The War Goes On

Against the Current, No. 68, May/June 1997

Daymon Hartley

GOOD AFTERNOON, FELLOW locked-out workers and supporters.

Let me remind you: This is a war. And in this war we’ve suffered many casualties.

More than seventy strikers have suffered serious injuries, including brain damage.  Three strikers died prematurely-undoubtedly from the stress of our struggle: Sister Sue Wozniak, Brother Art Robbins, Brother Gerald Janish.

We’re tired.  We’re frustrated.  We’ve faced so many crises.  And the good ole American Dream has become a nightmare.  But we are a relentless group.  And we refuse to let the sacrifices our brothers and sisters have made be in vain.

We’re facing a new crisis today.  We’re struggling now with an unconditional offer to return to work: an offer that was made against the will and without the democratic input of most strikers.  Have no doubt, it was a surrender on the part of some of our International leaders.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t surrendered yet. I have, however, turned my energies to fighting on a new front.

Make no mistake, I’m not here to cheerlead or to put a happy face on our situation, because this is a crisis; and within this crisis we will face new opportunities and new dangers.  The trick for us is to recognize and seize the opportunities and to lessen the dangers.

Many of us knew twenty months ago that 2000 strikers and their families could never defeat two multi-billion dollar corporations and their many corporate allies at their own game.

They will “always” have more money to fight with. But we will “always” have more people.  The only way we can now or ever could win is by surrounding ourselves with the people and the power of the entire labor movement.

Finally, we’ve got a chance to do that. The labor leaders in Washington have answered our call for a national labor march.

Maybe it was their idea of a consolation prize.  But nevertheless, [on June 20-21] we will have the opportunity to bring thousands of unionists and other fair-minded people to Detroit, to do what we should have done-what some of us tried to do-right from the beginning of this strike.  I’ll leave the details of that strategy up to your imagination!

We now have the chance-and the AFL-CIO’s resources-to show these corporations and the entire corporate class that if they mess with one of us, they mess with all of us.

This march gives us the chance to mobilize the thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of supporters we know we have locally, nationally and even internationally.  Yes, we now have the potential to energize all of labor and make up for PATCO, Staley, Caterpillar and all the other brutal defeats we have suffered for far too long.

You know, some people don’t like it when you bring up those blemishes on the labor movement.  But I refuse to forget those defeats, and all the defeats and blows we’ve suffered during this strike, because I believe that famous philosopher who once said, “those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t care to relive too much of the past twenty months.

We’ve hurt these companies.  They have hurt us. And worst of all, we’ve hurt ourselves.  Indeed, we in Detroit and really all of labor is in a crisis.

But now is not the time to wallow.  It’s not the time to throw in the towel.  It’s time to mobilize.  It’s time to energize.

Action! Motown ’97.  Finally, our chance, the working person’s chance to take back the streets, the corporations and, let’s say it: “It’s time for the working person to take back this country.

In those famous words, if not now, when?  When will we get another opportunity like this?

And if not here, where will we take a stand against a corporate class that is determined to destroy this country’s working class?

No Contract, No Peace! Shut down Motown!

Daymon Hartley is a locked-out and fired “Detroit Free Press” photographer, and one of the organizers of the Unity- Victory Caucus early on in the strike.  He gave this talk at a rally of the Action Coalition of Strikers and Supporters (ACOSS), March 1, 1997.  The views presented here are his own.

ATC 68, May-June 1997