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September 07, 1984 - Image 88

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-09-07

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Friday, September 7, 1984


Cra ig Terkow

A Labor Day conversation
about the condition and
future prospects of the
labor movement with
Joseph L. Rauh Jr., former
general counsel of the
UAW and founder of the

Joseph L. Rauh Jr.: A union man. who busts corruption.


Special to The Jewish News

It should come as no surprise to any-
one, as another Labor Day passes, that
the labor movement appedrs to have
lost much of its impetus, and that the
Jewish giants who helped start it in
this country — Samuel Gompers,
David Dubinsky, Sidney Hillman —
have not found their counterparts
among the current generation of labor
Labor's day — at least in the orga-
nized, blue collar sense — seems to
have passed. In fact, according•to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics of the De-
partment of Labor, the proportions of
union members among non-agricultu-
ral employees peaked in 1945 at 35.5
percent and has been declining ever
since. The 1980 figure, which was the
last one available, was 24.7 percent
and dropping.
The causes have been complex and
largely evolutionary. A steady shift
over the last 80 years from a goods-

producing to a service-based economy
has been central. Of course, foreign
competition and technological change
have contributed, and most experts
agree that unions have been less suc-
cessful, at organizing white collar
workers than they once were at sign-
ing up blue collar employees.
But these are the theories of econo-
mists, statisticians, detached obser-
vers. Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., at 73 one of
the last of the great liberals and legal
minds of the -labor movement, ap-
proaches the matter from another
point of view.
Rauh was there, not from the begin-
ning, but during the turbulent hey-
days of the United Automobile Work-
ers, United Mine Workers and Steel-
workers' unions. He has served as gen-
eral counsel for the UAW, has repre-
sented the International Association_
of Machinists, the United Shoe Work-
ers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive

Firemen and Enginemen, the Ameri-
can Federation of State, Country and
Municipal Employees, the Brother-
hood of Railway Clerks and the Inter-
national Woodworkers of America.
Rauh fought side by side with Jock .
Yablonski in 1969 to clean up the
United Mine Workers Union, and after
Yablonski was murdered, helped put
Tony Boyle behind bars. He represen-
ted Ed Sadlowski in his sliccessful bat-
tle to clean up the Steelworkers' Union
in the '70s. He helped found
Americans for Democratic Action
(ADA), successfully defended Arthur
Miller after the playwright was con-
victed of contempt of Congress,
represented Lillian Hellman before the
House UnAmerican Activities Com-
mittee, was one of the first and staun-
chest opponents of McCarthyism, and
was with Clarence Mitchell of the
NAACP one of the chief lobbyists for
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the
Voting Rights Act of 1965, 1970 and
1975, and the Fair Housing Act of
"We did win that fight after Jock
died and we did upset the election. We
had a new election and we beat Boyle.
And we sent Boyle to jail for murder.
So it was a great success.
"Unfortunately," said Rauh, "if you
have a success like that, everybody

thinks you can do anything.. You'd
have thought I could clean up the rest
of the labor movement. I did help
Sacllowski clean up the steel workers.
and I've done a lot of work for union
democracy. But the labor movement
does not tolerate people helping a
Yablonski or a Sadlowski. They are
very hostile to that sort of activity.
So Rauh knows whereof he speaks
when he says, "The labor movement
has run out of steam. It's not a ques-
tion of will it," he said last week in his
law office overlooking the intersection .
of Connecticut Avenue and K Street
in Washington. "It has. One of the-
things that has happened to cause it
is that there's been this terrible split
between labor and liberals on Vietnam
and subsequent foreign policy issues.
In its simplest terms, the labor move-
ment is the center of hawkishness in
America, and the liberal movement is
the center of dovishness.
"Second, and I don't want to weigh
the two and say which is more impor-
tant, is the corruption and underdemo-
cratic practices. in some unions that
have hurt the labor movement. Every-
body knows about the Teamsters, but
there are others.
"You see," said Ruah, "I've had a
kind of personal odyssey in this
thing." -
He looked around at the walls of his
office, where he had hung pictures of
his mentor, Supreme Court Justice
Felix Frankfurter, along with others of
Jock Yablonski, Walter, Victor and
Roy Reuther, Martin Luther King,
Robert Kennedy, Gene McCarthy,
Lyndon Johnson and Senator Philip
Hart, all signed with messages of high
The Johnson photograph. which
commemorates the signing of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
Rights Act of 1965, is inscribed with,
"To Joe Rau, a fighter, Lyndon B.
Johnson." Senator Hart signed his,
"To Joe Rau, the real conscience of the
Senate..." And a testimonial scroll
from the officers of the Civilian Relief
Supply Distribution of the Emergen-
cy Control Administration of the Com-
monwealth of the Philippines, hangs in
Rau's outer office, a souvenir of his
service on General MacArthur's staff
during World War II.
"In 1969," he said, "if you had in-
terviewed me this way, I would have
mentioned only the first problem: the
labor-liberal split. But in 1969, my life
changed considerably. A fellow nam-
ed Jock Yablonslki came to see me and
said, 'I'm going to clean up the United
Mine Workers.' Either then or a short

Continued on page 58

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