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Report On The Detroit Ox-Roast For AMFA Strike
by John Joslin - IBEW 58

STAND BY FOR A long, close look at our IBEW today, ..don't even start if you can't stand a whiff of bad news ... ya' can't fix what you don't know is broke though, .....it's nothing you didn't know about or haven't suspected but if you want to help air out our small corner of the House of Labor...you gotta' hang in a bit here to see if you believe what follows and what I eyewitnessed :
IBEW Local #58 members Kevin Mackey and I , John Joslin , ( along with other local #58 members ) have been involved with putting on events for locked-out & striking workers for going on 11 years. We have cooked in most union halls that have decent ( or just barely adequate) kitchens within a 25 mile radius of Detroit . As you can imagine, that includes a lot of U.A.W. ( United Auto Workers ) halls ; spread all over the geographic map and designated with an array of numerical identifiers..... # 600, #909 , #22, #174, #157 ( ?), ....and more. We have fed folks at UFCW halls , churches , parking lots and a couple of street corners , in the snow & in the rain ; we have occasionally used the word "fundraiser ", but we have always figured that the MAIN idea was to make some low-cost edible protein available for striking or Locked-out families ( take-home in a box afterwards, especially ), AND provide a place for people to meet , socialize , strategize etc.
Beneficiaries of our efforts have included Newspaper workers in Detroit ( 4 years of Ox-Roasts as we tend to call the affairs) , during the great infamous detroit Newspaper strike , Steelworkers in Michigan & Ohio, sugar beet farmers and mill workers in rural Michigan ( we broke a lock-out that had been going on for 5 months ,no end in sight ), north of Port Huron, Screen Actor's Guild strike in U.S. ( we got directly involved in strike strategy in that one & some in their Int'l office in L.A. today credit that effort with enabling them to survive the national strike ... ) Most times we take a little hit, a few times we break even , and once in a while we end up with 2 or 3 thousand bucks in a bag which we commonly give to a lawyer or two (....sometimes we have mounted civil disobedience or other picket line activity apres dinner and usually there's a couple of friendly pro-bono type attorneys that never get paid securing our neglected civil liberties etc....) Our all-time record so far is feeding 3,000 people over 18 hours; 3 days of actual cooking around the clock , a crew of 50 electrician/cooks and $35,000 for the victims of a powerhouse explosion...) To get the ball rolling we just pool money out of our paychecks & get to work. Our co-worker/cooking crews usually include IBEW, ( many traveling bros. and sisters ...yo" Diane" we missed you at this one, sure could'a used ya' "Tom Pine" ! ) UAW , Newspaper Guild, GCIU, Wobblies, Steelworkers, pretty much u-name it ... Just to give you a flavor , our menus often feature deep fried turkey cajun-style (..a tip of the hat to some New Orleans brothers who graciously taught us how to properly prepare the birds... ), slow cooked top rounds of beef , ( 250 #'s on the spit at a time ; 12 hour charcoal roasted , liberal application of garlic , salt, & pepper every hour or so...., redskin potatoes, corn -on-the-cob, salads, vegetarian options,desserts, taco & enchilada appetizers ...ALL simultaneously , usually.( Early on in our culinary solidarity work , we were actually seriously criticized for cooking too well. Turns out the local labor/political fundraisers were pretty much locked into chicken or macaroni & cheese and they told us we were SPOILING people by turning out fancy meals for almost NO money..... true, we were fucking up their "good thing", so they said....we ignored the hacks...) This Saturday night ( Aug. 27th ) for the AMFA ( Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association )strikers we just went with the beef mostly, since we were under the gun....all dressed up for dinner with no place to go , so to speak. Because we are IBEW members and have a hall with a pretty good kitchen ( comfortably feed 500 ) we have " used " Local#58's facilities more than any other location over the years. .
Well , two days after the AMFA strike began, we reserved the hall & kitchen , as we normally would. On Thursday , August 25th, an Int'l rep. for the Machinists Union ( IAM ) called our hall to express " outrage " that anything was being contemplated to support the AMFA strikers...( the mechanics had come up with the balls & imagination a few years ago to ditch the machinist's union and create their own union by VOTE of the membership and the machinist's brass were nursing a grudge....) He was told that the hall had been rented by a community group with a good record(" Friends of Labor " - that's us ...) and a stellar labor rep to boot, and that it was a done deal. You can be fairly sure it was noted ,as well, that the "Local " itself ( the "administration" ) was NOT sponsoring the affair. So far , so good.
The NEXT day, Friday- Aug 26th, the IBEW Int'l called ( this is murky here , it could have been an e-mail ) and "ordered " the local to "lock the doors from Friday evening ( normal end of week closing time ) until Monday morning " to prevent any solidarity activity on behalf of AMFA .
Our flier had been out & circulating , you can find it on the AMFA website.... the event was scheduled for Saturday night ( last night , August 27th ) so you can imagine the havoc this caused. No details needed , just complete chaos with a generous helping of despair. A striking mechanic's spouse who was in charge of the program for the evening was openly weeping at midnight . We started cooking anyway, despite the banning "order", in the back of a downtown detroit gin-mill sporting a filthy ,grease infested kitchen ( 5 people@ two hours of scrubbing to reach the bare metal surface of the prep tables ) at 5:00 AM Saturday morning with no place to go as of noon and strikers , supporters, and media confusing us & themselves with "what the hell is going on? & where are we supposed to be ? "..... continuous phone calls & panic . Of course , we were counseled to "cancel" by some well meaning folks because ..." doing nothing is better than lowering your standards and doing a half-assed job "...so there was a good deal of confusion. Anyhow , we quickly determined to persevere even if we had to serve crackers & water . Just the idea that a couple of anonymous over-stuffed suits in D.C. w/ IBEW "tickets" pinned to their lapels thought they could "order " folks around by remote control gave us all the extra energy we needed......
If you made it this far , you deserve a helping of good news ! Saturday night ,after 30 hours of searching for alternate venues at the LAST minute, hunting up chairs& tables , cooking, swearing, shuttling food in and out of kitchens , scrubbing , arguing & probably a little silent praying we had TWO downtown Detroit nightspots ( within 10 blocks of each other) rocking with 500 people, .... The Airline mechanics were AMAZED at the IBEW brothers & sisters and were impressed that we pulled it off after the well-timed crippling blow delivered by the expense account boys in our nation's capitol....
Well, the Monday ( Aug. 29th ) New York Times covered the thing complete with a large photo . So did the "Detroit Free Press" in their Monday edition , buried in the Business section.... ( they FIRED their last "Labor" writer prior to the 1995 Detroit Newspaper strike..... Here's where we go further into the" twilight zone" , courtesy of Ed Hill's office.....
The Detroit Free Press article mistakenly reported that the fundraiser was "held at and sponsored by IBEW Local #58 in Detroit". They went on to say that the Airline Mechanics were starting to forge bonds of SOLIDARITY with other unions in Detroit. They got that part right ! Ed Hill's people apparently read the whole article and flew off the handle. They contacted Local #58 in Detroit Monday afternoon demanding to know why their "orders" were disobeyed . Apparently, they figured that not only had the dinner for striking workers THAT THEY TRIED TO SABOTAGE by "locking us out " of our own union hall been a wild success ...they now thought that local 58's officers must be lying to them as well ! The IBEW Int'l DEMANDED that the hall turn over the burglar alarm company's records for the period of time between Friday afternoon ( normal closing time ) and Monday morning to prove that our hall had not been secretly used for the purpose of aiding & defending the latest targets of corporate America's union -killing spree...... the Airline Mechanics ! Believe it or not, ... a month before , The " IBEW JOURNAL " , our own union's official magazine had featured a prominent editorial by Edward Hill entitled, : " DIVIDED WE FALL ". ( July /August 2005 issue -check your wastebaskets... )
Under Ed Hill's mug shot , the caption reads..." The labor movement is in danger of forgetting its foremost principle-solidarity."

I didn't forget , Ed. - John A. Joslin , D-797650 , j-wireman, organized brother , and supporter of unions from Tallahassee to Fairbanks because " an injury to one is an injury to all.."

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