University of Michigan-Flint
Frances Willson Thompson Library
Genesee Historical Collections Center
University of Michigan-Flint Labor History Project
DATE: July 11, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Kenneth B. West
INTERVIEWEE: John Stier
WEST: Mr. Stier, you said you hired in in December of 1935?
STIER: Yeah. And I worked 'til 1936, right after Christmas, when we went on the strike. And I mean it was work. I'm telling you. I had to run from one end of the line (I worked at the top end of the line in the cushion room), and I had to run----now I run, I didn't walk----I run down under, to get down into the, under the press, to catch part of my job. It was down there. You couldn't do it up on the press. You had to wait until you got down so far.
WEST: Could you describe your job just a bit?
STIER: It was on the cushion line, and it was, you know, assembling the cushions. And it was hog wringing and spitting tacks. But my job was mostly hog wringing the covers on, turn the cushion over on the buck before it come under the press, put the follow board on, and that took it down to under the press, see. So when it got down there so far, why, there was two wires, one in the spring and one in the cover. You had to hog-wringing them together. So they had to come down close enough together, so you could hook 'em up together. And the job, why, I was running so fast, I had to run. And that's all day long. And we didn't have a relief man to go to the bathroom. You had to make sure that you went before you started work and then up 'til lunchtime.
WEST: Were there others working with on that job as a team?
STIER: On that job? No, that particular job I was alone. I had to do every cushion then. And we were making about 93 cents an hour piecework.
WEST: Was that individual piecework, or was that a group?
STIER: Well, it was group. Cushion line. They were paid piecework for each cushion that was put out.
WEST: Well, now that group piecework interests me.
STIER: The more they put out the more money they made. But in the cushion room, course after I got broke in, I was getting the same as the rest of 'em. I was put on piecework, and we was making around 93 cents, and I had to run on that job in order to keep up. And then one day everything went real good. And we made $1.03 an hour. The next night, they cut the price of the job, so you had to work that much harder.
WEST: That quickly they did it.
STIER: Yeah. That was their policy there in the cushion room.
WEST: So then you were back to 93 cents.
STIER: Yeah, we were making 93, 95 cents an hour.
WEST: Now you could keep up with the job. Were there some on the job who were slower and couldn't keep up?
STIER: They took me off that job one night and sent me home. They claimed they had to cut down a little bit. So I was sent home, because I had the least seniority. And they had another guy. They put him on that job. And he couldn't keep it up.
WEST: Well, now, when you're working as a group, then, the bonus presumably depends on what the group does. So, if you have someone who is slow, I wonder if that doesn't create some tensions and animosities within the group, you know, because somebody isn't keeping up, and he's holding down the whole group.
STIER: Well, that is possible, too, but of course I don't know about any other bonuses that was paid, if they paid any before that or not. But I know it was just before the strike and it was at Christmastime, and they came around and they give everybody I think it was around a 23 or a 25-dollar bonus. And that was just right after Christmas. Why, back to work. In fact, we was on strike. They struck down the night shift, and I was on the night shift.
WEST: I want to get into that strike period, but I wonder if we could back up just a little bit before. You hired in, then, at Fisher 1 in December of '35. Was that your first job, then, at General Motors?
STIER: No, I worked in Chevrolet Manufacturing, Plant 4. I hired in there in January the 17th, 1934. And I worked under Inspection, and I was in there until, I think, the 1st of September. And they started cutting back, and I got laid off. I never did get called back.
WEST: Were you off, then, from September of '34 until December of '35?
WEST: What did you do in the meantime when you were laid off? Did you find other work?
STIER: Oh, I was just a young fellow. I was only 20.
WEST: I see. Twenty in 1935. So you were born, then, about 1905?
WEST: Pardon me. 1915. And where were you born, sir?
STIER: Right here in Michigan, over on the east coast there, in Sandusky. A little town, Sandusky, on Lake Huron.
WEST: Did you go to the local schools in that...
STIER: Yeah, I went to Central High School. That's where I met Bruce Malott.
WEST: Oh, you went to Central here in Flint, then. When did you come to Flint?
STIER: When I was about three years old.
WEST: Did your father find work, then?
STIER: Yeah. My father and mother, they sold their farm there in Sandusky and came to Flint and started in the meat market business in the North End. And, oh, they had problems with people moving out and bills, and they were usually run these credit accounts. Remember these old books they used to have, credit books? Well, they had bills from all over, from people. They'd move out, left them holding the bag, and they went broke. Lost everything. And, of course, my dad was a carpenter, and he was a carpenter the rest of his life.
WEST: When did they go broke? Do you remember?
STIER: Oh, no. That was back when I was probably four years old.
WEST: Oh, I see. So it was before the Depression. In the North End, were most of his customers, then, would they be autoworkers at Buick?
STIER: Yeah, there was a lot of 'em that were autoworkers, and I imagine others.
WEST: I'm wondering if they were people who found it difficult to pay, you know, on time, and took the credit.
STIER: They moved out and left 'em with big bills. My dad was an awfully easy-going guy. Somebody come in there and pry a little bit, man, he'd give 'em the store. That's the guy he was.
WEST: So he was a carpenter, then, during the '30s, during the Depression. Did he keep a job during the Depression?
STIER: No, he was a contractor. He was contracting when the Depression hit. You're talking about now when Hoover was...
WEST: Yeah, that's right. 1929. The crash comes.
STIER: Yeah, he lost his shirt then. He had most of his money and everything, it was tied up in lumber, and he had buildings going up. In fact, out there on one of those streets in the North End, he had a bunch of two-story houses he was building. Then he had two or three of them going at one time there, and hard up for help. He was hiring people off the street to come in and start helping sheet----you know, sheet houses-----and he had all his money tied up in that. When the crash hit, he lost all of it.
WEST: Did the family go on welfare, then, for a while?
STIER: Yeah. Course there was my brother, and I, and my dad. My mother was not with us at that time. They were separated and divorced.
WEST: Did he find work then?
STIER: No, there wasn't any work.
WEST: Couldn't find any work, so things were difficult for you, then, during the Depression.
STIER: About two dollars and a half a week is what we got for welfare.
WEST: Was that paid in cash or were you paid in food?
STIER: No, it was an order. And we used to trade out at a small Hamady, or an A & P store out on North Saginaw, past Carpenter Road. And that's where we lived at that time. But it was an order. It wasn't cash, or it wasn't a money check. It was just an order.
WEST: And you took it to a grocery, to that store, then, and got your groceries.
STIER: Used to take it to the A & P, and...
WEST: Was that enough to feed the family?
STIER: Just barely get by. For breakfast, we'd have corn flakes with sugar and water on it. Couldn't afford milk. And beans. We used to have plenty of beans, but no salt pork in 'em. Couldn't afford that. You're just barely getting by. That was it.
WEST: Did you have to quit school, then, to find work?
STIER: No, I was going to Beecher High School. It wasn't a high school. It was just a temporary building at that time. But I was going to Beecher School.
WEST: Did you keep your house at that time?
STIER: We lost one during that. He lost his house and we rented a small home further on out there, a couple, three blocks. And I think the welfare paid the rent on it.
WEST: Did your father or you go on WPA, when that later came?
STIER: Uh, WPA, I don't think they had WPA back when my father was ... I don't think they had the WPA, if I remember right.
WEST: No, not until later in the '30s, about '36, I guess, when, as I understand it, that they were doing some construction work out at Bishop Airport.
STIER: I don't remember getting on any WPA. I remember back in 1938, '37 or '38, we had a rather hard...I was in the Fisher 1, then. Everybody was off work, anyway.
WEST: There was a depression again. As I understand it, picked up in '36-'37, but then there was a real slump again in '38.
STIER: Yeah, I was married then, and I was in that.
WEST: Were you married at the time of the strike?
WEST: You were. Where were you living then?
STIER: I lived in the South End, up by Bristol Road, not too far from Fisher 1.
WEST: Did you walk then to work?
STIER: Yeah, I used to walk to work.
WEST: You didn't have a car then?
STIER: No, not at that time I didn't. I bought a car later, after we went back to work.
WEST: Your job at Chevy 4 that you got you said in January of '34, was it? Was that the first job that you had?
STIER: Well, in the shops, yeah. I worked in stores. I worked in the Bearcat store downtown. It was kind of a sporting goods store. And I worked in there, and I worked in The Fair shoe department.
WEST: So then you were able to bring home a bit of a check.
STIER: That was when I was mostly in high school.
WEST: Your brother, was he working then?
STIER: My brother, no, he was younger than I was. But he did work when he got old enough. He got in the shop. He was working at Buick. He was a carpenter in the Buick when he passed away. But he'd been in there about twelve, thirteen years, I guess.
WEST: So you came to work in Fisher in December of '35 and you were working in the cushion room then.
STIER: Yeah, I hired in as an apprentice, a cushion trimmer apprentice.
WEST: How long would it take you to learn your job, then, as an apprentice?
STIER: Oh, it took...When I first started out, I had some tack spitting. And I had in the front part of the cushion there, I had to hog-wring up a wire, which wasn't quite as hard as the one in back. Well, that's the one, they put me on that job later on. That's the one where I had to run, and I had to hog-wring this wire up, and you had the cloth to come up and turn it over in it and tack it like that. Use spit tacks. That's what they called trimming. And that was a trade at that time. They called it a "trade." And I hired in as an apprentice down there.
WEST: It must have been a job getting used to holding those tacks.
STIER: Oh, your mouth, you'd get so sore, 'til it got broke in, you know. And them tacks were sharp, and you could swallow 'em.
WEST: Did it damage your teeth?
STIER: Yeah, you could knock enamel off your teeth with 'em, and I drove one through 'em a little. It stuck on the hammer, and I come back with it, and hear the lip. It went right through and clitched in there, and I had to go to the hospital and have it cut out. What they done is just snipped it off and pulled it back out.
WEST: Did you keep anything in your mouth at all?
STIER: Snuff. That's why you could keep in there, chewing snuff up under your lip and a wad of tacks over on the side. Practically everybody chewed snuff when they was spitting tacks. But that one job, that was a corker, I'll tell you. You had a little skirt, about that wide, on the back, and you had to hold that up there and hold it and tack it along there, see. And you had to get that under the press, and that skirt was so narrow, that you didn't have enough cloth, enough material in there to fold it and bring it up there. You just couldn't do it. I called the foreman over there. His name was Percy Gray. He was a nice guy. I'm not saying to be nasty about him or anything, but he was a real nice guy. You could talk to him. But I showed him that job. I said, "Percy," I said, "you can't tack this up there and fold it." He says, "I know you can't, but," he said, "you got to." That's the answer he gave you. Then he walked away. But, man, it was hard. I know your fingers used to get so sore. And I used to have callouses, where you had to pull that leather and stuff. Used to have your hand full of callouses, just hard. But it was rough going, there.
WEST: That would have been a job, I would think, for younger people. You were young, but on the line, was there sort of an upper age limit?
STIER:Yeah, it was, let me see. There was George Miller. He was a chief steward, after we got union organized, and after the strike. I was a line steward. We used to have a steward breach line, then we had a chief steward. And a chief steward had the cushion room and the cut-and-sew. So we had to bargain for cut-and-sew and the cushion room.
WEST: Now how many men would that be, that that chief steward would represent?
STIER: Chief steward? Oh, man, they must have had ten,...see, one, two...they had the front cushion and the rear cushion and they had the front back and the rear back. There was four lines. There must have been at least...oh, there must have been at least ten guys on the line. So that would be forty guys, plus stock man, and then they had guys hanging cushions on the monorail, and they had a sweeper. There must have been at least maybe fifty people in the cushion room that he had to represent.
WEST: And then there would be cut-and-sew.
STIER: Plus the cut-and-sew. It was mostly all women up there. And they was a lot more up there working than there was downstairs. I can't really tell you how many. They must have had a great deal more people to represent than what your committeeman, regular committeeman in the shop today, I believe.
WEST: So you're describing the system that emerged right after the strike, then, where you had the chief steward, who represented a couple of big departments, and you were a line steward, then, representing perhaps ten men, then?
WEST: How did the system, then, work?
STIER: Well, if you got into an argument with a foreman over something, and you had a grievance, why, they called the steward. Just like it is, a line steward. He was actually a committeeman for his own line. And if he couldn't get any place with the foreman on it, why, then, he could call for George Miller or the chief steward. And then he'd take over. We had a relief man, course we had the relief man for you to take care of who was ever called, if it was brother who was a line steward or a chief steward, he had to go over and do his job, see, at that time.
WEST: Did the company give you a certain amount of time, then, out of each day to process grievances?
STIER: No, no, you worked right on the line along with the rest of 'em, all day. If you didn't have any grievances, or anything happened, you worked all day. And any time you left it, they called in the relief man and you'd go bargain with the guy or with the foreman. And it was done right on the job. The guy had to stay right on working. They didn't go back to an office.
WEST: So the foreman would go talk to the man while he was working on the job. Did it work fairly well?
STIER: It was better than it used to be, when we didn't have no union. I will say that. It was a lot better than it was.
WEST: What did you have before you had the union?
STIER: I didn't have to run, or nobody had to run on that job. They put another man in there and they split that work up. That was one of the things that we bargained for and we got. We got extra people in there, yeah. Absolutely. Cut down that running, because the law says in the shop that you can run.
WEST: Was that the law before, too?
STIER: Oh, yes. If they catch you running in the halls, in the aisles, you was out on the street.
WEST: But you had to run.
STIER: I had to run, yeah.
WEST: So the foreman just presumably winked at the ...
STIER: Oh, it wasn't nothing wrong then. But I'll tell you, we went to hourly rate then. They took everything away from piecework. They done away with the piecework, and we got a raise, and I think it was $1.15 an hour that we were raised to automatically, right off the bat. And no running. And then you could work a lot slower. You didn't have to rush it.
WEST: But the steward system, did it process the grievances pretty effectively? I mean when men had grievances, did they get ...
STIER: Well, they didn't bargain them as close as you would today, I don't believe.
WEST: Did you have a lot of problems as line steward with the foreman getting...
STIER: Well, you got to get disciplined for being off work. He'd come in the next night. He'd say while I was sick the same thing, the same procedures as they have today. Some foremen could say, well, "I can't excuse it," and all that crap, you know. But overall it was...we had a steward system I think for a year or something like that. Then they abolished the steward system and then they...regular committeeman.
WEST: How did that differ, then, from the steward system?
STIER: Uh, we had the committeeman...It was actually the same thing, but we didn't have line stewards. But you left the job when you had a grievance. You left your job and went with your committeeman and you talked with your committeeman, before you approached the foreman, same as they do today. But you didn't have to stand there and work.
WEST: Now you, as a line steward, represented ten people, so it was fairly easy to spot a grievance when somebody had it. He couldn't demand to leave the line to come to you. Presumably you knew about it.
STIER: Yeah. It wasn't anything real big. It wouldn't be anything real big, like somebody threatened to be fired. They didn't write reprimands at that time. They were warned and then some foreman would warn a guy for no apparent reason, you know. Maybe some petty stuff. Say you're gonna hit the bricks the next time you pull anything like that It wasn't too much of that.
WEST: Now, as a line steward, you represented ten men. How many men would a committeeman represent?
STIER: Well, he must have had a hundred or better.
WEST: So he represented maybe ten times the number of men that you did. I wonder if that made it more difficult for him to keep in touch with the rank and file, because he represented so many more. Presumably he couldn't keep an eye on everybody and know what was going on.
STIER: Well, it wasn't...Now George, any time that he was not on duty any place or on a case, he'd have to go back and go to work. And when he got a call, he'd leave the job. They'd put the relief man on his job, and he would take off. But I think we had that for a maybe a year or so, and they split it up, then. Then they had like they got today. They have districts. And the guys, the people complain, and they bargain for more committee people, so split it up. Well, the guy didn't have as many people to represent. It was rough. I would say the committeeman at that time couldn't get to everybody. And the next day, why, the guy would have to put in a call again.
WEST: So then there would be a pressure to split the job up of a committeeman, and...
STIER: Oh, yeah, they bargained for more people.
WEST: Did they get 'em?
STIER: Oh, yeah, they had more committeemen. And they probably got the same deal as they got today, except they wasn't quite as many. You got----I don't know, how many people you got in there, in Plant 4? You must have two, three, four committeemen in Plant 4? Aren't there four districts or something like that? Then they have their shop committeemen. So it's on the same principle as it was back there, except maybe not quite as many committeemen as they have today.
WEST: Well, I wonder if we can go back to the period, again, before the strike. I know we're jumping around just a bit, but you brought up the steward system, and I wanted to explore that just a little bit. Was there unionism in your family? Was your father ever a member of the union as a carpenter?
WEST: So you weren't raised to know a great deal about unionism.
STIER: No, I didn't know one thing about it. In fact, in Plant 4, when I worked in Chevrolet there in 1934, I had heard that they had had a union, but you couldn't even found out where'd you go to join.
WEST: That would have been an AFL union, then.
STIER: I assume it was. But I got in when I got into Fisher 1. There wasn't anything ever said about a union, until maybe six months before they went on strike. I'd heard that they were organizing. So I was one of the first ones that went over and joined the union. I went over. It was only 50 cents to join and 50 cents a month.
WEST: Do you remember precisely when it was that you did join?
STIER: It must have been five months before the strike. It was in the summertime, I remember that. But I went over, I and a buddy of mine, and...
WEST: How did you find out about the union, then?
STIER: Somebody must have...I must have heard it in the shop from somebody. And they had, if I remember right, I think they had the union hall set up in the back of the
WEST: ...in the back of the restaurant, was it?
STIER: I believe it was in behind a restaurant. And I and Schuyler Sipman, a buddy of mine, we went over and we both joined.
WEST: What impelled you to join the union, then? What made you particularly decide to join the union?
STIER: Well, I figured, well, they got somebody to do it. I figure, well, they were talking about going on the strike.
WEST: Telling me once again, then, that impelled you to join the union.
STIER: I had heard in the shop. Somebody must have told me in the shop that they were organizing. And I don't remember who it was, but...
WEST: But you felt that a union could do you some good.
STIER: Well, I figured they would, because they got organized...they did...now I heard rumors of strike, and, well, if I joined the union, why, I'll get some of those benefits with the rest of 'em.
WEST: What was the main thing, then, that the men were complaining about?
STIER: Mostly it was the fast work. You had to work so fast. And there was no let-up. You had to work until noon, and you didn't have a break. If it was possible, some guy next to you would do your job while you went to go to the bathroom, and then you had to hurry back. You didn't have smokin' privileges. You couldn't smoke no place, not even in the bathroom. And there was a lot of potentials if they got organized, and everybody knew it.
WEST: Could you talk on the job? Was there any prohibition against talking?
STIER: Oh, yeah, you could talk. If you worked close enough together, you could talk.
WEST: Did you work close enough, then, to...
STIER: I didn't. I was back and forth too much on that particular job. I worked in the back of each line, and I had to run. Well, I didn't have a chance to talk to nobody.
WEST: Did you take your lunch in a cafeteria, then, or did you eat on the job?
STIER: No, I used to eat in the cafeteria or I used to go outdoors to eat. Mostly I'd go outside and eat.
WEST: Did men in the cafeteria talk much about the union?
STIER: Not too much. They were...actually, everybody was afraid, 'cause they didn't know who they were talking to.
WEST: You wouldn't wear a union button, then.
STIER: Oh, no. They told you over to the union hall not to wear your button in plain sight.
WEST: Did you know Bob Travis?
STIER: I met Bob Travis during the strike, and he was one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet. I knew Bob. I knew Bud Simmons. Well, he came from Detroit. He came, I think, as an organizer, and then he ended up working in Fisher 1, and he was one of the first board members. Bud Simmons, he was one of the first board...Remember when we got the Pengelly Building? And they set up headquarters down there, and they had a seven-man board set up? Well, he was one of first guys elected to the board. But Bob Traverse, he came here. He was an organizer. I met him before the strike, and he was here when they called the strike.
WEST: Did he address, talk to some of the meetings you were at?
STIER: Oh, yes, sure he did.
WEST: What did he tell you? Do you remember what he may have said at those meetings?
STIER: He spoke, just about like Fraser or any of 'em do today. They give you a pep talk, you know, kind of build you up and not get discouraged, and all that.
WEST: Did you know Wyndham Mortimer at all?
WEST: Wyndham Mortimer. He was up from Cleveland, I think. He came up before Travis did, I think. Sent out by the UAW after they had the meeting at South Bend.
STIER: Mortimer? I remember that name, but I...They had a split back there, remember?
WEST: Well, that was after the strike. But at this time, my understanding is that Mortimer came up first, earlier in the summer, did some preliminary organizational work, and then Bob Travis came up to succeed him. But you knew Travis.
STIER: I knew Traverse real well. I met him and talked to him.
WEST: What do you think of the allegation that was made later, during the strike, that Travis and Simmons and some of these people were left-wingers, you know, they were Communists and that?
STIER: You mean after the strike?
WEST: Well, during the strike that accusation was made.
STIER: I had heard. I had heard there were different ones. They...a friend of the Communists and all that. Course that everybody, something that was given to the public to think, really. And the public, you know, a lot of people say they're nothing but a bunch of Communists in there. That was when we was on strike.
WEST: What did you think of those?
STIER: Hogwash. I'm not saying that there wasn't Communist people in it. There's Communists right down in Washington, in the Capitol. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of Communists in there.
WEST: But you weren't aware. They didn't talk about the party.
STIER: They didn't mention Communism.
WEST: Or distribute papers or that.
STIER: No. They even said that...shoot...
WEST: John L. Lewis?
STIER: Yeah. They even said he was Communism. Here he was our president at that time. He was head of the bargaining unit, bargaining for us.
WEST: Was there a time before the strike, in the month or so before the strike, when you felt strong enough to wear union buttons?
STIER: No, you didn't wear no union buttons. Before we had the union, man, if you had that button on, why, you hit the bricks quick. Nobody did.
WEST: Did you have a premonition that there was a strike coming? Did you have an idea...?
STIER: Yeah, I figured it was. Not knowing when, I didn't know when it was gonna happen until just a few minutes, actually, before it happened.
WEST: Can you describe how it did happen?
STIER: Well, everybody was working, and everybody was working, and then all at once, somebody said "We're on strike!" And they was going down through the aisles, along the motor lines, and they come in through the cushion room, and says, "We're on strike! Everybody stop!"
WEST: Just before the strike, or at the time of the strike, people came down the lines and told you to shut it off.
STIER: Oh, yeah. They was coming down through there and was on strike, and everybody stopped work. And, kind of befuddled you a little bit there, because everybody walked around there kind of in a daze, really. That's what it felt like. And then foreman says, "Everybody back to work!" Nobody went back to work. It was on strike.
WEST: Nobody went back to work. Were there none that tried to keep their machines going after they were told?
STIER: No. The lines went. See, in the cushion room, you didn't have machines. You just had to push a button and the line would stop.
WEST: Everybody stopped working, but the line kept going. Did somebody push the button, then, to stop the line?
STIER: The foreman pushed buttons to stop the line. No, the guys didn't stop 'em. They couldn't stop 'em.
WEST: They just backed away from the work and you saw the line...?
STIER: Yeah, you just started walking around, and the foreman says, "Back to work!" I said, "No, we're on strike."
WEST: Do you remember who the person was or the people were in your particular department, the cushion department, who told you to shut the line, or to stop work?
STIER: No, I can't tell you now. It wasn't anybody from the outside. It was, oh, Bud Simmons was one, George Miller, the one I was telling you about. He was in the cushion room. And I think they knew ahead of time what the hour was, and I think they knew when they was gonna call the strike, and they got the information, and then they says, "Everybody's on strike."
WEST: So you didn't have any knowledge at all that it was gonna happen, then, before...?
STIER: No, not exactly when it was going to start. But we knew it was coming.
WEST: Was the cushion room fairly well organized, then, when the strike came, with union people?
STIER: Well, no. There was, a lot of 'em, there was quite a few in there that didn't belong to the union. In fact, there was one guy didn't belong to it even after we went back to work. He wouldn't join.
WEST: But they did stop work, though, when they were...
STIER: Oh, yeah. Nobody was working. They couldn't work.
WEST: I'm just wondering if any of those who came through to tell you this to shut down the line were, you know, prepared to use force with anyone who didn't. Did they look menacing, you know? Did you feel if you didn't shut down the line, someone would force you to?
STIER: Well, outside the cushion room, I can't say too much, because, you know, that was the department... But in the cushion room, everybody just quit work, because when you got on the line, you'd get three or four guys that would quit working, there's no use of the others working, 'cause they couldn't do their job, because the other job wasn't done, you see.
WEST: Now the cut-and-sew department, was that close to your department?
STIER: That was upstairs.
WEST: So you didn't know what went on there. I wondered if the women stopped too.
STIER: Oh, they knew it at the same time. Everybody was done. Nobody worked.
WEST: So there was a period, then, of confusion.
STIER: A little bit. Kind of an excitement, I would say, more.
WEST: Did you know at the time that you were going to sit in and occupy the plant? Or did you think you'd be leaving the plant, take a normal, you know, it was orthodox, that is, a picketing outside the building?
STIER: Well, it was a sit-down strike. I knew that. Course, at the time, I didn't know one strike from the other at the time. 'Cause it never happened before, you know. But everybody stayed in, and we all stayed in the cushion room. Nobody left that for, oh, an hour or so.
WEST: Just talking among yourselves?
STIER: Yeah, we set on the end of the line down there. We set up on the bucks and talked.
WEST: What did the foreman do, after nobody obeyed them and went back to work? Did they stay there?
STIER: Oh, they stayed in the office there. At the end of the shift, they went home. But they called in protection people. During the latter part of the morning, everybody went down to the cafeteria and stayed down in the cafeteria, and then they opened up the line, the outer line, more or less in the center of the building. And then they...you know, they have firewalls, you know. They can fold, folding doors, you know. And if they have had a fire in one place, they can open these or close these steel doors and shut the rest of it off. So they a spot right in the center of the building, and that was our area where all stayed together, see. And they gave us orders no one could go out and walking around by themselves. There was none of that. We had to stay together. And then they organized a bunch guys that went together in a whole bunch, and then they'd travel through the shop.
WEST: Patrolling it.
WEST: Did they have a general meeting? You described there was an hour or so when people were milling around and talking, but staying together. Were you summoned, then, to a...?
STIER: Yeah, they called a meeting every once in a while. Somebody from the outside would come in. They'd come in through the window, you know. That's where we set up. Oh, we had boxes out there, kind of like steps up to the windows, and then on the inside we had a platform there. And you'd go in and out through the window. Somebody from the outside would come in, why,...
WEST: I'm thinking just of that first day of the strike. Did you go to a meeting where people would explain what you were gonna do?
STIER: No, if I remember, everybody in the cushion room said they were going down to mingle in the cafeteria. And what was it? I think they brought in coffee from outside. I believe they brought in coffee and donuts. That was earlier in the morning.
WEST: How early in the morning would that be, then?
STIER: Well, I would assume it was just before maybe the first shift started to work. A lot of 'em on the first shift came to go to work in the morning, and they couldn't get in, see.
WEST: Did they go back home, then?
STIER: A lot of 'em, yeah, a lot of 'em went back home, and a lot of us hung around the outside and mingled around the gates.
WEST: Did Bud Simon or someone come around, then, or Travis, to talk to you, make a speech, or tell you how you were going to be organized?
STIER: No, we had the leaders in there. We had our leaders. We knew who they were. Usually it was more or less the committee people. They weren't called committeemen, but the leaders, like, oh, George Miller. Of course, he was one of our spokesmen.
WEST: Was he an elected spokesman, then?
STIER: At that time? No, I think he was appointed, 'cause he was one of the first ones to join the union out there. And, if I'm not mistaken, I think George is the one that asked me about joining the union. I believe he's the one.
WEST: At any rate, the strike was on, and you did get organized. Did you have a specific job, then?
STIER: Yeah, I worked on the other side. We had... I went on the other side and worked with another guy. And he took half of this job and I dug the other half.
WEST: Of what?
STIER: Hog wringing.
WEST: No, I mean the job you had when the strike was on. Presumably people who were sitting down had duties assigned to them, and I wondered what your duties were.
STIER: Well, yeah, I was on this patrol brigade in the shop. I did that for a while.
WEST: Inside the shop? You were walking through the plant.
STIER: Yeah, we'd have a patrol, probably fifteen-twenty guys in it, and we went through the shop, see that everything was on the up and up, nobody was...
WEST: That shouldn't be there.
STIER: Yeah. Come up with something like that happened over at Plant 4.
WEST: Did you have any trouble? Did you ever run into any problems?
STIER: No, not really. We thought we was having trouble one time there. Somebody says they're coming, and he saw some shadows up on that hallway up there, and the way the lights shined, it looked like police hats. But it wasn't. It was just a few plant protection people that was coming through, and they hollered before they ever got up there, and said, "No, it's plant protection. We're just going on through and making our rounds."
WEST: Oh, so plant protection people were allowed in during the strike?
STIER: Oh, yeah, you couldn't keep them out. Oh, yeah, we couldn't keep them out. But they stayed their distance. They didn't...
WEST: What were they doing in the plant, just to...?
STIER: Like they always did. They have rounds to make, you know. And they have one that goes around and then he checks different...got several places to check, and they do that, and then of course they set in their buildings out there. Nobody was to go through those gates.
WEST: No, I gather that, just through those windows. Now you said after when the strike was called, everybody stayed around after that. Did some of them leave, then?
STIER: Oh, yeah, there was a lot of 'em. It was a lot that left. And then there was a lot came back, came in from first shift. And a lot of 'em came in and sit.
WEST: How many men would you say you had there?
STIER: Oh, man, I really couldn't tell you. We had probably 200 people in there.
WEST: Did the numbers get down pretty low?
STIER: No. In fact, when the strike was over with, in fact we was just loaded with people in there, even settin' up on top of the building. They went upstairs on the roof, and they took pictures of it.
WEST: I know at the beginning and then at the end there were lots, but I'm wondering if in the interim period, you know, things didn't get pretty slow.
STIER: Now we had a real good amount of people on the outside, too, because in fact we had people from Buick, workers that picketed the outside of the building. They walked the sidewalks. In fact, my stepfather come out, and he was in the picket lines from Buick.
WEST: So your stepfather, then, worked at Buick.
STIER: Yeah, he worked at Buick.
WEST: Was he a union man?
STIER: Oh, yes. He was one of the first ones in the Buick to ever join.
WEST: What was his name?
STIER: Robert Reinhart.
WEST: And his daughter was then your wife?
STIER: No, he was my stepfather. No, my wife at that time, her father was a Fisher Body worker.
WEST: What was his name?
STIER: Alton Foster.
WEST: I see. So you had help, then, from Buick and from the outside.
STIER: Oh, yeah, we had a lot of people from Buick in the picket lines.
WEST: Where your wife was living, were most of the people around there autoworkers too? You were living in Bristol.
STIER: Well, I lived just south of Bristol. Oh, I had a buddy of mine, lived down Bristol Road, he was a...we worked there together. Course he's passed away now.
WEST: What I was wondering was whether most of the neighbors around where you lived were sympathetic to you and to the strike.
STIER: Oh, most of 'em. Yeah, most of the people were. Well, once in a while, we'd...You know when the last, like I said, the last three weeks of the strike, I got sick. And I caught the flu, and I had to go home. And I was home for, oh, close to a full week, and then I went back, and I got on, instead of going in the shop, I...they needed guys in the cars to travel around outside of the gates. And they had a car for each gate. Then they had one car that moved....
WEST: How many gates would that be then?
STIER: Well, let me see. There was, see, one, two, three, four, five... I would say approximately about six gates.
WEST: So you had a car for each gate.
STIER: Yeah. Then they had one extry. And he would move in, and he would relieve this one for an hour and this one move up.
WEST: So you just kept moving up from gate to gate, like sentry posts.
STIER: Yeah, that's right. And we had four guys to a car.
WEST: Did they carry clubs or anything with them, these guys?
STIER: No. We had clubs inside the shop, though, I'll tell you. I had a billy about sixteen, eighteen inches long, and it was of rubber hose filled with lead. And it was braided with leather, red and black leather.
WEST: I've seen two or three of those.
STIER: And I don't know what ever happened to that. It was braided. I rigged that real good. I learned how to do it from one of the guys in the shop. And they had bullwhips. They had some of the most beautiful bullwhips you ever seen, and it was fifteen, sixteen foot long.
WEST: What were they made out of, then?
STIER: Leather. Start out with a piece of rubber hose for the handle part of it, and then you would braid it right on down to the whatever you call 'em on the ends.
WEST: And then you had hinges, too, did you, up on top?
STIER: I don't know. Hinges? Oh, I imagine they had stuff up there, in case they was up on the roof.
WEST: Did you ever fear that you might be attacked?
STIER: Oh, yeah. There was a fear there, tension, and you was on the alert.
WEST: They had the Battle of the Bulls' Run at Fisher 2, in the middle of January. As I understand it, the police did try rush Fisher 2.
STIER: Well, that was down right there by Plant 4. In fact, down the hill there.
WEST: Right, I know that. I guess you got word of that.
STIER: Oh, yeah, we knew about it right off the bat.
WEST: Did you fear that the police might come after you?
STIER: Yeah, we felt, and everybody was on the alert, and we had people stationed, and for a few hours, and then they would be relieved. And then somebody else. Lot of 'em, you know, they'd take a cat nap, sleep, you know, every once in a while. And these guys would set out there in areas where they could watch. And then they'd be out there maybe an hour and a half or two hours, and then somebody else would take their place. And that went on for 24 hours a day while we was in there. We weren't taking any chances.
WEST: But in the event, nothing did happen.
STIER: No, not really.
WEST: Were you fed pretty well in the plant?
STIER: Oh, yeah, we had people, the restaurants catered food over there. People brought it in through the windows. We had hot coffee. We had donuts. And they'd bring in sandwiches. They'd make 'em up in the restaurants.
WEST: Did you do any cooking in the plant?
STIER: No, no. No cooking.
WEST: How about food that was brought in?
STIER: They'd bring in, and...
WEST: Did your wife come to visit you?
STIER: Oh, yeah. She used to come up there once in a while and see us. In fact, the women used to bring guys meals. They'd go to the restaurant and buy a plate dinner. My wife at that time, she brought three one time, one for me and one for two of my buddies in there. They used to do that every once in a while. Course we didn't want for anything to eat, because restaurants around there always catered food in. They made sandwiches up over there in the restaurants, them big thermos, coffee makers. They'd bring coffee over. Course they...
WEST: What did you do for amusement?
STIER: Oh, we played cards. Lot of guys, they played euchre. That was one of the main games back in those days was euchre. And then they'd play rum. Some guys played for money. They'd play a little poker, if they wanted to.
WEST: Did tempers ever get high in the plants? Did you have fights among the men?
STIER: I can't remember anyone ever having a fight in the shop during that time. Fact is I've never heard of a fight in the shop.
WEST: Was there any drinking that went on in the plants that you know of?
WEST: What about...You said you caught the flu when you were in the plant. Did others get sick?
STIER: Yeah, there was quite a few that got sick at that time.
WEST: Did doctors come in to...?
STIER: No. I told 'em at the gate that I was sick, and I had a fever. Told me to go on home, so I went home. I only lived a mile. I had to walk home. There was no way of getting home. I got home, practically all week, I guess.
WEST: These cars that you were driving in were they your own cars, the autoworkers'?
STIER: Yeah, it was [end of tape]
WEST: I wanted to ask you about some of the people in the shops. Were there a lot of Southerners?
STIER: Oh, yeah. Well, Fisher Body mostly was made up of Southern people. There was a lot of Southern people working at Fisher 1.
WEST: Did you get along fairly well?
STIER: Oh, yeah. Fact the woman I married was a Southern girl, Missouri. Course I was divorced from her.
WEST: Were there many Poles and Hungarians and people from other European backgrounds?
STIER: There wasn't too many of 'em. I had one guy, he was Hungarian, worked in the cushion room, and he was born in Hungaria. He didn't join the union for quite a while after the strike. In fact, they... Then there was another one. He wouldn't join. Course he was just like I am, just ordinary guy. But he wouldn't join either, because he didn't... And I kept after him. I told him, I said, "Well, you're gettin' all the benefits from it. Why can't you join?" He says, "I don't want to." And I says, "Well, I tell you what. I'll even give you fifty cents to go over there and join." Finally they made it hard for him and they wouldn't talk. Nobody'd talk to him. Finally he decided. I don't remember if he spoke to me. I think he did. And he said, "I guess I'll go over and join." So a couple went with him after work, took him over to the union hall, signed him up. He was one of the best union members we ever had after he got joined.
WEST: Did he tell you why he wouldn't join the union?
STIER: Didn't come right out and say. He just said he didn't believe in it or something. I don't know. He wasn't a religious man.
WEST: Was that fairly common after the strike, that there would be some people who you'd have to pressure?
STIER: Well, this Hungarian I was telling you about, he said it was against his----he was a religious man. He said it was against his religion to belong to the union.
WEST: Do you what his religion was? Was he Catholic?
STIER: No, he was Hungarian Christian. That's all I know. Probably a Hungarian church. But, now wait a minute. He was a, I think he belonged to, go to Holiness, I believe.
WEST: Oh, it was some sect, group.
STIER: Something like that. A lot of your Christian people believe that, like your Masons and all them, they don't believe that a person can be a religious person and belong to the Masons, because of the secrecy. And I talked to different people at that time that were Christian people, and they complained that they can't belong to the union because it's too much secrecy. I says, "Well, what's secret about it?" "Your bylaws." I said, "Well, there's nothing secret about your bylaw."
WEST: But they did claim religious reasons, then, for not joining.
STIER: Well, you take your Masons. They have a secret handshake, you know. All that. They don't believe in that. I can't go for that. I don't believe that way myself, because your Masons, look what they do for crippled children. And the Shriners. That's part of the Masons. Look what they do for the crippled children. If they're un-Christians...
WEST: Were there a lot of Masons in the union?
STIER: Oh, yeah, a lot of Masons in the union. Well, that George Miller, he was a Mason. Another one was Jack, I think his last name was Dempsey. He was another committeeman we had after the strike. In fact, he was one of the guys that belonged to the union before we were one strike. Jack Dempsey. They used to call him Jack Dempsey. I'm pretty positive he was a Mason member.
WEST: Did Catholics have any difficulty getting into the union?
WEST: Were there many blacks working in Fisher 1?
STIER: We didn't have any blacks then. There wasn't any black people in the shop.
WEST: Was that a policy, then, of the company?
STIER: It was. A lot different than what it is today. No equalization there at that time.
WEST: But it was company policy on the part of the Fisher people...
STIER: Yeah, there was so much tack spitting, trimming work, and the guys usin' somebody' else's...maybe lose his hammer and borrow somebody else's hammer. Then they were pickin' up a can of tacks, you know, drop 'em in their mouth, and the...Oh, I don't know. They just didn't have colored in there until after the war. Then they started...
WEST: Do you think, from what you're saying, there would be some whites who would object to using a hammer that some blacks have handled?
STIER: I suppose there was at that time. Course Buick and Chevrolet, they always did have colored.
WEST: Would there have been a problem with some of the men, had they brought blacks in the union?
STIER: I couldn't answer that, really.
WEST: I wonder if the Southerners, you know, would have been...
STIER: I wouldn't be a bit surprised. There'd have been a lot of tension there.
WEST: In Flint at that time was there any Klan activity, Ku Klux Klan?
WEST: Or Black Legion? There was a group known as the Black Legion.
STIER: There were rumors at that time. Now I wouldn't say it for sure, but there was rumors that there was some of, one of our guys in the shop was a Black Legionnaire in Detroit.. He got away from it. Actually all it was just a gang, and, like the Purple Gang. They had the Purple Gang in Detroit. They had a Purple Gang in Detroit, and they had the Black Legion.
WEST: Was the union opposed to them, the activities?
STIER: There wasn't really anything said about it, but I had heard that there was one or two guys that were originally Black Legionnaires.
WEST: What did the Black Legion believe in? Do you know what their principles were?
STIER: Well, there was one guy from Detroit----name was Cool----was killed by a bunch of 'em. I don't... The name was spelled P-O-O-L-E, Poole. And I don't know if you remember that or not, but he was killed, and they claimed the Black Legion killed him on the road someplace.
WEST: I see. Why?
STIER: I don't know.
WEST" Were they opposed to the union, then?
STIER: No. No.
WEST: Now, in the period after the strike, we talked about some of those things. We talked about the steward system a bit, and we talked about the organization. There was a lot of pressure, then, I guess, to organize the plants pretty completely. Most of the men, would you say, joined?
STIER: Oh, yeah. In fact, this one guy----his name was Burnside----nobody talked to him. And his days there, guys worked right along side of him, never speak to him. He'd speak to them, and they'd ignore him. Finally, a week or so of that, finally he either told me or he told somebody else that he wanted to join. I went with him. Went over to the union hall after work and pinned the button on him. And he was one of the best union guys that we had in the shop. He was always right there, ready to, you know... And he was called a committeeman when he needed them. He didn't mess around. He was a good union man.
WEST: I wonder whether there were some who joined who were not what you'd call good union men, that is, they'd pay their dues and not go to meetings and that.
STIER: There was a lot of guys joined because they couldn't stand the harassment, you know.
WEST: Did you, as line steward, have any responsibility for collecting dues, then?
WEST: Because you did have the check-off system, I understand, for a while. Who did the collecting, then, of the dues?
STIER: They did it right over to the union hall. Guys go over there and pay their dues.
WEST: Were a lot of men delinquent, not paying their dues?
STIER: Oh, yes. There was probably guys that... See, we didn't have initiation fees back in those days. You just went over and joined and you paid your dues money, and it was, at that time, only 50 cents a month. And they put your name down on the membership book, and they gave you a receipt and a button, and you was a union member. And that went on for probably three years or so, before they started tacking on the initiation fee. And then if you got delinquent, why, you had to pay to get back in. There was so many members in there that one guy didn't want to belong, why, it made it rough for him.
WEST: Yeah, without actually beating him up or anything, you could use that...
STIER: Oh, they didn't beat anybody up or anything. Scare him.
WEST: After the strike, I understand there was quite a rash of wildcat strikes, too, before things settled down, guys walking off the job, sitting down...
STIER: I can't remember wildcat strikes in Fisher. Everybody seemed to be well satisfied, except in the press and metal. Now, I will say this. They had something good going for them down there before the strike. They were making money hand over fist on that piecework. But they didn't cut their jobs up there like they did in the cushion room. For some reason, they just picked on the cut-and-sew, and the cushion department. Trim. If you made a few cents an hour more, why, they'd cut your price. They didn't do that down in... So after we went on strike, and we were organizing, they cut off that piecework. They started hollering about it down there in press and metal, because they could only make $1.15 an hour.
WEST: And they thought they could make more on piecework.
STIER: Yeah. So they had, as far as going on strike, I don't remember 'em going on strike, wildcat strike, but they did put up a kick on it, 'cause they were making less. Finally, they took it same as the rest of 'em.
WEST: Well, they couldn't very well take it to the union, because the union was opposed to piecework, too. So they did have to fall in line, then.
STIER: Course we had meetings, we had general assembly meetings, and, like Bob Travers. I heard him speak at one meeting there, and he says, he said, "Now the thing is this." He said, "We got our foot in the door." That was general idea, getting your foot in the door, and that way, he said, you can make things better for yourself by furthering the negotiations, contract. Of course we had a contract come up every year we had to negotiate. He said the following year, he said we'd negotiate and we'd get more raises. But this, he said, we got our foot in the door, and they can't close it on us.
WEST: Did he speak against wildcat strikes, then?
STIER: Well, he didn't say anything about it, but he was more generally thinking of how the press and metal people felt about the whole thing, and he went on and explained it to 'em. And Bud Simons, he spoke about it, just get along together, go along with it, until further time, and then they need give negotiate for different prices. Now your job would be varied. They'll get more money for a certain job, where it's more skilled. And that's what's happened. You take in the rod department, for instance, now. You've got a drill that pays different money than less hourly rate than your Kreuger bore. But actually you got the same amount of rods practically to run, but they claim the Kreuger bore is more of a skilled job. But me, I can't see any difference. But they do, and it's a higher classification on the Kreuger bore. And they make three or five cents an hour more. Now inspection. Now I was quality control inspection. And I got paid the same as the regular inspector, and yet I had precision work to check. It wasn't just visual. It was precision. And I had to check rods and I'd have to put in on paper, keep track of 'em, mark everything on paper, turn it into the office.
WEST: But these price differences just were a result of negotiating
STIER: When we first got organized and recognized, why, my pay in the cushion room went up to $1.15, which was a good increase, see. And then I wasn't getting busted everyday. Course in the press and metal, they had to take a little less.
WEST: After the strike, did the attitude of the foreman change at all?
STIER: Some of 'em, and some didn't. Some was worse. We had one general foreman in there, he'd get so mad, he'd jump three feet in the air. Oh, he was a corker. He never did actually accept unionism in the shop. But he had to go along with it, because we was in there.
WEST: But could he still make life rough for...?
STIER: Oh, yeah, he'd do everything. He'd do everything to make life miserable.
WEST: Can you expand on that? Do you know how he would...?
STIER: Well, he wouldn't hardly want to negotiate. He wouldn't even talk to anybody, until he was forced to. But we had some there that, oh Percy Gray, now he was a general foreman, and, now I can't think of the other guy's name.
WEST: Percy Gray, was he pretty...
STIER: He was a pretty good guy, yeah. He's the one that told me. He says, "I know you can't, but you got to." But he was a good general foreman. He always would talk to the committeemen and iron things out. Most of your foremen would. There was some that...
WEST: Before the strike, in talking to some other people, I understand that the foreman would sometimes expect men to do favors to keep their jobs, you know, and to be treated. You know, to mow their lawns, and that sort of...
STIER: Oh, there was a lot of that. There was a lot of it in the war, during the wartime.
WEST: I wonder whether this favoritism ended with the strike. It continued, then?
STIER: Oh, yeah. There was a lot of guys that were teachers' pets, you might call. Course after they was organized, why, everybody was treated equally.
WEST: They had seniority, then. The foremen didn't have the power to just fire people, or not call them back indiscriminately.
STIER: Course if a guy come in drunk, they could fire 'em right off the bat. There's no giving them two weeks' notice or two weeks off or something like that. They could fire 'em right out, but in the later years, that was all negotiated, where they changed the rules and give 'em a week off, two weeks off, thirty days.
WEST: Now, at the end of the strike, the UAW is organized and Local 156, I understand, is the amalgamated local of all the plants, and it's one of the biggest unions in the UAW. And it dominates Flint, and my understanding is that Local 156 did make efforts to organize outside of the auto industry in Flint. The idea was to make Flint a hundred-percent union town.
STIER: Yeah, they went after Standard Cotton. They were unorganized, and then after we were organized...Course a lot of our products at Fisher came from Standard Cotton.
WEST: Oh, yeah, within the cushion room particularly, I guess. Some of your interior... Well, they were actually on strike along with you.
STIER: Well, I don't remember if they was on strike or if they was out.
WEST: I think they were sitting down, but they settled after you. You got your contract first, and then they settled later.
STIER: I think they went out after we did, I believe. I don't think they went out when we did. I may be wrong.
WEST: At any rate, you settled. Did you help them, then, after you settled your grievance, you helped them get a contract?
STIER: I can't say, whether we did or not.
WEST: Did you know any of the men from Standard Cotton Products?
WEST: I understand there were strikes outside of the auto industry, too, at Penney's and at the Durant Hotel downtown, and some of the restaurants and that. They were attempting to organize, you know, the retail clerks, restaurant and hotel workers and that. Do you remember taking part in any of that?
STIER: [no audible answer].
WEST: Did you go to Owosso at all to organize A. G. Redmond? I understand Redmond moved out of town.
STIER: I didn't, but we had people that did. Bud Simmons did. He was out there. And then we had a guy by the name of Redmond that worked in the shop, and he used to take days off to go out there and organize.
WEST: Was he any relation, then, to A. G. Redmond?
STIER: No, but his name was Redmond.
WEST: Did you go down to Pontiac, Detroit, or any of the other places around?
STIER: I went to rallies down there. I didn't go to organize. Not me. But I even went to Detroit to one of the factories. I can't tell you which one it was. They were on a strike. And I went down. A whole gang of 'em went and walked the picket line.
WEST: That wasn't Ford, was it?
STIER: I think it was one of the Ford plants.
WEST: 'Cause they were tough.
STIER: I went down there, and a gang of us from the shop went down in carloads. Took off from work.
WEST: Do you remember when that might have been? What year...
STIER: No, I can't...
WEST: Before the war, though?
STIER: Yeah. It was after we was organized.
WEST: Did you run into any opposition down there, when you...?
STIER: No, not a bit. We went in and parked our cars. We walked the picket lines, and we spent a whole day down there.
WEST: But there were no efforts to try to interfere with you at all.
STIER: No. There had been. I understand they were at times, they had opposition. But they didn't bother us.
WEST: Now, later on, Local 156 broke up into two factions, as indeed the whole UAW did. There was the Martin faction and AFL group, and then there was the CIO.
STIER: Martin and who was the other one?
WEST: Well, just the CIO group, I guess, and then Homer Martin.
STIER: Yeah, Homer Martin
WEST: That later went with the AFL. But I guess originally the argument broke out over Martin's leadership.
STIER: Yeah, he wanted to split or something. And...
WEST: Well, what he did was to expel some members of the union, I guess, because he alleged they were Communists, including Travis.
STIER: Well, they had him...They had big union buttons, you remember? And they were painting... They had his picture on 'em, then they painted a black hood over it, black hood. Call it the black hoods. And I had one of them, and I gave it to my stepdad. He was a stamp collector and he collected buttons. And he had that in his collection. When he died, my mother sold his collection, the stamps and everything, to Reynolds Stamp Company, and they got that buttons. And they were antiques when they got them. That button was kind of...He had that button.
WEST: What side did you take?
STIER: I took the other side. I was opposite of Martin.
WEST: Oh, you were opposed to Martin.
STIER: Oh, everybody was. They had guys clash with Communists in there, and we wouldn't work. Nobody went to work that day, but they went in the shop, and they was ousting those guys out of the shop. They'd get 'em and take 'em right out of the door, and slam 'em out onto the street.
WEST: Who was this, doing that then?
STIER: The one that was opposite of Martin.
WEST: They came into the shops to...
STIER: Yeah, they went all in bunches. They went right in the shop. They had 'em all picked out. They knew who they were, and it was a CV line here, part of the CV line.
WEST: CV? What was that?
STIER: Oh, you install dash panels and cowel panels inside, and to put floor mats in. That's when the bodies were comin' down from the second floor, down by the first floor. And they had one guy, they chased him right up on top of that and had him cornered up there. He had a hammer, but if anybody come up near him up there, he'd let 'em have it. They finally got him out of there.
WEST: That was the CIO people that were getting the Martin boys out of there.
STIER: I was walking with him and we went down through the press and metal, and they were getting guys out of there and taking them right out the door.
WEST: They had the Martin people they spotted and identified. They wouldn't let 'em back in the plant to work? They kicked 'em right out of the plant.
STIER: Yeah. Plant Protection didn't do anything about it. They just walked right on.
WEST: Who took their places, then?
STIER: Nobody was working.
WEST: Oh, nobody was working. They just closed the whole place down and kicked 'em out. What happened later, then, when these men didn't get back on their jobs? Did the jobs start up? Did they have some CIO men take their place?
STIER: Yeah, finally they got things straightened out. They made their split, but, oh, those guys came back to work. They got back to work all right, but at that time they meant business. They got 'em out of there.
WEST: Well, I heard that the whole city of Flint for a time was divided into these camps and that fights broke out...
STIER: Well, they called them Communists. A lot of those guys were class....In fact, they had one guy in the Buick, a head guy, I can't think of his name. He was a Communist. My stepdad knew him, said he was a Communist.
WEST: These were the CIO people that I understand the Martin guys were...
STIER: Yeah, one of the Martin followers, and he was... I can't think of his name, and I used to know it just as good as my own. Macy, or something like? It wasn't Macy. He was one of our big wheels. But it sounded like "Macy." But he was a Buick worker, and he was a big wheel over there. They claimed he was a Communist.
WEST: Why did you oppose Martin, then, particularly?
STIER: Well, I guess... I don't really know, unless it was I figured he was going to lose some of our benefits, from some of the things we fought for all that time.
WEST: Did you get involved in any fights?
STIER: No. They used to have their arguments in the union hall. They'd have general meetings and both sides would get to arguing, and, man, they didn't come to any fights or anything, but almost.
WEST: Right. Well, the last question I wanted to probe just a bit was the [end of tape]
STIER: That's when it was split, and we had the seven-man board.
WEST: But that represented, as I understand it, the whole amalgamated local.
STIER: That was made up of guys from Fisher 1, Buick, Chevrolet, and Fisher 2. There was seven different places. And one from North Unit and South Unit. That was two. We had two guys, and one of 'em was Bud Simmons. I hear Bud Simmons is still alive. He's around someplace.
WEST: Yes, he is, down in Florida. He gets up to picnics once in a while.
STIER: Do you know him?
WEST: I met him last summer at the picnic.
STIER: Oh, he's a heck of a nice guy.
WEST: Yes, he is.
STIER: Is he still skinny?
WEST: Yeah. Well, I want to thank you very much for you help. Is there anything that you can think of that we haven't touched on?
STIER: Let's see. No, that just about covers everything. Oh, there's lots of things that happened after that. Oh, we had some real good committee people out there. Fact is I almost got fired out of Fisher 1 at the start of the war. They had me pegged. They cheated me. They ripped me off. I was laid off when they went over to war production, and I got in the AC. And they caused in there about five months and they called me back to Fisher. And I went into the employment office, and they said they had a job opening for me as a crane operator. And I says, "Is that one of them overhead cranes?" They says, "Yeah." And I know, shoot, I'm gonna like that. So I hired in. And it wasn't. That isn't the job they had for me. It was a jig and fixture loader, down in the turret job. You had to operate a hand crane, and you had different kinds of clamps to hook onto a certain area of the turret to pick it up, so you could bring it around, maneuver to put it into a fixture for a certain machine. That's the job it was. All it was chicken fixture loader. Guys knew those jobs wouldn't take 'em. They wouldn't come back. They didn't have to come back, as long as they was working in a shop where they was on war work. They didn't have to come back to Fisher. But they conned me into coming back and taking that job. Well, I took it, and I worked along and worked along. And I asked for a raise. I been in there and never got a raise. The foreman says I wasn't doing enough work. So I went around and asked any of the guys if they were held up because I wasn't doing my job. "No." So I called a committeeman, and foreman took me down to Labor Relations. And they had a pink slip for me. I was laid off. I was fired. The committeeman was Budrow, Paul Budrow. When I got up there, I put in a call for him, and he came up. I said, "They got me fired here." "What for?" And I told him, and went into the office there, and talked and wanted to know what I was being fired for. I wasn't doing my job. And I told Paul Budrow, "You can go down there and you can get statements from any man in that department. And they will verify the fact that they were never held up because I didn't do my job." And then I went on and I told him how I was conned into coming back into work there, and I was already working at the AC. I ended up I didn't get fired. I got transferred in another department. I only worked there days, and I got a dime raise. It was that easy.