Audio Segments and Topics:
(0:00-9:35)... Brief introduction. There is background noise in the beginning of this segment and the sound quality is poor. Raised by his mother, Williams began working at a very early age to supplement the family income. He was exposed to trade unionism when he was very young, and by the time he was nineteen years old he realized that he would have to be a member of a union in order to work in certain trades. He discusses his jobs in the produce industry, which was largely controlled by the Japanese in Los Angeles. He joined the AFL when he was twenty-one years and was a member of Local 630. Although he was inexperienced in union affairs, he soon realized that the union treated ethnic minorities and Blacks unfairly. He was fired as a driver for a produce retailer because of his race. He describes the circumstances surrounding his termination and the steps he took to lodge a complaint with the union. Because the union did not cooperate, he threatened to inform the minority members of the local that racial discrimination is what let to his termination.
(9:35-18:28)... There is background noise in this segment. He believes jobs in Local 630 favored the Mexican Americans. The secretary of the local was a Chicano [sic] and there were more Chicano rank and file than Blacks. He was very dissatisfied with the treatment he received from the local following his termination and decided to address the next meeting of the local. The union felt threatened by his talking with other members and reinstated his position before he could speak at the meeting. A few weeks later, a group of men threatened his brother, indicating that if Williams or his brother spoke out against the union there would be repercussions. A short time later, Williams was laid off once again.
(18:28-26:31)... There are difficulties with the recording device within this segment, making it difficult to hear the interview. After leaving the produce industry, he went to work for Magnus Brass and Lead, where he shoveled sand out of a box car. The Black workers in this company were segregated in the lunch and locker rooms, while the White and Chicano workers used the same facilities. All of the Blacks at the company were employed in menial positions and there were no opportunities available to him to move into any semi-skilled positions. After learning about the CIO, he attempted to organize the workers at the company. He was successful in organizing a majority of the Black workers, but was terminated when he attempted to organize the White and Chicano workers.
(26:31-29:11)... When he left Magnus Brass and Lead, he volunteered as an organizer for the CIO and was then hired as the first Black organizer for the Los Angeles CIO Council. He explains that he became familiar with the CIO when he attempted to organize the workers at Magnus Brass in the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union.
(29:11-31:00)... As a union organizer, he worked diligently within as many industries as possible. His most difficult task was organizing the railway workers because he was competing with the AFL. During this period, he became acquainted with Reverend Clayton Russell, who was the head of the People's Independent Church of Christ in Los Angeles. end of tape
(0:00-7:45)... Tape begins abruptly with a continued discussion of his association with Clayton Russell. There is background noise in this segment. Williams describes Russell as a tenacious individual who was very active in the Black community with the Negro Victory Committee. Williams joined the committee as a labor representative on behalf of the CIO. He believes that it was necessary to work within the community in order to successfully organize workers. The CIO representatives were not pleased with his involvement in community organizations, particularly after the Negro Victory Committee organized the protest at the USES against discriminatory hiring practices in defense industries.
(7:45-17:00)... Regarding his attitude towards A. Philip Randolph, Williams does not believe that the March on Washington Movement had a substantial impact on the labor movement in the Los Angeles area. At one time, he believed that any Black in an official position within the AFL was an "Uncle Tom." Much of the social action in Los Angeles was spearheaded by the Negro Victory Committee, e.g. the committee's protest concerning the location of educational training centers in the Los Angeles area. The majority of people in the Black community recognized the ideological inconsistency inherent in WWII, indicating that it was nonsensical to fight for democracy when discrimination existed within American society. In spite of the fact that minorities fought difficult struggles to eliminate discrimination, many viewed the United States as a land of opportunity with unlimited prospects. In contrast, he has a more bitter attitude towards the country because of the racial barriers that disadvantage many people. He digresses regarding Charlotta Bass and the California Eagle, a militant newspaper for the Black community.
(17:00-25:54)... In 1941, he left the CIO and began training as a welder. He joined the Boilermakers Union so that he could work at Cal Ship. The union had two separate locals: 92 for White workers and local A35, which was a Black auxiliary. After a short time, he became the chairman of the Shipyard Workers Committee and initiated a campaign for full and equal membership in Local 92. The struggle to end segregation often turned violent and he encountered a great deal of racist opposition to the committee's efforts.
(25:54-31:00)... The Shipyard Workers Committee organized, picketed Local A35, and refused to pay union dues until they received recognition and equal membership in the Boilermakers Union. Russell and many people involved with the Negro Victory Committee also participated in the fight against segregation. Williams recalls that they filed a petition with the FEPC, which ruled that the Boilermakers Union and the shipyards were discriminating against Black workers in hiring practices and membership policies. However, he explains that the Boilermakers Union refused to agree to the stipulations of the agreement and the case was taken to court. Their case was won based on a decision from a higher court dealing with the issue in San Francisco (James v Marin Ship). Recording ends - tape continues with no sound.
(0:00-1:40)... Tape begins abruptly with continued discussion on the court case involving the Jim Crow local and the Boilermakers Union. He recalls that the case against segregation was called Andrew Blakeny et al v Boilermakers Union. Although the Shipyard Workers Committee was not the plaintiff, it led the struggle and completed all of the organizational work. The court ruling required that the Boilermakers Union accept Blacks into union membership on an equal basis. Williams believes that this provided job security for many Blacks employed in the industry.
(1:40-5:36)... The Black auxiliary of the Boilermakers Union was completely separate from Local 92 and was managed and operated by Black officers. However, the auxiliary did not have any decision making powers. The auxiliary wanted equal rights with the White local so that jobs would be stable for Blacks following WWII. He refutes the claim that Blacks wanted full representation for social reasons, i.e. so that they could mix with Whites and pursue "their White women."
(5:36-7:02)... There is background noise in this segment. He discusses his relationship with Herbert Ward, who was involved in race discrimination issues in the IAM. Williams believes that the IAM had more "class" than the Boilermakers Union.
(7:02-18:36)... The audio quality in this segment is poor, with the sound fading in and out. Williams discusses the number of Blacks employed in the shipyards during the 1940s. Although he believes that there were Whites in the Boilermakers Union who supported desegregation, the auxiliary did not pursue any coalitions with other AFL locals. The main focal point of action was exploiting the issue on a national and local level and utilizing the legal system to enact change. In the latter part of 1943, he left Cal Ship and entered the longshore industry. He learned that Black longshoremen were viewed as temporary replacements and would not be guaranteed a position following WWII. He describes the structure of the industry and the discriminatory employment practices of the ILWU. He organized a group of workers and they agitated for permanent registration and full membership in the ILWU. Following WWII, the ILWU and the longshore industry terminated many Blacks on the basis of work shortages. The unemployed workers hired a lawyer and an agreement was reached for the ILWU to accept them into the union and provide them with jobs. (This is known as the "Unemployed 500" case).
(18:36-25:00)... Williams recalls that Bill Lawrence was the only White trade union leader who protested the ILWU's decision to expel the longshoremen from the union. Ben Margolis, who represented the ILWU, advised the union that it was morally wrong to discriminate against the longshoremen. Williams believes that an agreement was reached three years after they were de-registered from the ILWU. The "Unemployed 500" consisted of a large proportion of Blacks, and a few Anglos and Chicanos. He explains that some White men, such as Norwood Pelt, sacrificed their job security by remaining under the umbrella of the "Unemployed 500."
(25:00-30:57)... Williams discusses his feelings towards Harry Bridges, who he feels often paid lip service to Blacks, but was not really interested in eliminating racial discrimination in the ILWU. As a member of the ILWU, Williams agitated for access to skilled jobs and leadership positions, but found that on almost every issue, the local was unfavorable to Blacks. Because of the discrimination in promotions and positions, a meeting was held with Bridges. end of tape
(0:00-4:20)... The sound quality in this segment is poor, as the recording fades in and out, making it difficult to hear the interview. The tape begins abruptly with a continued discussion on Williams' meeting with Bridges. At the meeting with Bridges, during which many discriminatory policies were discussed, Bridges did not take a stand, concerned that it would compromise his position with Local 13. This disappointed Williams, as he expected more cooperation by Bridges in regards to racial discrimination within the ILWU. He explains that Bridges was losing popularity with Local 13 and supported most measures adopted by the local.
(4:20-6:45)... Most of his community action was through the Negro Victory Committee and fighting for better employment opportunities within the Black community. Reverend Clayton Russell worked extensively in the community in an attempt to guarantee employment for Blacks on a large scale. Williams confined his activity to the Negro Victory Committee and his protest action within the ILWU.
(6:45-12:02)... There is some background noise in this segment. Although the CIO was a less discriminatory organization, he eventually realized that there was prejudice among the rank and file. However, he believes that any association with the CIO broadened a person's perspective and fostered an atmosphere of unity among difference races and ethnicities. The CIO supported the Black community in many areas, such as better housing for minorities and public housing projects. The CIO provided him with opportunities and opened a lot of doors for Blacks that previously had been closed. He digresses regarding a brief discussion of his impression of Philip "Slim" Connelly.
(12:02-14:50)... He recalls that many women were members of the Boilermakers Union, working as welders in the shipyards, completing tasks very similar to their male counterparts. In contrast, the longshore industry employs very few women.
(14:50-24:02)... In general, he does not believe that the Taft-Hartley Act improved labor unions. He discusses the sponsorship program in the longshore industry, which was prohibited by the court when the "Unemployed 500" were re-registered in the ILWU. Many whites sponsored him throughout his employment in the longshore industry. When the sponsorship program was outlawed, the ILWU adopted the seniority system. He notes that many Blacks feared de-registration after WWII because when registration re-opened, it would favor the seniority system and disadvantage Blacks. End of tape