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March 31, 1981 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-03-31

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OPINION
Page 4 Tuesday, March 31, 1981 The Michigan Daily

A

visit to

a

parliamentary preschool

I'll bet you've never been to an MSA meeting.
In fact, you probably don't know much about
the Michigan Student Assembly. That's okay -
I don't either. But next week we will all be
asked to vote for representatives to our student
government,' so in the interest of public
awareness I went to an MSA meeting two

Witticisms
By Howard Witt

with green. Green alligatored sweaters greet
green alligatored sportcoats; green alligatored
shirts chat importantly with green alligatored.
socks. "Did you get my memo of the twelfth?"
brown penny loafers asks brown topsiders
both of whom are carrying plastic cups filled
with green beer.
Attendance is called, the minutes are approved,
and the meeting begins. And so does the note
passing. Each Assembly member has an of-
ficial MSA note pad used to scrawl urgent
notes that are neatly folded and addressed to
other MSA members and passed around the
large oval table.
THECHAIRWOMAN OF one committee
makes a motion to recognize a literary
magazine called Empyrea. The Assembly is
about to vote on the motion when another
member points out that Empyrea was
recognized last week.
A few notes flutter around the table as their
authors giggle.
The communications chairwoman announ-
ces a potluck dinner for MSA members Thur-
sday at 7.
A representative who was busy dashing off a
note asks, "What time was that again?"
"About 6," the chairwoman answers.

ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT Marc Breakstone
launches into a spirited attack on the eagerness
of representatives to sue one another in the
Central Student Judiciary, the student court.
He accuses former Representative David
Schaper (who has admitted fixing past MSA
elections) of offering to train disgruntled
Assembly members in the fine art of suing
Assembly officers and lambasts Represen-
tative Bernard Edelman for having initiated a
pettyCSJ suit. Edelman looks stricken and
moans that he is "hurt by Marc's unjust ac-
cusations and namecalling." Notes fly about
the room.
Representative David Trott makes a motion
to postpone consideration of a motion, com-
plaining that "the Assembly repeatedly votes
on things out of ignorance."
BREAKSTONE DECLARES that there is no
debate allowed on a motion to postpone and
calls for a vote. Representative Mark Bonine
challenges Breakstone, arguing that debate on
a motion to postpone is permitted. Bonine and
Breakstone frantically flip through their copies
of Roberts Rules of Order as debate about the
debate rages around them.
Trott leaps to his feet and tries to change his
motion to postpone into a motion to "lay on the

table," a parliamentary procedure that would
prevent debate. Bonine barks that Trott is out
of order and is not allowed to lay on the table.
Trott sits down to write a note.
Another representative asks about rules
governing debate on whether there can be a
debate on forestalling debate on a motion to
postpone. All note passing ceases abruptly as
the Assembly ponders this question.
BREAKSTONE SLAMS his gavel and calls
for a vote on the motion to postpone, which
fails.
Then it's time for public comments. A
spokeswoman for an Equal Rights Amendment
group addresses the Assembly, complaining of
a mixup in MSA-controlled office space. She
says her group is upset that it must share an of-
fice with the Michigan Republicans Club,
which opposes.the ERA. Somebody hands her a
note.
A spokesman for the Latin American Student
Association asks the Assembly for an endor-
sement of an upcoming "Stop Aid to El
Salvador" rally. Representative Bruce Brum-
berg asks about the slogans that are to be chan-
ted at the rally, and the Assembly commences
a debate about Soviet aid to leftist insurgents,
the possibility of genuine land reform, and U.S.

foreign policy.
BREAKSTONE ANNOUNCES that the
Assembly must make an appointment to th
governing board of the Michigan League.
Bonine counters that according to a recent CSJ
ruling, the Assembly's Permanent Inter-
viewing Committee must make that appoin-
tment. "I think Canale v. Breakstone would in-
dicate that," Bonine says as he crumples a
note.
Breakstone asks whether the next week's
meeting can be delayed by one hour to accom-
modate an MSA candidate's meeting. Bonine
asserts. that delay of a regular MSA meeting
would be a violation of the MSA Constitution. It
would have to be called a "Special Meeting,"
he says. Another representative asks whether
attendance would be required at a special
meeting. A woman blurts, "Oh, let's just delay
the meeting. Is anyone gonna sue us?"
Bonine smiles. Breakstone adjourns 'the
meeting. Someone grabs a wastebasket, over-
flowing with notes, to empty it.
Howard Witt is a Daily staff writer. His
column appears every Tuesday.

weeks ago, on St. Patrick's Day. Our selfless
legislators never take a holiday in their endless
quest for freedom, justice, and glowing
resumes.
The story you are about to read is true. Not
even the names have been changed to protect
the guilty.
* * *
IT'S 7:30 P.M. and the Assembly chambers
on the third floor of the Union are starting to fill

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Union rank and file activism

Vol. XC1, No. 146

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

The need for gun control
even further emphasized

A UNITED STATES president has
again been the victim of an
assassination attempt. As a result,
President Reagan has suffered a par-
tially collapsed lung, a Secret Service
man and police officer are in serious
condition, and Press Secretary James
Brady lingers near death with a bullet
wound in his brain.
Thankfully, the president has sur-
vived the assassin's attempt. It is
deplorable to consider that any in-
dividual is not safe from such an at-
tack.
Now more than ever, the need for
responsible gun control legislation is
evident. A president has been severely
wounded, an aide lies near death -
both as a result of a handgun.
Although some dispute remains over
exactly what kind of gun was used in
the attempt, officials have determined
that Reagan's wounds were caused by
a .22 caliber pistol'and that the alleged
assailant purchased a .22 caliber pistol
in a Texas pawn shop.
Ironically, President Reagan has
been a long-time opponent of federal
gun control legislation. Clearly the

need for this control is obvious when
people's lives - including the
president's - are so easily threatened.
It is indeed good news to hear that
the president's life was not ended
because of the assailant's foolish,
illogical deed. We can heave a sigh of
relief that the country has been spared
the tragedy of its president dying. But
in the same breath, we cannot forget
the negative effects of handguns and
the severe problems they pose.
Certainly, gun control legislation
will not put an end to all violent crime
in the country. But it might just save a
person such as President Reagan or
James Brady, from an untimely and
unnecessary death.

Letters

and columns

SAN DIEGO, CAL. - When
executive officials of the AFL-
CIO gathered in a Florida resort
hotel last month, much of their
talk focused on the hard times
expected under a stridently pro-
business Reagan administration.
Their answer to these troubles, as
announced by AFL-CIO president
Lane Kirkland, was that labor
should be more active in national
party politics.
If the convention had been held
in San Diego instead of Florida,
and if the executives had ven-
tured down to San Diego's
bustling shipyards, they might
have found an even greater
threat to their leadership than
that posed by an anti-union ad-
ministration.
WORKERS AT SAN DIEGO'S
giant Steel and .Shipbuilding
Company have, for the past year
and a half, been embroiled in a
struggle with management over
wages, safely conditions, and
other issues.
And the young and largely third
world workers at
NASSCO-along with a growing
number of workers in other
unions around the country-con-
sider their own national leader-
ship to be as much an enemy as
the company management. '
"The International is supposed
to be like a lawyer for us," says
Ironworker Manuel Escavara, in
halting English, "But when you
need them they kick you in the
butt. They're just there to take
our dues."
"KIRKLAND AND the other
leaders at the national level have
lost touch with the workers," ex-
plains Miguel Salas, the 28-year-
old leader of an activist group of
Ironworkers. "As soon as the
economy gets tight, they start
telling us how we've just got to
cooperate with management. In
the end, it's the rank and file that
suffers. And the rank and file is
developing anti-union tendencies,
because they're seeing that their
unions aren't doing anything for
them."
While diminishing success in
contract negotiations, coupled
with seemingly endless charges
of corruption leveled at major
union officials, has bred in-
creasing apathy among workers
across the nation, the greater
challenge to national union
leadership is coming from the
young activists like Salas who
believe strongly in the labor
movement but feel that its
leaders have betrayed the prin-
ciples of unionism.
"We're seeing a widening split
between the young and old union
leaders," says Amy Gladstein, a
New York labor lawyer. "And in-
creasingly, these conflicts are
ending up in the courts."
WEST COAST labor lawyer
Dan Siegel has also seen a surge
of conflicts between locals and
their national organizations,
which have substantially altered
the very structure of some
unions.

By Patrick Marshall

represent the opinions of
the individual author(s)
and do not necessarily
reflect the attitudes or
beliefs of the Daily.

trusteeships can only be imposed
where there has been corruption
or financial malpractice, where
collective bargaining agreemen-
ts have been violated, or where
the democratic procedures of the
union have been abused.
"IN PRACTICE," says Siegel,
"trusteeship is often imposed
tvhen the International feels that
a local is getting too active on its
own and is slipping out of con-
trol."
Department of Labor statistics
confirm Siegel's impression that
Internationals are increasingly
resorting to trusteeship. In 1969, a
total of 144 locals were, for one
reason or another, placed under
trusteeshtip by their national
organizations. Just after the
recession in 1973, the number
climbed to over 200. And by 1980,
more than 230 locals were being
placed under trusteeship each
year - an increase of 62 percent
in only 10 years.
"The imposition of trusteeship
is a drastic step," says Siegel,
"and when the International does
it simply to maintain control it
can generate a lot of hard
feelings."
Hard feelings were in clear
evidence when, last January,
NASSCO's two largest unions -
the Ironworkers and the
Machinists - were placed under
trusteeship. Salas, who had been
fired from his position as
Assistant Business Agent of
Ironworkers Local 627, ran for
the top position of the local in
elections last December. Salas
won the election only to see the
International impose trusteeship
and seize control the day before
he was to take office.
ACCORDING TO Victor Van
Bourg, attorney for the Inter-
national, trusteeship was im-
posed for several reasons.
"One major reason," says Van
Bourg, "is that the local conduc-
ted strikes without approval of
the International, which they
must have. Another reason is that
we had serious questions about
the election in December. Two
thousand out of 3,200 Ironworkers
in the local didn't vote."
According to Van Bourg, the
most pressing reason for
trusteeship was that the elections
did nothing to cure problems of
factionalism in the Ironworkers
local. "So many different groups
were running for leadership that
Salas was elected on only 300 of
the 1,200 votes cast," says Van
Bourg.
SALAS BELIEVES that the
real reason for the trusteeship
was that the International has had
a cooperative relationship for
years with NASSCO and waited
to make certain there would be no
strikes in September when con-
tracts come up for renegotiation.
"This is the only shipyard in
the nation with an Ironworkers
local," says Salas. "Even the

trusteeship," says Jerry Day,
Chief Steward of the Carpenters
union. "All the unions are sup-
posed to have a democratic
process. They're supposed to
belong to their members and
work for the worker. That isn't
what's going on here."
But while trusteeships are on
the rise, that's not the only tool
many national unions have been
using to keep rebellious locals in
line. Robert Fram, spokesman
for one of the largest and most
active dissident factions in any
union, Teamsters for a
Democratic Union, points out
that trusteeship can often back-
fire on the international
Since trusteeships can only be
maintained for 18 months, as
stipulated by federal law, a
strong activist organization can
just use that time to organize bet-
ter, he says. "The trusteeship
alienated a lot of the drivers.
When they lift it, there we are,
with more members than
before."
ACCORDING TO Fram, the
Teamsters leadership has found
other, more subtle ways to main-
tain control. "The rank and file
doesn't get to elect its own
national leaders," says Fram.
"Yet it's those leaders that have
control over contract

negotiations. Once they approve
a contract it takes two-thirds of
the membership to vote it down."
Thus, finding the necessar
votes to turn down a decision o
the executive board can be next
to impossible. (Teamsters
president Frank) Fitzsimmons
has rammed contracts down our
throats through this minority rule
several times," says Fram.
But although national labor
organizations increasingly resort
to trusteeships or more subtle
procedural rules to keep youfle
union activists in line, the signs
are clear that opposition to 's Lch
control is growing fast.
In addition;_ according to Fraiik
Holowach, who was elected -as
Vice President of Ironworkgers
627 under Salas, the cunrnt
recession may even be a hiiden
boon to activist elements in lab*r.
"Over the last 30 years the
unions have gotten flabby,"
Holowach said. "But now te
chickens are coming home t
roost-there's no more cushion
for them to fall back on. They
can't go into negotiations getting
better contracts year after year,
and they've lost touch with their
own workers. Now they're just an
empty shell, without substance,
and ready to crack."
Patrick Marshall .is an
associate editor for the Pacific
News Service.

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