Postal Strike: Moving the Mails

Neither Nixon Nor Troops Should Stay These Men

“Solidarity,” that tired labor union catchword, took on real meaning for me on Monday afternoon, at the moment President Nixon announced that he was sending troops to New York. I stood with about 500 postal workers in front of the General Post Office across from Penn Station, listening on transistor radios to the President’s pious rhetoric. There was about half a minute’s hush while each worker seemed to ponder all that awesome power of the United States government and its mighty army — all seeming to focus on him alone, or on his family, or on a pension only a year or two away. But then there was a great roar of “no” to the president as 500 men felt the strength of sticking with the union.

Solidarity but not community, for these men are politically as diverse as the society at large. A small minority wearing American flag pins and “Support Our Boys” buttons tried to destroy newspapers and leaflets being distributed by members of the Workers League, Progressive Labor, and the International Socialists. “We don’t need help from reds,” they said. But most were tolerant of the leftists, and accepted and read the leaflets, some of which were notable for their irrelevance. At least one postman, however, came to the conclusion that “to the people who run this country we are the same as the Vietnamese.”

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Everyone agreed that without the blacks and the young whites there would have been no strike, not because of the politics of these elements but because of their fearlessness. “They just aren’t going to take the shit we came to accept as normal,” an older worker explained. Militancy rather than radicalism was the keynote.

The postal workers judged that the troops were being sent to inspire fear rather than move the mails, and that the fear might do the job for the government, especially outside the city, where solidarity is weaker. Workers claimed that postal sorting schemes take weeks to learn and that any resumption of normal mailing by the public would result in colossal foul-ups by untrained soldier-scabs. Almost all the postmen are veterans. One humorously presented this as a typical scene: “Private Schmuck: ‘Sir, where does zip code 07548 go?’ Sergeant Putz: ‘Why the hell you asking me, I’m a non-commissioned officer.’ ”

Whether the postmen are correctly estimating the complexity of their jobs, a postal outsider cannot evaluate. With few weeks on the job and with the aid of supervisors, some of whom are unsympathetic to the ordinary clerks and carriers, the army might actually be able to deliver the mail — provided they are not physically interfered with by striking  postmen. Those I spoke with were overwhelmingly against the use of any kind of violence, but the arrogance of the Nixon administration has been so successful at angering the government’s most conservative and loyal workers that it just might provoke more desperate acts. Compare your mailman to a cop, a garbage man, or a cab driver. He is definitely the least surly of our public servants. Imagine the pent-up rage. One of the most repeated complaints I heard from strikers was about the “patronizing attitude” of the government toward them.

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If they don’t interfere with the troops, they can try something even more shattering to the American status quo — organizing a general strike. A friend of mine with experience in both Europe and America laid out the revolutionary dream scenario: postmen, wearing the hats from their uniforms and with their union pins prominent, go in car pools to workers at the Ford assembly plant in northern New Jersey, to factories all over the metropolitan area, to subway, rail, and truck depots, and to every worker who will listen and say: “This struggle is yours as well as ours. Troops used against us may be used against you. Put down your tools and join us on strike.”

The workers all go out and a shaken government accepts their demands (or faces overthrow). It doesn’t happen often in Europe, but it has happened enough times to produce consciousness of labor as a great slumbering giant not to be casually awakened.

But in America, this is very much a dream only, my friend admits. Power is expected to reside in politicians and corporations who belch “constitutionality” and “legality.” (Was the New York Times ever so bitter about the illegality of the war as about the illegality of this strike?)

One thing is certain: if there ever is a general strike, it will be called by workers, not by their leaders. James H. Rademacher, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, says he will ask George Meany to call a nation-wide strike if the government offers nothing by Friday. But Meany will be about as willing to do this as Rademacher was to lead his own men out. And there have been few statements of support from union leadership in the city or in the country. This strike is as much against the union leadership as against the government employer.

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Moe Biller, Manhattan and Bronx Postal Union president, who had fled through a kitchen at a meeting last Thursday, flashed the V sign to his men at the General Post Office. He looked frightened. If he is forced to pay $10,000 a day in fines or sent to jail, he will be the first victim on the altar of Nixon proposed postal re-organization (to which the President has tied postal pay raises).

All of us who use the mails will to a lesser extent follow. Nixon wants to create a “public authority” to run the Post Office. As with all public authorities — like our own Port Authority and and Transit Authority — this is a way of diminishing public accountability in the name of fiscal solvency. We can look forward to a postal authority run for the benefit of big mailers like Time Inc., Readers Digest, Sears Roebuck, and Chase Manhattan. They already receive preferential rates subsidized by our taxes and our six-cent stamps. With a self-sustaining authority, we would be subsidizing them with 10-cent stamps.

What’s wrong with the post office is its bureaucracy, low pay, and inequitable rates, not its status as a government agency. The private telephone company isn’t managing service so well. It keeps its profits up, however, by charging twice as much for service as anywhere else on earth. In most countries, telephone profits go into the postal service.

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Nixon’s Postal Authority is supposed to put postal service on a pay-as-you-go basis, like the New York subways. I might see this principle as more reasonable if it were applied across the board to all government services. We could have a pay-as-you-go army, air force, CIA, and FBI. When these agencies failed to show profits, services would be cut back. Forces in Laos or Thailand, for example, could be brought home for being in the red by the same procedure the Transit Authority used in closing the profitless Myrtle Avenue line in Brooklyn last autumn. And the bill for Vietnam could be footed by those who like the war.

I would choose to sustain my brave and friendly mailman. ■

CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

A Radical Departure: On Not Interviewing the Patriot Party

On My Mind

I left the whipped cream tortes and gemutlich music of the 86th Street burghers behind and moved through a tenement neighborhood of liquor stores and funeral parlors, Yorkville poverty’s only escape. My destination was the office of the Patriot Party. Not some group or strutting storm troopers, but white radicals out to organize the working class.

When I finally found the storefront on Second Avenue, I didn’t really want to go in. Despite my usually over-active curiosity, I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for the interview. Only boredom prevailed. The feeling I would have heard it all before. Not just a replay of the Panthers and the Young Lords, but a rerun of the ’30s.

Not that I was putting their dreams down or even the small amount of good the breakfast program and the medical program and the housing fight might do. It was just that I couldn’t face any more machine-made revolutionaries who would talk to me about The People instead of people and re-confirm the movement’s loss of soul.

So feeling very alienated from the alienated, I kept circling past shops full of second-hand furniture and second-hand clothes and second-hand lives. Circling as I had since returning to this country after a long hiatus, unable to find a home anywhere in the movement.

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I was still as disgusted with the country, still as concerned about changing it, but there was one difference. Before leaving the country, I had little doubt that movement people were the best of the generation. Now, I was no longer so sure of that.

My encounters with radicals since I returned had been strained, if not disastrous, and I was no longer on their wave length. The meetings I attended for assorted causes were totally unfamiliar — no longer run in the open, tolerant style that was reflected in the slogan, “One man, one soul,” and that made room for all politics and points of view. Instead they seemed dedicated to making everyone conform to the current version of the truth.

It was at one of those meetings, after dissenters tired of the put-downs and contemptuously walked out, that I first became aware of my own estrangement. Most of the other radicals in the room considered the walk-out a great success because now they could run things their way, while I thought it was a complete failure, a violation of the humanistic and unmanipulative style of politics I and the movement once valued, and a long way from the germinal ideas of the Port Huron statement that said at whatever cost to the cause, one had to care for the dignity of each individual, and not let vague appeals to posterity justify the mutilation of the present.

From that meeting on, I was an outsider. How could I re-join a movement that had opposed the depersonalization of human beings and now called all cops pigs? How could I re-join a movement that had been people-centered and now broke up not only organizations but long-standing friendships over ideology?

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The ultimate in the loss of personalistic politics, of all that made the new left new, was when one faction of Columbia SDS beat up another faction of SDS for passing out leaflets. It inspired a New York Times reporter, in a rare moment of levity, to write the story in Stalinist jargon, full of long unused phrases like leftist sectarian deviationism. The fact that neither the city desk nor the movement saw anything satiric in the story is a measure of how much things have changed.

The movement seems to be sliding backward to the kind of ideological politics that made it possible, during the Spanish Civil War, for Harry Pollitt, the leader of the British Communist Party, to tell poet Stephen Spender to go get himself killed in Spain because the party needed more martyred artists to bolster its image. The new left, like the old, is beginning to subordinate the individual, his needs, his feelings, his beliefs, to the cause.

And that isn’t my kind of movement. As the French students so incisively said in one of their 68 mottos: “Une revolution que demande que l’on se sacrifice pour elle est une revolution a la papa” (“a revolution that expects one to sacrifice one’s self for it is Daddy’s kind of revolution”). More than just Daddy’s revolution, it is the reverse image of the society it is supposed to change. Instead of material goods, abstractions like the movement or the doctrine become more important than human well-being, deadening our sensitivity to one another, isolating us, and opening the way for the self-righteous use of others as objets.

My own estrangement and immediate lack of enthusiasm for the Patriot Party was caused not only by the elevation of ideology, but by the limiting of vision. The creativity, the flexibility, the willingness to dream of worlds not yet seen, has been squeezed into dry socialism. Utopia reduced to an economic formula. There was the phone call I made to a friend who had been part of the Mississippi Summer and who was now devoting herself, with the all-excluding obsessiveness of any business executive, to the study of Chinese. I wanted to discuss The Politics of Cultural Despair, a book that fit my present mood. Although it dealt with 19th century Germany, the German people’s reaction to the Industrial Revolution that disrupted their society was like our own loss of certainty, of values, of faith in our institutions. Their rebellion against modernity and the sterility of urban life included our longing for a simpler past, communal bonds, a hero to save us, and even the flourishing of fresh air hiking clubs to get the young out of the cities as often as possible.

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Yet every time I tried to talk about the psychic dimension, to connect the malaise and feelings of cultural despair to the rise of Hitler, she kept stuffing me back in the economic bag, kept talking about the conditions of the workers and inflation in the Weimar Republic. When I said the book had led me back to Nietzsche, it was as if I mentioned an author on the Index. I was immediately reprimanded for not reading Marx or one of the proper books everyone else was reading. It was as if all truth and all solutions to the ills of the nearly 21st century resided in one 19th century man and his disciples.

Yet this constricted thinking, the tendency to talk only in terms of overthrowing capitalistic systems and ruling classes, can lead only to a one-dimensional revolution. It would mean only redesigning the turrets and towers on the technocratic citadel. For socialist as well as capitalist countries are motored by a technocratic machine that needs constant and instantaneous coordination from the center. In the name of progress, efficiency, and necessity, government officials and experts in the East as well as in the West manipulate lives, while we, like Kafka’s bewildered K, remain powerless dependents on inaccessible and inscrutable castles where they conjure with our fate.

Even sacrosanct Cuba, despite all its homage to the creation of a new man, has made its main thrust the accomplishment of agricultural and technical feats. For the sake of progress, as well as self-preservation, the Cuban revolutionaries have sacrificed the rights of individuals.

Not that the political forms are important. The American experience has taught us that a free press does not guarantee truth, that laws do not guarantee justice or elections representation. Yet Cuba and the new left’s cavalier dismissal of these forms seems based on the assumption that the state and its survival are more important than the individual. In that reversal lies the danger of the creation of another Superstate, the danger of the destruction of Cuba’s possibilities once the genuine concern and charisma of Fidel are gone.

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For me, the movement’s easy adoption of the socialist economic and political system as its panacea is a cop-out, a failure to do the tougher job of coming up with ideas for a new society which, unlike either the capitalists or the collectivists, will do more than make the unlimited satisfaction of material wants its god, which will put the individual at the center and make all economic and political activities subordinate to his human growth, and which will make no man the means to either the state’s or another man’s end.

A couple of fringe efforts seek to go beyond this one-dimensional revolution. The women’s liberation movement recognizes that it cannot depend on the revolution to change the relationship between men and women. They are trying to do something about it now. Yet the narrowness of their concern makes it impossible for me to become all-involved in that one issue, the way so many other homeless activists have become.

I also admire the hippie-yippie effort to evolve a new style of community to rediscover joy and redefine living, but the egocentricity of just doing your own thing keeps me from donning love beads.

I even believe the new politics has some merit in its search for ways of letting people more directly affect the choice of candidates. Yet when I consider the possible candidates the former “clean for Gene” kids might come up with for ’72, I can’t share their faith or illusions. Nor in ’68, our hour of need, could I convince myself that a moderate liberal like McCarthy or Kennedy would be the savior. The compromises, the petty power plays, the think-small mentality needed to become a politician in this country makes the liberal left think only in terms of extending the welfare state rather than redistributing the real power that sets our priorities, makes even the best-intentioned candidate unable to do more than bandage the country’s wounds.

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And so I remain an alien among the alienated. Unable to find an honest home among the new politics because listening to the New Democratic Coalition argue the marginal differences between a Nickerson and a Goldberg is like listening to competing cigarette commercials trying to sell their nearly identical anti-life products. Unable to comfortably fence-sit with the radicals who dropped out of the political system either before or after Chicago because I’m not self-indulgent enough to deny an extra 50 cents on a welfare check to someone who may need it while waiting for the revolution that may never come. Unable to be just a women’s liberationist or hippie, a Panther or Patriot.

Still, as I wandered orphan-like around Yorkville, I wasn’t unaware that it wasn’t just the movement that had changed, with guns and bombs becoming the escapist toys of radicals who have no other way of dealing with the political reality, it wasn’t just the country that had turned into a bad hallucination, with moon shots and map pins in Laos the romantic kicks for a Washington unable to deal with social disintegration. For a couple of months after returning from South America, I heard myself, the girl who used to be Pollyanna, who used to believe nothing was impossible, arguing with a professor who was saying pessimism was outdated — the young were going to save the world.

And it was loss of belief, near nihilism, that really kept me from going to see the Patriots, that reduced others alienated from the movement to talking to each other in assorted living rooms, made some even stop trying to search for answers and become the siren voices saying the hippies are right, nothing can be done, the only important thing is to enjoy your own life.

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Perhaps it was only the intensity of my despair that made it so rough, so constant. I had certainly been around activists for a long time. My memory went back to an afternoon when the civil rights movement was falling apart, just before Stokely gave birth to Black Power, the time when blacks and white radicals could still sit and talk about “the problem” which was our problem. The mood was not that different — the people in the room suffering from the same exhaustion of protest, the feeling that all the tactics had been used up, absorbed into the country’s tolerance system. Group fantasy became the afternoon’s relief. One black student jumped up and shouted he knew what we should do. With everyone’s attention riveted on him, he began to demonstrate how we would erect this giant computer on the comer of 126th Street and Lenox Avenue, feed all the problems about jobs and schools and housing and unions into it, push all the buttons, and then wait for the machine to tell us how to solve them. He reached for the imaginary computer card, then looking down, reading in a voice that still echoes out of time, he said, “The machine says there’s no answer… no answer… no answer.”

Yet blacks were able to discover their psychic salvation in the black power movement, to hold hope and pride together with a black beret, while white radicals went only to the fragmentation of SDS or the futility of the peace movement, knowing that demonstrating on Tuesday only meant Johnson would escalate the bombing on Wednesday, knowing that demonstrating tomorrow will only mean Nixon will defeat them with benign neglect the next day.

All this brought me to the Yorkville border of Lotus Land, but still refusing to cross over. Grasping at any rope that would lead me back over my nihilism and alienation, willing to believe the fault was all mine, that being gone so long I had lost my ability to listen between the lines of the hard-edged rhetoric, to hear what people weren’t saying, I decided I had to see the Patriots.

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The thought of the distance between us sent me on a preliminary bender — like some wild alcoholic, buying, buying, buying books I couldn’t afford, everything, anything that would reconnect me with the soul of the movement — and finally, stumbling out of the store, shopping bags full of truth, I returned to my apartment and piled paperbacks 20 deep on the coffee table.

For a while I just sat before them as if they had some totem power to illuminate the movement and bring me home. Then I began reading everything at once, hopping from chapter to chapter, and, following an old tradition, usually beginning at the back of the book. I found little cause for optimism, and, too often, a recognition of my own near resignation.

There were the doubts and weariness that made the hero of The Strawberry Statement say that we were the bridge generation, the product of all the past and the ones who had to keep the future human, and then wonder in the same paragraph whether struggling to keep people human was desirable. “I don’t know,” he continued to debate, “in Brave New World, the people were always happy. They were dehumanized and low, but the fact remains they were happy. It was repugnant to the observer, but they couldn’t step outside their system to see it. They were just happy. That seems all right.”

And reading it I remembered the perverse pleasure I had felt in the mindlessness of a filing job. The secret fantasy of being a content dumb blonde manicurist. The often repeated quotation of one of Lawrence’s heroines: “Why can’t I simply rest in him.”

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It was at that low point in my slide toward becoming one of the lotus eaters that the phone, my umbilical cord to the real world, began ringing. It was a call from the other half of friendship’s oddest couple that forced me to confront the toughest part of my own alienation from the alienated.

The conversation — with my favorite North Carolina cracker, honorary member of the Ku Klux Klan, and sharer of my concern for poor whites — began with his excited report about the postman’s strike, his announcement that, for the first time, he had rolled down his car windows, honked his horn, and given the V sign to demonstrators. It was his constituency on the move, the thing he had been waiting for, much more significant than some nutty kids who couldn’t even make a bomb without blowing themselves up, he said, winding up with a harangue against dynamiting radicals that would have done any Southern preacher proud.

My response to the harangue would have been much simpler a couple of years ago. Although always ambivalent in my feelings, arguing both sides of the violence question with equal conviction, it was easier to empathize with the strange kind of love that made the most sensitive and the most intelligent, the Malcolm Xs and the Le Roi Joneses, unable to passively accept the daily soul-worn destruction of their people. It was easier to justify rebellion, even violent rebellion, when it was a gut reaction to the irrationality, the incomprehens­ible injustice of the human spectacle, when it insisted the outrage be brought to an end in the name of life.

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It is quite another thing to justify murder for a rebellion which prefers an abstract concept of man to a man of flesh and blood, which forgets the spirit of humanity for the defense of ideology or the delusion of power, which puts resentment in the place of love, which vilifies all opponents, which measures convictions by the efficacy with which one can hit the nearest cop, which adores violence for its own sake, and which shrieks with exhilaration the ultimate cry of nihilism, “Viva, Viva la muerte.”

A movement that acts like the other side is the other side, and worth no one’s loyalty.

Muddling through the distinction for myself and my phone confessor, I began to feel the time had come for the alienated among the ashes to consecrate a new rebellion. A phoenix that would rise above the nihilism that is making us incapable of any action or only of desperate action. A phoenix that would return to its roots and use the intelligence, conviction, and passion of its followers to find a creative alternative to murder.

And if we still fail, if despite all our ideas and words and actions, we cannot turn this country around, if it becomes our curse to be faced with the choice between accepting an intolerable world and either directly or indirectly killing another human being, then let it be done not in triumph but in despair by a generation lost in its own loneliness, with weapons in its hands and agony in its heart, never for an instant deluding itself that murder is right, recognizing that the only virtue is in not deifying the power to inflict death, and in returning as rapidly as possible to the original impetus — the impetus of compassion, of community, of life.


Black Friday’s True Toll

Outside of some undisclosed Target location, a blonde woman in a perfectly coiffed ponytail does sit-ups, lifts weights with baskets full of goods, and literally screams in crazed excitement at a Black Friday flyer. No, this is not real life: It’s one of Target’s bizarrely humorous ads from holiday seasons past, starring comedian Maria Bamford. And while it’s an extreme exaggeration of the planning that holiday shoppers do in order to psyche themselves up to brave the Black Friday crush, some of it is based in truth.

To find the deals you actually want, you must sift through ads, decide which store to stake out, figure out when to arrive, determine how much to bundle up…and choose whether to bring coffee to stay awake or leave it behind because of the inevitable bathroom break it would require while standing in a line that’s snaking down the block. Now that we have Amazon and countless other speedy online delivery services, lining up for Black Friday deals in frigid temps seems quaint, almost old-fashioned. But stores haven’t given up on doorbusters for the old-school tribes of deal hunters, and it’s almost a given that once those doors unlock, there will be viral videos of streams of people risking life and limb trying to get their hands on this year’s hot shit.

But if shoppers have to go through all of this just to get a few hundred bucks knocked off a TV, what about the employees? Imagine watching a stampede of people seeing little more than dollar signs and merchandise rushing at you at breakneck speeds. It’s terrifying.

I’d know. As a retail veteran, I have spent hours upon hours during holiday seasons past catering to customers’ requests: Does this scarf match this jacket? Can you check for another one in the back? Would you get this necklace for your mother? Why doesn’t this coupon work? Are you sure there’s not another one of these in the back? Can you give me another discount? Can I just go in the back and look myself?

Last week, I stopped by Macy’s Herald Square location to pick up a pair of boots. The plan was to be in, out, and on my merry way before I got sucked into the anxious headspace I operated in during my holiday shifts at Macy’s years ago. The poor sales associate who helped me was already completely overwhelmed, and it was more than a week until Black Friday.

In 2016, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told CNBC that an eye-popping 16,000 people entered the flagship location when it opened for Black Friday…at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. Countless more shoppers will queue outside of thousands of other stores around the country on Thanksgiving, too.

Those were the days when I took a deep breath in the stale popcorn stench of the break room, because I knew I’d spend the rest of the day playing catch-up. Backbreaking days of waking before dawn, pulling double shifts, and running from one end of the store to the other were ended with Icy Hot patches and exhaustion before having to go back and do it all over again. A staggering amount of emotional labor went into remaining chipper after having dealt with a difficult customer and a frazzled manager while Alvin’s pip-squeak voice drilled through my ear canals for the thousandth time. Yes, this is what employees are getting paid for, but I’d argue that they’re not getting nearly enough.

For two years, I had Victoria’s Secret managers breathing down my neck, reminding me that my job depended on asking customers — not once, or twice, but three times — if they wanted to open an Angel card and get early access to Black Friday deals. And forget about trying to keep the actual merchandise in order that day: If someone breathed wrong on the panty bar, I spent an hour refolding each thong to perfection only to look back and see it’d been picked through again. It was a Sisyphean task that made me question my sanity every time I stepped into that pink-and-black wannabe boudoir.

And it’s not just the people behind the counter working hard to make your holiday shopping experience a winter wonderland. Those who make the holiday magic happen have pulled all-nighters to make sure everything is just so. On my way out of Macy’s last week, I saw a trio of window dressers bundled up in puffer coats and woolen scarves peeking at their handiwork in progress from the sidewalk. “It works! The perspective is great!” The relief in their voices was palpable.

Now that I’m no longer in retail, there’s once again a sense of wonder, hope, and magic that fills my heart during the holiday season. Just as when I was little, my eyes grow saucer-wide when I see department store holiday displays replete with elfin animatronics, tinsel-tipped trees, and flecks of faux snow glittering under fluorescents — and it’s thanks to those people behind the scenes.

While Black Friday has historically been a good thing for companies and store owners, it’s hell for their employees. Working during the holiday season sometimes means extra hours and overtime pay, but I’d wager that there are few people who truly relish the onslaught of demanding shoppers.

So while you’re making your Black Friday game plan this year, here’s a gentle plea from someone who survived retail hell: Be nice to the people helping you find that perfect pair of gloves, the people putting extra whip on your PSL, the people helping you get to where you need to be, and the people delivering your Cyber Monday haul. Even if you’re the humbuggin’ type or you don’t celebrate any of these holidays, remember that the golden rule goes a long way for everyone — especially those in the service industry.


Between Two Furmans: Indie According to Brothers Ezra and Jonah

Like so many younger siblings, Jonah Furman latched onto his big brother Ezra when Ezra received a gift that made him instantly cool: a brand-new acoustic guitar for his bar mitzvah.

“I was nine, and suddenly I had this guitar in the house I could fuck around with,” Jonah recalls over the phone. Ezra joins him. “Do you remember the time I was trying to tune the guitar, and one of the strings broke, and we both started crying?”

Fast-forward to Passover weekend, 2014, over a decade later but still at their childhood home in Evanston, Illinois. Jonah once again found himself verklempt over guitar strings, but this time it was more serious. The singer/bassist of the cult-status punk band Krill showed his siblings his bank account. The balance read $12. “This is when Krill was actually doing well,” clarifies Jonah. “That was my 2009 to 2010,” adds Ezra, by that time also a working musician. “I was living in Brooklyn and I knew the pizza place that sold four garlic knots for $1 and five garlic knots for $1.” They both laugh.

The Furman siblings, each two years apart in age, have long turned to one another for commiseration, because their parents can’t really relate to their artistic lives: Their father is a stock trader and their mother a technical writer. Noah, the eldest and now a visual artist, had a record collection — the White Stripes, Smog, the Grateful Dead — that informed his younger brothers’ tastes. “I remember sharing a room with [Noah] when I was eleven. We’d go to sleep listening to Nine Inch Nails and I was just lying in bed terrified the entire night,” Ezra says with a chuckle.

Ezra broke into music first. He was a dispassionate English major at Tufts University until Minty Fresh Records — whose roster has included Veruca Salt and Liz Phair — signed his pop-rock college band, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. Unlike the niche DIY network that would eventually support Jonah, Ezra’s career involved mainstream industry adults who were both a blessing and a curse, offering resources and propelling a false hope that the struggle would eventually amount to something.

Now, Ezra’s striking onstage persona with new band the Boyfriends channels a young boy trying on his mother’s clothes: black tights, bedazzled shades, smeared red lipstick. He identifies as gender fluid and draws parallels to avant-garde frontmen of the Seventies like Jonathan Richman and David Johansen. He jokingly describes his performances as “like Bruce Springsteen, but insane,” embracing his twin loves of classic rock and inventive arrangements. Playing to a packed Bowery Ballroom in February, the Boyfriends, blazed through a manic hour and a half, playing emotionally charged takes on Fifties doo-wop and classics like the Violent Femmes. Ezra growled about Boston (“Ordinary Life”) and breakfast foods (“Haunted Head”), later covering Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”

Jonah’s band could hardly be more different. Krill, which broke up last year, was all neurotic guitars and winding character narratives, told through postmodern prose and inside jokes. They were finally making it, too: Album sales picked up and Rolling Stone profiled them. To keep up with the growing attention, Jonah moved from Boston to Bushwick to be closer to his bandmates. The band broke up two weeks later. At a loss for what to do, Jonah enrolled as a graduate student at the City University of New York to study labor, something he gained an interest in when living on a near-negative budget as a musician.

“[At my day job] I’d sit in a windowless room, where no one cared if I was there, and got paid,” said Jonah. “Then I’d go out on tour where people go crazy and tell us how much the band means to them, and be paid nothing. So everyone cares about this thing you can’t get money for and you get money for the things no one cares about. It’s wild. And it was happening while Krill was getting all of this praise and —”

“Validation,” Ezra says pointedly.

“I went through a confusing time. I still am,” Jonah continues. “It’s like graduating college, but instead I’ve graduated my whole identity.”

Following the brief flash of his brother’s success with Krill, Ezra released a solo album, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union), which made him a breakout artist, too: The record was named one of the Guardian‘s top 25 albums of 2015, in the company of Kendrick Lamar and Grimes. Björk dropped in on his soundcheck before a London show. The success amuses him, if only because this time last year he was determined to quit.

“You can hear how badly I wanted it in the title of my first solo album, Day of the Dog — I really thought this was going to be it,” says Ezra. But unlike Perpetual Motion, Day of the Dog went unnoticed, and things got worse from there. Lou Reed, a hero of Ezra’s, passed away while Ezra was on tour, and he took the news as a bad omen. It proved true at a show in Boise, Idaho, far from Ezra’s home in Oakland, CA. “There were eight people there,” he remembers. “I was just like ‘I’m 27. This is not my life.’ I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but I was 100 percent done.”

Except he wasn’t. Within weeks of that decision, a five-star review from the Guardian for Day of the Dog gave him a change of heart. His label told him a BBC radio DJ was stoking a U.K. audience for him. His band nudged him to tour Europe. So he went, but the experience of coming so close to the end loosened his artistic approach. Quitting — even just in spirit — taught him to sacrifice less. “I don’t say yes to everything anymore,” he says. “And I observe Shabbat on tour, which I didn’t think was possible for any band.”

“I loved that moment in Boise,” says Jonah to his brother, “because you do not experience brutality like that in a lot of other work. [Other] people experience having no future and there’s bleakness to that for sure. But there’s nothing like coming out blazing for a show and nobody is there.”

But it wasn’t that kind of night at the Bowery Ballroom, where Ezra was surrounded by friends, relatives, soul-baring fans, and his two brothers. Outside the exit, Noah scooped Ezra up by the torso and kissed his scruffy brown hair. Jonah pulled him in for a hug. The makeup Ezra wore at the beginning of the show was long ago sweated off.

“I saw the full arc of my musical career with Krill,” said Jonah. Two weeks into graduate school, he was sporting a shorter haircut, buttoned-down shirt, and a pocket pen at his brother’s show. But he appeared more willful and content than he had at any point in the last four years. “It’s like a branching task,” Jonah said. “My band broke up and stopped; Ezra’s band broke up and kept going.”

Jonah Furman performs at Shea Stadium tonight.


Christine Quinn Picks Up SEIU 32BJ Endorsement After Paid Sick Leave Bill

At the end of March, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn flip-flopped. She had stood in opposition to a paid sick leave bill for years, arguing that the measure would cause economic harm to a city deep in the Great Recession. But the mayoral race’s influence trumped all: Pressing her Democratic base, she switched positions and eventually passed the bill with few exceptions for small businesses. In exchange, she handed the Service Employees International Unions Local 32BJ chapter a victory, resulting in their endorsement of her campaign yesterday.

“For us, the election is a process in which we look at the experience with the candidate. To us, the leadership she has demonstrated on prevailing wage, on stop-and-frisk, on a number of issues, this leadership we value,” union President Hector Figueroa said, alongside Quinn. “We do not necessarily need a mayor that will agree with everything we say.”

When asked about the paid sick leave bill factor, Figuroa assured reporters that the politically personal deal brokered between Quinn and the union to get the bill passed wasn’t the only reason why they endorsed her. “We were already considering Speaker Quinn prior to the passage of paid sick leave,” he stated.

The SEIU 32BJ support–one of the most sought-after in the race–is the largest labor endorsement of the Speaker thus far, handing her a significant amount of voters and electoral sway come September. And, as the union vote continues to self-segregate amongst the candidates, she’ll need it: Bill Thompson has already snagged the United Federation of Teachers vote, John Liu has District Council 37’s backing, and Bill de Blasio is the SEIU 1999’s candidate.

“Does this room feel split? I don’t feel any split!” Quinn remarked in a room packed with SEIU 32BJ union members. Figueroa followed suit: “I don’t think that labor is divided in this race.”

That leaves Anthony Weiner as the sole City Hall aspirer without a major labor endorsement; strange, given his newly plated position as the race’s Democratic frontrunner. So maybe the SEIU 32BJ didn’t feel “split” mid-endorsement, but it sure seems like the division is widening outside for the runner-ups.


Comptroller John Liu Picks Up Huge Labor Endorsement From DC37

In late 2009, after a tumultuous back-and-forth in contract negotiations, DC37 ended its support for Mayor Bloomberg–a leader whom they viewed as emotionally numb towards union layoffs and benefit cuts with the Great Recession settling in. For the 2010 mayoral election, DC37 switched from a mayor it once endorsed in 2006 to Democratic nominee Bill Thompson. New York City’s largest public union consists of over 121,000 members; with those numbers in mind, DC37 stands as a formidable force this November. And, last night, they chose their favorite in the post-Bloomberg detente: Comptroller John Liu.

The union has yet to release an official statement of endorsement, but it was discovered yesterday evening that the union’s assembly voted to endorse the comptroller. Executive Director Lillian Roberts made it clear in an earlier press release that the union sought to support a politician who truly cared about “neglected communities and the public workers that serve them.”

But why is the city’s largest public union endorsing a candidate who currently stands at 8 percent in polls?

As comptroller, Liu presents himself as the justice figure in city politics; his main job is to detect and eliminate corruption in all areas of government. It was his office that was responsible for uncovering the CityTime scandal in 2010–an event that sparked the fury of DC37 and other unions with the project’s huge ties to private contractors. To the municipal workers, he’s the defender and watchdog of the city’s finances.

Because the union doesn’t have time for Bloomberg, in effect, it has faltered in support for Christine Quinn, even after her victory two weeks ago on the paid sick leave bill. The endorsement of Liu is a huge loss for the council speaker and yet more evidence of the difficult position Bloomberg has placed her in with the Democratic base.

However, the labor force has failed to unite behind a single Democratic candidate, which may cost them at the polls. DC37 is the city’s largest public union, but numerous other unions have divided amongst roster lines, some throwing their support behind Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, while others sticking to a firm belief that Quinn is (and always will be) the frontrunner.

And, of course, who could forget the Weiner factor in all of this?


As New York Heats Up, ConEd Bosses and Workers Return to the Table

Maybe they can be friends after all.

Last week, as the heat wave began to swallow New York whole, we reported on the failed negotiations that left 8,500 ConEd workers unemployed. It was a labor-corporate disconnection, as the pension plan proposed by the top dogs at the electrical titan was met with fierce opposition by the Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America. Just as the temperatures started soaring, the people in charge of keeping our A/C’s running were left high and dry.

But today, with a weather report that is predicting nearly 100 degrees for New Yorkers to bare, the two parties are back at the bargaining table to settle the dispute. The talks began on Thursday, with federal mediators swooping in to save the day; negotiations continued into late last night and will resume this afternoon.
However, it seems as if the sides remain in disagreement, even as New York slowly bakes alive.

On Thursday, almost half of the 8,500 employees took to the streets on Irving Place, repeating chants of “If we go out, the lights go out!” This came a day after several neighborhoods in Brooklyn were forced to reduce voltage by 5 percent, with crews made up of ConEd managers – the replacement force that came about after the failed talks last week – rushing around to fix downed lines and restore the grid.

With the high temperatures continuing into the weekend, the electrical grid is sure to face even deeper problems as almost every New Yorker bumps the fan and Netflix. With this situation in mind, a nuclear option factor is added to the negotiations – in other words, if they don’t solve the problems, the City’s power sources will continue to burn. This scenario was repeated by the ConEd spokesman, Michael Clendendin, who said “our immediate priority is getting our employees back to work.” Except a deadline has its consequences, as the one downside of rushed negotiations is a drained resulting contract.
But who knows how long it will take for the two parties to come to an agreement. Especially with the harsh gestures coming from both sides: according to the union, ConEd cut the health insurance and pension plans of the locked out workers soon after negotiations failed last week. And counterpoint: according to the officials, the union’s strike on Thursday delayed what could have been a much more productive session that day.
The Voice will keep you updated on the negotiations as they continue throughout the weekend. Word of advice: keep the A/C on Energy Saver.

ConEd Negotiations End in the Dismissal of 8,500 Workers

Well, this completely backfired.

Over the past ten days, the Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America and ConEd officials have  been arguing over the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement that ended at midnight Saturday.
As the deadline slowly passed last night, the electrical titan that powers New York City and Westchester County decided to lock out 8,500 workers and replace them with 5,000 managers – a team of supervisors that the company hopes will be able to keep power running without the interference of losing 8,500 laborers with the snap of a finger. Imagine losing your job at 2 in the morning?
However, ConEd is not calling it a “lockout” because it simply told workers to not show up to work. Passive aggression as an union-busting tactic works too. But, by shutting off communications for the 8,500 workers and replacing them with supervisors, a strike planned for midnight was swiftly avoided, even as three hundred workers rallied Downtown at the same time, chanting “If we go out, the lights go out!”
The main focus of the contractual argument centered around the pension plan ConEd was offering, or was going to offer, its workers. The one right now uses a traditional model – pay in while you’re working, pay out when you’re retired – but the new one is based off a cash-balance system, which sets up hypothetical accounts to pay out workers and, according to the Times, “tends to yield lower benefits to older workers.”
Before the lockout, ConEd made one final offer to the Local 1-2, which basically was a plea for a labor strike notice. The corporates wanted the laborers to notify ConEd seven days in advance of a strike or work stoppage. The utility rejected this proposal and asked the bosses if they could return to the table for negotiations. But, unfortunately, it didn’t look like there was a seat for them anymore.

So now what? This company provides 3.2 million New Yorkers with A/C and they just shafted a large portion of their workforce. (This is a great time for firing, too. It’s not like there’s a heat wave or anything.) The laborers even offered to work without a contract, just to make sure we, as users, have the electricity to power our Wi-Fi, fan, laptops and whatever other plugged-in device we have. Can supervisors, who are used to cubicles and the 9-5 shift, complete the job of a manual laborer?

ConEd, it’s one thing if you couldn’t agree with your workers on a contract but, if this fallout affects me watching the EuroCup game this afternoon, all of New York will bring you back to the table.

Local Kosher-Food Manufacturer to Pay $577,000 in Back Wages

Flaum, the Brooklyn-based manufacturer of Kosher foods, will pay 20 former employees a settlement of $577,000 to resolve a federal lawsuit.

The case began in 2008 when 17 workers at Flaum were fired after protesting unpaid wages for their 80-hour work weeks. Many of the workers are Mexican immigrants who also reported racial discrimination from senior management within Flaum.

“Many rabbis and community members stood with the workers of Flaum and will continue to energetically support an ethical food system,” said Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek. “The Torah calls on us to fight for justice.”

Via City Room

From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES show-old-images THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

The Billion-Dollar Reason for Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance

The Billion-Dollar Reason for Hoffa’s Disappearance
September 8, 1975

Shortly after Jimmy Hoffa van­ished, a newspaper colleague for whose intelligence I have the utmost respect commented from across the lunch table, “I don’t know why I should care whether he’s dead or not. They’re all crooks anyway.”

What she was saying, in effect, was that the black headline across the front of the Daily News that morning (FBI SAYS HOFFA DREW $IM CASH) was just the News’s standard police trivia, appealing to the same readers for the same reasons as the front page headline the next day (GUNMAN, MOLL SLAIN BY COP).

But several important facts ele­vate the Hoffa case from that of the unfortunate but forgettable man and moll who were interrupted in mid bank robbery.

First, Mr. Hoffa’s pending return to Teamster politics threatened to obstruct the Mafia’s drain on the union’s multibillion-dollar financial holdings — or else, why would he have vanished? In all probability, either the hoods he was meeting for lunch the day he disappeared came to that conclusion and set him up, or Mr. Hoffa figured they were about to come to that conclusion and took it on the lam, or, if you like long shots, the Justice Department figured somebody was about to come to that conclusion and sequestered Mr. Hoffa.

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Twice in the year before Mr. Hoffa disappeared, the Justice Department was told by an emissary that Mr. Hoffa was willing to supply information that would “get” his rival, Teamster boss Frank Fitzsim­mons, according to a senior official of a large U.S. attorney’s office, who says the emissary approached him personally. The official, who had been involved in investigating the union and who says he thinks Mr. Hoffa is dead now, asks not to be identified. He will identify the emis­sary only as a “reputable, respected member of the media.” And he says the offer was turned down.

Second, merely the ability of the mob to remove from activity some­one as important as Jimmy Hoffa and get away with it would signify that in 1975, nearly 20 years after Robert Kennedy’s Senate hearings exposed Teamster corruption, the mob retains undiminished access to the union vault and still feels free to defy society and its laws with impunity.

Third, the $100 million deals that Teamster leaders transact with all sorts of suspicious characters are of a size beyond the imagination of most bank chairmen, let alone most bank robbers.

Moreover, the Teamster money is not merely being stolen by one set of crooks from another. Nor, ultimate­ly, is it even being stolen from union workers or their bosses. The majori­ty, though by no means all, of the 2.2 million Teamsters have in one way or another acquiesced in these she­nanigans, and could, with a real will, stop them. The same could be said of their employers.

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When you get right down to it, the money is being stolen from every one of us who ever buys anything, any part of which was ever shipped by truck or loaded in a warehouse. And to ignore what happened to Jimmy Hoffa would be to join the Teamsters and their employers in institution­alizing this thievery. (Actually, the pool of victims is expanding, as the Teamsters’ latest image-building ad campaign points out; victims now include drinkers of Gallo wine, patrons of certain telephone systems, and even the taxpayers of Michigan, some of whose state police just voted to join up.)

What separates Jimmy Hoffa from his rivals for power in the union is that Mr. Hoffa long has had the personal loyalty of hundreds of thou­sands of rank and file teamsters. Most of these Teamsters know very well that Mr. Hoffa has helped de­fraud their pension fund of enormous sums. They know he went to prison for it.

But they also know that what they have left over after he and his col­leagues have finished stealing is still more than they ever had before Jimmy Hoffa built their brotherhood into America’s most powerful union. They are grateful.

The employers of these men aren’t blind either. They have purchased union stability, labor peace, and even a share of the pension fund action, all at the price of simple in­tegrity.

The money for this industrial coziness is coming from us.

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Every week the employers of Teamster members pay a contribu­tion in lieu of salary into one of 200 union-connected pension funds. The biggest group of these workers, truckers covered by the master freight agreement, are supposed beneficiaries of contributions of $22 a week for each employee. The largest of the funds — the Central States, Southeast, and Southwest Areas pension fund, headquartered in Chicago — takes in about $400 million a year. Its reported assets exceed $1.3 billion.

This is the fund that Mr. Hoffa was a trustee of when he was interna­tional president of the Teamsters. It is the fund that he went to prison for defrauding, and the fund that his successor and rival, Frank Fitzsimmons, is a trustee of now.

Such funds aren’t required to disclose much about themselves to the public or to their members (even under the so-called Pension Reform Act of 1974), and the Central States fund has always gone to great lengths to keep its records secret. Information about how it handles its money has leaked out much more slowly than the money itself.

Several years ago, however, the fund was required to turn over a list of its investments to a federal court in connection with a lawsuit fired by a Teamster dissident. Although this investment list was sealed by the court at the union’s request and thus kept from public inspection, copies of it were obtained by Overdrive, a West Coast trucking magazine, and by the Wall Street Journal, both of which have recently published series of articles based in large part on its contents.

The records showed that some 89 per cent of the fund’s money was invested in real estate loans to businesses — against less than 5 per cent for the average similar fund; that many of these businesses seemed to have little other source of financing; and that a shocking 36.5 per cent of the money thus invested was in loans that already had gone delinquent or had been foreclosed, with indications that a lot more could wind up the same way.

Many loans have been made to companies owned by mobsters and their cronies; to companies at least partly owned by lawyers, consul­tants, or other insiders who help run the fund itself; and to companies employing Teamster workers. The union has on occasion refused to support its members in labor disputes with employers who have outstanding loans from the fund.

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Mr. Hoffa was deeply involved in the channeling of union money to crime figures beginning with his rise to power in the Chicago-based Cen­tral Conference of Teamsters 25 years ago. The head of a Detroit local, he needed a power source in Chicago and found one in Paul “Red” Dorfman. Mr. Dorfman was a leader of the Chicago Waste Handlers Union (until later expelled by the AFL-CIO for misuse of funds) and a close ally of racketeers since the Capone era.

When Mr. Hoffa took power in the Central Conference of Teamsters, he immediately switched its group insurance business, which exceeded $10 million a year even in those days, away from a large, reputable company and over to a small one, whose general agent, just appointed, was Red Dorfman’s son Allen. Allen Dorfman and his friends prospered accordingly.

Young Dorfman became Mr. Hoffa’s right arm in pension-fund matters when the fund was estab­lished in 1955. He not only held its insurance business and was assigned to monitor the insurance needs of borrowers, he also was the man to see if you wanted a loan, and he stayed on as such after Mr. Hoffa began his prison term.

Mr. Dorfman sometimes acquired land in development projects that the fund was financing, or stock in a company that borrowed millions of dollars from the fund. He has sold such stock at a high personal profit before the borrowing company re­paid much of its loan. He and other insiders have taken over a company in default to the fund, sold it at hundreds of thousands of dollars profit without repaying the fund, and arranged for the fund to transfer the unpaid mortgage debt to the new buyers.

Sometimes through arrangements made by Mr. Dorfman and sometimes not, the fund loaned millions of dollars to companies that were asso­ciated then or soon afterward with mobsters. Among the men involved in fund-financed projects who have been identified as prominent racketeers by government agencies and the press are Anthony “Tough Tony” Spilotro, Joseph “The Clown” Lombardo, Andrew Lococo, Michael “Big Mike” Polizzi, Louis “Lou the Tailor” Rosanova, and even the notorious, confessed torture-murderer Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio.

Millions of dollars from such loans weren’t repaid on time if at all.

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The fund also has created controversy with its bizarre concentrations of loans. Las Vegas, for, example, is largely built with Teamster money, hundreds of millions of dollars of it. Much of the original investment was channeled through Morris “Moe” Dalitz, identified in congressional testimony as a bootlegging and gambling figure from Cleveland from decades ago. Mr. Dalitz bowed out of the Nevada business, though he stayed a part of the fund’s $57 million investment in the lavish La Costa resort and land development near San Diego, which is patronized in large part by union insiders and their cronies.

Nevada gaming authorities have been requiring clean records for casino operators there, so lately the Teamster investments have been channeled through men like Morris Shenker, long Mr. Hoffa’s lawyer, and Allen R. Glick, who, barely 30, rose meteorically from being an employee of a San Diego real estate firm to authority over more than $100 million in pension-fund investments.

Mr. Shenker also was a central figure in the biggest fund loan of all, some $116 million–$140 million to the Penasquitos land development project, in Southern California. The loan was foreclosed with barely $5 million repaid. The pension fund now owns the 16,000 mostly undeveloped acres in the project, and as in so many other cases nobody has accounted publicly for the money.

With all this cash going out, one might wonder how the fund pays its pensions. The answer is, it often doesn’t.

The fund won’t disclose how many men apply for pensions and how many are turned down, but it’s not hard to sit at a phone and locate dozens of Teamsters and former Teamsters who say they have been gypped out of pensions they believe they are entitled to. Mostly, their cases involve loopholes that are written into the fund rules. Most Teamsters apparently aren’t aware of these loopholes until it’s too late.

After a four-to-six month wait for the fund to process their applications, pension seekers often are told that they must prove they have 20 years of industry credit. In an industry like trucking, made up of many small companies that go in and out of business fast, satisfactory records often are unavailable. The fund itself would be best able to keep them, but it says it doesn’t.

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For example, one Florida retiree wasn’t approved for a pension, apparently on the grounds that his work time in the 1950s with an Ohio firm, long out of business, wasn’t adequately verified. He submitted an employee identification card and a photograph of him driving a company truck, but his application was returned with only the cryptic explanation, “The attached papers are being returned to you.”

When he persisted, the fund wrote back many months later, “Kindly be advised that affidavits must be submitted from fellow workers, owners, or supervisors. These affidavits must include the type of work you did, the number of years you worked, and the number of hours worked per year. You may also submit your check stubs.” None of this documentation can be obtained now, the retiree says.

Other pension applicants are stunned to learn of the so-called break-in-service provision, under which, if a Teamster spends three years in other work, all prior pension credits are eliminated. Many truckers seek factory work during hard times in the hauling business, and then go back to trucking, now knowing that they are starting over on their 20-year pension service.

Many others spend a few years driving rigs that they are trying to buy under installment contracts such “owner-operators” still must maintain union membership, but the fund counts this time as a break in employee service. Often the installment contracts don’t work out and the driver goes back to salaried work, only to discover years later that he has lost his pension rights.

Moreover, many of the 200 pension plans don’t have reciprocal credit agreements with each other or with the big Central States fund. Truckers, in the course of their jobs, often must transfer from a local covered by one plan to a local cov­ered by another, and thus, without realizing it at the time, lose their pension rights.

Occasionally an individual Teamster has gone to court and won the right to his pension, but dissident groups have never been successful in overthrowing the way the fund is run. The union always goes first­-class on legal protection, and law­yers for dissident members, usually operating without fee or on contingency, run out of patience fast when faced by mountains of technical motions and other delaying tactics filed by the union’s high-powered law firms.

All of this, of course, works to the pleasure of the union leaders and the mob. When Mr. Hoffa, who did much to organize the system, went to jail, apprehension must have rippled through the Mafia beneficiaries of the union’s largess. But under Mr. Fitzsimmons, apparently nothing has gone awry.

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Most impressive, when Allen Dorfman was forced to resign as “special consultant” to the fund in 1972 because he was on his way to jail for taking a $55,000 bribe in the award of a loan (he served less than a year), affairs continued to flow smoothly. (Interestingly, Mr. Dorfman went out of sight last month about the same time Mr. Hoffa did. His family and office say he’s traveling in Europe and can’t be reached.)

Like Theodore Roosevelt retiring from the White House in 1908, Mr. Hoffa on his way to jail had picked as his successor a weak man, a flunky, who could be expected to yield power on request. But as with Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Hoffa decided later that he had chosen wrong, and felt constrained to launch what was in effect a third- (in this case, second-) party movement.

The mob may well have decided that a campaign between Messrs. Hoffa and Fitzsimmons could only cause trouble. Harmful charges might inevitable have leaked out even if both candidates tried to remain loyal to the system. But there was also the possibility that Mr. Hoffa would have stopped at nothing to regain power, and the possibility is based on more than mere speculation.

Friends of Mr. Hoffa have been arguing that the last thing in the world they would expect him to do would be to turn to the government with evidence about Teamster corruption. But the Justice Department official who told of being approached by an intermediary says otherwise.

The official says he declined to pursue the offer of information from Mr. Hoffa for two reasons. In general, he says, the Justice Department doesn’t want to be used as an in­strument to help individuals “get” their enemies. And in particular, the offers came when the department was near trial in a major criminal case over an alleged plot to defraud the Central States pension fund of $1.4 million. Among the seven defendants in the case were two trustees of the fund and Messrs. Dorfman, Spilotro, and Lombardo. Prosecu­tors feared that the offer from Mr. Hoffa, if accepted, might somehow, compromise the prosecution of that case, the winning of which was con­sidered crucial to forcing changes in the fund administration.

The case was tried this spring for 10 weeks. One of the government’s two star witnesses, a businessman who had helped the alleged plotters and then had agreed to cooperate with the prosecution, was shotgunned to death shortly before the trial. The judge ruled out any evidence about the shooting, or about the defendants’ backgrounds, and the jury never learned the checkered history of the pension fund.

The defendants were supported not only by some of the best legal counsel in the country, but also by Arthur Young & Co., the large accounting firm, which apparently was paid $150,000 in pension-fund money (channeled indirectly through the defense law firms) to prepare, belatedly, well-balanced books for the mobster-run company that defaulted on its $1.4 million loan.

All seven defendants were acquit­ted.