said, "Okay." So we called for a meeting of Fisher 2 who would get the word there at Fisher 2 that we were gonna have a meeting at the Pengelly Building tonight, because we hadn't even elected officers or anything.
LEIGHTON: So how did you get to that stage, though, where you got eighty percent organized? See that's important how you did that because they must have been watching you like crazy.
MUNDALE: Well, no they really wasn't, you know. It was funny, because I stood at the boss' desk and signed up the guys at noon. Of course, all the foremen they rushed out to eat, see. They went up to the cafeteria to eat and we all ate out of dinner buckets. You know what I mean? And, hell, I stood down there and they were practically lining up to give me their money. I had them little cards and I'd take their money and make out the stub and I turned the rest of it in. And my pocket would be just full of money and tickets by the time I got through at noon, see. Then after we once got it rolling, then they started going up to the Pengelly Building, a lot of 'em. Now upstairs and downstairs we wasn't too well acquainted in those days 'cause you had no way of getting together. But I knew two guys up there and they were working at organizing up there, see. So they told me how they stood.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember who they were?
MUNDALE: I can't remember their names to save my soul and I've tried and tried. It's just funny. Now one of them, he was just a drunk but he was a good guy. You know what I mean. But I can't think of his name. Maybe some day it'll come to me; I don't know. But I can't think of his name now. And then he had a friend and them two was doin' a lot of it up there. Of course, there was others, too, that I didn't even know that were workin'. You know what I mean, like Bill Connolly and them guys. I didn't even know them until after we went on strike.
LEIGHTON: Right. But what's interesting is the response that you got from that plant because the conditions must have been horrible.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, tremendous, tremendous, you know. Of course you always have a certain amount in there, "Oh hell with it; I won't belong to no union," you know.
LEIGHTON: Sure. Do you think that the fact that...you mentioned...I keep coming back to this, the Polish guys. Was it because they might have had experience with trade unions before, that they knew what a trade union was?
MUNDALE: No, no, really what it was is that we were desperate for help. You know what I mean? Because the conditions in your plant in those days, you couldn't work long enough to retire from a plant. You know what I mean. They would retire you as a cripple or you would just wind up dead. There was no way.
LEIGHTON: Right. As soon as you couldn't put out the work, you were finished.
MUNDALE: Right. The minute you couldn't produce, out the door you went, because you was threatened with that daily. They'd walk up and down the line, you know what I mean. And they would say, "Do you like your job?" "Yeah." "Well, by god, you better start showin' a little more interest in it, because we got somebody out there that wants it damn bad," see. And there you stand there, just pullin' that damn file as fast as you can and as hard as you can. I've went home at night and my hands were swollen up and my wife had to feed me my supper. So you know it's hard to make people believe that today, the way conditions in your plant are today. This younger generation, they don't realize just what might have been if it hadn't been for the fact that we did organize them damn plants, see. It's just beyond belief. You would work on the line and you would get repairs. They would put 'em up in the repair hole. And when the line went down at night you went up in the repair hole and repaired your own jobs that you didn't get while you was on there, on your own time. If the line broke down, you sat and waited for 'em to fix it. And your time stopped until they started the line again. So many things like that, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did you work on piecework?
MUNDALE: When I first went in there, there was piecework.
LEIGHTON: But that phased out.
MUNDALE: Yeah, they phased that out, more less after...that's kind of foggy, too, but I believe most of the piece work went out when we went on strike. But before that you were pullin' tickets. I remember that, pulling them tickets and your efficiency would go way up the first part of the week. And the last part of the week it would go down and you got what they wanted to pay you and the same way when you started a new model. You could work there for a whole day to make thirty, thirty-five cents, see. There wasn't a damn thing you could do. You just stayed with it and hoped that things would break for you. It was just so unreasonable. You just don't believe the things that took place in those days. It's hard.
LEIGHTON: What did you make an hour before the strike?
MUNDALE: Oh, just before the strike we was makin' around forty, I think forty-five dollars a week, which wasn't too terrible. You know what I mean. It wasn't that terrible. But your metal finishers were paid better than some of the other jobs there. But still it was around forty, forty-five a week is what we got. And I mean you sweat blood for every bit of it.
LEIGHTON: And no fringe benefits.
MUNDALE: No, nothing. No, no, nothing. And if you lived long enough to get in...what was it...twenty-five years, you got a gold watch. But there was damn few. They bought very few gold watches because there was very few that could stick it out for twenty-five years.
LEIGHTON: In the plant, before the strike, did you have many guys that had been working in the coal mines down in West Virginia?
MUNDALE: No, not too many. Fisher 2 was more of a conservative group of people, I think, than Fisher 1. Now Fisher 1, we know Bud Simons belonged to the Communist Party. We know; he admits it and it's in the book that he belonged to the Communist Party. And there was a few others over there that belonged to that. And they are a militant group. And over in our plant, I was just a big, dumb farmer boy is all I was. You know what I mean. But I knew that I had a grievance and I knew that we had to have help because I knew I couldn't continue to work like that and provide for my family because I knew that I wouldn't be able to last that long. So ours was more or less out of desperation.
LEIGHTON: See, the reason I ask that is because Mundale is what? Norwegian or Swedish?
MUNDALE: Norwegian, yes.
LEIGHTON: And I wondered if there were miners from the coalfields who had been with United Mine Workers, which of course had been around a long time. Or there were Norwegians or Swedes or Finns from the Upper Peninsula who had been in the copper country...?
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
LEIGHTON: ...and who had had experience with the Wobblies.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any old Wobblies in the plant?
MUNDALE: No, but I'll tell you this, that I belonged to the IWW when I was fourteen years old.
LEIGHTON: Oh, you did? So you had your red card?
MUNDALE: I had my red card. And I rode the rails over there in the Dakotas. Fourteen years old and I was out there in the harvest. Yep. See, that's why I say I worked hard all my life. But at this point here we worked hard and there was no encouragement, there was no future. We couldn't see any way out of it, see.
LEIGHTON: But you knew...the very fact that you were exposed to the Wobblies. Do you think that had anything to do with the fact that you knew what it meant to organize?
MUNDALE: Yeah, in my family, my dad, he was a conservative sort of guy. He was a big fellow. He was about six foot, four, about two hundred and fifty-six pounds and he was tough. You know what I mean?
LEIGHTON: A real Norwegian.
MUNDALE: Yeah, he was. Right. He had quite a reputation as a drinker and as a boy was pretty good with his fists, see. But my mother was more or less a radical. She believed in equal rights for people way back in those days. Roosevelt was her god, as far as...
MUNDALE: That's right. He was the boy that saved the United States as far as my mother was concerned.
LEIGHTON: What did she think about Debs, Eugene V. Debs?
MUNDALE: Well, there's another thing. She didn't know much about unionism. And it wasn't ever discussed in our family because we lived on a farm in Minnesota. You know what I mean. There was no thought of...like I say, when I was at Fisher 1 and they hollered, "We are on strike, everybody at Fisher 1," and they hollered, "We are on strike; everybody out." Well, what the hell, he said, "Everybody out." I walked out but I didn't no more know what a union was than anything. In fact, I knew very little about unionism when we went on strike in Fisher 2. All I had ever learned about unionism, I knew the A F of L was no damn good. And all I knew about it was what I heard from Bob Travis and Roy Reuther. That's the only unionism that I knew.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned that Roy said you got the plant about eighty percent organized.
LEIGHTON: Now Roy is coming to you, I guess. And he must have known that you're one of the key people.
MUNDALE: Well, naturally, because I was one of the first out of Fisher 2 to get acquainted with Bob Travis. I was one of the first, see. And after I got Bob Travis to talk to me, I thought, "Oh, what the hell, there is only one thing to do and that's get this plant organized" because he was telling me, and so was Bert Harris, how good Fisher 1 was doing. And I thought, by god, we could organize Fisher 2, because all you had to do is mention that it was a new union that had nothing to do with the A F of L and it had the United Mine Workers back of us and what was...Dubinsky?
LEIGHTON: Oh, the...
MUNDALE: Garment Workers.
LEIGHTON: Garment Workers.
MUNDALE: United Garment Workers. And see, we were told this, that all them people were back of us. So I thought, well, my god, with that kind of power we surely ought to be able to do something. And so I was selling that to the boys in the plant. But you didn't have to have much of a sales pitch. Everybody was ready for unionism, anything to help support us. We had to have something that would take care of us. We knew that. And so it wasn't any job to organize the plant. We got that done in good shape.
LEIGHTON: So you had this meeting then, the night before.
LEIGHTON: Was it at the Pengelly Building?
MUNDALE: At the Pengelly Building we had the meeting. And of course I was up on the platform and I asked the people, I says, "Now it's been suggested by Roy Reuther that we go in there with our buttons on but they've also said that we better get our organization together so that we've got a bargaining committee and the whole bit", see.
LEIGHTON: Right. Red, when was this meeting? How close to the strike? Was it a week or the night before?
MUNDALE: The night before.
LEIGHTON: Oh, okay. So the first time you really have a meeting to coordinate everything was the night before.
MUNDALE: Yeah, that was the first time that we got even the upstairs and downstairs more or less together. See, that's the first time that we'd really got together and had a meeting. So they elected me the head of the strike committee. I was the leader of the strike. And I can't remember, but it seemed like Hans Larson was elected president of the local and...oh there were so many different...and I think...oh, what's this guy that I just mentioned, my police chief? He was the head of my flying squad. We just talked about him a minute ago. Roscoe Rich. I think he was sergeant-at-arms. And I just can't remember all of them. But anyway it was decided that because of Fisher 2, upstairs and downstairs both knew that I had done the organizing. So they wanted me to lead the strike. I was the strike leader and I was head of the bargaining committee. Then I said, "All right, now we're all gonna put our buttons on and we are going in there in the morning and wear our buttons." Okay, so that's what took place. Now if you want to go on from there, we went in the next morning.
LEIGHTON: Now I wanted to ask you. At that meeting in the Pengelly Building, did Travis tell you or...I don't even know when it happened...that the Fisher Body plant in Cleveland had gone down? It went down the twenty-eighth of December.
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.
LEIGHTON: I'm from Cleveland originally but the Coit Road Plant.
MUNDALE: Yeah. He said, "Now like in Toledo, we are organized and we got these other plants that we are organizing." He said, "Now Cleveland is down. We got a strike goin' on there."
LEIGHTON: And of course, Atlanta was already down.
MUNDALE: Yeah, we didn't know that, you know what I mean. They didn't mention that. What they were workin' on at that time was for us to push the issue, you know what I mean. They figured it was time then to get the Fisher Bodies down, I guess is what they figured. So they're the ones that said, "You're organized; you got eighty percent. And when you shut her down the rest of 'em will probably join," or whatever, see. So that's when it was brought up that we would all put our union button on.
LEIGHTON: Now, did you know the night before that you were gonna be in the sit-down? Because in the '30 strike you'd walked out. You had hit the bricks.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, Roy Reuther definitely told us, "don't leave the plant."
LEIGHTON: Now, had you already, even before that meeting though you couldn't help, I suppose, but read about sit-down strikes going on, right?
LEIGHTON: There had been the ones the year before in Akron and the Goodyear...
MUNDALE: Well see, Bob was telling us about that. He said, "The only way we're going to break it, is for you people to hold the plants, 'cause if you don't, it'll be the same thing as has happened year after year, time after time and they're gonna ride you down." But he said, "If you hold the plants, you'll get protection."
LEIGHTON: Because that thing, that very act of the sit-down is what makes that Flint strike.
MUNDALE: Right, right. See, that was absolutely new and it did gall some of the people. In fact, it bothered me just a little bit...
LEIGHTON: I was gonna ask you that next.
MUNDALE: It did, it bothered me just a little bit to think that we were holdin' somebody else's property. You know, I wasn't brought up that way but then I got to thinkin' again, "What the hell, we're fighting for our lives, for our very livelihood." Maybe we are breaking the law but, by god, at least we're holding where we can prove that we've got some rights, you know.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, I would guess that that would be a big jump you had to make.
MUNDALE: It was. It was for a lot of people. Now you know there's a lot of people that went out of that plant the first day. In fact, they damn near trampled the women getting out there. That became some of our most...yes, some of our more...
LEIGHTON: They took the glory after the battle was over.
MUNDALE: Right. And they were the ones that were doing the most of the complaining. They wanted this, they wanted that, but they wasn't there to really get what we did get. That bothered me and that was one of the reasons why I wasn't too popular afterwards. Because every time that they opened their mouth, I let 'em know where they stood. They got to where they hated me quite badly, because I just didn't have sense enough to play politics. I couldn't play politics with 'em.
LEIGHTON: You went in with the union buttons. That was the day before the strike or was that the morning of it?
MUNDALE: That was the day we went on strike.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Was that the first shift you went in, the day shift?
MUNDALE: There was only one shift at Fisher 2, see. So we went in there and I'll tell you how it all went about. We had two inspectors, Jack Pilon and I'll think of his name. Anyway the two of 'em were our regular inspectors. And of course, the minute everybody went in there and got ready to go to work, all these foremen saw all of these union buttons. And the superintendent was goin' up and down the lines, you know what I mean, talking to all of the foremen. And they never said a damn word, though. We all started workin' and pretty soon the superintendent come down on our line there. I was on metal finishing, on the final touch-up, before it went into the bond wright. And he said something to Jack Vaillancour, who was our foreman. And Jack went up to Bloomfield. Bloomfield was one of the inspectors and Jack Pilon was the other. He says, "You boys will have to take your union buttons off." And of course I was right there, right close by, and I said, "Well, how come they have to take 'em off, Jack?" He said, "Well, they are potential foremen." I said, "Well, hell, aren't I a potential foreman?" I said, "Anyone of us here are potential foremen, aren't we?" He said, "No, the inspectors are potential foremen." I said, "Well, that don't make sense. Hell, everybody's a potential foreman. If he's got the ability, they can make a foreman out of him." "Well," he says, "they're either gonna have to take the buttons off or they can't work." I said, "Well hell, that don't sound fair to me." In the meantime, he went up the line. He quit talkin' to me and he went on up line and he got two guys that didn't belong to our union, see. And he put 'em down there inspecting. In the meantime, Jack Pilon and Bloomfield just continued to mark the jobs and we worked right behind them. Soon as they marked jobs, we'd finish it. So these two scabs worked further down the line, just before it went into the bond wright. And they were markin' jobs up and we didn't pay no attention. We just let 'em go, see. Then Jack Vaillancour come up and he says, "They either gotta take their buttons off or they're fired." I said, "You mean that, Jack?" He said, "That's right. He said, "That's it." I said, "Okay, that's it." And I just went like that." I got up on one of these dollies that your jobs were rollin' on and I stood up on that and I went just like that. And that thing went down just like that. Why I mean it wasn't a minute after I went like that. And one guy was workin' over towards center, Bruce Manley, and he went up the stairs. There were spiral stairs that went up to the can and then it went on up to the upstairs. He went up there and he let a bellow out of him, "We're down!" And boy she went down upstairs, just like that.
LEIGHTON: I'll be darned. So that was the floor above you?
MUNDALE: Yeah. Well, about that time is when the weak sisters started takin' off, you know what I mean. But we still had a big crowd in there that wanted to stay. But the foremen was with us, you know what I mean. And they were mingling in the crowd and we all went upstairs. It was cleaner up there and we had more room up in the front. So we went upstairs so they could kind of get together and find out what the hell was gonna happen, you know, and where we stood. And somebody was shouting in the crowd, "Let's go outside; let's go outside and picket. Let's go outside and picket." Well, it was the foremen, you know what I mean? And a guy...I can't think of his name now. Bob Williams, I think it was. He jumped up there along side of me, and he said, "Don't any of you guys leave. If you leave, that's the end of your strike. You know that." And I said, "That's right. We are stayin' in. We are not takin' any vote. We're gonna stay in."
LEIGHTON: Of course all you guys had been at the meeting.
MUNDALE: The meeting. We knew that was really the core that stayed there all the way through. You know what I mean? But it was just a little more difficult. Now Fisher 1, they had that step leadin' up to the windows. They'd go in and out of that place, you know, as they pleased. But we didn't have that opportunity. We could have, but we had to sneak out the back way and across the river and down through that way, see. So it was a little more difficult.
LEIGHTON: Well, when you went down now, that was what, before noon?
MUNDALE: God, I don't remember. I think it was. Yeah, because we had just got started workin', you know what I mean. It was before noon. Oh yeah, and as soon as I shut her down they didn't...you know what I mean. Hell, they just went all to pieces themselves. Now this was all new to the supervision too, see. Jack Vaillancour said, "God, Red, you can't shut it down like that." I said, "Yes, we did shut it down like that. If they want to negotiate with us and want to talk to us, we will meet with the plant manager." He went on up the line and got a hold of the superintendent and they went in the office and they come back out and they said, they wouldn't meet with our whole committee. I had told them how many there was. I forget what there was. I think there were three or four of us. But he said he'll meet with two of you. So I took my old drinkin' buddy with me, Bruce Manley. And he's a pretty good boy. You know what I mean. He's pretty handy with his fist, too. So I took him with me and we went up to the front end and into the employment office and said, "That's where we'll meet you. We'll meet with you in Amel Kelley's office."
LEIGHTON: Amel Kelley?
MUNDALE: Amel Kelley's office. He was the employment manager. He was a little fellow. We went in there and we sat. We must have sat there about ten minutes, see. And I said, "Where is Warden?" Warden was the plant manager at that time. I said, "Where is Warden? If he's gonna meet with us, let's get him in here." And in the meantime I looked out and they had about five or six of the plant protection men in this little hallway. And you would go into Kelley's room and then there is a door that leads you right outside, see. What they were gonna do, they were gonna come in there and get Manley and I and shove us out the front door. Well, I was the leader. If I had done that, if they had got away with it that's probably what would have happened. They would have broke the strike, see. So I said to Amel, I said "Amel, you call Pete Peterson and tell him to get his men out of that goddamn hallway 'cause," I said, "the first one that makes a move towards this room," I said, "you're gonna get it." I said, "I'll kill you, you son of a bitch, if you let them come in here." I said, "You're the first one to go." He got on that phone and he said, "Pete, get them men out of that hallway right now. I want to live." That's what he told Pete Peterson and Pete pulled the men out of there. And we walked back out of there. They didn't even make any attempt to meet with us. What they was tryin' to do was work us out the front door. And we took their word for it that they would meet, see. But they didn't intend to meet us at all. They were going to shove us out the front door. But it backfired on 'em because Kelley thought he was gonna die for sure. And he probably would have because we were desperate enough at that time.
LEIGHTON: You must have had a meeting to get yourselves together, though, once you had the plant.
MUNDALE: Well, after we took over the plant, then we started setting up. But you see, like I say, we wasn't as well organized as Fisher 1. They had their committees for this and committees for that. As we went along we kind of improvised and then found out what we had to have. Now, in Vic Reuther's book he said that all we controlled was the upstairs. But that isn't so. We controlled the whole plant.
LEIGHTON: So when you took it over, you had it right from the ground up.
MUNDALE: We had it right from the ground up from the first day we went down. But Pete Peterson says to me, he says, "Red," he says, "Can I keep my men in here?" He says, "We won't interfere with you. All we want to do is to maintain everything in the plant here and see that nothing gets destroyed or everything is taken care of." I said, "Fine, as long as you just keep your men away from mine and don't try to talk 'em into leavin' the plant or anything. The first one that does, then out you go." So it worked fine. They didn't bother us, whatsoever at all. In fact, most of those guys on plant protection had been men that had worked on the line. So they were sympathetic with us but they couldn't come right out and say so. But we had no trouble with our plant protection whatsoever, at all.
LEIGHTON: When you took over that plant, and you had that meeting with Kelley took place what, right after you shut her down?
MUNDALE: Right after we shut her down, right.
LEIGHTON: Then did you get everybody together inside the plant to figure out what you were gonna...
MUNDALE: That's when we went upstairs. After that we went up there and I told 'em, I said, "Now the first thing they did was they lied to us. They were going to meet with us and try to thrash this out so we could go back to work. But they didn't have any intention. All they wanted to do was try to sneak us out the front door." And of course the men said, "To hell with 'em. We won't talk to 'em either." So I said, "All right. Everybody just make up their mind. We're here to stay. We will set up our committees to try to take care of things as they come up so we'll know what we're gonna do." Because, hell, none of us knew what to do, to be a fact, you know. And I imagine there was confusion in Fisher 1, too, probably.
LEIGHTON: Bob Travis or Roy Reuther didn't give you any plan?
MUNDALE: No, they didn't tell us how to function afterwards. See, there was nothing told about how to function. Bob told us about the different committees that they set up to take care of this and take care of that. But it took us...you just don't set down and say, "Now, here, you're on this committee and you're on that committee." What we did is from day to day from then on... Now we had the cafeteria and when they brought the food in, why we ate in the cafeteria. And that was on the ground floor. So you know we had control of both floors. So the food had come in. I had Junior Miller in charge of the food, serving it and cleaning up afterwards and whatever. He had two or three guys workin' for him. And they worked in there. And I had patrols, but we just picked out certain men at certain hours. There would be so many patrolling for so many hours and then two other guys would patrol the plant, upstairs and downstairs. So we had somebody on duty at all times. In fact, we caught two guys that were going to school up at GMC or GMI whatever it is. GMI. They sneaked in there and of course we found 'em. We didn't know what the hell it was at first, you know. And we took 'em up in my office. I had an office upstairs where we congregated and talked over things that were takin' place and what should be takin' place. We got 'em in there and we come to find out they were just a couple of kids goin' to school there and they wanted to know what the hell was goin' on. And they were curious and had brought a camera in there with 'em. Well, when we found 'em in there with that camera we didn't know what to think, see. But after we questioned 'em for a while, they were scared to death.
LEIGHTON: I'll bet they were.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, they were scared. You know what I mean. They were just young kids. And we turned 'em lose and I mean they took off up that street.
LEIGHTON: When you took over the plant, you know you mentioned that the faint-hearted took off. But at that meeting that you held upstairs, did you have to make some decisions about who was gonna stay in the plant and who was gonna go?
MUNDALE: No, no. We just said, "We're setting in; we're gonna hold the plant from the inside." And that's when the people themselves made their own mind up. And like I say, some of those boys that were leaders later, they were out the door. They were gone, see. They didn't want no part of it. But after they found out that the thing was going to be all right, after they signed the contract, even the night that we walked out of the plant a lot of them boys come in the plant to walk out with us. And I was a little bitter about that. But we were so glad to get out that we didn't make a big issue of it.
LEIGHTON: When you take over the plant and the people leave, now, there were women who also worked in Fisher 2, weren't there?
MUNDALE: Yeah, oh yeah.
LEIGHTON: And of course, they did not sit in.
MUNDALE: Oh no, they didn't. They wanted to. And they'd have probably been better at it than a lot of the boys that we had there, because they were really good. They were good union women.
LEIGHTON: They were up in the cushion room, cutting, sewing.
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah that's what I say. That was all upstairs and I still remember a couple of them saying, "Red, is there any way we can stay in?" I said, "No, I think you'd be of more help to us on the outside." I said, "You come down here and if there's anything we need, we can have you go to the Pengelly Building or whatever. And you can even work in the Pengelly Building preparing food and stuff like that for us. Because we're going to have to have help on the outside as well as on the inside."
LEIGHTON: What was the reason that you wanted them out, though? Were you afraid that the shop...?
MUNDALE: Well, we couldn't have the women in there. Like we sat there forty-four days. And there would have been no way, you know. People get pretty desperate settin' in there forty-four days without any companionship and some of them women were married and their husbands worked some place else. Well, it just wouldn't have been possible.
LEIGHTON: You were kind of afraid of scandals.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, yeah. There was just no way that we would have let 'em stay in there because that would have been a big write-up in the paper right away that we had women in there. As it was, they tried to insinuate that we had women and booze. Well, now, we did have booze. A couple, three or four guys, you know what I mean. They were old alcoholics and they wanted to stay. But they couldn't stay without their drinks. So they had a rope with a pail on it and they put that down and they would have one of the pickets go up and get 'em a jug. They had to have their drinks but there was no rowdyism. There was a lot of bickering. You think forty-four days, and you're bound to have a certain amount of bickering. And I know that I didn't...there was a lot of animosity that was built up. And I didn't help it any, I imagine. But your nerves get on edge and somebody comes with something that is trivial to you. And to him it wasn't; and so it was rough. I want to come to the point. We didn't get any attention from headquarters, whatsoever. We'd ask for stuff and we couldn't get it. You know what I mean? And I'd send a picket up there for something and they would say, "What the hell does that crybaby want now?" See and that made me feel good. I thought, "You sons of bitches and we're sittin' in here and you're settin' up there." And we knew that Fisher 1 was getting a lot of attention. But even in the paper, hell, you know you very seldom heard anything about Fisher 2. But it was Fisher 1 this and Fisher 1 that. And even in their meetings, Travis and all of them, you know what I mean. Because that was the apple of their eye and we were a small plant. There is no question about that.
LEIGHTON: How many guys did you have sit down with you?
MUNDALE: When we first sat down, I would probably say that there was probably maybe two hundred and fifty, three hundred people in there. You know how many people we had in there the night the cops come down? Twenty. Twenty of them in there. There were twenty guys in that damn plant. And that's the same night that I (when they cut the food off) sent a picket up to the Pengelly Building, and I said, "You get up there and you tell Bob and them that we got to have help." I said, "We're gonna have trouble just as sure as hell...they'll cut off our food." He went up there and he said, "Red wants..." He said, "What the hell does that crybaby want now?" He said, "He wants you to get some pickets down there because he thinks they're gonna have trouble." So they was havin' a big meeting at Fisher 1 and they already had some of these guys in from Toledo. They were bringin' 'em in. Bob was bringin' 'em in then. So they had some of those in there and I think there was some coal miners up here at that time, too. So they brought 'em down and if it hadn't been for the pickets on the outside, we would have never made it. Because they'd have run right over us.
LEIGHTON: In that period before you get to the Battle of Bulls Run or Running Bulls, you say that there wasn't any attention. Did anybody come through though, through the plant other than Travis and Reuther?
MUNDALE: Rose Pesotta. She came there and, oh, we had several. You know what I mean, of these bigger labor leaders that came. And they talked in the cafeteria there.
LEIGHTON: Did John L. Lewis ever come in the plant?
MUNDALE: No, oh no, no.
LEIGHTON: Wyndham Mortimer, did he come by?
MUNDALE: Yeah, Mortimer come down there, but only about once. He spent all his time with Fisher 1, see. And that was our trouble. We felt slighted and of course I'm gonna tell you somethin' else. This will go on the record; I'll wait for that. Genora Johnson come in there. She was in several times, you know what I mean, and gave pep talks in our cafeteria. But I mean as far as really havin' the attention and getting...they got basketballs, they got everything at Fisher 1. Hell, we had to make our own. We put a bunch of rags together and put a hoop up there so the guys could play a little basketball. You know what I mean. So we didn't...and they had blankets. Well, hell, we didn't have that for Fisher 2. I don't know how many we got but very few. You know what I mean. It was just things like that. And the guys were resentful and so was I. I was more so because they kept callin' me a crybaby, see. "What the hell does that crybaby want now?" They just didn't want to be bothered with us at all, and it hurt. But I thought, "Well, Jesus, we got to get along with 'em, because we are out here on a limb. We got to have their support."
LEIGHTON: Did the newspapers, movie or the newsreel folks, did they ever come by?
MUNDALE: No, never. No, we never got any of that. There was none of that. The only time they come down there was the night we walked out. That was the only time that the Movietone News...
LEIGHTON: Yeah, that was one of them, yeah.
MUNDALE: That's the only time that they were ever down there.
LEIGHTON: Did that woman who was a member of Parliament, the British Parliament, did she come by?
MUNDALE: Yeah, what was her name?
LEIGHTON: Wilkerson, I think it was Wilkerson.
MUNDALE: Something like that, yes. And you know in the book they said that she stood on a ladder and talked to us. She didn't; she walked in our cafeteria and talked to us. See, that's what I mean. They wasn't even down there. Reuther or none of them were even down there at the time that she came.
LEIGHTON: Did Henry Kraus ever stop by?
MUNDALE: Henry Kraus come in. Yes, Henry Kraus come down there and talked to us, yes.
LEIGHTON: Did he come by because he was putting out the Flint Auto Worker, of course?
MUNDALE: Yeah, that's what I say. He put out that paper. Now his hair, wasn't his hair kind of bushy-like?
LEIGHTON: The pictures I've seen of him, yeah.
MUNDALE: And his wife. They both looked like they would be Communists. You know what I mean. You get that picture of a Communist. They got that bushy hair and them wild eyes and all that crap, see. I'm gonna tell you what took place. Rookie O'Rourke was idolized by Fisher 2, you know what I mean. It was Rookie O'Rourke this and Rookie O'Rourke that.
LEIGHTON: Was his name Francis?
MUNDALE: Francis O'Rourke, yeah. We called him Rookie. You know he wouldn't have even stayed in there if it hadn't been for the priest in his parish. He said, "You stay in there, 'cause I want you to watch the Communist element," because they didn't know me from a bale of hay, I could have been a Communist, as far as that goes. And that's what Rookie O'Rourke stayed in there for. Now, if you want verification of that...who used to be the labor writer for The Journal before this guy they got now?
LEIGHTON: Well, there was a guy named Colin McDonald.
MUNDALE: Nope, Shirley knows his name.
LEIGHTON: Dan Koger?
MUNDALE: Shirley knows his name. He gave me a nice write-up here about four years ago when I was up here.
LEIGHTON: Oh, there was a fellow named Koger, K O G E R, a big, big tall man.
MUNDALE: No, this here's a little guy. I can't think of his name. Maybe Boonie will know it.
LEIGHTON: Ray Motter?
MUNDALE: No, anyway, he will verify it. I'll get his name for you. I've never...this is the first time I've ever mentioned it, but...
MRS. MUNDALE: You've told me that before.
MUNDALE: Yeah, I told you, but I mean I never mentioned it in public. Kraus and his wife and two or three others came down there and put on a play. They put on a play for us and it had do with workers being suppressed more or less in kind of a radical way. You know what I mean. And Rookie O'Rourke come up to me after they left and he says, "Red, we don't want anymore of that in here." He said, "If you do, I'm gonna pull my crowd," and he had a pretty good following. He said, "I'll pull my crowd out." He said, "They're Communist and we don't want them in here." I said, "Well, hell, they didn't tell us anything. They didn't ask us to join or anything." Well, he said, "I don't care. We don't want Communism in here. None of us here are radical or anything like that, and we don't want it."
MRS. MUNDALE: But that was the whole theme of the outsiders that wasn't in the union, that this is a Communist set-up, to start that.
MUNDALE: He's got the tape on.
MRS. MUNDALE: Oh.
LEIGHTON: That's all right. Oh, that's fine.
MUNDALE: Well, I didn't know whether you wanted it or not.
LEIGHTON: You mean the outsiders were caught in the union people?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, sure. I was a Communist, according to the papers and all that.
LEIGHTON: When they came in to present the play...I'm curious about that because we don't know very much. And Kraus and his wife and do you remember anybody else in it?
MUNDALE: I don't remember who they were. No, that's what I mean. And see it's kind of vague to me. But I know that Kraus was in on it. Whether he brought the players from Detroit or what, I don't know.
LEIGHTON: The reason I ask that, there was a theater group that went around to plants that were struck and they put on plays.
MUNDALE: Yeah, and it just...kind of not being used to anything like that...and it told about how downtrodden the worker was and how rich the corporations were. Anyway it was a play on that theme, see. And I think O'Rourke thought that they were Communist. And he told me, he said that he was gonna pull his group out if we continued to have anything like that in there.
LEIGHTON: Now you've mentioned O'Rourke's group. And of course we've known of Francis O'Rourke. But was that the Association of Catholic Trade Union Workers?
MUNDALE: No, no. It was just his friends, his personal friends. You kind of had groups in there after you had been in there as long as we were, see. Your downstairs didn't know the upstairs too well. But the only ones that mingled freely was your poker players. They didn't care if they were from upstairs or downstairs or where they were from as long as they had a dollar or two. (Laughs) But you had your groups that kind of hung together. And Bob [sic, Bill] Connolly, he was from upstairs, but he wasn't with the O'Rourke group, that is, to that extent.
LEIGHTON: Right. Okay, I've wondered about that because in some cities, not Flint, the ACTWU was pretty strong.
MUNDALE: Right. But he never told me that he belonged to anything like that and these others were just friends. Well, they were the type that wanted to play basketball, physical fitness was their bag, while we were settin' in there. They was up on the roof doin' calisthenics and things like that. And I'd much rather laid in the sack. I wasn't too interested in that.
LEIGHTON: When you finally started getting things sorted out and organized in the various committees, what did you do? Did Bob Travis help you out with setting up these committees? Or you just figured them out as you needed them?
MUNDALE: No, that's what I say. We got nothing. We got nothing at all from Uncle Bob, you know.
LEIGHTON: How did you know that the cops were coming?
MUNDALE: We didn't.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned that you thought there might be trouble.
MUNDALE: See, because before that we never had any trouble. And plant protection never gave us any trouble whatsoever. Now they had main offices all along the front of that downstairs, and we respected their property that much that we wouldn't let any of the guys go in those offices. We stayed right the hell out of there because they had typewriters. They had all kinds of equipment in there and we just didn't want to be accused of stealing any of their property that was worth having, so we stayed out of there. But this one night when the food came I was upstairs settin' in that office with a couple of guys talkin'. And Roscoe come up. Roscoe says, "Red, they stopped the food from comin' in." I said, "Who the hell stopped the food from comin' in?" "Well," he said, "Pete Peterson, he locked the door." I said, "Well, you go down and tell Pete Peterson you want the keys to that door. Either he open it or give you the keys." And I said, "If he don't give you the keys, Roscoe, you take your flying squad," and I says, "you bust that damn door in. That's all there is to it. Just go down there and tell him you want the keys." So he went down and he told Pete. He said, "Now either you open the door, Pete, or I'm gonna open it." And Pete says, "I lost the keys." So old Roscoe and Black Pete Pavelich and some of my husky boys, they hit that damn door. And well, it come together like that and, boom, it opened like that, see. So everybody started cheerin' and then we was all downstairs then, see. And that's when I told that picket. I said, "God damn it, get up to that Pengelly Building". We had some pickets outside. There were probably about fifteen twenty or better outside, maybe more. And of course, everybody was cheering and we got the damn food in. And I looked and, goddamn it, I saw 'em comin' right across the street. And here they came with them steel helmets on and them bulletproof vests and the gas masks. And if that ain't somethin' to look at, I'll tell you. In the meantime we unrolled our hoses, water hoses. I said, "By god, you know we haven't got a hell of a lot to protect ourself with, but if we can get these water hoses down, we will just wash 'em to hell out of here."
LEIGHTON: Now, the water hoses were on the ground floor?
MUNDALE: Yeah, we had 'em on the ground floor and the upper floor.
LEIGHTON: Now I wanted to ask you. Of course a lot of things we've heard is that you had stuff up on the roof. I want to get to the hinges. Did you know in advance...or I shouldn't say you knew in advance. But you were prepared, at any rate. I suppose all the plants did that.
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah. See, we didn't know but what somebody would try to come in and throw us out. We was aware of that at all times. That's why we had big steel plates welded to the back doors downstairs. There was no way they could get in there. And then we had that overpass that run across there from Chevrolet over to Fisher 2. We had steel plates across that. And then we piled a whole bunch of dollies, what they call dollies, them steel dollies that the bodies rolled on. We had them stacked up against there, too. So there was no way they could get in. But then we took these hinges. They came in kegs and we had 'em strung along the windows there upstairs. But they'd probably set there for two, three weeks or longer. Maybe longer than that, you know what I mean. We had 'em settin' there, just in case something happened. Then when we saw them comin', we had that hose down and they got in the clock room. But that's as far as they got, 'cause we turned the water on.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, I was gonna ask you...who was the guy... It seems to me I remember talkin' to somebody...and you'll have to help me out there. I was talkin' to somebody who was at that door when the cops came through it, and he got flattened, he said. I can't remember who that was. Anyway, it doesn't matter.
MUNDALE: You mean he was flattened by water or...?
LEIGHTON: No, he was the guy downstairs, apparently by the clock room where there must have been some door or something that the cops came through.
MUNDALE: Well there was a bunch of us, yeah. There was a bunch of us down there, but we were just scurryin' like hell to get our water turned on and get that hose straightened up. Now, there was some of 'em scuffling with the police up ahead of us, see. So that's probably what...but who it was, I don't know, now. But I do know this, that when they started shootin' that tear gas in there, I screamed at the guys upstairs, I think it was. One of 'em got hit, Connolly, I believe it was, that got hit in the face from one of them tear gas bombs. And of course he grabbed himself like that and the damn thing laid there. And I said, "Jesus, hit that with that water hose! Hit it with a water hose!" Freddy Ahearn will tell you that. Did you talk to Freddy Ahearn?
LEIGHTON: Yeah, yes we have. Right.
MUNDALE: He'll tell you that, because he said, "God, Red, I'll never forget you telling us to be sure and squirt those damn things with water. He said, "That's probably what saved us, because we would try to pick 'em up but burn our hands, you know, tryin' to throw 'em back out again. I said, "Hell, just hit it with that water hose as much as you can." And then we got rags and grabbed 'em and throwed 'em back out. But then we started throwin' the hinges, just dumping them out the window because our pickets were down there then, you know. We had already washed them back out. We had got 'em back out of the building. And we had 'em all pretty well soaked with that water. And this was in February, so they were very uncomfortable.
LEIGHTON: Yes, somebody told me it was sixteen degrees that night.
MUNDALE: Yeah, it was. It was colder than hell. And we soaked them down pretty good. And I'll never forget, Black Pete come back in. He went out (I tried to keep the boys inside as much as I could) and he come back in there, and he had one cop's revolver, his belt, and half his clothes, see. I said, "Where in the hell did you get that?" He said, "The son of a bitch was trying to crawl under that fence over there by the Chevrolet office and we got him." They run him and stripped him and he run out in the street in his underwear. So we had quite a night there, I'll tell you. But we were scared. We were just fightin' for our life. We were just all scared to death. We didn't know what the hell was gonna happen.
LEIGHTON: That was downstairs when the cops tried to come in, right?
MUNDALE: Yeah, that was the first. We had that water hose. Then, of course we had the water hose upstairs. And they were shootin' that out, you know, and as the cops were backin' up, there was just that distance between the cops and the pickets. You know what I mean. 'Cause we were throwin' everything they could get their hands on out there. And, of course then we were dumpin' them hinges out and giving them ammunition there and we was also throwin' hinges, see. And, oh, I mean those hinges were heavy. If one of 'em hit 'em, down they went, see. So I'll never forget Wolcott come screamin' down through there in his car and that was as far as he got, see. Pickets grabbed his car and tipped it over.
LEIGHTON: With him in it, didn't they?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, yeah. He pushed that door and, Jesus Christ, everything was just hittin' that damn car like that. He had a hell of a time gettin' out of that one. Yeah, he'll never forget it, because he had a hinge on his desk up there to the jail. I went up there one time (I forget what it was for) and he says, "Red," and he hollered at me when I was out in the other room and he said, "Come here." I walked in there and he says, "Do you see that?" And he had one of them hinges on his desk. He said, "That son of a bitch hit me right in the head." I said, "You're lucky it hit you in the head or else you would have got hurt."
LEIGHTON: The cops not only shot tear gas. They started opening fire on you too, didn't they?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah. See, after we pushed 'em back...
LEIGHTON: And then you could secure the downstairs again, is that it?
LEIGHTON: But didn't plant protection run to the ladies' room?
MUNDALE: Yeah, oh yeah. See they disappeared. Because, hell, everybody was running helter-skelter, trying to get somethin' to fight with or tryin' to find an advantage spot to control, see. So they disappeared and I never even gave 'em another thought. I thought they just took off when the damn doors...when the cops went out, I thought they went out with the cops, see. I didn't know, 'cause I rushed back upstairs to see if they was gettin' that other hose goin'. And, hell, they had that goin' in fine shape, see. So then everybody was throwin' and there was guys up on the roof. And they had their hinges up there and they were throwin' hinges. Now, Vic tells the story about havin' them inner tubes up there laced between two pipes and we were shootin' hinges with that, that bullshit. And he was also told about that guy stickin' his head out and we shot a hinge across there and saved his life. But those things didn't happen. You know what I mean, but it made a good story. But we were throwin' hinges just as hard and as fast as we could. And of course, we had them pickets down below and that's all that saved us. It was a wild, wild night. Then after we got 'em pushed back as far as the bridge, that's when they started usin' their buckshot.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, that's what I was gonna say. When did they start opening fire?
MUNDALE: About half way across that bridge was when we first started hearin' the shotguns. And then I heard one guy, Hans Larson, said, "Goddamn, I got hit." He said, "Somethin' hit me." And he had blood on his leg, see. He had a buckshot; they got him in the foot. So there were sixteen of the guys got shot that night. And I'm tryin' to think of this one kid's name. He wasn't even in Fisher 2. He worked for the city trolley company. And they shot him twice, right in the belly with a .38.
LEIGHTON: Oh, oh, it wasn't Stevens?
LEIGHTON: Stevens was the president of that trolley car local.
MUNDALE: Yeah, it wasn't him. This here was just one of the strikers and he came down there that night. And he stayed in our plant before that a couple of nights and I told him. God damn, I wish I knew that name. It was just a young fellow, a real nice kid. It's terrible when you get so old your memory fails you, I guess. But I can't think of his name. But he got shot twice right in the belly and he lived.
LEIGHTON: Yeah. I remember reading about it. So but eventually you got the...was it once you got the cops across the bridge...was it the pickets and the people coming out from the Pengelly that chased them all the rest of the way?
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah from then on, you know what I mean. We had pickets comin' down constantly then, from all over town. Anybody that even had the slightest idea they wanted to be union, they were comin' down there then. Because then the cops realized with all them pickets they had no chance whatsoever. And another thing, as I read in the paper afterwards, they claimed that they run short on tear gas and they tried to get some from Detroit, and Detroit wouldn't let them have any, because they expected trouble there and they wanted their supply. So that's the reason they gave up. But it wasn't really. They got whipped; and they got whipped good. And they just couldn't take them hinges. Those hinges were wicked. They were real wicked, you know. So I can still remember the next morning them two police cars. There was one set up by the gas station there. And there was nothin' left but the frame, the upholstery and everything was just ripped right out of it. And the motor, they'd even taken the motor out of it. There was nothing left of it at all, just the frame and the chassis.
LEIGHTON: So there are a few people around town that have souvenirs from that night.
MUNDALE: Yeah, I imagine they might have. You see, that's me again. Just like those telegrams I got. I got a telegram from John L. Lewis, I got one from Dave Dubinsky and I got one from some other woman from the Garment Workers, you know, congratulating us on our strike and to stay in there and so forth. And I just throwed 'em away. You see, what a wonderful thing it would be to have that now. And just like those emblems, you know those sit-down emblems. I had one of them and, hell, I don't know what happened to it. Of course, I got a little bitter, too, after it was all over with. Of course, I was havin' family trouble. Then a year or so later some of these same guys that wasn't in there settin' down, they finally got me out as committeeman. And they got their man in. And the same man that they got in was out workin' in a bump shop at the time that we were holdin' the fort. So I thought, "What the hell?"
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you about after the strike. But you had a whole month to go yet, I mean, after the battle. Did you get any more attention then?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah. That's when they realized that we had something there, because we were getting nationwide attention then, see.
LEIGHTON: Did you get more guys back in the plant then?
MUNDALE: No, not too much, because, see, the National Guard come in and there was no in or out at all. But that same night that we were havin' the battles, a lot of 'em come back in. I say a lot of 'em. There were probably about fifty of 'em come back in then. But the night of the actual battle, we had about twenty men in there. That's all I had; and I mean it was rough.
LEIGHTON: Now, after the battle did you leave the plant at all? Could you get out to meet with Travis. Or did Travis have to come in, or he couldn't get in either?
MUNDALE: No, he couldn't get in either. All we got was messages. You know what I mean. But there was no way of talkin' to them, at all, you know.
LEIGHTON: Did the sound car give you messages?
MUNDALE: No, they wouldn't even let the sound car down in there, see after the National Guard come in. There was no way for them to get down there at all.
LEIGHTON: So you were really just isolated.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, we were isolated. We didn't know a damn thing about what was goin' on.
LEIGHTON: Could you get across under the street to Chevrolet?
MUNDALE: No, no.
LEIGHTON: There was no connection there at all?
MUNDALE: No, there was no connection there at all.
LEIGHTON: There was the overpass, wasn't there?
MUNDALE: Well, there was the overpass, but there was nobody over in that part. See, like plant four was kitty corner up towards...
LEIGHTON: That's right.
MUNDALE: And after the battle, we went over there and talked to some of the boys.
LEIGHTON: Now, that's what I wanted to ask you.
MUNDALE: Yeah, right after our battle we went over there and talked to...but we didn't go in the plant, because, hell, they didn't have... They didn't set down over there. See what I mean, until after that.
LEIGHTON: That's right, until the first of February.
MUNDALE: Right. They used to walk by there. And we had a loud speaker hooked up and we would talk to them as they go by there, see.
LEIGHTON: Okay, that's what I wanted to ask you.
MUNDALE: And we would tell 'em, "How 'bout a little support here so we can get a contract with General Motors? And we can't get it without you boys." Some of 'em would look up and go like that and then they'd look around and see if anybody was watchin'. And they'd go like that, you know. And there was a lot of 'em that belonged. And we didn't know it. But we was pretty bitter towards 'em, due to the fact that they were goin' to work and we'd been settin' in there. But they were waitin' for their opportunity. That was a rough deal over there, you know.
LEIGHTON: Now after the battle, was it just that night that you had a chance to talk to these guys, or did you meet Kermit then, Kermit Johnson?
MUNDALE: After they set down in 4, after they set down and got 4, then I and, oh, two, three of us thought, well, maybe we could go over there and give 'em a little moral support, because we had already been through it for so long. You know what I mean. So we went over there.
LEIGHTON: You could get out of your plant, then, to do this.
MUNDALE: Well, we had to sneak and we waded across the river and it was colder than hell. But we went across and then we sneaked up there on the other side and went under the bridge and sneaked up on the other side and went up in their cafeteria. And that's when I really got acquainted with Kermit, was then. You know what I mean. And we talked and we told 'em. But he was a pretty capable boy. He knew what it was all about and evidently he'd either belonged to a union before that, or else he'd had a good briefing with Travis and them before he shut theirs down, see. But we told him what we'd gone through and what to expect and so forth. So it worked out pretty good. And we went on back to our plant again.
LEIGHTON: Did they know that they were gonna take that plant down?
MUNDALE: Well, over at Fisher 2 we had no idea what was goin' on at all. You know what I mean. They had that battle over there at Plant 9 or 6, whatever it was. And that was just a conversionary [sic] measure in order to get 4.
LEIGHTON: Right. You couldn't see that, though from there?
MUNDALE: No, no, we didn't know what the hell was goin' on. But then when 4 was taken, then we knew. We said, "Goddamn, they got 4." Well, I figured that if they had 4, they had it made, 'cause that's your motor. That's where the motor was assembled. And I knew if they had that, there would be no more motors made.
LEIGHTON: No more Chevrolets.
MUNDALE: That's right. And that made us feel pretty good, because we were getting a little discouraged, you know. You know, you set in there and you don't know what is goin' on. And you get the news and the first thing that you know, they will say, "Well, we've got an agreement and we're all gonna walk out." And about two days later, or whatever it was, they said, "General Motors has double-crossed us. Stay where you're at; don't walk out." And, god, you know that's hard to take, 'cause we was ready to get out of that damn plant. We didn't suffer; Fisher 2 didn't suffer any. Over at Plant 4 they cut the heat off, there. They cut the heat off at our plant too, but where they cut it off was a little kitty-corner. And right back there there was a big valve on there and it was all in a kind of a little office like, with a door on it. So they come up there and they borrowed some plant protection men from Fisher 1. This was before we had the battle with the cops. And they all come screamin' up that stairs and they all had a long goddamn nightstick they'd whittled out, you know, everyone of 'em carryin' a big long stick, and we just stood there and watched 'em. They went over there in that corner and they shut the damn thing off, you know. And they got out of there and locked that and down the stairs they went. And the guys from Fisher 1 went back over to Fisher 1 and everybody went out. But, you see, the plant protection didn't come upstairs; they stayed downstairs. We told 'em we didn't want 'em upstairs, but they could patrol the downstairs. So, hell, they had no more than gone downstairs and I don't remember who the hell his name was said, "Hell, I can open that door." I said, "Oh let's open the goddamn door." So he opened the door and we just turned the damn thing back on. And they never did give us any trouble, you know. So we just turned it back on. So we had heat all the time. And we had big sheepskins that they made these buffers out of. And then we had your springs from your car and we'd lay them on there and then your blanket. Well, hell, that was just like a Beautyrest, you know. We slept good and we ate good. But we were just a little resentful, because they couldn't see Fisher 2, really. And it bothered me. And today it's the same thing. As you noticed, it says, "Here's where it all started." You know, they've got it all wrong, you know. And they know they've got it wrong. Yet they're bound to do that.
LEIGHTON: I wanted to ask you. You mentioned something when we were talkin' about Kraus and the play, that you were gonna add something later on about... I don't know whether it was about Kraus.
MUNDALE: No, the only thing is I knew who Kraus was. You know what I mean, because he was the editor of that union paper. And I think he come out of Detroit. I'm pretty sure.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, he put together The Auto Worker and then the strike paper was called The Flint Auto Worker, I think.
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah. And he was the head of that, too, wasn't he? Well, that's what I mean. I didn't know who he was, but he had a kind of a radical look about him. You know what I mean. And his wife was dark and it was just one of those things. You know what I mean. And the play, it just seemed to strike us----it did me too----that it was something that a Communist would do to get the working man all stirred up against the people that had the money. In other words, the play didn't mean poop to me. That isn't what we wanted at all. Hell, that wasn't entertainment to us. Christ, we knew we'd been exploited. We knew all about it. Christ, we'd been through it, so there was no use tellin' us. If they wanted to go tell the public, that's fine. But O'Rourke got pretty upset about it. And that's when he threatened to take his men and leave.
LEIGHTON: After the strike, and after the celebration in the Pengelly Building, then it really begins to hit the fan, doesn't it?
LEIGHTON: What about that spring and the summer? Were there many wildcat strikes at Fisher 2?
MUNDALE: Not at Fisher 2. You know that...
LEIGHTON: I assume you stayed working there at Fisher 2.
MUNDALE: Yeah, right, right up until the war. And when they shut Fisher 2 down then I went over to AC, I think. But I was out after the strike. I went out as an international organizer and went over to AC and I did a real good job. I was really bringin' 'em in over there. But that's at the time that that split came about then, between Homer Martin and the Reuther brothers. And of course, Homer Martin was payin' my wages. So I was a Homer Martin man.
LEIGHTON: So you were UAW-A F of L.
MUNDALE: Yeah, but you know what I mean. That was after...even after that, because pretty soon the money started dryin' up. And then I had to go back into the plant. I was still doin' a hell of a nice job over to AC. All them old boys that was there and women are more or less gone. You know, they're dead and so forth. Whether they'd even have a record of it at that time, I know the state police have, because they came out there and they took movies. We had a big drive there and put up a picket line and they come out of AC 'and tried to get everybody to join and show their union buttons, and so forth, you know. And AC was hard to crack.
LEIGHTON: Why was that?
MUNDALE: Women, I think, more than anything. They were just a little harder to convince, you know. A lot of them, I suppose, their husbands were workin' and they figured, well, what they were makin' was just that much gravy. Not realizing that in order to organize, and they could have a much better wage and have it a lot easier. It's just hard to sell something like that to people that don't know what it's all about. And I didn't, as far as that was concerned, I didn't really know what unionism was all about. I have learned more about it since I got out of the plant than I knew about it when I was in the plant.
MUNDALE: But you was askin' about after the strike. We went back to work.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, did you go right back to work a couple of days later or was there a...?
MUNDALE: Yeah, it only took 'em, I think it was about a week, to clean up and get everything ready to go again, see.
LEIGHTON: Yeah. Were you in on the cleanup?
MUNDALE: No. I was down there, but I said no. I forget what it was. I wanted to do something. But they asked me to come in and work. You know what I mean. But I said no. And they took these maintenance men and cleaned things up and got everything ready to go.
LEIGHTON: Was there much of a mess when they came in?
MUNDALE: No, no, no there was no damage outside of where we'd welded those steel plates up. And I guess there was one or two cars that had some big dings in 'em. Somebody decided that they wanted to try out their slingshot or something, see.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, there's always a few.
MUNDALE: But no, there was very little damage in our plant. That's what I say, we were a conservative bunch of boys that was in that plant. There was nothing vulgar or radical about us.
LEIGHTON: In the whole plant you didn't have one firebrand, one radical?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, we had 'em after the strike. After the strike was all over. After the strike was all over, but I mean while we were setting in there. Oh, we had guys that, "Oh them sons of bitches this and that," you know what I mean.
LEIGHTON: No, I meant from a political party or something like that.
MUNDALE: No, no, we didn't have a doggone one. I don't think there was a Socialist or Communist in the whole place. And, like I say, this Bob Williams jumped up that first day when we went down and said, "By god, we can't afford to walk out of here. If we do, we'll lose the strike." Well, he had a nervous breakdown and we had to send him out. And when we did, the press got ahold of him and whether he said it I doubt it like hell, but he said he was held there under duress and we wouldn't let him... But that wasn't so, because he's the one that more or less helped keep the people in there that first day. And he sat in there and then, of course, naturally he had that nervous breakdown, and we got him out of there. And when we did, they said that he made the statement that we'd kept him in there, because he didn't want to stay, but we made him stay in there. That wasn't so and I doubt if he made the statement. But they were doin' anything they could to stir up the farmers. You know the farmers were gonna come down there and shoot us out. They had all them guns up there to city hall.
LEIGHTON: What was that all about, the farmers?
MUNDALE: Oh hell, the farmers and some of your merchants, they were all gonna come down there. We got the word that they were comin' down. And, by god, if the cops couldn't throw us out, they would.
LEIGHTON: Oh, this was The Flint Alliance?
MUNDALE: Yeah, right.
LEIGHTON: George Boysen.
MUNDALE: Yeah, Boysen and that group.
LEIGHTON: But did he recruit farmers?
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, hell, the farmers were very bitter. That's why I don't have much...these farmers are always bitchin' and complainin', but you go out here and see some of these. They set in those big tractors with air conditioning and they don't know what farmin' is. When I was a kid you had to farm; you had to work. You know what I mean. Just to listen to 'em, even down south, they are always complaining. And yet they won't pay a wage if they hire somebody. They want to go over to Puerto Rico or some place like that and get these people in here that'll work for nothing, see. They don't want to pay a wage.
LEIGHTON: Did Boysen or any of those guys come by Fisher 2?
MUNDALE: No, oh no.
LEIGHTON: They wouldn't have come in.
MUNDALE: Oh, no.
LEIGHTON: So you didn't see 'em during the strike at all?
MUNDALE: No, no. I think that we had one guy that came out of our plant that was anti-union. I can't think of his name now. And he was doin' quite a bit of talkin'. You know what I mean. But he never did come back in the plant. They put him some place else 'cause he... And we also, after the strike, they had several diehards that didn't want to join. And this one, he had the excuse that as long as Red Mundale was at the head of it, he'd never join that union. And he was a pretty good-sized guy, too. He worked up on the door line. And of course there was Manley and that bunch, you know. We all run together and drank together. And they got word of it that old Goff said, "By god, he wouldn't join it as long as I did." Manley got ahold of it and he said, "God damn it, you go up and tell that son of a bitch he better join or you'll whip the hell out of him." And I said, "Oh, hell, I don't want to start somethin' like that." He said, "Go ahead; go get him." They kept eggin' me on. I finally went up and I said, I told him, I said, "Goff, how come you don't want to join the union?" He said, "Because you're the head of it, you son of a bitch, and I don't like you." I said, "Why don't you like me?" He said, "Look at all the trouble you've caused." Well, you know what I mean. We had a union, see. And I said, "Well, in other words, you just don't want to join the union." And he said, "No, not as long as you're a part of it." And I said, "All right, I'll tell you what I'll do." I said, "I'll meet you outside tonight, right out the door, here." The more I thought about it, the more I thought I was pretty mouthy. I should have kept my mouth shut. The more I thought of it, the bigger he got, too. The other guys kept tellin' me, "Hell, you can take him, Red. You can take him." So I said, "Well, we'll meet him." So he come out the door and he throwed his dinner bucket at me, and it glanced off my shoulder, and we tangled. And right in front of the plant manager's office there was a railing like that and this is all nice lawn, see. And I knocked him over that railing and I jumped over it and we was in there, right in front of the old man's office. And I just kicked the hell right out of that big Goff. I guess maybe I was scared or whatever. But anyway I just kicked the hell out of him. And he'd try to go crawl over that railing and I jerked him back and kicked the hell out of him some more. And finally the guys said, "He's had enough, Red. He's had enough. Let him go." So I said, "Okay." And his buddy was goin' up the street and I run after him and I got him up by that gas station and I says, "Where are you goin'?" He said, "I'm goin' up to the union hall." So they got both of them and I walked back down again. This one guy had false teeth. This one guy had my teeth, see, upper plate. So he gave them to me and I was standin' there talkin' to him and one of the plant protection guys come over and he said, "Hey, the old man wants to see you." Well, I'd been fighting right on plant property, see. And I thought, "Oh, oh, god damn, I'm in trouble." I went in there and old Roy Wismer was plant manager and he was one of the best, bar none. I walked in there and he said, "God damn, Red, you're pretty shifty." He said, "Here," and he handed me a ten-dollar bill. I said, "What's that for?" He said, "I didn't like that big son of a bitch either." (Laughs) And ten dollars in those days was a lot of money, see. So he provided a good drunk for me and about four of my buddies. We sat up to Russ's Restaurant up there and just got stoned.
LEIGHTON: In that spring and the summer though, after the strike...
MUNDALE: No, not really, after we walked out of that plant we were more or less left on our own. We had an election and...
LEIGHTON: Now that was for Local 156, wasn't it?
MUNDALE: 598, Local 598.
LEIGHTON: Well, first for a long time you had Local 156, didn't you?
MUNDALE: Well, the first 156 was before we went on sit-down. That was when it was amalgamated.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, but didn't you stay for 156 up through the summer or somethin' and then switch?
MUNDALE: I don't remember; I don't remember, now. See that part of it's foggy. I know that we had an election, but I guess it was, too. As long as it was 156 I was chairman of the bargaining committee after the strike, right. And up until a certain time when we got our charter, then we had the election of officers. And O'Rourke was chairman of the bargaining committee and also chairman of the local. And I was on the bargaining committee.
LEIGHTON: Who became the first president of the local?
MUNDALE: Well, now, amalgamated or Local 598?
LEIGHTON: Well no, the amalgamated 156.
MUNDALE: Hans Larson. Harry Larson, I guess they called him. I always called him Hans. He was the one that was elected that night before we went on strike. That's when we elected our officers. And I remember that Harry Larson was elected president. But he didn't stay in the plant, either. He was there off and on. You know what I mean.
LEIGHTON: But he stayed on as president then until 156 dissolved and it became 598.
MUNDALE: Yeah, right.
LEIGHTON: Okay. Then who became president of 598?
LEIGHTON: Okay, Francis O'Rourke.
LEIGHTON: Now, was Travis still around then in that period after the strike?
MUNDALE: Well, I don't recall.
LEIGHTON: Did you see much of him?
MUNDALE: No, we didn't see him. I'm sure that Bob Travis, Roy Reuther or Victor Reuther never showed up at our local. I don't think there's a one of them that showed up at our local. I can't recall it. I know we...after we got our own local we got a little building up the street there on Chevrolet. But I'm positive that any of them never showed up at our local. They knew that I was quite teed off. In fact, there's a little article in Victor's book about where I told them. And I did. I said, "God damn you, when I want help, don't give me a lot of trouble." I was serious. So Victor got that remark in that but I made the language a lot different than that. I really told them. I was so damn mad. You know what I mean. Everything that we wanted, we had to fight to try to get it out of 'em. And that's all we done all our life was fight General Motors and then we had to fight them, too, in order to get recognition for anything else, see.
LEIGHTON: What do you think is the reason for that?
MUNDALE: Because we were just small. You know what I mean. There was no write-ups or anything about Fisher 2. Like I say, Standard Cotton, you never hear of Standard Cotton, do you?
MUNDALE: And they sat in that son of a gun just as religious as we did.
LEIGHTON: That's right.
MUNDALE: You know what I mean. And they fought just like we did.
LEIGHTON: And the conditions were miserable, too.
MUNDALE: Right, right.
LEIGHTON: We've interviewed about five or six people from Standard Cotton.
MUNDALE: Have you?
LEIGHTON: Oh yeah.
MUNDALE: We even went out there one night. Yeah, we even went out there one night.
LEIGHTON: During the strike?
MUNDALE: Yes, while we were settin' in. We decided, well, maybe we can do a little good by goin' out there, 'cause it was smaller than us, even. So we thought, well, we'll go out there and tell 'em that we're makin' out and what we're doin' in order to entertain ourselves. Well, we got out there and, of course, there was a bunch of hillbillies at Standard Cotton. And they had their banjos and their guitars in there and they were havin' a ball, so they were doin' all right, you know.
LEIGHTON: Yeah. Do you remember did you meet a fellow named John Thrasher?
MUNDALE: I probably did. You know what I mean, you don't remember names or anything. You don't remember 'em. Just like my wife now. She had two brother-in-laws that was in there on the sit-down strike. But I wouldn't know 'em, or I didn't know 'em then.
LEIGHTON: After the strike, how did you get to that split? See, that's something that's... In the contesting for elections for 598 when O'Rourke is elected, by that time are you getting Socialists, Communists, others who are active in the politicking?
MUNDALE: Not so at Fisher 2. See, what happened is the more radical was for the Reuthers, you know what I mean. And of course, I felt like this: Whoever the majority is, that's good enough for me. But I was a Homer Martin man, due to the fact that I was workin' for Homer Martin, see.
LEIGHTON: So he hired you as an organizer right after the strike, or even a month or so or what?
MUNDALE: Yeah, right. Yeah, probably a week or so after the strike, I think. I don't remember, but it wasn't very long.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I see, okay.
MUNDALE: And I went out. Then I went over to AC and I was there for probably a month or better.
LEIGHTON: And you weren't working in AC, you were just...you didn't have a job in it. You just had an office and were tryin' to organize.
MUNDALE: No, no, I worked out of the office there and then I'd go out to the plant and talk to the guys out there. But I'd meet 'em up there to the office.
LEIGHTON: Where was the office, at Pengelly?
MUNDALE: No, no, it was on Hamilton, either Hamilton or Industrial...on Industrial. In a little old two-by-four there, too. You know that's all any of us could afford at that time.
LEIGHTON: Right. That was up by the old AC plant before they moved over on Dort.
MUNDALE: Yeah, oh, yeah. It was up the street there on Industrial Avenue. They were still out to the new plant. But I mean that's where they had to go to pay their dues. In those days you had to pay your dues. They didn't take them out of your...
LEIGHTON: Out of your check, right.
MUNDALE: And that's what made it rough, too, because committeemen and stewards they had to go around and prod these guys and get 'em to pay their dues. You know they wanted the benefits, but they hated to part with that dollar or two, see. And it's been that way ever since, you know. You got certain people that'll fight and try to keep it goin'. And you've always got those that set back and complain. And I guess it will always be that way.
LEIGHTON: What about yourself, though? Were you in the running for an office in 598?
LEIGHTON: Or any other local?
MUNDALE: No, the only time I ran was when I'd been havin' trouble with this same group. You know what I mean. And they accused me of bein' a Homer Martin man and all that.
LEIGHTON: Well, which group is this now?
MUNDALE: Well, it was Roy Boone and Bruce Manley, my buddy. Of course, he was always a troublemaker. And oh, I can't think of this guy's name. He was the one that run against me and he was the one that was out workin' in a bump shop while we were settin' down. And Jack Pilon, one of the guys that we sat down for. And I'll tell you another one was Clayton Johnson and his buddy. I can't think of him. Art was his first name. They were two of the first ones out of that plant. And this Clayton Johnson, he sat to home and read up on Robert's Rules of Order while he was out of there. And of course, soon as he come back, why, he come to them meetings and he was gonna show us what a union man he was because he knew Robert's Rules of Order. And in fact, he did so good that the international hired him as a teacher at one time. So he worked for the international, see. That's what I mean; they took advantage. Whereas those other guys, we just fought and to hell with it. As long as we could get the union is what we wanted. That's all I give a damn about. I wasn't politically minded. If I was, I'd have played my cards a lot different. But I was bitter towards them sons of bitches that wouldn't set in there with us. And they made me mad. You know what I mean. And I let 'em know, every opportunity I got, what I thought of 'em. And they built up a bloc against me. And then when we had this election for committeeman, he beat me out.
LEIGHTON: This is Clayton Johnson?
MUNDALE: No, I can't think of the guy's name now that beat me out. But it was Clayton Johnson and that group that talked enough people into voting me out, see, and votin' him in.
LEIGHTON: And this was which local now?
MUNDALE: Yeah, it wasn't too long before we shut down for the war.
MUNDALE: And another thing, all the time, from the time that we went back to work until they shut Fisher 2 down at that area, we never had a written grievance. We settled everything.
LEIGHTON: Was that because you had...I want to hit on that one because that's...
MUNDALE: It's something to think about, you know.
LEIGHTON: You know, you mentioned the words and you used 'em interchangeably, steward and committeeman.
LEIGHTON: But of course, as you know, in that period during and after the strike, there was a shop steward system. And then didn't they go to committeeman a little later?
MUNDALE: No, it was committeeman, as far as I remember. But we were allowed only so many committeemen per hundred workers, you know. You had so many. And then the first hour you worked. And I think you was allowed two hours to do committee work durin' the day. Well right away I thought to myself, by god that isn't right. I think the committeeman should be allowed to have all the time that he can to go around to the group and see what's goin' on. Because you know there's a lot of people, even today, in the plants that just can't go to their committeeman. And they'll take abuse before they will go to the committeeman, see. Or if the foreman can pile a little extra work on 'em, they'll do it and they won't complain. And it spoils the job for the next guy, you know. And so I...hell, they put me on a job. Finally they put me on a job that didn't make any difference whether I was on it or not 'cause it didn't mean that much you know. There was no work to it. So I just prowled the plant all the time. I'd even go upstairs and they never said anything. But these guys resented that fact, see. They thought that I was takin' advantage of the union, which I wasn't. And they thought, "Well, what the hell, how come he don't work?" you know, so they hated that part of it.
LEIGHTON: How many men were you responsible for?
MUNDALE: I can't remember. I can't remember just how many. You was allowed so many committeemen per hundred. I forget just what it was.
LEIGHTON: Yes, 'cause today a committeeman is responsible for over two hundred and fifty.
MUNDALE: Is that right?
MUNDALE: I was just going to say, I don't remember what it was then. I would imagine probably it was something similar to that then, because we only had two committeemen downstairs, and three upstairs if I remember right. There was five committeemen in the plant, I'm almost sure. Anyway I took advantage of it because it was set. But by the same token, we never did have a written grievance until the time we shut down for the war.
LEIGHTON: Now, you went to work for Homer Martin, and, of course, what happened is you got identified with the Martin faction.
MUNDALE: Yeah, that's right, yeah.
LEIGHTON: With the UAW-A F of L.
LEIGHTON: And a lot of the other fellows that you knew ended up with the CIO, the UAW-CIO.
MUNDALE: With the Reuther group, yeah. But see, there was a split there. Now as far as I was concerned, I thought Homer Martin was a real union man. But after you find out...you don't find out things, you know what I mean. After I read some of the articles that took place, he wasn't a good union man. And the guy was tryin' to take advantage on his position. So the Reuther boys, as far as I'm concerned, were real union men. That is, you know what I mean, they knew what it was and they accomplished so much. Walter was a great man. There is no question about it. He was the one that really made the union what it is today due to his negotiating with General Motors and Ford and so forth. So I can't say anything bad about him outside of the fact that I had a running feud with Roy, mostly Roy. I didn't see much of Vic. I seen him the night of the battle, you know what I mean. Heard him out there, but as far as knowing Vic, I didn't know him. Roy was the one that I had the most of my trouble with, and he didn't have much patience with me, 'cause he just figured we didn't rate enough to...
LEIGHTON: Was that why you had the trouble with him?
MUNDALE: Yeah, that's right. There was nothing as far as the union was concerned. It was just the fact that they wouldn't recognize us out there to Fisher 2. We were just something they had to contend with, you know. All their time and everything was lavished on Fisher 1 and we were resentful. I'm sure that some of these other boys have probably told you that, too, because it bothered all of us.
LEIGHTON: It must have got hot and heavy during the split between the two factions.
MUNDALE: Well, yeah. In some of your plants, hell, there was battles, you know, between...but in Fisher 2, no. No. Outside of words here and there, no. Now O'Rourke was a Homer Martin man, but he was smart enough to play politics. You know what I mean. And they elected him president of the local and there was nobody like Rookie O'Rourke, you know what I mean. Now he was smart. He was a smart cookie. And if they could have just called it a little bit longer, they wouldn't have had him for president, because he was on his way up with General Motors. I know that, because Roy Reuther told me that O'Rourke was gonna go to work for them. See, there was a lot of them boys. Cecil Meadows was a good, staunch union man and he was a committeeman. And he finally wound up and he was superintendent of Fisher 2. Pete Walton was one of the staunch union men and he wound up as a foreman. Bruce Manley was a foreman. They picked out all them boys, you know what I mean, that were good union men and committeemen and so forth, and they made supervision out of them because they knew that they were leaders of men. And so that's a...
LEIGHTON: Do you think they saw that as a way of crippling the union, too?
MUNDALE: No, I don't think so, because they were more or less resigned to the fact that they were organized. And they probably thought that if they could get these boys that had done so much for the union to do as much for General Motors, why, they were gonna be in pretty good shape, see. And most of them were. They were honest and, of course, when you go over on the other side, see, I wound up as a supervisor, too. Oh yeah, I was supervisor out at the tank plant before I quit General Motors. But I quit 'em after I had that trouble. It wasn't trouble, but when they voted me out, my feelings were hurt.
LEIGHTON: When did that take place?
MUNDALE: Well, it was probably...it wasn't very long before the god darn shutdown for World War II. It wasn't long, because...
LEIGHTON: How long had you been in office up until then, a couple of years?
MUNDALE: Well, whatever time it was from the time that we shut down, because I know that it was probably just a few weeks that he was committeeman before they shut the plant down. It wasn't very long, I know.
LEIGHTON: And you got voted out, you think, because you were a Martin guy?
MUINDALE: Well, more or less due to the fact that instead of just takin' my two hours to bargain, I probably spent most of my time walkin' around the plant and lookin' for trouble. In fact, I would find it and I'd tell the guy, "Well, let's put in a complaint on that." I said, "That isn't fair; that isn't honest." Then he'd say, "Well, go ahead and see what you can do." Then I'd go ahead and take up his complaint, see. But we didn't follow the rules as they were set down between General Motors and the union at Fisher 2. It was more less just...you know. Well, let me give you an example. We had this Roy Wismer as a plant manager. And he said, "Now I want to work with you boys and I want to get along with you." He said, "Don't lie to me and I won't lie to you." And he said, "If you got a legitimate complaint, we'll settle it." And that sounded good to me, because we wasn't used to hearin' that kind of language, see. And one example: Bill Huyck was committeeman upstairs. He wound up as a foreman over to Buick. But he had a complaint. He said they needed another man hanging head liners. He said, "We're short a man on that job." And Roy Williams said, "Well let me look into it." So I think it was two days later we met with him again on something. And Huyck said, "Did you look into that job?" "No," he says, "I didn't go up there." "But," he says, "I talked to the foreman and the foreman says he got all the manpower he needs on that job." Now I said, "Well, what the hell." I said, "Let's go up there and take a look at it, Roy." I said, "Let the whole committee go up there and you and your assistant there and see what the hell he thinks about it." We got up there and we watched the job for a while. And old Roy he started gettin' red in the face and he stomped around a little bit and finally he went like that to the foreman and he says, "Get in there and do a couple." That old foreman jumped in there and hung this head lining, see. And gettin' out and he come back gets him another one and hangs the head lining, and he said, "There, see." "Well," he said, "just keep on." And he kept workin' and he kept goin' down the line further and further. He couldn't keep up, himself, see. And Roy turned around and walked off, see. Well when he walked, we followed him. And we went back down to the office he said, "Well, I'll tell you what. We're gonna have one more man on the job and a new foreman." He fired that foreman. So you know that's the situation that we had over there. And yet the people weren't satisfied. They were always bitchin' and complain'. You know, this certain group and when they got over to their new plant, they had nothin' but trouble. And that group was more or less the ones that was in control.
LEIGHTON: Which was the new plant, now?
MUNDALE: Out there...
LEIGHTON: On Van Slyke?
LEIGHTON: The truck plant now.
MUNDALE: Yeah, the truck plant now, but it was Fisher Body. And they finally pulled Fisher Body right the hell out. Because they had so damn much trouble they just...to hell with it.
LEIGHTON: What was the trouble? Was it shutdowns and sit-ins?
MUNDALE: Yeah, as I understood it...now I'm in Florida, but the scoop as I got it then was that they were just causin' so damn much trouble that they couldn't make production. And they were forever in trouble with sit-downs and so forth. And they finally decided they would just take Fisher Body right the hell out of there.
LEIGHTON: You must have met Homer Martin a few times, didn't you?
LEIGHTON: Did you get to know him pretty well?
MUNDALE: I was impressed with him. He was a wonderful speaker, you know.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I heard that.
MUNDALE: Yes, and that's what impressed me because, hell, what am I? I'm nothin' but dumb factory worker. And I thought, "My god, we've got somebody here." And I went along with him in fine shape. I thought that he was it. And in the back of my mind I figured the Reuther brothers were Communist. You know what I mean. Here I am, just a farmer boy. All I want is a good union. I don't want a bunch of Communists or anything like that running it. I wanted a good, clean union is what I wanted, see. But after I got into it and heard Homer and some of the things that he did, then I begin to have my doubts, see.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever meet the guy that was his adviser?
LEIGHTON: Jay Lovestone?
MUNDALE: Yeah, now Lovestone he was...as I understand it, Lovestone, now wasn't he a Communist?
LEIGHTON: Had been, yeah.
LEIGHTON: He was Homer Martin's adviser.
MUNDALE: Yeah, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Isn't that the damnedest thing?
MUNDALE: Yeah, that's what I say. They're strange bedfellows, you might say.
MUNDALE: See, I didn't get into them deep politics. All I know is that...and Bert Harris, he was the first guy that ever got me into the union and would tell me about it and took me over in his basement and introduced me to Travis, you know. And I thought, "Well, Jesus," and he was a Homer Martin man.
MUNDALE: And I thought, "Well, God, Bert can't be that stupid or he should know more about it than I did." So I listened to him a lot. And old Gil Clark, he was another Homer Martin man, you know. And they were old union men. They were A F of L men, but they were union men. And I didn't know the Reuther brothers that well. Roy was the only one that I'd ever had anything to do with. And I didn't like him too well anyway from what he done to us when we was sittin' in.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, right. During the strike and that period before did you ever run into the Black Legion?
LEIGHTON: Did you ever have a run in with 'em?
LEIGHTON: Not a lot, but some people did, of course and they were around. I just wondered if you knew anything about 'em?
MUNDALE: No, I never...that's what I say, I never got into anything like that.
LEIGHTON: Well the reason I asked that is because you mention you were an organizer, and, of course, there were a couple of organizers killed not too far from Flint, by Black Legionnaires. At least they were convicted for it.
MUNDALE: Yeah, right.
LEIGHTON: And so that's what made me ask.
MUNDALE: No, I never encountered anything like that. Well, the Klan was quite strong at one time, too.
LEIGHTON: Yeah. While you were in Flint?
MUNDALE: Yeah, back in the earlier days there were several guys that I met that were Klan members, you know. And they wasn't too strong for the union, either, you know.
LEIGHTON: Were there any Klan members in Fisher?
MUNDALE: No, not in my plant, no. That's what I mean. We were more or less like they said in his book. We were more of a moderate group, because we didn't have any real firebrands. I wasn't a firebrand. I was a bitter man, kid, you might say. Hell, I was just a youngster. But I was bitter towards General Motors for what they had did to me and also for the fact that the working conditions was gonna kill you while you were still young. You just couldn't have stayed with it the way it was.
LEIGHTON: When did you break with Martin?
MUNDALE: Well, I broke with Martin...when I went back in the plant he was more less on his way out then anyway. But then when they had that election, you know what I mean...
LEIGHTON: When R. J. Thomas became...or the one before?
MUNDALE: Yeah, R. J. Thomas, yeah that's right. He's the one they put in for president. That's right, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Right. Well, they'd already split and Martin had set up his own union, the UAW-A F of L. And then R. J. Thomas and Wyndham Mortimer, I guess, ran against him.
MUNDALE: I think it was through the CIO. Well, I voted CIO because by that time I knew where Martin stood. And I knew that he was not for the union, so I voted CIO. In fact, I knew it was gonna go CIO. And I bet a suit of clothes with the plant manager. The plant manager, he's the one that suggested it. He said, "I'll tell you what. I'll bet it goes A F of L." I said, "Well, by god, I'll bet you it don't. I says, "I bet it will go CIO." He said, "I'll bet you a suit." I said, "Okay, I'll bet you a suit." So it went on like that. And of course I won; it went CIO. So he had one of his clerks come out there on the line where I was at. He had a nice big box with a ribbon on it. And I thought, well, that son of a bitch bought me a suit of clothes. And I opened it up and there was a red union suit. I thought, "All right, god darn you." So I went up to his office with that under my arm and I walked into his office and I stripped down and put that union suit on and walked out of there. And there was all these women workin' in that office and you ought have heard 'em. And he said, "Red, you crazy son of a bitch, get out of here." So we had a lot of fun, too. It was nice in that plant after we was unionized and we had him for a plant manager. Things were wonderful.
LEIGHTON: Is there anything else you can think of at this time?
MUNDALE: No, not really outside of the fact that like I say, I thought I had contributed to the building of that union. And I didn't feel that I had received my just dues. Of course, after the plant shut down, everybody scattered, you know. And I went over to AC and from there I went in the service.
MUNDALE: And when I come back from the service...I was married then; and I was thirty.
LEIGHTON: I was gonna ask you when you were born?
MUNDALE: 1907. So I volunteered because I worked there at AC and hell, I just thought, well, what the hell. I guess I listened to too much band music or something. Anyway I went down and volunteered, and I went in the Navy. And when I come back from there I went out to AC again. And I and my first wife got a divorce.
LEIGHTON: This was after the war?
MUNDALE: Yeah. And from then on I just drifted. You know what I mean. I went into bumping and painting and I did a lot of collision work around Fenton. I worked in North Branch. I was out of the plant for about ten years. And one of my old buddies...I can't think of his name now. He was superintendent out to the tank plant. He got ahold of my brother Homer and he said, "Where in the hell is that Red at?" And Homer said, "He's workin' out to Fenton in the collision shop." He said, "Is he as big a drunk as he always was?" Homer said, "No, he's quit drinkin'." And I had. He said, "You know, I'd just give anything. He's one of the best metal men I've ever known. I would just give anything if we could get him to come in here and work for me in the tank plant." So I thought, "Well, god darned maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea." I could get back in the plant and steady work. You know what I mean. This collision work, you could make a lot of money and then the next week you probably don't make so much. So I went up to see him and I went in the employment office and they started signin' me up. And pretty soon this guy come back and said, "God, Red, we don't dare hire you with that record you've got." They had hung onto my record all these years, see. And this superintendent was settin' there and he said, "Just hire him; don't worry about it." He said, "You hire him; I want him; I need him." So they hired me in there as a leader of the metal finishers. The guys they had there were all new and I tried to show 'em how to metal finish.
LEIGHTON: This was what, 1955 then?
MUNDALE: Now I would imagine it was right in the fifties there some place because I stayed with them ten years. I wound up with emphysema so bad.
LEIGHTON: Did you contract emphysema from the jobs you had?
MUNDALE: Yeah, I went to Ford Hospital and he said that this was caused by the job that you worked. You see metal finishing in the early days they didn't have any protection for you. You just ground metal and sawed lead or anything. You know what I mean. There was nothin' there; you just inhaled that. And he said that. And of course I smoked. But I was never a heavy smoker. He said just an accumulation of things, but mostly your job and the type of work that you've done is what brought it on.
LEIGHTON: We've run into a lot of people with it.
MRS. MUNDALE: My other husband worked in the foundry at Buick and he died of lung cancer.
LEIGHTON: It's incredible.
MUNDALE: Anyway, I wound up with ten years' seniority and I got a little pension from 'em and I went to Florida. My second wife died there of cancer. And that's where I met Peggy and we got married and moved to Georgia. And we're up in the mountains there and I like it there real well. You get your seasons there.
LEIGHTON: I'm just kind of summing up things. Do you think that at the time of that strike and that period afterwards, what happened that the union didn't really solidify its position and it didn't really get to the point where it could pass on the story, you know, like we've been talking about to the younger workers, you know? Did they fail to educate 'em? Do you think that's it?
MUNDALE: It's the same thing that's wrong with your union today. There's Fraser up there shakin' hands with Reagan and Brock pattin' him on the back and he's tellin' 'em that there's a possibility that a lot of these autoworkers will vote Republican because of the hard times that are there. But they don't have hard times like we used to have hard times when we got laid off. When we got laid off, we went on welfare. What I think it is is that all of your unions are spending too much time worrying about how they're going to solidify their position in the union there and they just don't care about the past. They don't want to bring it up. You know what I mean. Seems like they are resentful of the fact that we are mentioned any more than we are, you know. It seems like they want to suppress it. Why I don't know. And what it's all about I don't know. I do know this that you've got chairman of locals that just don't seem possible. I do know this that the chairmen of these locals...now for example there's one that sets out there at AC in $300 suits and he's got an office out there that's probably just as ornate as the president of General Motors. And that doesn't set good with the guy comin' down off the line and wants to go in and talk to him. He is not gonna talk to him like he would with somebody that's got a pair of blue jeans on. That's the only thing. I think that the union is not spending enough time solidifying itself, as you would say. They are spending too much time worrying about playing politics. They're playin' politics too much with one another, with their jobs and they have forgotten the fact of what they're really supposed to be. They're supposed to be servants of the people on the line. They're supposed to be takin' care of their grievances to the best of their ability and not worryin' about whether they're going to get elected next year or whatever.
LEIGHTON: Red, there is just one thing in finishing up that I wanted to get down and that was that you were born in Minnesota.
LEIGHTON: Right, in 1907.
LEIGHTON: And your family were farm folks.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned ridin' the rails when you were fourteen. Was that lookin' for work?
MUNDALE: Right. It was in the Dakotas durin' the harvest time.
LEIGHTON: And so what did you do, come back to school then after the harvest?
MUNDALE: Yeah, after the harvest season then I came home with the folks. But when I was on strike, when I was on the sit-down strike, my dad was a Chevrolet dealer, you know.
LEIGHTON: Oh yeah.
MUNDALE: In a little town in Minnesota, and they went broke.
MRS. MUNDALE: Tell 'em how you got your first job in Flint,though.
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, we bought our job in Minneapolis.
MRS. MUNDALE: You bought the job.
MUNDALE: See,the first job I had in General Motors was at Chevrolet.
LEIGHTON: Here in Flint?
MUNDALE: Yeah, in Flint.
LEIGHTON: How did you come to Flint, though?
MUNDALE: An ad in the paper.
MRS. MUNDALE: In Minnesota.
LEIGHTON: Oh yeah, just said they needed men to come.
MUNDALE: In the Minneapolis Tribune it says, "Help Wanted, Flint, Michigan, Chevrolet Motor Company."
LEIGHTON: And how old were you then?
MUNDALE: Oh god, nineteen, eighteen, nineteen, somethin' like that.
LEIGHTON: You'd got out high school, graduated from high school?
MUNDALE: I didn't graduate from high school. I went to work. I had an opportunity. My dad would have gave me the opportunity, but I just frittered it away. I wanted to play football. But after football I didn't want to stay in school, see. But this job, we went to Minneapolis and I and this kid that was with me, spent five dollars apiece for our jobs. And we rode the train into Flint and we went down to Chevrolet Motor. And there was a whole bunch of people out there. And Floyd...I can't remember his last name...but he was employment manager, come out there and says, "There's no work today, boys. There's no jobs." We held our stubs up like that and he looked over and he motioned like that and we went to work that night. See, they were hirin' big dumb farmer boys. And down south they hired 'em down south by the trainload. They'd bring 'em up here in a boxcar full of 'em.
LEIGHTON: What you held up was your train ticket?
MUNDALE: No, no, the slip.
MRS. MUNDALE: No they'd bought a job; they bought a job for five dollars.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I see and the ticket you had in your hand was that.
MUNDALE: That's right, that's right. Yeah, see these other people are all settin' or standin' around.
LEIGHTON: They're just takin' their chances?
MUNDALE: Yeah, well, they lived here in Flint and probably had worked there before or whatever. And what they wanted was these boys from the farm and these boys from down South.
LEIGHTON: Who didn't know anything about unions.
MUNDALE: Well, not only unions, but didn't know any better than just go in there and bulled, you know. So that's what they wanted; they wanted fresh blood.
MRS. MUNDALE: Now, see, he came from Minnesota. My folks came from Missouri. And my mother had to support three children and she had a rooming house up here behind Chevrolet Avenue. They'd bring 'em up by the trainloads from Missouri. They'd have these tickets and they'd hire 'em and they'd get a room at my mother's boardin' house. And then the next week maybe they wouldn't have a job. And she'd trot right over there to the employment office and just raise her old belly with 'em. "You hire them back. They gotta pay their room and board." You know she supplied 'em three meals a day, and their lunch and everything. I don't know how many people she kept workin' up there, because she had guts enough to go up there and fight for it.
LEIGHTON: That's fascinating you know that, because I've heard rumors of this before. People didn't know it, 'cause they were Flint people.
MRS. MUNDALE: Oh yes, that's why there's so many southern people here in this area of Michigan, especially in Burton Township. That's where the Southerners, from Missouri, see, that's where they went.
LEIGHTON: Right. But I didn't realize you bought the job. I thought you just came in and took your chances.
MUNDALE: No, no, no. I don't know about down south. But I know there they gave us the address on this ad in Minneapolis, and we went up there and there was just a little office there. And we told 'em what we wanted, that we was interested in that job in Flint. And he said, "Well, it will cost you five dollars apiece. And we gave him the five dollars and he gave us a slip about like that. And we put it in our pocket and we got on the train and went into Flint there. And evidently he knew what the color was or whatever, 'cause we held that slip up like that. And I don't know why we even did that, but I just thought, well, maybe it'll help. And so we held it up like that and he motioned like that and we went in there, and he said, "We got two jobs. You boys want to go to work?" We said, "Yeah." He said, "You want to work nights?" I said, "I don't care when it is."
LEIGHTON: This was in the twenties, wasn't it? It must have been about '27.
MUNDALE: Yeah, late twenties, yeah it would be the late twenties.
LEIGHTON: Of course, by the time you hit the Depression they're not doing that any more, I would guess. It probably stopped, right? I mean there was no work at all.
MUNDALE: There was nothing then in '29, '30.
LEIGHTON: After the crash, yeah. That's fascinating. See, that's something I didn't realize, that they'd bought the jobs.
MUNDALE: Yeah, we did, and we bought it in Minneapolis.
LEIGHTON: Yeah, now I've heard from people not only from Minnesota and the Dakotas, but from Missouri. Of course, not all of them bought jobs. But they came up that way and when the employment managers would find out, it was the same thing.
MUNDALE: They would put 'em to work.
MRS. MUNDALE: Not only that, I can remember they would go out there and they would pick out the biggest, dumbest looking ones and they'd say, "We'll take you, you and you."
MUNDALE: Oh yeah, they had their choice.
MRS. MUNDALE: And if your machine broke down, before the unions, if your machine broke down for repairs, you punched out. Sometimes you was there for ten hours.
MUNDALE: Yeah, he knows all that.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever have to...or did you ever see 'em after a layoff, you know, for a changeover, to get their job back, what did the guys have to do? Did you have to work for your foreman, paint his house, fix his garage?
MUNDALE: That's what I say. No matter how much seniority you had, if you didn't do things for your foreman or if you wasn't a friend of his or related to him, you went out the door and they worked, a lot of 'em would work through change over. From the change of model they would work them. I don't care if they was only there a year or whatever. If there was one with a lot of seniority wasn't a friend or hadn't done him a favor or wasn't willing to do him a favor, they went out, see.
MRS. MUNDALE: Or a relation, see.
MUNDALE: Sure it was a...why hell yes, that was a foregone conclusion. Everybody knew that. That's why everybody was just fallin' over themselves to make friends with a foreman or superintendent or somebody so that they could have that protection. Because durin' the layoff you just lived from payday to payday back in those days. The minute you got laid off your rent come due and there was no food to feed the kids; and you'd spend the last of your money. And the first thing you know is that you are down there on welfare. You would get your beans and oatmeal and that old white oleo with that coloring to put in it and mix it up. And once in awhile some bacon or something like that.
LEIGHTON: Yeah. Did you remember farmers at all, from around here, trying to buy their way in with produce?
MUNDALE: No. I know there was farmers workin' in there. You know what I mean, part-time farmers. They would work in the plant and then they'd go home and they had small farms or somethin' like that.
MRS. MUNDALE: Even after the unions was very well situated, when they first built that Ternstedt plant out there.
LEIGHTON: On Coldwater?
MRS. MUNDALE: Right. I went out there...I was in between jobs. I really didn't have to work, but I wanted another job. I went out there and they was hirin' these people from the South. And I put my application in like this and I stood back and watched. And they was hirin' all these girls from the South. So I went up to this guy that was takin' the application and I said, "Now wait a minute. You haven't read my application correctly. I was born in Missouri." I said, "Now, I want a job." And they hired me. Then they fired me.
MUNDALE: Then they fired you.
LEIGHTON: Oh, oh. Why did they fire you?
MUNDALE: That's right.
MRS. MUNDALE: I refused to contribute to the Red Feather. My husband had contributed to the Red Feather. And Ternstedt's was just gettin' started, see. And I was the thirteenth girl hired in up there on the second floor in vent hoses in the sewing department. They don't have 'em any more, I don't think. And they come around and I said, "No, my husband gave a good amount at the Buick." And he says, "Well, I'm sorry, but we are going to have a hundred percent participation." And I said, "Well, I'll tell you what. You're gonna have ninety-nine 'cause I ain't gonna give to you." So then a general foreman came and talked to me. I shook my head. Then the superintendent came and he says, "You know, Peggy, you're gonna be in big trouble if you don't sign this card." And I says, "I ain't gonna be in no trouble." I said, "I'm not gonna sign it." Well, within ten minutes I was called to the big boy's office and he told me, he says, "Don't you realize all the good things that the Red Feather does?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, if you don't realize enough, we'll take the rest of the afternoon off and I'll show you the Boys Clubs and this and that and the other thing." I said, "What are you talkin' about?" I said, "We're giving a dollar a week." And I says, "I think that's enough for a working family." I says, "I have a mother I have to take care of and I'm not going to give to it." He says, "Well, I'm gonna tell you, you're gonna be fired right now." And I says, "On what charges?" He says, "Incompetency in your job." And I says, "How can you do that?" I says, "I was the thirteenth girl hired in here and there's two hundred out there. I trained every one of them on that job."
MUNDALE: But he showed you, didn't he?
MRS. MUNDALE: I had my paper. Within a half hour I was fired. I says, "Well, I'll tell you what." I says, "I was lookin' for a job when I came here and I can look for another one." And I said, "But I want to set back and draw all my unemployment out, right to the end." He says, "You'll not receive your unemployment because you were fired." I says, "We'll see about that." And I went down to the unemployment office, or I guess you call it the employment office. And there was a black man that took care of me. And I explained the whole thing. He says, "You'll get it." It took me about four weeks, but I got it and I sat back and drew it all. He made me so mad. And his name was Zarnoff. I'll never forget that. I don't remember his first name. I told him, "I know you're Russian." But I says, "By God, this is not Russia here and you're not gonna tell me what I have to do."
LEIGHTON: Oh boy. Well, have we covered everything, covered the waterfront?
MUNDALE: I believe so. I just can't think of anything else that we haven't covered, you know.
LEIGHTON: Where did you live when you came to Flint? That's another thing I wanted to know.
MUNDALE: Right up in the northeast corner. It's about thirty-five miles from North Dakota and about...
LEIGHTON: No, no, no, I mean when you first came to Flint.
MUNDALE: When I first came to Flint, where did I live?
MUNDALE: My brother was up here. And back in those days it was all boarding house, you know. And he was stayin' with some people, so I moved in there and stayed with him. That is, I had a room too, room and board.
MRS. MUNDALE: Yeah, that's what my mother had, room and board. And it was right up there on Chevrolet Avenue not too far from where that Hazleton School is. I guess it was Hazleton, that cripple school up there. Maybe it's not there any more. It's been years since I've been up that way.
MRS. MUNDALE: A great big boarding house.
MUNDALE: Yeah, you used to ride them old streetcars to work. And you'd get out at night and see them boys, especially from Chevrolet. They'd come in there just covered with black soot, you know. You could only see the white of their eyes just like a bunch of colored people. Tired, everybody just hangin' their head; they were all in. It used to be rough.
MRS. MUNDALE: My mother finally married and my stepfather worked down in the hole at the Chevrolet. He'd take the streetcar. We lived out on Bristol Road in Burton Township. There was a streetcar line there by the end of Fisher 2. And he would walk about two miles home from work on second shift every night and then back up the next day.
MUNDALE: No, I think we've got everything pretty well covered. I don't know of anything that we've missed.