C.D. "Charlie" Orrock Oral History Interview, 1995-07-24

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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CHRIS LUTZ: This is Chris Lutz, interviewing Charlie Orrock, in Atlanta, GA on July 24th, 1995. This is Charlie Orrock. Charlie, where and when were you born?

CHARLIE ORROCK: I was born in Virginia, um, in 1943.

LUTZ: Mmhmm, did you grow up in Virginia?

ORROCK: Grew up in Virginia.

LUTZ: Uh huh.

ORROCK: My father was a dairy farmer. He was exempted from the draft. He had real mixed feelings about it because he was always excited by hearing about the Marines in the South Pacific and always thought he should go. But he had one child already. And, um, I'm sure my mom was glad that he didn't have to go to 1:00the war. But anyway, he sat it out on the dairy farm.

LUTZ: And your mom was a farm wife?

ORROCK: Yeah. That was really the time when labor was real short that she worked a lot on the farm. I remember pictures of her, um, driving a team of horses or something. And, um, but she was also a school teacher. As soon as we were in school, she was back in school herself.

LUTZ: How long did you stay on the farm?

ORROCK: Until I got out of high school, a few weeks after my seventeenth birthday.

LUTZ: Where did you go then?

ORROCK: I, um, I went to Virginia Tech for a couple years of engineering school.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And then I went in the Army for three years, took an overseas discharge 2:00and worked in Vietnam for about six months to, um, make a lot of money and to get a little closer to the war. And, um, and then I spent the other six months traveling around Southeast Asia and the Middle East and this kind of thing. Having all my adventures while I was able to do it.

LUTZ: What kind of adventures did you have? Tell me an adventure.

ORROCK: Oh, god. I worked, um…I worked three months in India with Tibetan refugees. I was hooked up with this really eccentric English woman who was totally independent. And the conduit for government funds to the Tibetan refugees was through something called the Lowell Thomas Foundation. I didn't know any of this when I was in India. I'd gone there because I'd read some 3:00statement the Dalai Lama had made in the early or mid-sixties. I got out of the Army in the mid-sixties, about the Tibetans were being killed off by the Chinese that had occupied that after the Chinese revolution. I was very anti…anti-Communist. So I wanted to go there and assist. I was real pulled by the moral questions. And this English woman, Jill Buxton, who had sold her farm in England after her husband was killed in World War II and had sort of financed her way doing refugee work first with the displaced personnel with the DPs, of Europe, and then later on with Tibetan refugees in India. She was certainly a very conservative, pro-Western type person politically, but the 4:00really sneaky Petes who were involved in Tibetan refugee stuff, totally unofficially — it was never acknowledged that the United States government gave any money to Tibetans, but there was a lot of CIA organizing activity. I worked with a tribe of Tibetans called Khanpas who had not recognized the Dalai Lama as their spiritual and political leader.

LUTZ: Khanpas?

ORROCK: Yes. K-h-a-n-p-a-s. And, um, they were totally destitute, were getting no aid from the biggest aid giver, the Lowell Thomas Foundation, because they didn't kow-tow to the Dalai Lama. And, um, I…I had some innocent little encounters with Lowell Thomas— totally naive, didn't know anything about 5:00anything that was going on. And, um, but when I went to get my three-month visa extended so I could stay there longer, it was denied to me. And I remembered a threat that this guy at the Lowell Thomas Foundation had made to me. He said, "I know you. You work with Jill Buxton. And We're gonna get you…get rid of you." I figured it was due to some intervention basically after I found out the whole sordid story about the CIA links and all money channels into Nepal and India to Tibetan refugees. I figured, you know, they didn't appreciate some American kid who didn't know what was going on who happened to work with some certainly not anti-American British woman, but she was just not on their payroll, and so they didn't like her. And, but, gosh, that, um, um, that was 6:00just kinda….[inaudible]. Actually I had a huge political conversion on that whole trip. Because I didn't have to stay in Vietnam, like the GIs did — I could….I worked as a construction contractor…um, worked for a construction contractor there, building airfields. When I started…when I got the urge to leave, I left, and so I was more open to really analyzing my experiences there.

LUTZ: Well, what had…had you served in the war itself…


LUTZ: …when you were in the Army?


LUTZ: Oh, okay.

ORROCK: I had actually joined the Army to do it, but the Army never does things that way. They only send people there that didn’t want to go there,

LUTZ: [laughter]

ORROCK: And people that did, they sent to the other side of the world. And so I'd done everything possible. I had volunteered for the Airborne. I 7:00volunteered for Special Forces. And they sent me to a Special Forces unit in Germany, 110th Special Forces ground, one of John Foster Dulles' fantasies about fomenting revolutions in Eastern Europe. So I was on a Czech [inaudible – background noise] I was on several different A-Tea For a very brief time, I was on a Russian team. Then I was on a Czech team. Then I was on an East German team for my longest time. As a consequence I learned German. I was sent to language schools. And we did a lot of fun maneuvers playing guerrillas, and being chased by regular infantry troops, NATO maneuvers. But I never got to Vietnam. And so I went there on my own. And, um, after my discharge.

LUTZ: And had a political gestalt? Hmm?


LUTZ: How so?


ORROCK: Um…you…you're asking a lot of questions that could lead to some really long war stories. Um.

LUTZ: [laughter] Well, as short or as long as you like.

ORROCK: We were building airfields around Chu Lai, which was maybe 35, 40 miles south of DaNang. It was up in what we called I-Corps, I for number one…the Roman numeral one. And we had-- this was in the spring of '66-- and the Marines had had an amphibious landing--I think their only amphibious landing of the whole war—um, at Chu Lai. Because it was an area that was really controlled by the V.C. Chu Lai was where the 24th Infantry Division was three years later that was involved in the My Lai massacre. But the population around there was 9:00sympathetic to the V.C. And, you know, we didn't have an area. The GIs and Marines there and the civilian construction workers didn't have an area where we could go and…and,um, go to whorehouses and bars or anything like that because everything's pretty much off-limits. You just had your little…your little, um, perimeter there, although the rock quarry-- I worked in the rock quarry-- I was a blasting foreman in a rock quarry. ‘cause, I had a MOS from special forces. I'd never seen a rock quarry in my life. The demolitions that I'd been trained in was bridge destruction and…and, um, blowing up, um, power plants and all this kind of thing. It was real funny. I lied my head off getting the job. Got the job, but when I was assigned to the, um, to the quarry foreman --- I was 10:00hired as a blasting foreman, and the quarrying superintendent who was an old guy whose name was also Charlie. He said, "Well, what's your experience, kid.” I said, "Well, I'll tell you the truth, Charlie. It's the first rock quarry I've ever been in, in my life." He said, "Don't do nothing; just watch everything I do." So I watched him for three days. And, he was a…he had a pretty heavy drinking habit. And, um, the third night that I was there, about two or three in the morning, everybody else was asleep and Charlie was finishing up the last of his…of his bottle in the Quonset hut that we slept in. There was a V.C. sapper squad infiltrated into the perimeter, into our camp. And I don't know what they were going to do. I don't know if they were blow up some of the bulldozers or what. But they had carried sapper charges, that's why they're called a sapper squad. And, um, the Marine guard on the water tower was firing 11:00at them with his M60 machine gun. So all hell broke loose. This…this guy up in the water tower got shot in the leg, but he kept shooting. So there was a little fire fight going on. I was a little scared of these guys. These were old guys in their forties [Laughter], and I was 22. But they had - when they got over there, they did what we called in the Army, "profiling" – you know, having great pictures taken holding Thompson sub-machine guns, or, you know, all this exotic armament. A lot of these guys had bought hand grenades. And, um, you know, I just thought we were heading for disaster if we were ever attacked because hand grenades would kill a lot more of us if they didn't throw them very far. I mean, we didn't have a fortification line that you could hide and throw grenades over. Anyway, we all ran for the mortar pits which were these 12:00sandbagged structures that you'd get inside and it would…it’ll protect you from shrapnel. Charlie was so drunk. He staggered out of the Quonset hut out the perimeter gate, and down the road about 200 yards and passed out drunk. The MPs found him the next morning, and he was fired. They put me in charge of the quarry, which was real fortunate that I'd had the three days with him.

LUTZ: [Laughter]

ORROCK: And I, you know, I had a few unfortunate encounters. I put the wrong caps in the wrong position and blew up half the quarry, um, almost tore up some D-9 'dozers and other kinds of things. You're supposed to time your blasting caps so the explosion starts the furthest away from the face and then the last 13:00things to blow is the row of holes everything just kind of falls down I put them exactly the opposite, so the first caps that blew were the ones right at the face and they just and the next ones just followed it and those rocks just fell everywhere. I jumped under this D-9 'dozer. On one Sunday afternoon when I was — we were off on Sundays for a while, when would seven days--- I had walked over to the Marine base over to the beach and was just-- I walked along the beach-- there were tons and tons and tons of equipment unloaded from all these LSTs.

LUTZ: Okay.


ORROCK: And I got up on a sand dune, and I could see for miles down the beach. There was just these stacks of equipment. It just kind of stunned me, the enormous effort that this war was. I was walking back through the Marine base, going to the construction camp, and evidently I was walking through the yard of this Officers Club. ‘Cause I heard this voice call out, "Hey, kid! Who the hell are you? What are you doing?” There was this guy standing in the door of this building motioning me to come to him. So, and I was…my hair was not long by hippy standards, but it was a lot longer than a GI haircut. I was clearly a civilian. This guy didn’t know civilians were over there. He was a Marine major, and he was really plastered. And he asked me to come in and have a drink with him and I did. And, um, we were talking, you know, whatever talk you can do with a drunk. I said, “We got everything over here including the 15:00kitchen sink and we outnumber the Viet Cong three to one according to Rob…Robert McNamara's figures. And we've got air power and we've got tanks and we've got APCs and we got all kind of weaponry. How come we're not kicking their ass? Why are we not really winning this war?” And this guy said, um, “Kid, I'll tell you the whole story. [laughter] You never gonna win this war until you kill every man, woman and child in North Vietnam and lock up every man, woman and child in South Vietnam." And I said, "But we're here to give freedom and democracy. You don't…you don’t kill people or lock them up if you're---” He said, "That's just what the politicians say…to get people to 16:00support 'em." And I said, "Well, what are we here for?" He said, "Come 'ere, boy." He pulled me out and he pointed to the front door of the officer’s club. He pointed up to the American flag, the, um, Division….Third Division flag. He says, “That's what we're here for.” I didn't quite grab his logic or anything. He was drunk, so, you know. Few minutes later we parted company. That really challenged all my easy answers and made me start really questioning what we were doing. And, um, a number of other things happened, but few months later, you know, I decided that I wasn't contributing anything to anything that 17:00was important to me anymore, and I'd go home. So I broke my contract and went home.

LUTZ: What did you do when you got home?

ORROCK: I went back to school. Except I got out of engineering and I went into history, um, because I wanted to figure out what it was we were doing in Vietnam, and I couldn't find out there. It was real interesting, ‘cause I did find out the next year because I took a lot of Asian history courses. Chinese history--learned about the Opium War, um, and, where the British had declared war on China because China was burning…. when the British would import opium into China from India and they were getting rich off this opium trade--the Chinese would burn it up so it wouldn't get any more of their people addicted. And the British declared war on China because they were interfering with their 18:00free trade of opium importation. And, of course, the Chinese whipped their butts and some of the prizes of the victory was that they got unrestricted rights to import opium and two, they got Hong Kong.

LUTZ: The prizes from the British victory?

ORROCK: Right. I remember thinking, “Damn, we look just like the British, we look just like the French.” ‘cause I'd been reading about the French, sorry history of colonialism in Vietnam. “Maybe we're on the wrong side.” Anyway, that began a process of radicalization. Got me involved in the anti-war movement.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And which eventually got me involved in the labor movement.

LUTZ: Okay.

ORROCK: One of the things that was interesting to me was--- I was going to school in Blacksburg, Virginia, which is real near West Virginia, which is very near the coal fields. One of the statistics I read about the war was that per 19:00capita, West Virginia sent more kids off to the war than any other state. It had a lot to do with the economic opportunities in West Virginia which were less than any other state, except for the coal industry. You could become a coal miner. I was thinking, you know, the unions ought to be against this war because the saying that “its a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” certainly was true in West Virginia, if nowhere else. But by and large, the unions were supportive of the war. That gave me a bad taste in my mouth about the leadership of the labor movement. The other thing that was going on there was a huge grassroots rank and file revolt against the gangster that ran the 20:00United Mine Workers, Tony Boyle. Tony Boyle sent some gun thugs and had Jock Yablonski, his wife, and his daughter murdered in their beds in the winter of '69. And, um, I was…I was never really thrilled with the student anti-war movement because I felt, “Hey, man, you know, I come from rural Virginia off of a farm. And if the issues of the war don't make sense to folks like where I come from, then, you know, I don't want to be part of a movement that just enjoys freaking out straight people.” And so I figured that I'd like to see what was going on with this rank and file movement against Tony Boyle and the 21:00leadership of the U.M.W., and, um, to see if there could be any connection between this grass roots revolt and changing the…a…a union's policy towards the war. Because the war was not doing West Virginian working people any good at all. It was making a lot of construction contractors like the ones I'd worked for very, very rich, and a lot of defense industries. So I started making some contacts with people. I know some miners had come to Blacksburg and to Clinch Valley College in southwestern Virginia in the coal fields trying to look for some aid in producing some literature for the reform movement within the United Mine Workers. I got caught up with some people who were active in 22:00both the Black Lung Association, the Miners for Democracy, and something called Disabled Miners and Widows, who, Tony Boyle, who had been stealing money out of the health and welfare fund, had cut off disabled miners and widows of miners, to cut their health benefits off, which was incredibly outrageous to me. And I was just real interested in this movement. I helped it out in any way that I could. Got to be friends with Arnold Miller, who later became the president of the Mine Workers.

LUTZ: What was he like?

ORROCK: Arnold was a real country boy; he was just a really laid-back, very honest guy. He was not a real shrewd politician. You know, I mean, he didn't last long as the president. But I really think he was a pretty honest guy. He had a real strong moral sense of right and wrong. And, um, he…the real 23:00sharpies were in the northern West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania movement called Miners for Democracy, but they…they, um….they stood aside and let Arnold Miller be their presidential candidate. And he was able to beat Tony Boyle. And, it was a funny thing, there was a real relationship between Tony Boyle, and Hubert Humphrey, and the Democratic Party. And as a result, although a lot of evidence pointed to Tony Boyle's involvement in the murder of Jock Yablonski and his family, the FBI didn't start an investigation until the Miners for Democracy pulled out everybody on wildcat strike. There were a tremendous amount of wildcat strikes that went on in the coal fields. That was one of the ways that Disabled Miners and Widows fought. I was looking for a way to support 24:00myself and to be involved in the union, and was not successful in getting a job in the coal mines. I think maybe it had leaked out what my intentions were in terms of the movement…the reform movement. Anyway, I was not getting hired. So I went to work for a construction contractor that was building storage silos, um, for coal companies. And these guys were in a, um, construction division of the United Mine Workers. Anyway, I needed a job, so I went to work for them. And, um, there were two classes of people that worked on this job. One was a permanent core of people that went around from job site to job site, and the 25:00other half was hired locally. And I was hired locally, and then I was taken after the first job was over, I was taken into a permanent core. The first job was in-- probably Buckingham County. It was near Jewel Ridge and Richmond, Virginia, either Buckingham County or Wise County. That job lasted a couple of months. Then we moved down to Jasper, Tennessee, outside of Chattanooga. And I was taken onto the permanent core. They seemed to like the way I worked. And this really outrageous thing happened the day before we left, the last day on the job in Virginia. The shop steward — his name was John; I can't remember 26:00his last name — called us into a meeting with the project manager. And the big nation-wide coal strike was about to happen in the fall of '71. I think it broke out in September, and this was late August. And, um, he said, "We've worked out a special deal with the company where we can continue working during the strike." I didn't say anything. I listened to him. He said, "We're going to be outside of the normal range of influence of the Mine Workers union, you know, down here in south Tennessee, so we won't have to stop working during the strike. After the meeting broke up and this project manager went away, I told John to hang around. I just jumped all over him. I said, "Don't you ever have 27:00a meeting to discuss as crucial an issue as whether we’re going to scab during our own union strike or not, with the project manager around. This is something that we've got to decide together." He said, "No, no. This has been decided at the top, by the union. This has been cleared by the president of the union.” I said, "I don't give a damn who’s cleared it. The decision on whether to scab or not should be ours, and I don't like it worth a damn." Well, unfortunately, I was a minority of one. Everybody else was delighted by it. I was very discouraged and kind of disheartened. And I went to see Arnold Miller. I said “What do I do?” He said, "Well, you're not going to be doing much if you quit. Just stay with the job and at some point we're going to send some pickets…some roving pickets down to Jasper and shut you all down." Things got more interesting when we got down to Jasper. Some Japanese had bought some old 28:00mines, and we were re-opening. We were building these storage silos. It was the slip form construction where you pour concrete in these forms that inched upwards 6 to 12 inches an hour by these hydraulic jacks. You just keep pouring concrete in there, ten stories, about 100 feet. And it’s…it's, you know, anywhere from 40 to 80 feet wide in diameter.

LUTZ: Like a huge pillar?

ORROCK: It's like a huge cylinder.

LUTZ: Okay.

ORROCK: Like a huge beer can

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: 100 feet up made of concrete, about 4 inches thick. We got down there and the shop steward and project manager had other news to tell us. One was 29:00that since we were out--- another benefit to them of being outside UMW's range of influence, that the wages could be much lower. And the permanent party was going to continue at the union wage but we were all going to keep it a secret from the…from the local guys, how much we were getting paid. They were a dollar and half less than we were for doing the same work. And again, I just raised hell and didn't have any support. And, so, one of the local guys I took into my confidence and I said, "Look, here's the deal. We're probably going to get shut down by Arnold Miller and his crew at some point in this job. And also, you guys are getting screwed on how much you're getting paid. But let’s just keep this thing a secret and decide together when are we going to make this thing public, because we're dealing with a really bad situation. We got a union 30:00that's totally sold-out and everything else." Well…I couldn't keep it a secret. About a month after it started, there was a… --- I mean, people don't keep their paychecks very secret anyway. A lot of the permanent party guys said how much was withheld for this, that, and the other. So it got out how much they were making. And, so, it just blew up one day. And the project manager wasn't there. He had gotten drunk the night before and broken his leg in a car wreck. And so he was in a hip to ankle cast. And John, the shop steward, was just freaking out. And the guy that was running the crane up and down the ten stories was freaking out. We were in the final stages of the job, putting the cap on the top. And, so, he threatened me personally. He said, "You're trying 31:00to take food out my kid's mouth." And, so, he says, “I'll kill somebody for that." I made sure I rode up and down in that concrete bucket, going up and down the job, with his best buddy. [inaudible]

LUTZ: [Laughter]

ORROCK: At the end of the day, old Bob, the project manager, shows up. And he comes crutching his way out to the concrete bucket. And a couple guys lift him on it and he gets ridden up to the tenth floor. We help him out, and he makes this announcement, “There’s going to be a lay-off. All the perman….all the local guys get laid off.” Some of the guys whose jobs had been shut down up in the coal fields by the Mine Workers were coming down to work the job. "Damn, I'm in a terrible situation." Here I am, a minority of one in the 32:00permanent crew and all my supporters, who’re the local guys, are getting laid off. Um, and, I've been already threatened with death. And everybody is growling at me in the permanent crew. You know, I was making all these speeches to them. I said, "Look here, we don't have outhouses. You got to go shit in the woods. You don’t have, um, the boss don't keep ice water near enough. We run through it in two hours, and he only replaces it every five or six hours. The reason we don't have any Port-O-Johns or any decent supply of water is because he doesn't have to. You know, we're not organized as a union. We're a scab outfit. So this, you permanent guys think you're getting over, but you're not." That didn’t…that didn't cut any ice with anybody. The main thing, they were working while everybody else was out in the streets. So, um, that afternoon, 33:00when I left the job I drove all the way to Atlanta. And, um, I was starting to date Nan at that time anyway. I just decided not to go back to that job. I wasn't doing any good on that job, and I was putting myself at some risk. So, my first day in Atlanta, I went looking for a job. Got hired first place I looked, which was Atlantic Steel. That was in the very end of October, 1971, and um twenty…almost twenty four years ago. I brought a very bad attitude with me into the job. My whole relationship with the labor movement at that 34:00point had been, that "it's corrupt" and "the only way people get decent representation is that you build a movement similar to the one in the Mine Workers." And I knew there were some problems with my local. Um.

LUTZ: Your Steel Worker’s local or your Mine Worker’s local?

ORROCK: Steel Worker’s local. For one thing, all the union activists that I knew were white, and they all told racist jokes. And blacks and whites didn't sit on the same side of the room. Blacks sat on the left side of the room, and whites sat on the right hand side of the room. I didn't go to many union meetings. The ones I did, I…I sat with the black guys. And there was a lot of discontent among a lot of black guys with the leadership, because it was all white. There was one guy, Man Howell, who was a black guy, who was on the 35:00bargaining committee. People thought he was a token black. And I think to some degree he was. But at that time, I was a kid; I was rash; I was judgmental; I was smart-assed. And I had no idea what Man Howell's leadership was — if it was good or if it was bad. I just looked at him with a real jaundiced eye, and a lot of the young blacks did, too. Um, so I was involved in any kind of effort that was against the existing leadership.

LUTZ: Uh huh

ORROCK: Whether it was well-thought-out or not.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.


ORROCK: And, there was a caucus that was started there and myself and other radicals were there - there were---some of us were real radical, some of us called ourselves Communists - we were all called Communist by the leadership of the local. And basically, my history there the first ten years was one of opposition, marginalization. Um, there was a lot of things I could have done of good, positive value, that...had I not been so labeled and so isolated, and for my part, so narrow-minded. I didn't see, you know, I didn’t see that the 37:00situation with the Steel Workers was really very different than the Mine Workers. There was basically no corruption at the top of the Steel Workers in any degree like there was, say, Teamsters or the Mine…the Mine Workers. They may have been way too conservative for my taste, but they weren't stealing money. They weren't killing their opponents.

LUTZ: [inaudible]

ORROCK: They were a pretty democratic union, basically.

LUTZ: Do you regret your first ten years there? What would you have done differently?

ORROCK: I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I would have still been the same age. I would have still had the same experiences I had. No, I can't regret it. It's just the way things happened.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.


LUTZ: Is there anything you did that you were proud of?


LUTZ: Well, tell me about it.

ORROCK: I went to a union meeting, and I did two things there and passed them 38:00both. Normally, everybody voted against me. Anything I brought up. And I got both of them passed. Um, which…which…the leadership was just outraged. I remember Ira Richards, that I'm pretty friendly with now.

LUTZ: Ira Richards?

ORROCK: Ira Richards. He’s retired long since. He was the president for awhile and went to work for the international as an organizer. Before he became president, he was vice-president, and Harry Burger was the president. Harry Burger was always a real decent guy. I didn't appreciate it enough because I was such a jackass in a lot of ways. He was a real decent guy. And, um, he… there was - somebody was there, M.C. Weston or--- I think it was the assistant district director. I don't think it was the district director, who was 39:00retiring. He had come to visit because he was in our local. He had come to visit. So the local leadership was not real happy that I was there raising all my little agendas. I think that was in '74. There was a big wildcat strike movement among coal miners up in West Virginia and I was staying in touch with a lot of the stuff going on up there. Against increased fuel prices because coal miners had to ---Yeah, it was in '74, when all the gas prices went out of sight. Coal miners had to commute a long way to work. A hundred miles wasn't a real unheard-of distance to travel, for coal miners. And they were on strike against gas prices. I thought we should support them. Send them one hundred dollars or two hundred dollars. We should send money to the Red Cross or some charity. I 40:00thought we should send some money in solidarity, to them. And, um, they, um, and it passed. I was just amazed. The other thing was, the guy who was our guest there that night, who had come, who was retiring, asked if we would send him to the international convention on our credentials just as kind of a sentimental farewell kind of thing. I didn’t speak out against that. I spoke out against--- and, no no no, no, I didn’t speak out against that. I spoke out against he was asking us to endorse George Busbee, and send some money to George Busbee, that's what it was, couple hundred dollars or something like this. And, um, I spoke out against it. Lester Maddox--- George Busbee was running in the primary against Lester Maddox, and I think there were a lot of Maddox supporters at the union meeting that night for some reason. I just said, 41:00"Look, George Busbee has never voted against the right-to-work law since he's been in the legislature. I don’t think we should give any money to any politician that doesn't fight tooth and nail against the right-to-work law." The whole room broke into applause. I think some of these guys were Lester Maddox supporters.

LUTZ: [laughter] Well, yeah, you make a pact with the devil sometimes.

ORROCK: Well, yeah, I was blown over. I was blown over. And this was a huge embarrassment for the leadership because here this guy had come and given a sentimental appeal. And I said, "Let's give it to the coal miners, instead." And the room just broke out into applause. And old Ira Richards jumped up and wanted to fight and everything. I was just amazed. I was stupefied. I had no idea anything I ever proposed in that union local would ever be accepted. Then 42:00later on, how I started getting active in the local, was in '81, ten years after I'd been there. Red Knox was the president of the local. And the International — we were having Solidarity Day. The first Solidarity Day in Washington, D.C. was happening in '81 because, um, the labor movement was a little freaked out about Reagan had done to the air traffic controllers, firing them and everything. So we were having this big march in Washington. So, Red Knox came to me and said, "Charlie, I want you to try to get a bus or two filled up from this local to go to, um, to Washington, because the International really wants some participation." I said, "Why do you want me to do that, Red?" He says, 43:00"Well, I can't come out and support Solidarity Day in public." I said, "Well, if the International's for it, why can't you come out for it?" He says, "A lot of guys, especially the ones up in Cartersville, are really down on this thing, because it's, um, been endorsed by the NAACP."

LUTZ: [laughter]

ORROCK: I said, "Well, that's real interesting, Red." I said, "I'll do it, if you promise me that you won't bad mouth me behind my back when everybody else is bad-mouthing me for doing this." He said, "No, I'll stay neutral." I said, "Well, that's..that’s real big of you, Red.”

LUTZ: [laughter]

ORROCK: I'll accept the request. I'll do it." Well, we filled up two buses. I'm telling some history now that a lot of people don't want to hear, because it 44:00involved some folks who have since passed. But this is what happened. I filled up two buses. About a third of the guys were young white guys that I was friendly with. Somebody went around and talked every one of those white guys into getting out of the trip. They were leadership people. It wasn't Red Knox.

LUTZ: Uh huh.

ORROCK: And Charlie Parker, who's since deceased, was our International rep.

LUTZ: [inaudible] Charlie Parker.

ORROCK: Charlie scheduled training, shop steward training for the sub-district of Georgia, to happen that day. And, um, there was a big movement…there was a 45:00big movement against this thing, and Charlie was the International representative.

LUTZ: Huh, did you say anything to him?

ORROCK: Yeah, I asked him, I said, "What'd you do this for?" He said, "Ah, I just got my calendar screwed up." And that…that’s probably all he did because he was International rep and it would have been a feather in his cap to have got as many people as possible. And he was actually kind of glad that I did it, I think. But somebody was going around --- I was the only white guy from my local that went. And Ira Richards came. Now, he had been hired as an organizer by the International. And he came there to kind of lecture us on, "There's not gonna be any drinking on this bus," and all this kind of thing. And we thought he and this woman he had brought, who turned out to be his wife, were going on the trip. Andwe were all going down the rows of chairs, introducing ourselves, and she didn't say anything. Somebody said, "She didn't introduce herself." 46:00Ira said, "She's not going with you”--well, “‘you people’. That's my wife." And people…there was just a real atmosphere; people were really putting us down for going on this trip. It was real funny. We got on that bus, 47:00we pulled out of Atlanta, and we started driving north all night. And we got to Charlotte, and we stopped at a bus stop or a truck stop or something like that. There were lot of other buses there. A lot of buses had mostly black folks from churches, NAACP chapters throughout the South, they were all converging. But then in Charlotte we saw that the Clothing and Textile Workers — or I think it was just the Textile Workers Union at that time — was organizing a lot of white folks to go. Black guys on the bus were saying, "Oh, huh, this isn't going to be just a black march? This isn't going to be just a black demonstration?” ‘cause they had gotten a sense negativity towards them and towards this march, was that it was a black thing. Then when we got to DC, and 48:00we saw it was maybe 25, 30, 35 percent black, and it was overwhelmingly majority white, these guys got really upset. They said, “Where in the hell are the white guys from our local? Don't they believe in Solidarity Day or what? What the hell's going on?" And, um, you know, that… that’s just something…you know…I've always felt that one of the real weaknesses of the labor movement was that they didn't really appreciate that the struggle for basic African-American rights — like the civil rights movement, affirmative action, all that kind of stuff — was and could be the most important ally that the labor movement has. And some of them are coming around to seeing that. They 49:00notice that people like John Lewis and other black Congressmen have a hundred percent labor record. And they start making connections after awhile. But it’s…it's very difficult. And I can't decide if it's the white leadership being afraid of the white membership and not wanting to challenge them and stretch them and lead them, or if it's they’re…they're so bad themselves that they can't stretch themselves; they can't challenge themselves.

LUTZ: Mmhmm, what did you say to the white guys who had backed out, when you got back?

ORROCK: I really wanted to find out who had talked them out of it. It was the people in the bargaining committee, it was the Frank Yorks and all the people 50:00that had NAACP-baited the whole Solidarity Day. It was the leadership of the local.

LUTZ: Hmm…do you feel that it changed the minds of black workers towards uniting with whites any? In reverse?

ORROCK: Well, see, the local had always had a really bad record on equality issues.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: The local leadership and the white workers had really opposed a court order to desegregate the cafeteria. And the company solved the whole controversy by closing. We, you know, there was no cafeteria when I got there in ‘71. They had closed it in '68. And so there's always been a real degree of cynicism. On the other hand, a lot of blacks that --- I have heard a lot of blacks say 51:00the union represents the best opportunity for black folks that exists to get…to be able to have a job that pays well. I mean, we're relatively very high paid compared to any non-union job they could find. Um, and they appreciate that fact. But they have no illusions about the attitudes and the, um, the stands that are taken by a lot of white members and at one point, by the leadership. And the things have come to…you know, and of course, there was a lot of racial polarization in the early seventies. A lot of people were still stung by the civil rights movement. A lot of people were still big supporters of Lester Maddox.

LUTZ: Well, that was his old stomping ground at Atlantic Steel, wasn't it?


ORROCK: Yeah. He worked at Atlantic Steel.

LUTZ: As a worker or manager?

ORROCK: He was a turn foreman.

LUTZ: Okay.

ORROCK: A real low-level supervisor. I don't think it made a huge difference. I think a lot of people were kind of outraged when they got up there, and they realized that the union should have done something to get whites there, that this was something that whites should have seen, too. And this…in Atlanta, Georgia, in Cartersville, Georgia, it shouldn't have been something that was described as a NAACP/Communist thing. That, um, that the union should really try to get whites to go there and see what the labor movement from all over the country looked like.

LUTZ: Mmhmm. You've been a radical at Atlantic Steel for over 10 years now, I mean, what, almost 20 years or more?

ORROCK: 24th year.


LUTZ: --- at varying degrees of intensity of radicalism. Do you find that people's attitudes toward you have mellowed or hardened?

ORROCK: Oh, there's hardly --- I mean…maybe 7 or 8 years ago there was still a couple guys that would cross the street when they saw me coming, or spit on the sidewalk. You know, ‘cause they couldn't stand the taste of my presence in their mouth. There’s practically nobody that won't talk to me. There was lots of people that wouldn’t talk to me. I would say, “ Hi,” and they wouldn't say anything. Um.

LUTZ: Not anymore, though, huh?

ORROCK: No, I mean, I can win elections at the plant now. I'm in the bargaining committee. I'm the plant-wide grievance chair.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And I'm seen as being in the leadership. I think it's a sense that, well, if I don't start that kind of stuff again, they'll forgive me, as long as 54:00I’m doing something okay. But I’m still not very effective at mobilizing the people in solidarity stuff. Like, I’m working on this Firestone campaign. I can’t get a lot of people out on that.

LUTZ: Uh huh.

ORROCK: Lot of the other locals that represent lower paid guys, at Chattahoochee Brick Yard or something like this, they can mobilize twenty people, ten people. I'd be lucky to get four.

LUTZ: Uh huh.

ORROCK: But that just goes into the whole issue of --- in the Steel Workers union, where a huge, huge number of steel mills have closed, and many many other mills have down-sized dramatically including ours — you know, we haven't had any serious hiring in ten years. We hired… every once in awhile a maintenance person or a skilled tradesman, but we haven’t hired any production people in 55:00years. And we've been fortunate enough to still be running. But I don't think a lot of the membership know yet that there's not gonna be---. I mean, some of them are realizing with their own kids, that their kids don't have the opportunities that they did, um, that…and that we might not have it much longer. I mean, there's so many high-paid jobs that, um, are being eliminated through business decisions, or you can look at Eastern Airlines. The Machinists would not take Lorenzo's offer, and they decided to fight. I'm glad they fought. Things would be much worse if businesses thought that they could get their agenda achieved without any struggle. They moved slower than they did, if the Machinsts hadn’t struck [inaudible]. They are hurting, but they did us a 56:00big favor. We should have been duty-bound everything we could have to support that Eastern strike and every other strike. Firestone, the same thing, you know, when they went on strike, they were all permanently replaced. Same thing happened in Bayou Steel in Louisiana. In location after location – um, or, it doesn't have to happen with strikes. You know, they can close this plant down. The Auto Workers are seeing that happen all over the place.

LUTZ: Yeah.

ORROCK: In Alabama, they’re putting…there's going to be a joint venture between LTV, an American steel maker, and a Japanese bank, Sumimoto, to put in a 57:00brand new mini-mill in Decatur, Alabama, that is expected to produce 2.2 million tons of steel a year. Um, there's a plant…there’s a mill somewhat similar that produces half that amount now 1.1 million tons a year in Gadsden, Gulf State Steel, and it has eighteen hundred employees. So with 330 people they’re gonna produce twice the tonnage of what 1800 people do. That's our future. I think the labor movement's really got to decide how to deal with that. Um.

LUTZ: Um, I’ve heard some people in labor, and some not, say that one of the reasons for episodes like the Vietnam War was that labor and management were cooperating to establish markets for U.S. goods abroad, and one of the reasons that we're losing markets, and hence losing our industrial base, is that people 58:00opposed incursions like the Vietnam war. How do you respond to something like that?

ORROCK: That’s…actually, I haven't heard that too much. I mean, the Vietnam War was basically a huge blip on a graph of enormous defense spending. And it…and it cost this country's economy. One of the reasons that the Japanese, the West Germans, the [inaudible] were able to make huge gains on the U.S. industrially and economically is they didn't have anywhere near the expenditures for defense that this country's had. And the reason that we don’t…we're 59:00losing our market share in the world is not because we didn't win the Vietnam war. It's because we are having huge competition, and we've had for the last fifteen years in ways that we never had after World War II. We were unchallenged after World War II and were for a good number of years into the ‘70s.

LUTZ: Let me throw something else at you. Um, how do you respond to people who say that union people have gotten soft, they're not giving a good day's work for a good day's pay, and are getting twice the good day's pay anyway, and that's what's causing our economic crisis right now, shutting the plants down?

ORROCK: Well, you know, that's a lot of right-wing propaganda. I think, even…even the corporate magazines — Business Week — are saying ... 60:00actually we're doing very well economically now in certain regards, in terms of productivity. We have had the last 15 years of enormous down-sizing, de-industrialization, globalization, exporting jobs overseas. American companies are enormously profitable. They're enormously productive. You can look at Atlantic Steel. There were about 1400 people when I went there; they've got 600 now, and our tonnage is three times what it used to be. I mean profitability's steadily increased everywhere.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: Um, productivity has increased everywhere.


LUTZ: Do you attribute the productivity increase to technological change?

ORROCK: Sure, technological change - and in terms of the amount of work that's gotten out of people. I mean…I think people work a lot harder in a lot of ways. People work a lot longer hours. I…you know, one of my favorite sayings these days is, "Half of us are working ourselves to death." You know, my department used to have 12 people and it now it has four. Um, I get assigned overtime all the time until we get…until the company has a cash flow crunch, and then they cut out overtime until things just start breaking down so bad they got to restart scheduling overtime and work us to death again. Half of the people in this country are working themselves to death with two and three jobs or enormous forced overtime. The other half can't get a job…that amounts to 62:00any more than flipping hamburgers or cleaning, janitorial type jobs — you know, jobs with no future, no benefits, no pension, no anything. Labor has become a lot more productive, not just because of technology, but because of stress. Because people have had to work harder just to keep a job. Um, and the union…the labor movement has kept the worst extremes of that from happening in organized plants, in organized places of employment. And that's to their credit. I don't think this working ourselves to death is doing anybody a damn bit of good. And I…it's interesting to ------ a few other pro-business 63:00journals are now starting to question the fact that productivity is way up, profitability is way up, but wages are stagnant. That was the cover of Business Week a month ago. And they're concerned that it's going to hurt the buying power and thus the consumer ability of this country. We won't be much of a market anymore — which is a pretty far-sighted viewpoint. I mean, most — Fortune and Forbes and all those magazines are totally thrilled about the pauperization of the American working class and the fact that the stock market just seems to have no limit these days. And you can just make a whole lot of money because labor is really getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. And 64:00technology is just making all kinds of opportunities abound.

LUTZ: Now let’s take a break and distress ourselves, and maybe go get some…. Tell me what you're doing in the Firestone organizing drive.

ORROCK: Well, um, back in late May, I was called by my district director and asked if I would come out of the plant for a month or so and work to build support for a boycott of Firestone. And I went up to Pittsburgh for a couple of days orientation. And there was a…a move between the Rubber Workers and the Steel Workers to merge. Steel Workers had taken on the commitment to really support the Firestone workers, who had been permanently re…replaced, fired, 65:00after a few months on strike. That was 4,000 workers around the country in five plants, Firestone plants. Um, so, that, I came to find out, um, came about because in the mid-80's, Bridgestone had bought out Firestone. Bridgestone, which is Japanese-owned, is the biggest tire manufacturer in the world. And after their acquisition of Firestone, things for a few years continued pretty much as before. Um, in fact they won, in 1991, an award from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service-- gave them an award because of outstanding labor relations, of cooperation between management and labor. And then, um, 66:00shortly thereafter, guy…guy named Yochiro Kazaki took over Bridgestone. And my own personal belief is that with plants in 19 plants…and with 19 countries, Kazaki made a real obvious choice to try to bust the union in this country. Of all the industrialized countries, the United States really has the weakest labor laws, and it has a labor movement that's really in decline, and has been taking a lot of ass-kickings. Um, and he put a real unacceptable contract on…offer on the table: huge cuts in wages and benefits, cuts in health and safety standards, um, forcing people to go on 12 hour schedules. And the most 67:00insulting demand of all was to take all the holidays and put them into, um, floating days to be awarded by the company at their convenience. So if business is down in October you can take your Fourth of July holiday even if your kids are in schools, or whatever.

LUTZ: Merry Christmas in September, huh [laughter]

ORROCK: Right. So, um, the workers decided to strike. The International had said they were very, very concerned about their ability to win a strike, and, um, their fears were justified. Kazaki brought in Japanese and Brazilian skilled tire makers, and they scabbed them to death. And then he fired them. And the union has made an unconditional offer to return to work, and a few hundred of them have gotten their old jobs back. Most of them remain fired. Um, 68:00and the Steel Workers made an announcement that this is the biggest permanent replacement of striking workers since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and busted PATCO. And that the labor movement really had to do something about this. They took the lead to build support for a boycott of Firestone products and tires. And, that, and then they hired a hundred people or, taking lost time in my case, pulled them out of the plant. And, um, I've been working for a few weeks building support for the boycott by hand-billing and, um, Firestone outlets. Sears stores are a big seller of Firestone tires. And one of the things that we've done in this campaign is that we've made a move on the Japanese consulates and embassies to get the Japanese foreign service to deliver 69:00a letter to the Prime Minister to, um, asking him to intervene. This is a real tricky area. Real tricky. In Pittsburgh, I really noticed that the temptation to do Japan-bashing, to do flag-waving, was just more than they could, um, resist. And that, I didn't want to have anything to do with a campaign that promoted jingoism or did any Japan-bashing. And I wrote…I raised in the orientation session --- I said, "You know, in Atlanta, we've had experience with this. That, um, we have a printing plant that was bought by a Japanese bank - 70:00Foote and Davies, and they changed the name to American Signature - and they set out to bust the union and those people been out on strike for over two years now. Um, and, it's very difficult to keep this from becoming a anti-Japanese campaign. I've seen picket signs that have mushroom clouds on them. There has been proposals to burn the Japanese flag in a ceremony sort of similar to the Toyota bashing parties that the UAW used to promote." And I said, "I'm absolutely opposed to it." In fact, they had talked about sending a delegation to Japan to appeal to the Japanese trade unions for support. "All Bridgestone has to do is show the Japanese trade unions a New York Times picture of a picket sign with a mushroom cloud on it, burning a Japanese flag, and you ain't getting any support.” I said “What's happening here is globalization and a global attack on labor and the only way to globalize the labor movement is to practice 71:00real solid, cross-border solidarity. You can’t do it with this kind of campaign that really promotes an anti-Japanese labor drive." I said, "In fact, the target of our campaign should be the corporate agenda, the right wing agenda, the Contract on America that has made it possible for Kazaki to do union-busting in this country. Kazaki is nothing more than a Japanese Frank Lorenzo, and we should be opposed to all Frank Lorenzos, wherever they are and whatever working people they're attacking." Um, and I got some support. And I think it really….and another guy raised a real interesting point on Japan. He didn't come from a theoretical standpoint like I did, you know, or any kind of radical notion of international labor solidarity or anything like that. He said, "I'm from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And we had an experience of 72:00Indonesians coming buying a plant.” And one of the labor people raised a question with them: ‘Well, are you all going to maintain the seniority system because seniority is a real sacred cow here in this country’.” And he said, "I don't know if anybody took offense at that remark, but the news media went and said it almost caused an international incident, because they had said something about ‘sacred cow’. He said “you gotta be real careful In this campaign, we can't use the word ‘Jap’ for example, because they’ll really get on you for that." I said, "Hey! Preach some more!" I think we really turned the tide on that kind of thing. I said, "Another experience in Atlanta is that, you know, when we invaded Newt Gingrich's office, we had a sit-in there. We’d been having a real big fight-- broad section of unions against 73:00Contract on America.” I said “It would be very easy to integrate this into the overall Contract on America. ‘cause this is the living embodiment of the Contract on America, is to bust unions, fire striking workers. This kind of thing."

LUTZ: You keep calling it Contract on America?

ORROCK: Yeah, well. Hey.

LUTZ: [inaudible][laughter]

ORROCK: Everybody I know never says Contract with America. That's Gingrich's statement. Our view is it’s Contract on America.

LUTZ: That’s cute. [laughter]

ORROCK: Hey, I thought that was a given. But, anyway, um, so, and they said, "Oh, no, we don't want to dilute the campaign." And it’s just like they don’t want to give up any…they don't want to give up making this Japanese guy the main target, Bridgestone the main target, and make our own politicians, our own corporate agenda that’s really making the conditions for union-busting 74:00possible in this country.

LUTZ: Why don't they want to do that?

ORROCK: Because they're trying to win broad public support for a boycott of Firestone. And they know that unions are pretty much bashed in the popular culture in this country. And…and…unions are not a real popular cause; they're blamed for a lot of economic ills, like you mentioned earlier in the interview. And they thought they could get a whole lot more support if they could say, "Here's this Japanese company trying to take away American holida….patriotic holidays Fourth of July and Labor Day." And maybe they're right. But as far as I'm concerned, in terms of the long-term interests of the labor movement, it's deadly. Um, besides, the main problem is not, that it's a Japanese company doing this to us, but it is the state of the labor laws in this 75:00country, and it's the state of the labor movement, and it's the general powerlessness among working people that makes this possible. You know, Frank Lorenzo did the same damn thing, and he was as American as apple pie. Um, we have got to be against the Frank Lorenzos of the world. And we won't do it by an emphasis on flag waving and bashing foreigners when we've got to be doing it in concert with…with foreign trade unions.

LUTZ: Tell me about, um, this activity at Newt Gingrich's office. When did this happen and what was it about?

ORROCK: Um, this happened in the middle…middle of March?

LUTZ: 1995?

ORROCK: Yeah, this year. It was a great demonstration. You know, we've had so 76:00much more labor activism in this city since Stewart Acuff took over. That was practically a revolution. Um, because, it was the first contested election in my history in Atlanta that ever happened in the Atlanta Labor Council. And the old guard lost. There's just no other way to put it. Um, and something on the same scale is happening in the national AFL-CIO, but that's another story. And it’s not to your question. But getting back to Gingrich. You know, Stewart has done a lot of mobilizing and is very good at it. He organized the 17,000-strong march in downtown Atlanta around the Olympics work being done, union issue. And, um, so we organized for some months on this. Um, to….and 77:00we kept the goal of it very, very quiet. It was largely a secret. And he only contacted… he made a deal with one TV station. I think it was Channel 11. They’d have exclusive rights to the story, but they had to be in with us from the very beginning. And they came to the rally at the Electrical Workers hall. They rode up…they caravanned in the buses out to the office. We had told the police that we were going to park in this church parking lot, which was about half a block away. What he didn't tell anybody, except the marshals and the core leadership people, was that the buses were going to be stopped right in front of Gingrich's office. We were going to disembark, stop northbound and 78:00southbound traffic on that four-lane parkway, race across there, and occupy the building before they had presence of mind to lock the doors. And that's what we did. I remember, um, Bill Cousins called me, he’s always one of the marshals. He says, "Charlie," he says, "you're going to be stopping traffic on the southbound side, and some other people are going to be stopping traffic on the northbound side." And I said, "Bill, I was just run over by a scab car last year. I spent the whole year recovering. I don’t need to do that stuff anymore. Why the hell did you pick me?" He says, "Because you weren't at the meeting last night." Because I was holding up traffic, I was one of the last ones across the road. We had about 350 people there. It took two hundred people to fill that building up. It was wall to wall people. 150 of us stayed 79:00outside. We locked arms, sat on the steps, impeded the police to get into the building, and just generally made a nuisance of ourselves. It was a lot of fun. Um, this friend of mine who was working on building the injured workers' organization there, got in on the inside, and she was very impressed with everyone’s demeanor. These guys are just so country and so polite and said “Ma’am” to all the secretaries. Of course Gingrich lied through his ass and talked about how the secretaries were manhandled and shouted abuses at. Total ---and all this kind of stuff, total bunch of--- Somebody did write on the wall "Boot Newt," or something like that, and that was the only destruction of public property that took place. Um, but, that…that action actually produced 80:00a police riot. There was…after the police finally got inside and negotiated with Stewart, they agreed to vacate the premises, go back to the buses, and leave. And everybody left. We looked back in the glass doors, the glass windows, and we noticed that Stewart was still inside talking to the police. And so Reverend James Orange — who's People's Action leader, and mobilization leader, and spiritual adviser, and, um, this old veteran from the civil rights movement, just kind of a living legend.

LUTZ: He’s IUD, isn’t he?

ORROCK: Yeah, he's head of IUD here. Plus he's about 6 foot 6 and 260 pounds. He looked back into the plate glass windows and asked the cops, “What’s Stewart 81:00doing in there? How come he’s not coming out?” “He'll be out in a couple of minutes.” Fifteen or twenty minutes go by, long period of time. It may have been only eight or ten minutes, but it seemed like forever to me. And he was still being held, or detained, or talked to. The police were telling us to get moving towards the buses. And James Orange was saying, "No we're not leaving Stewart.” And they were saying “He’s coming right out.” And James was saying “You told us that 10 or 15 minutes ago.” And finally he said, “We're going back inside and find out what’s going on. We're not leaving.” Because he thought maybe he'd been arrested. Well, they tried to make the move back inside. And eight…some number of policeman, five to eight cops, stood against the doors and tried to prevent this mob of 300 people from going inside. One of the sheriff's deputies-- I think, I think it was a 82:00sheriff's deputy, and not Cobb County police, but he…he freaked out. He was on the outside of people. He saw this crowd trying to push their way into the building and eight of his comrades trying to hold the fort. And he jumped up on a railing around the brick porch and started walking across the heads and shoulders of people to get to his fellow officers. And one of these Sheet and Metal Workers that he was stepping on just pulled away. The guy lost his balance-- to the balcony of the porch, head first. The crowd was so thick. He couldn't just drop like a rock-- slithering his way down, getting more and more ticked off as he made his way to the ground. He came up; he was totally out of control. One of his partners grabbed a guy around the throat. He started 83:00punching him in the face. And this guy was really outraged at being attacked. I mean, this crowd was largely white; they were largely building trades, because that's who can get off in the middle of a week day. A lot of them lived in Cobb County and weren't used to being treated any way like this by police. They started punching back, which escalated the situation, and, um, took a few minutes to bring under control. And there were some more negotiations. These guys weren't busted, that had been doing the punching of the police. But we all left. We got across the road. And this tall, skinny, very young, black guy, um, was pretty near myself. A couple cops came running up to him, and pushed their noses right up into his face and said “You were getting smart with 84:00me.” They were trying to provoke him. This guy kept backing up. "I wasn't involved, I wasn’t involved, didn't have anything to do with it." They busted him… so quick, and hustled back across the street. None of us had the presence of mind to surround the cops and demand that he be released. And then they busted James Orange, after we were all safely back in the buses. Most of us…

LUTZ: Another black guy.

ORROCK: This was outrageous. I mean, James was one of Martin Luther King's lieutenants. He is a big apostle of non-violence. And, um, he wasn’t swinging his fists or anything like this.

LUTZ: Plus, he's a pretty high-up union official in Atlanta.

ORROCK: And highly respected, highly regarded. Anyway, just a week or two ago, the charges were dropped. We had a big campaign, and, um, started and 85:00organizing committee…organized about 8,000 postcards into the Cobb County district attorney.


LUTZ: Cobb County District Attorney is where we left off.

ORROCK: And there was some negotiations between Stewart and Reverend Orange. They've been dropped. And that's pretty much the end of it. I mean…

LUTZ: How about the other guy who was arrested? Is he okay?

ORROCK: He's okay; they dropped charges against him.

LUTZ: Who was he?

ORROCK: He was with Fireman and Oiler.

LUTZ: Why were they keeping Stewart Acuff in the first place?

ORROCK: There were some negotiations, some talking. We really don't know the whole story. A lot of it seemed to be a lot of provocation. I mean, they obviously ran up to this young black guy, Melvin Stewart, because he was the most 'street-looking' guy there. And I think the cops were very frustrated that 86:00some of them had been punched, and no arrests had been made. They were determined to arrest somebody. They thought that black guys could be prosecuted more successfully than some burly, white carpenters from Cobb County.

LUTZ: Probably right. Yeah.

ORROCK: And, um, so, you know, I…I just think that…the arrests were-- and the whole incident, the violence that broke out and everything like that--- I lay all of that at the feet of the police.

LUTZ: Not at the feet of Newt Gingrich, though?

ORROCK: Well, Cobb County is Newt Gingrich's base. And, um, that's where his big support is. I really felt that in order to oppose the Contract on America, to 87:00oppose the right-wing agenda you had to actively organize against the…the Cobb County's tactics in trying to repress protest of Newt Gingrich's agenda.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And that you had to oppose the white supremacist decisions to arrest two black guys at this demonstration. And I felt that this would have promoted a real unity, and a real educational opportunity for a lot of white members to see how the corporate class maintains the power it does, um, by, um, targeting people that they think are not… are not going to be defended just by promoting 88:00white supremacist prejudices and biases.

LUTZ: Did it work that way? Was it an expose or a reinforcement of racism?

ORROCK: It wasn't nearly as much of an expose as I felt personally that it should have been. And I felt that the Atlanta Labor Council should have really focused on Cobb County at that point, and the arrest, and made a big deal of it and talked about why they arrested two black guys at a largely white demonstration when all the scuffling between the cops and the demonstrators were between white demonstrators and cops. Um, and, Stewart was really afraid that, or really concerned that it would divert people's attention from the main task, which was to focus on the Contract and on Gingrich and stuff like this. My feeling was, part of fighting Newt Gingrich, is to expose his base. You know, 89:00for example, after the Oklahoma City bombing, Gingrich came out and made a statement, that, the only thing I heard, condemned hate groups, but the only example of a hate group he gave was none of the white supremacist groups, none of the militia groups. He talked about Louis Farrakhan. Louis Farrakhan is not one of my all-time heroes but there is no way to link him or anything like him with Oklahoma City. And that just brought back to me the fact that Newt Gingrich is not going to attack his base. And he’s not going to attack white supremacy.

LUTZ: Mmhmm. Um, one of the reasons, since we are on militias. One of the reasons that people of our age group oppose unions is that unions are reactionary. Union members are all the stereotyped, hard-hat, 90:00beating-up-hippies kind of people. Um, do you think there’s any truth to that? Do you think that New Gingrich represents some part of the labor movement? Um.

ORROCK: No. Newt Gingrich represents none of the labor movement. I mean, what you’re talking about really developed during the Vietnam War, you know, with the hard hat demonstrations in support of Vietnam war policy, and beating up of…of anti-war protesters. You know, building trades, construction---there was a lot of tension in the sixties in the building trades. Union members generally around, um, Vietnam War policy, you know, and the building trades especially were very conservative unions. A lot of them had white-only clauses 91:00in their constitutions that A. Phillip Randolph had been trying for decades to get the AFL to take a stand against. And, um, George Meany and his predecessors said, “That’s an internal union affair and its none of our business.” And there was the whole Philadelphia movement to get blacks into the building trades, and you know. There was this kind of tension that existed. Now since then, there’s always a lot of the leadership that’s very conservative. You know, I… I got sick at the second Gingrich demonstration at the Galleria when this guy stood up and his speech at the… Newt Gingrich demonstration, great country, and everything like this [inaudible], but didn’t talk about the problems that Newt Gingrich was the personification of. But, um, basically 92:00speaking, Building Tradesmen, Steel Workers, Auto Workers, all feel under attack. They…they know Newt Gingrich isn't a friend of theirs. Even though the majority of white Steel Workers voted for Reagan both times, voted for Bush. The majority of white steelworkers. The majority of white trade unionists voted Republican. Um, probably until the 1992 election, when I think Clinton, I mean things had gotten so bad in the labor movement most people voted for-- most 93:00white trade unions probably voted for Clinton. I haven't seen the figures on that. But I know prior to that, ‘88, ‘84, ‘80, majority of white trade unionists voted Republican. But if Newt Gingrich runs for example [inaudible]. Now, there’s a number of white trade unionists that I know of, in my local, who support a radical, right wing, Republican agenda on a lot of questions, like affirmative action, taxation, gun control. Um, some speak very approvingly of the militias. Some run around and talk about Waco. And I asked them, "Well, if 94:00you're really upset about the government and law enforcement people dealt with Waco, how do you feel about when the police helicopters put a bomb on the black cult's house in Philadelphia and blew away men, women, and children and burned down two and a half city blocks?" And they never heard of it.

LUTZ: You mean, the MOVE thing?

ORROCK: Yeah, the MOVE thing. So, there’s a…for the cops to blow away the wife and kid of a white supremacist murderer out west or the Waco thing, people are all upset about it. But, you know, that’s a little off the subject.

LUTZ: Let me take you back, back into a few months ago. You mentioned in your discussion of cousins that you were kidding around about having gotten hit by a 95:00car, by a scab. How did that come about?

ORROCK: Okay, that was in June 1994. I was attending a summer training institute for the Steelworkers [inaudible], for local union leadership up in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech, my old alma mater. I love to go up there. I just love southwest Virginia. And, um, on an earlier time, we'd gone up there when the Pittston strike was going on. And we caravanned down to the coal fields. It was wonderful. We went to all my old haunts and hang-outs and, um, we spent the day playing tag with coal trucks and state police, just having a great time. Giving what we could to the strike and, um, spending time at Camp Solidarity with the Mine Workers. Oh, I just loved it; I was so happy, so happy. 96:00And, so, in '94 we went up there. The district director told us at the orientation session Sunday night that on Wednesday, he was asking people to caravan and ride buses down to Kentucky, to the coal fields. Not to support the Mine Workers this time, but the Steel Workers had organized a nursing home. And, um, the nursing home refused to bargain. And that had provoked a strike to rally in support of the striking nursing home employees. And I went down with a couple of friends of mine, one from my local, an old buddy of mine from Alcoa, Tennessee. And, um, we were walking in support of the picket line. It was not 97:00at shift change, but one car would come in and we would all holler “scab” at him. You know, it was just a very normal picket line. We weren’t trying to stop scabs. We weren't doing anything illegal; we weren't doing anything violent. We were hollering…hollering at them for being scabs. Anyway, this one car came and pulled into the driveway and accelerated. Everybody jumped out of the way. I was right smack in the grill of the car and couldn’t get out of the way. I got hit up on the hood of the car. Then the driver floored it, really accelerated. I thought, “This guy is trying to kill me.” I didn't realize it was a woman driver. And, um, I was flat on my back on the hood of the car. I was grabbing windshield wipers and putting my hands flat on the hood because she started- - not only was she accelerating rapidly, but swerving very sharply. Finally flung me off, and, um, I hit my head on the asphalt and spent 98:00four days in the hospital. I was unconscious for about ten minutes. And, got a concussion and some complications later on, um, from the pinched nerve, and possibly traumatic arthritis. I’ve had some…some problems since then. And it was real funny. When Joe Kiker, the district director on the Firestone campaign, called me up, he says, "Charlie, you know you might be doing some jail time in this campaign." I said, “I don’t care about jail time. I’m not doing any hospital time. I'm not standing in front of anything bigger than a tricycle." And he says, "No, you don’t have to worry about that Charlie.”


LUTZ: [Laughter]. Famous last words. What was in this woman's mind? Why did she do this? Did she get arrested?

ORROCK: No. It’s real funny. I've got a lawsuit against her. She’s got a lawsuit against me. I caused her ‘great mental distress and physical and emotional damage and made her unemployable’. And she’s kind of….she says that I sat down on the hood of her car and terrorized her, and that people were being violent toward her and using abusive language. And, um, that I was the ringleader, and I'd been paid by the Steel Workers specifically to go to this strike to deny her employment. I’m trying to re-coup my medical bills and my lost time. Um, but um.

LUTZ: Is she going to win?


ORROCK: Well, I don’t know. The town is very polarized. It's a town in the very extreme southeast of Kentucky, Bell County. It’s the county just to the south of Harlan County. And the Mine Workers have been busted pretty much in that county, a couple of mines still organized. A lot of mines have been shut down. And it used to be a totally union county. Now it's about half and half. The Steel Workers have the hospitals organized and that’s why they took on this nursing home. The nursing home employees approached them for assistance in organizing. And I don’t know. It really depends on what kind of jury we get.

LUTZ: Will the Steel workers…

ORROCK: I don't think she'll win. I don’t know if I can win either.

LUTZ: Will the Steel Workers support you in this?

ORROCK: Well, I certainly hope so.


LUTZ: If you look back in your life, what moments would you re-live again, if you could? Give me a moment actually.

ORROCK: Well the best work I really did with the Steel Workers was in '87. And, um, I think that's the time-- there were two years I was really proud of my work, '92 and '87. In ’87, um, Georgia Power had built Plant Vogle, the new nuclear power plant, had grossly underestimated their cost. They initially thought it was going to cost $650 million and, um, for four towers. For two towers it ended up costing $13 billion. Their proposal to the Public Service 102:00Commission was to increase power rates ten percent a year for ten years, double over ten years time. That was going to put Atlantic Steel out of business. We are the single biggest consumer of electricity in the state of Georgia. We…we…because we have electric furnaces. Twenty billion dollars sometime in the eighties; I don’t know what it is now. But that was gonna put us out of business. And so I organized a…my local and a number of other unions to picket the PSC at the hearings. And, um, we had a lot of anti-nuke, environmentalists join us. The first time it was strictly labor. The second time it was everybody. We had about fifty people the first time; we had 103:00hundreds the second time. And, um, we really, um, I think we really embarrassed Georgia Power. We certainly stopped-- we killed their proposal. What came out was much, much better for the consumer.

LUTZ: That wasn’t the first time you were on a picket line at Georgia Power. You and I were on a picket line at Georgia Power in the seventies. Do you remember that?

ORROCK: When Georgia Power was buying South African coal. That’s right. When we went down there the day was as hot as any of the days we've had here. There was probably about fifteen of us. Yeah. We picketed. We had signs that said, "Don't buy slave coal." Because that was mined in the apartheid regime with labor, they had no right to organize, they had no basic human rights. And, um, 104:00and I remember we were in a van. We decided to go in to attend a stockholder's meeting that was going on because somebody had a proxy vote. And the security people that were surrounding us during the whole picket had no idea we were going in. After we got in they took off and ran us down and stopped us and frisked us and negotiated with us and finally a lot of us proceeded on in. It was a real memorable day. The other time I'm real proud of is, um, we had a demonstration…we had a demonstration at Grady Hospital. The Georgia Dome, which is where the Falcons play football now, was built non-union. The building trades were just really getting desperate. They were about to get busted out of existence in Atlanta. They know they had to get Olympics work done union and 105:00they had to get Grady, which was the biggest construction project at the time, taken on. And, um, we were having a demonstration at Grady in support of the building trades union. And I got a flier. I was hand-billed by somebody. It was the second flier I’d seen on the subject, but it was about a bill to gut the workers' comp law that was coming up before 1992 session. And I had talked to Nan about this, Nan Orrock. And, um, the other flier I got had been handed to somebody up in Cartersville. There was a lot of organizing work being done up in northwest Georgia around the carpet mills. Um, and this was just a ghastly bill that was going to greatly reduce the benefits injured workers could 106:00receive. And, um, this bill sailed through the Senate with only eight Senators voting against it. It looked like it was a shoo-in. And then came this huge rally and demonstration at the Georgia legislature where these thousands of injured workers were bussed in. It was paid for by their attorneys. There is a handful of decent, proworker, committed worker comp attorneys in Georgia, about 35. And they saw what this bill would do to their clients, and they organized them, bought box lunches for them and bussed them in. Found out most of them came from northwest Georgia. From the carpet mills. The carpet mills are just --- they're totally unorganized. 40,000 workers at the mercy of their 107:00employers. The carpet mills chew them up and spit them out. Tens of thousands of permanently injured workers in northwest Georgia in the carpet mills, no unionization, and no health and safety standards. It's cheaper for the mills to injure workers and pay….try to browbeat them into taking some kind of $10,000 settlement and remove all liability for the rest of their lives than it is to have strict safety and health standards. Um, and my mind was blown at this demonstration. The labor movement endorsed it about five days before it happened. Somebody, somehow convinced Herb Mabry this is something the labor movement ought to do. And, um, so there was a lot of labor people there too. The activist unions that make up the core…the bulk or the core of Jobs for 108:00Justice were there. I got a few Steel Workers to go, and I was just amazed. I noticed that at least half the people there were from the carpet mills. ‘cause I’d see picket signs that say, "Shoot me. I'm a carpet mill slave." And, um, the picket signs had the names of the sponsors of the bill. And the guy who had introduced the bill was from the carpet mill area in Dalton, in Tunnel Hill, Georgia. And my mind was racing during this rally. I was just looking at this vast number of carpet mill workers. And I was thinking, you know, because of the experience of Nan being in the legislature, that, you know--- A good campaign can get somebody kicked out of the legislature. If these carpet mill workers are committed enough to get on buses and come to Atlanta, they might be committed enough to register to vote and give this guy a 109:00hell of a scare, threaten his legislative career. And so I went up, and I asked around. I asked John Sweet and some other worker’s comp attorneys, who the hell was responsible for this. “Who the hell did this?” They gave me the names of people in northwest Georgia. I went up with a proposal, "Let's find somebody to run against Griffith,” Jim Tyson Griffith, and, um, who had introduced the bill. And “We…we can find the people to vote." “You know carpet mill workers don't vote.” "By God, they might. Let's scare this guy. Let's practice some legislative terrorism. Let’s send a message to legislators who have anti-worker bills. That by God there are consequences for this action. Somebody can run against you and scare you." And I…I asked the 110:00union, I asked Joe Kiker, “Will you give me five days a month to work on this campaign?” And the lawyers up there recruited a young country lawyer to run. And we developed a campaign. I made great use of Jim Coonan, who was the technocrat behind Nan's campaign. A very successful young guy working on progressive people’s political campaigns, and he’s very, very smart working on a campaign. And, um, anyway went up there, organized phone banks, organized community meetings, all kinds of things, neighbor to neighbor stuff. We ended up beating this guy. And um, it really was the proudest moment of my union career, although I was doing most of this on my own time. The union, to some degree, 111:00supported me. I made sure that the people knew, up there, that it was the union that was responsible for this. And I went on from there with an ambition to organize a statewide organization of injured workers. And this has been on my own time. And its very difficult to do because I don't have a lot of time. I've put out several proposals to unions, because if you go into a totally non-union area like Dalton, which is nothing but a company town--- I have friends who keep telling me they want to take me to this cafe that still has a bloodstain from the last union organizer who was there during the sixties, who got shot.

LUTZ: [inaudible][laughter]

ORROCK: And I think they really believe that this place exists, this bloodstain really is there, and never cleaned up--- that if you go in an area like that, 112:00where workers can build an organization, the value of organizing, the value of campaigning and how you can fight and how you can win. It’ll stop this total pessimism, this defeatism, this total lack of confidence in their ability to…to take charge of their lives. You could really soften up the ground for a union-organizing campaign. I mean 40,000 unorganized workers, that’s a prize. One of my ambitions is to see the carpet industry organized and the poultry industry organized in the South. But, you know, I’m going to have to wait until I retire before I can really put my energies completely into this injured workers campaign. There’s one state where there is a successful injured workers union. That's Louisiana. They’re really strong there. They're really 113:00able to defend workers' comp issues in the legislature. They're able to organize mutual support. When somebody gets permanently maimed on the job, their life changes. They're no longer the breadwinner. They no longer have the life they had, seeing the people they see everyday. They become an isolated shut-in. It causes enormous family crises. Only someone that’s been through this can offer the kind of support that a person like this needs. So there are a couple of really compelling reasons to have one for injured workers. Um, but one of the most compelling from a union standpoint is that they would be a tremendous ally of labor.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And I think it's worthwhile for the unions to invest a few thousand dollars into this. Give somebody some time to do something like this.


LUTZ: [inaudible] Um, if you looked back and said, this person was a mentor, this person was memorable, who would you choose? Tell me about some memorable people you’ve encountered. I’m mostly thinking labor people, but outside too.

ORROCK: Oh, there's lots of people. There's Estes Wright, who was a Steel Workers organizer. He does organizing. Um, there's Nannie Washburn, who entered the textile mills when she was seven years old and devoted her whole life — she's 95 this year — to the working class. I could…if I’d had time to think about this question--It’s a good question--I could have written down a long list of people.

LUTZ: Tell me about the first one. Estes Wright?


ORROCK: Estes Wright.

LUTZ: Estes Wright, why memorable?

ORROCK: Because he was such a strong and capable guy, no nonsense. Um, when everybody in the Steel Workers was freaked out by the gang of radicals that was at Atlantic Steel, he didn’t get hysterical. He wanted to meet them, and he was paid by the union. You know, it was just extraordinary to me that this guy was so open-minded. His commitment was to organizing workers, not Cold War ideological principles or something like that. And he would work with anybody.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: Another guy that I really admired a great deal, um, came out of our 116:00local and took over the IUD organizing department, was Harold…um, excuse me, I just had a..a mental block. I’ll have to get back to him. But, um, he was the same way. During the eighties when there was a lot of hysteria around the Jobs for Justice getting started and all the radicals it attracted, he stood up and said, "I don't give a damn who these people are. If they want to work, if they want to organize, then that's what I want."

LUTZ: Mmhmm. Hmmm…and Nannie…Washburn?

ORROCK: You know, she was an old radical. She was taught how to read by an 117:00organizer from the Communist Party. And she…when all the reds were run out of Georgia in the late forties she and her family, well, being from Georgia, they didn't have anywhere to go. And they were around. They got involved in whatever was going on they thought was good. They…they went to Selma during the Selma movement…

LUTZ: In the 1960s?

ORROCK: In the 1960s. She got involved in the anti-war movement, whatever was happening, that was a fight to challenge the power, she would get in it. I first met her on the picket line at Mead Corporation, during the Mead wildcat strike in '72.

LUTZ: Hmmm…anybody you wish you could take a poke at, if you had a chance?

ORROCK: Oh yeah. I’ve got homicidal fantasies all the time. Yeah, that list is too long.


LUTZ: [Laughing] We want to talk about dead people, not live people, you could take a shot at.

ORROCK: You know, I got a huge problem against people-- I could tell you a guy that's living today who's a high-up labor official in Tennessee. I encountered him at an AFL-CIO leadership school in Durham, North Carolina, and, in '89. And he was-- I'd heard about this guy previously. ‘cause some workers at a GE warehouse that had been closed down had started something called Tennessee…Tennesseans for Industrial Renewal or something, TIR was its 119:00acronym. They would often try to ally with the labor movement. He was convinced that these folks from Morristown, Tennessee were just a bunch of reds or something. This guy’s totally a Cold Warrior, a Cold War fighter. He's a clone of Lane Kirkland, and…and he idolizes Lane Kirkland. This guy found ourselves at the same breakfast table, at this leadership conference. And somehow the subject got around to '88 election campaign. He said that Jesse Jackson had destroyed the Democratic Party. And I said that Jesse Jackson was best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party. I said he’s the only Democratic nominee that will walk a picket line, totally uncompromising when he takes labor's positions. And he looked at me and he knew I was a "red." I 120:00could just see it in his face. And later on, during the session, there was a presentation by the Virginia AFL-CIO, which is dominated very much by a Steel Worker local in Newport News. Newport News drydock and shipbuilding plant which has 17,000 people. And the Steel Workers organized that in the late seventies. [inaudible] Anyway, the president of that local, who was a Jackson supporter, and a white guy. He gave a presentation on the governor's race that elected the first black governor in the history of the country, Doug Wilder in Virginia. He made a very unusual presentation. He went down, he said, all the urban counties 121:00voted for Wilder. All the rural counties voted for the Republican, Coleman. He said, with the exception of five rural counties. He had a big map of Virginia up there. And he pointed to these counties. I said, “Those counties are in the coal fields, aren't they?” He said, “That’s right.” I said, “Would you suggest possibly that the reason that the miners voted for a black man for the governor—that the white miners voted, largely white miners, voted for a black governor because during the Pittston strike, when Jesse Jackson came down they got their first sense of a black political activist who was standing up for labor. They thought maybe…maybe that's what all the black politicians 122:00do.” And he said, “That is exactly why Doug Wilder is governor of Virginia. These five counties made the difference.” I said, “So you’d say Jackson is a good force in the Democratic party.” He said, “My God, he's what we need.” I turned around and looked at that jackass from Tennessee, who's still alive, who still runs the labor movement in Tennessee.

LUTZ: You can tell me his name ten years from now [inaudible]

ORROCK: He'll live longer than I will. I just smiled at him. He glared at me. He’d made an enemy for life. And he and I are both equally ideological. And we are probably equally adept at holding a grudge. I know he’s going to hate me as long as I hate him. He's the problem with the labor movement. Nothing gets done in Tennessee unless it goes through him. Its his---He's like a feudal 123:00lord and if it has to do with labor, it's got to flow through him. And as far as I’m concerned, he is the reason that we're hurting so bad. [inaudible]

LUTZ: This is take two, with Charlie Orrock. Um, July 24th, 1995. Charlie, when you were working at Atlantic Steel, some women tried to get into the steel plant to get jobs as steel workers. Do you remember that campagin?

ORROCK: Oh, I remember it very well.

LUTZ: Tell me about it.

ORROCK: Um, well, the local chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women had decided to take as one of their projects, getting jobs for women in 124:00non-traditional places that were relatively high-paying. So that women would have options other than really low paying jobs like laundries…

LUTZ: [inaudible][laughter]

ORROCK: Things like that. So, um, I often think of laundries when I think of Atlantic Steel because Atlantic Steel can be a really hot place to work. A laundry is a very hot place to work and you just get minimum wage in a laundry. And it’s mostly…it’s all women who work in a laundry. Anyway, a woman got hired. The CLUW had picket lines. We had…there was a big campaign. Some of us gave support to this campaign. One woman was hired, and later on, more women were hired. I remember the first woman that was there, Louise Runyon, had been 125:00told by a young guy that worked at the steel plant that, um, he was in a trade and craft training. And during that training, the safety guy had come in to give an orientation talk. And one of the things he said was-- “Well, the only reason women are coming out here to work was that they were prostitutes and that they were just trying to get a big client list and that's the reason they were coming out to work.” And so, Louise thought this was an outrageous statement for the safety guy to make. And if this did not enhance the safety of women out 126:00there, it made them much more vulnerable. It was just a terrible statement. And she came to a union meeting and complained. We had a big debate at the union meeting about it, whether the union should in fact denounce this statement. And I remember our dearly departed International rep, who made the statement--Charlie Parker—that, um, “Well Louise, if you don't want to have this stuff being said, why did you come out here in the first place?” Um, but…

LUTZ: What did Louise say? [laughter]

ORROCK: I don't even remember Louise's response.

LUTZ: [inaudible][laughter]


ORROCK: But, um, and there was a big CLUW meeting in which leaders of the local came to defend their opposition to women working in the steel plant. But the women who were not involved in this campaign could not believe their ears. They didn't think that there could be such ignorance and bigotry on the part of trade unions.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: Um, and they urged the women in this campaign to file suit against the union and the company. That had never been the intention, to file suit against the union. They wanted to educate the unions to the necessity of promoting equality and equal opportunity and this kind of thing. They didn’t want to sue the union in complicity with the company, denying women opportunity. Um, 128:00but, um, I mean, Ira Richards, who's still alive but long retired, he was still at that time the vice president of the union. He made a comment as to, um, talking about "split tails".

LUTZ: What’s a “split tail”?

ORROCK: “Split tail” is a very vulgar way to refer to a certain part of women’s anatomy, in which men are referred to as “hard tails” and women referred to as “split tails”.

LUTZ: Ooh, slap that [inaudible]

ORROCK: Anyway, it was a very shocking thing for a lot of women in that room to hear, who up to that point had no idea the barriers and the obstacles that were 129:00being faced by the women involved in the campaign.

LUTZ: And what finally happened to them?

ORROCK: There were a lot more women hired on during the seventies and then I guess there are six or seven left now, maybe six.

LUTZ: Did they get laid off or quit?

ORROCK: A lot of them quit during the Seventies. There was a high turnover among both men and women. So some women quit, and um, and then the company stopped hiring anybody.

LUTZ: Charlie, you were going to tell me about some more memorable people you've encountered in the labor movement.


ORROCK: Oh, um, just some more real memorable people at work were some of the black guys that broke the color lines. We had, we had segregated lines of promotion up through the end of the sixties. And, um, the union didn't oppose them. It was…it was consent decrees that brought about an end to them that the union played no role in whatsoever the civil rights movement and the government and the plant. Um, and it was real difficult. It took a tremendous strength of character to put up with the kinds of stuff that, um, faced a lot of the black guys that went into previously all-white departments or all-white lines of promotion. I remember this one guy who lived in New York 131:00City…can’t remember his name…big, strong guy, tremendous dignity and pride. Nobody really challenged him; nobody really gave him help with the job, but nobody messed with him. I just always admired him, a whole lot. There's a steel worker in Birmingham, Alabama, named, um, Gail Dunaway, whose…whose absolute optimistic spirit about being a woman leader in the Steel Workers, in a very, very male-dominated union, just really inspired the heck out of me. Her spirit, her gumption, her fortitude just really inspired me a lot. The little 132:00lapse I had before--I don’t know why it happened-- when I was trying to think of Harold McIver's name. His daddy was the first president of the local at Atlantic Steel in 1942, and Harold led the J.P. Stevens campaign in North Carolina in the seventies.

LUTZ: Um, if you had a chance to stand up on a podium and talk to all the young people in the labor movement, what advice would you give them? Notice, I’m not including you in the young people any more. [laughter]

ORROCK: I think what's happening in this country and the world today is as big a significant a change as the Industrial Revolution was. You can look at -- in 133:00Alabama, where they’re trying to put in…where LTB and a Japanese consortium are trying to put in a steel mill that's going to employ 330 workers and produce 2.2 million tons of steel a year. And you look 80 miles away at Gadsden, Alabama, where Gulf State Steel is, that produces 1.1 million tons a year with 1800 workers, and you see what's happening. Um, techno…technology, automation, computerization, robotization is really shrinking the industrial work force. Also, the globalization, the export of jobs overseas. Um, and, you know, the Steel Workers are mounting a big campaign to stop the construction of that company, Trico, in Alabama. And I don't know --- you know, they can make it a 134:00whole lot more expensive, they can make it a whole lot more difficult for them, basically a defensive battle. At some point, the labor movements have to go on the offense. They're going to have to seriously challenge relations of power in this country and in the world. And that's going to be difficult. Um, most Communist regimes have fallen. Capitalism looks ideologically, um, unbeatable. Um, the power of international corporations, multinationals, international capitalism, is immense. Um, the ascendancy of the right wing in this country points to their political success. Um, but I think the labor movement has got a 135:00lot of blame share in it. I…I think the labor movement became a national labor movement at the end of World War II. And I…I think a deal was struck between the labor movement to assist in the United States becoming the unchallenged superpower in the world and certainly the…the, um, leader of the anti-Communist world. The pay-off for the labor movement's part of this deal was that they would benefit from an unchallenged U.S. economic dominance. The problem is, is that we're not unchallenged anymore. We've got big competitors in Europe and in Asia. And, um, with the globalization of the economy and the 136:00fall from dominance of the U.S. economy…this, and the technological revolution that's going on, this really means very different things. And I think our leadership is very slow to realize this. Although, there is a big…there was a revolution when Lane Kirkland was forced to resign. There's just no doubt about that. It really says something about the dissatisfaction in the ranks of labor with the tremendous decline in the numbers and power of the labor movement. But we can't…we can’t fight a defensive battle. We can’t let the Democratic Party take us for granted all the time. We can’t have Democrats move to the 137:00right to challenge Republicans that way. There's this huge number of people that don't vote any more in this country, because they don't see any reason to vote. There is no challenge to the trends that are going on in this country. The labor movement's got to be part of that challenge. And one of the ways they can do that is, I feel, is to stop letting Democrats take them for granted, which they do because the Democrats know that the labor movement's not going to support Republicans. We have got to organize the unorganized, the vast number of people in really dead-end, no-future jobs. And, um, those tasks are not easy. 138:00And, um, that's going to be part of the task of the new leadership of the AFL-CIO. But I don't think a broad enough debate is going on now in this debate about the future direction of the AFL-CIO. For example, nobody is talking about what we should do about the Democratic party, whether we should embrace a labor party or a people's party, we should join with Jackson's efforts to go independent, or whatever. There's just no talk about that. We can still be taken for granted, because we are taken for granted in of support the Democrats. That’s one thing that’s not being debated. The other thing that's not being debated is what to do about this tremendous change. We can't keep fighting defensive battles. Why oppose technological change? Why don't we really seriously go after a 25 or 30 hour work week? Why don't we deal with this by 139:00lessening the time that people spend at work? Instead, those of us lucky enough 140:00spend much more time at work, much less time with our families. Um, there's so much that needs to be done that's going to be very difficult for the labor movement, because the labor movement was in opposition to radicalism in this country in the name of anti-Communism. But it wasn't just Stalinism. It wasn’t just the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just wasn't just the Communist Party that was being opposed. Um, it was anti-capitalism that was being opposed. And that may sound like some fine points, but it's very difficult for us to look at radical solutions when we as a movement have spent so much time crushing radicalism in our own ranks.

LUTZ: [inaudible] Pretend I'm just Joan Blow standing in the local union hall, 141:00and I say, "What exactly do you want me to do now?"

ORROCK: I want the labor movement to look seriously at breaking with the Democratic Party. I want the labor movement, seriously, to develop strategies to deal with the automation and the technological evolution that is going on, like calling for a shorter work week. I want the labor movement to seriously understand the history of this country as it relates racial issues, racial oppression, to begin an educational program of its membership, predominantly white membership, around issues of affirmative action. I want us to seriously 142:00challenge the right wing, radical movements like the militias, like the N.R.A., and make a bid for the hearts and minds of our white membership and white working people generally in this country. [break]

LUTZ: Charlie, you've been a…an organizer, you're an organizer now, Steel Worker, Mine Worker. Mine worker organizer. When are you going to retire? What are you going to do when you retire? What's in your future?

ORROCK: Well, um, it's funny that you ask about retirement. I never thought about retirement until this past January, when I was having a lot of arthritic pain in my shoulder and arm, and one week in January I was scheduled to work 102 hours. And, um, I was just thinking a little bit about this country and the 143:00situation we’re in and when I would find time to do any of the organizing projects or any of the other stuff I do on my own time, like the injured workers association, or any of the other stuff I do [inaudible], when I have to work 102 hours at the plant. I decided to get the pension book and see when I could make my earliest retirement and take the health care plan with me. I found it was two and a half years. And so I might retire in two and a half years; I don't know. Of course, I couldn't live on the ridiculously low pension they pay. I'd have to have another job. Nobody at Atlantic Steel retires until they're 62 or 65, when they can draw on Social Security. That's what they're largely dependent upon. Um, so I'd have to get another job. I might work for a union. I might get a teaching certificate. Um, I don't know what I'll do; I'll have to 144:00work. Um, but I would also like to write. I love historical fiction. I'd like to try my hand at it sometime. I would like to write some…put my ideas on paper, and I do that sometimes. But you can't make a living as a writer, I know that. And so, I would have… in answer to your question, I would get some kind of a job where I would have weekends off wouldn't work a four-term, rotating schedule where you have one weekend off, work every seven days, midnights, evenings, or day shift. Um, you know, I'm getting too old for this stuff. Of course, I never know. I might stay in Atlanta six more years and get out after thirty, who knows? But my plans at this time are to get out in about two and a 145:00half years and work.

LUTZ: Mmhmm.

ORROCK: And work some other job that hopefully would not be not as well paid but would give me a little more time to work on injured worker organizing or helping to pull together a network of workers in the poultry industry, or the carpet mill industry, or one of the great Southern unorganized industries in some kind of a -- part-- hopefully of an AFL-CIO campaign to organize the South. Otherwise, an unofficial campaign to organize the South.

LUTZ: Looking back, [inaudible]…looking back, would you say it's been a good life?

ORROCK: Yeah, sure. I mean…

LUTZ: [inaudible] bad life [laughter]


ORROCK: It’s, um, I've had my issues as much as anybody else around dissatisfactions, lack of self-confidence and stuff. I mean, I've often felt that I'm not primarily a particularly good leader of people. I’ve never influenced large numbers of people. I think I do good work in house calls. I think I do fairly good work in certain situations. Um, but I've certainly never been a "working class hero," as somebody once said---It was the Beatles…

LUTZ: John Lennon.

ORROCK: --- and I know that I never will be, although it certainly had been a fantasy of mine in the past. I have spent a lot of my time at the plant 147:00in…isolated from certain segments of the work force. And, um, in some ways, that was kind of hurtful. I've had personal issues that have been painful to me. Um, but overall, the fact that I really enjoy learning new things, I really enjoy people, have been a couple of blessings on me that have really enabled me to enjoy my life.