Justin Ostro Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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TRACI DRUMMOND: Good afternoon. This is Traci Drummond. I am here in Lady Lake, Florida, with Justin Ostro, and today I will be asking him some questions related to his career with the IAM. We are doing this oral history as part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Oral History Project. Today is August 13th, 2012. Welcome, and thank you.

JUSTIN OSTRO: Thank you for coming down, Traci. Appreciate it.

DRUMMOND: Well, let’s get started. Where were you born and when?

OSTRO: I was born on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City in -- All Saints Day. November 1st, 1927.

DRUMMOND: All Saints Day. November 1st, OK. And, um, what were your parents 1:00doing at that time? Were -- were they working? Were they both working?

OSTRO: Yes. My father was the general manager for Studebaker in New York. The automobile company. And my mother was a model and later a saleswoman for children’s clothing in some of the exclusive department stores in Manhattan. And she worked there until she was in her eighties.

DRUMMOND: So, um, with your dad’s job, what did that entail? You said executive manager?

OSTRO: General manager.

DRUMMOND: General manager. What did that entail? Was he in a shop? Was he in charge of sales?

OSTRO: He was in charge of sales for Studebaker throughout New York until the crash in 1929. And then they sort of closed up shop in New York and he became 2:00the general sales manager for the Ford dealership in Manhattan.

DRUMMOND: OK. And with him being involved in the car industry, um, were -- did -- was Ford -- were the Ford plants -- were they unionized then?

OSTRO: No, no. No, no. These weren’t plants. These were dealerships.

DRUMMOND: Right, but -- but I guess -- and the point I’m trying to get at -- was Ford --

OSTRO: In those early days they weren’t unionized yet.

DRUMMOND: They weren’t. OK, OK. Um, and the work your mother did, I don’t think would’ve -- I -- I guess what -- what we like to get at sometimes is -- is -- what were your family’s feelings about unions when you were coming up? Sort of -- what was it like in your community and -- and what did -- what did 3:00your parents think, what was it -- were there a lot of union families in your community?

OSTRO: My father was, uh, probably the nicest man I’ve ever known. And very wise. And in the paperwork, you asked about a role model. He was my role model. And, uh, we had an open family. In our house, you had people of every race, every nationality as friends -- came and went. Uh, his view of working people was also open and supportive. New York was probably a hotbed of liberal Democratic officeholders -- Franklin Roosevelt, Bob Wagner -- his father wrote the Wagner Act, which was the law that let unions organize. And so it was a very 4:00open society and, uh, there weren’t, uh -- most people were pro-union.


OSTRO: Even as I grew up it became more so.

DRUMMOND: OK. Um, do you have any brothers or sisters?

OSTRO: I have two half brothers and one sister.

DRUMMOND: Two half-brothers and one sister. And did you all grow up together and -- under the same roof?

OSTRO: No. My father’s first wife died when she was 29 years old and left two boys. And I guess they were seven and nine years old at the time. And one of them ended up going to live with his grandmother in New Jersey.


OSTRO: My grandmother also.


OSTRO: My father’s mother. And the other stayed with us.


OSTRO: Went to CCNY in New York, was in the National Guard when the war broke 5:00out. The -- not the National Guard but the, uh, arrangement in college was the, uh --




OSTRO: And, uh, he went right away. Spent four months in the United States and four years in Europe, and then when he was discharged it was by the length of time that you were overseas that they brought you back. He had so much time overseas when he came back he was -- spent four months in the United States and he was discharged. He then tried his hand at the, uh, automobile business, except that his dealership was a Kaiser-Frazer dealership. (laughs) Which didn’t work out too well. He went back into the military and he ended up as career military.


OSTRO: Yeah. Uh, career military all his life. Um, traveled all over the world. He was in the Air Force. During the war he was not in the Air Force, so he knew 6:00what the Army was like. And, uh, his assignment was to fly into various Air Force bases all over the world, surprise raid with a team on board, and each one when the plane landed -- they want to check out how the installation responded to security, to transportation, to fire rescue and see exactly what kind of help they might need and then they’d stay there until they had everybody broken into whatever new routines they had to be in, then they’d fly off somewhere else.


OSTRO: So he spent years in Germany where they also supplied a home, and Iceland and, uh, oh, Alaska. Flew all over the States, and his home base was Sumter, South Carolina.



OSTRO: The other brother was in the intelligence service -- in the Army of the United States -- I forget what the difference is. There’s a United States Army and there’s an Army of the United States.


OSTRO: And he was in the Army of the United States at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. A cryptologist, and his -- his students were generals.


OSTRO: So he was there long after the war was over -- course without any privates, there aren’t any generals, but he was an officer. So they just kept him around a little longer. He was -- went into his -- he was a photographer. Why he became a cryptographer I don’t know, but that’s the way the Army worked. And, uh, he opened a photography shop in a little town in New Jersey and it grew into -- he worked for the local -- local newspaper, for the police 8:00department taking pictures of accidents, crimes and so on. And his photography store, as technology changed, he started doing all the technology things that you would imagine. So by the time -- and he stayed there until he retired. And he was a member of the state Republican committee. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: OK. What about your sister? What was it --

OSTRO: My s--

DRUMMOND: What was expected of a young woman growing up during that time? What -- what -- what --

OSTRO: She was expected to go to college.

DRUMMOND: She was expected to go to college.

OSTRO: If she felt like she wanted to and if she was capable of it. So she went to Queens College -- both the CCNY and Queens were city colleges.


OSTRO: And got her degree there, bachelor’s degree, and she went into retailing. And she finished her career by retiring from -- well, I’ll go 9:00backwards. She was -- Levi-Strauss, she was in their headquarters office in Manhattan. That was her most recent job, and she was there long enough to retire. And prior to Levi-Strauss she was with the other -- oh, Penney’s.


OSTRO: You got a big retailer.

DRUMMOND: The recorder was going to pick up that --


DRUMMOND: -- yeah, more than you think. Um, OK, so Levi’s and before that with Penney’s. And --

OSTRO: And she also retired from there.

DRUMMOND: And -- so did your mom -- so your mom worked, first as a model and then, um, with -- making children’s clothes.

OSTRO: No, selling.

DRUMMOND: Selling children’s clothes.

OSTRO: She worked for Best and Company; she worked for a number of the exclusive department stores in Manhattan. And the kind of sales she did, women would call -- particularly grandmothers who had granddaughters and they lived in Manhattan 10:00and they would call and they’d make an appointment with her to come into this store and she would be like their private shopper and worked through everything that they needed for that little girl or little boy, what have you.


OSTRO: And she did that until she was in her eighties.

DRUMMOND: OK. Oh fascinating. So she was always, um, a -- a good role model.

OSTRO: Oh, very good role model.

DRUMMOND: Uh, and -- and -- and -- and -- and -- and worked hard. Because, you know, with these -- it’s just that it’s interesting, um, I talk to a lot of folks who are from really small towns or very rural areas, and everybody worked on the farm. But it’s not too often I hear that, you know, someone’s mom wasn’t a homemaker. Not that that’s not hard work and a lot of work, but that they actually had a career. So that must have been, [you know?] --

OSTRO: And for her to work, it meant that when she left the house she walked to 11:00the corner, took the bus to the subway, took the subway to the East Side of Manhattan and walked across to the West Side of Manhattan where the store was. And she d-- (laughs) and she did that every day. And then when she finally retired in her eighties -- she lived to be 94 -- she’d go to the corner to go to her retirement club, and if the bus wasn’t there she walked the five miles to the retirement club.

DRUMMOND: But it kept her healthy.

OSTRO: Absolutely. She was a diabetic. Her mother died from diabetes when her mother was 50 years old. So she was pretty much -- and her father had died before that, so --


OSTRO: -- she was pretty much on her own when she was a young woman.

DRUMMOND: OK. So you had, um, one brother who was a photograph-- oh.

OSTRO: And she had two children.

DRUMMOND: And she had you and your sister.

OSTRO: My sister and I.


DRUMMOND: And, um, so of the three of them -- of the four -- I’m sorry, of the four kids, um, you seemed to have had a very different kind of -- you didn’t sort of pick one thing and stay with it. Not in the beginning anyway. You had a lot --

OSTRO: Well --

DRUMMOND: -- happening early on.

OSTRO: -- I was in my teenage years then.


OSTRO: I mean, I started very, very young.

DRUMMOND: What was your -- you said your first job was when you were eleven?

OSTRO: I had a newspaper route.


OSTRO: In which I delivered papers to the homes on my bicycle.

DRUMMOND: OK. Do you remember which paper it was?

OSTRO: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Which newspaper?

OSTRO: I think it was the Long Island Daily Press, to tell you the truth. And, um, we were living in Forest Hills, which was like a small town.


OSTRO: It’s a little bit like the villages in the sense that there was a center of town, and if you go there it’s all English architecture around the town square with little arches on each -- four sides of the town square. And we called that the Forest Hills Gardens. And, um, so it was a small town. You could 13:00do almost anything.


OSTRO: And I, uh -- as I got older, I set pins in a bowling alley on Friday night right through to Saturday morning. As the leagues came out of the different factories and plants, they’d be bowling all through the night. And in those days we didn’t have pin-setters. We were the pin-setters.


OSTRO: So we set the pins, and I would earn enough money on Friday night -- I’d go home around 8:00 a.m. in the morning -- or if there were a couple of more leagues, I might even stay until noon. So I’d be working from 8:00 o’clock at night until noon the next day. And I’d earn enough money so that I didn’t need any money from my family d-- during that week at school. And then, I guess when I was about 13 or 14, there were 13 kids from Forest Hills 14:00from our neighborhood -- my street, actually, the street I lived on -- and we ran the American Worcestershire Sauce Company in Manhattan.

DRUMMOND: You ran it?

OSTRO: Every Saturday.


OSTRO: There was no one in there but one adult (laughter) and these 13 kids and they had, uh -- they made Worcestershire sauce. Sir William’s Worcestershire sauce. Probably some of them are still alive, in terms of the brand. And, uh, the only adult -- he operated the freight elevator. Under New York law, they had to be trained and licensed, so he was the only adult there.

DRUMMOND: So -- but, well --

OSTRO: At the end of the day, they would come and pay us off.

DRUMMOND: But what -- what did you all do? You made the big batches of sau-- Worcestershire sauce?

OSTRO: We bottled it, we labeled it, we mopped the floors with it --

DRUMMOND: Thirteen kids?

OSTRO: -- it would take everything off the floor. (laughs) They were concrete floors --



OSTRO: -- and that Worcestershire sauce would clean them. (laughter) And then one day we decided we weren’t getting enough money so we decided to go on strike. The wind-up was it didn’t do us any good because they replaced us all, and the two kids that lived on my street, [Jerry Pinelle?] and his brother, we got the job because their uncle -- their father’s brother -- owned a trucking company down on Canal Street in Manhattan, and right across from his trucking company was the American Worcestershire Sauce Company and I guess he was the one that told his brother, hey, if you’ve got some kids out there, bring them down and we’ll set up -- so we were working there for weeks when we finally decided to go on strike. The two Pinelle brothers got in trouble with their father. The rest of us just -- it was an experience.

DRUMMOND: And when that didn’t work out, what was your next job?

OSTRO: Next stop was, I think, the Yale Club.



OSTRO: And they thought I was 19. And you have to remember that that was during the war so males were very hard to come by.


OSTRO: And I was only 15.

DRUMMOND: So they thought you were older then.

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: But younger now.

OSTRO: It’s one of those things. (laughter) I didn’t age for 20 years.

DRUMMOND: Fantastic.

OSTRO: I mean, if you saw my son, you’d understand it.


OSTRO: I mean, he still looks like he’s in his thirties, and he’ll be pushing 60 pretty soon.


OSTRO: But, um, yeah, I think it was the Yale Club -- was next.

DRUMMOND: So you worked as a bellman and a waiter there.

OSTRO: Yeah. I started out as a bellman and then a waiter and then, uh, I left there in -- oh, and that was my first union.

DRUMMOND: The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 6.

OSTRO: Right. That was --


OSTRO: -- the largest local in -- in that entire international (inaudible) it 17:00took in every hotel and restaurant in -- in New York City.

DRUMMOND: And was it easy to organize hotels and restaurants back then?

OSTRO: It was for them --


OSTRO: -- because as I say, the climate was pro-union.


OSTRO: And so you -- you know, and -- and picket lines were respected. And they were a good local. They’re still in existence to this day.

DRUMMOND: They’re here.

OSTRO: I think they’re called the Hotel Trades in Manhattan --


OSTRO: -- they’re still in existence. Local 6.

DRUMMOND: OK. And, um -- so what were the -- what were the jobs for a bellman/waiter then? What all were you doing?

OSTRO: This was a membership club.


OSTRO: They had to be Yale graduates --


OSTRO: -- or students to be members. And, uh, so when -- and it was a resident hotel. Resident club, where they would come, stay overnight, make reservations, 18:00that sort of thing. The bellman would take up the bags, get them anything they needed. And then there were restaurants and, um, a rooftop club and lounge. So, um, the waiters would work there, busmen.

DRUMMOND: OK. And you did that for about a year until you -- until ’44. Um, and you joined the National Maritime Union?

OSTRO: Yeah, I -- I went to -- I joined the United States Maritime Service at age 16. I tried to get in the Marine Corps and I tried to get into the Navy, but you had to be 17. But the Marine Corps enlistment sergeant said to me, “But if you go down the street, kid, United States Merchant Marines have an off-- an enlistment office down there and you only have to be 16. However, you do need 19:00parental consent.” So I said, OK, down I went. I mean, the war was on. My two brothers were already in the war. Charlie was overseas. My father went to work for the United States government as the assistant price administrator for the Eastern Seaboard for automobiles. During the war, there were a lot of war profiteers and things like that, and since they weren’t manufacturing new automobiles, people would try to sell old automo-- you know, existing used vehicles at high prices. And the government regulated the prices and my father was in charge of that.


OSTRO: And, uh --

DRUMMOND: Fascinating!

OSTRO: Fascinating.

DRUMMOND: I think so.

OSTRO: It is. And he would tell me -- I told you, he was my role model. So I was 20:00at sea, I had two brothers in the service and he was working for them and a guy would come in and say, “Hey, you know, Ostro, uh, big dealership, guys got it -- I got a few cars I want to move. Uh, you know, when this war is over, there’ll be franchises available. And I’m sure you’d be interested in one of those.” And so my father requested that the FBI assign an agent to the desk next to him so that they could catch everyone who tried to bribe a federal government employee.

DRUMMOND: Wow. And did they do it? Did they -- they went along with it? Did they catch a lot of folks?

OSTRO: I didn’t ask him that. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: It must -- I bet it worked, though.

OSTRO: So that’s what he did. And I went -- so I was in the United -- I was 16.


OSTRO: I went into the Maritime.


DRUMMOND: And what was that like? That must have been a big -- a big, um, change from being a bellhop and -- and a waiter and --

OSTRO: Well, basically I think of my life as -- I never had a childhood.


OSTRO: Because I was always acting older than I was in order to get work. And as I say I left out a number of jobs. Like when I left the Yale Club, I went to work for a country club, upstate New York, for that summer. And -- in Pennsylvania, with the -- the children of coal miners from Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and, uh, Carbondale, Pennsylvania. And then when the job was over, they invited me back to their home and so I stayed in Carbondale for about four months.



OSTRO: And when -- and was invited a week at a time from one family to another.

DRUMMOND: [Very nice?].

OSTRO: Very open people. Very nice people.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah. Well, um, but -- but when you were with the Maritime Service, what were you doing? What was your day to day like?

OSTRO: Um, I was a utility. Whatever came up that needed help, whether it be in the kitchen, in the mess hall, on deck --


OSTRO: -- utility was supposed to pitch in and do what they asked them to do.

DRUMMOND: OK. And how long were you gone? I mean, were you on -- which --

OSTRO: The war was on --

DRUMMOND: -- yeah.

OSTRO: -- and, um, I went to Sheepshead Bay, which was the training station for the U.S. Maritime Service -- and graduated from there. Then I went from there to my second union, the National Maritime Union’s hall. We were sent directly to the hall. There were two unions that they would send you to. One was the NMU and 23:00the other was the SIU. Sea-- Seam-- Seafarer’s International Union was the other one. And so I went to the NMU and then they posted you and you bid on ships and they crewed the ships, right there on the West Side of Manhattan. Right off the docks. And so I went on my first ship -- was called the Nishmaha.

DRUMMOND: ANishmaha.

OSTRO: A -- Nishmaha.

DRUMMOND: Can you spell that, please?

OSTRO: N-I-S-H-M-A-H-A. I think it was [a Likes brothers? Hargyle and?] what do they call it --


OSTRO: Hargyle and there’s the one with three --

F: (inaudible)

OSTRO: -- structures on the ship. One forward, one aft, and one midship.


OSTRO: And that’s why the islander, I guess, comes into it. And it was -- my first trip was the North Atlantic in the wintertime.

DRUMMOND: How was that?


OSTRO: You looked up and you saw the ocean. The waves were over forty feet high.

DRUMMOND: Oh my gosh.

OSTRO: Sixty feet high.


OSTRO: And, uh -- but I never got seasick.

DRUMMOND: You never got seasick.

OSTRO: Even though the old sailors would bring out some fried liver and show it to the newbies. (laughter) And, uh -- but I had a strong stomach. You asked me about growing up. I guess -- I grew up older than I was because of the environment and the freedom that my parents gave me --


OSTRO: -- which was always an experience. If you look at my father, he had three sons. One went into labor, one went into business and one went into military, government. Three different branches of our society. And my sister went into -- office (inaudible) so I was pretty seasoned by the time I got on board a ship.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. Sounds like all those hours in the Worcestershire plant, I guess, prepared you for --

OSTRO: Mm-hmm, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- for anything. Um --


OSTRO: And, uh, I sailed in 1944, 1945 and my last ship was the S.S. John Woolman.


OSTRO: W-O-O-L-M-A-N. John Woolman. It was a liberty ship. And I was on board that ship the day on D-- when the war in Europe ended.


OSTRO: And, uh -- V-E Day. And, uh, ten days after V-E Day, we had left our cargo in Antwerp, Belgium and we were on our way out of the North Sea headed for 26:00the Downs in England. We struck a mine, in the North Sea off Dunkirk. And so the captain ordered us to abandon ship at two a.m. in the morning. We abandoned ship and there was a --

DRUMMOND: And let’s clarify -- you struck a mine. There was -- there was, like, a live mine out --

OSTRO: Oh yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- in the water.

OSTRO: Oh yes.

DRUMMOND: That had been put there by --

OSTRO: Either the Allies or the Germans --

DRUMMOND: OK, so you’re not sure which side it was on.

OSTRO: Probably the Germans mined the North Sea, because we used it to deliver cargo to all of our allies. France and Belgium and Holland and Russia.


OSTRO: So the mining would probably been done by the Germans.

DRUMMOND: And it damaged your ship enough --


DRUMMOND: -- that you all had to abandon ship.

OSTRO: We were taking water in the engine room and in, I think, hold number four. So the captain ordered us to abandon ship --

DRUMMOND: How many men were on your ship?


OSTRO: Probably 25 or 30.


OSTRO: And, um, a British destroyer escort was standing by. They were part of the convoy. And they finally got to us about 1:30 in the morning. And that’s when we abandoned ship, at two. Or -- and they got there at the same time. And so they picked us up. And we stayed there. We had dropped anchor on our ship. And in the morning, the captain, the first mate and a couple of crew members went back on board because the ship was still there and still afloat. And they checked it out. Turned out that the hold hadn’t taken water, but the engine room was flooded. So the captain ordered the crew back onboard. So we got back in our lifeboats, went back to our ship, boarded that ship. We cut the anchors and two seagoing tugs towed us into the port just outside of London. And then we 28:00had a choice as seamen. Since the ship was damaged, it mean-- meant it would have to go into a drydock and get repaired, and would then be crewed and started up again and -- with a new cargo or something like that. And now the war in Europe was over, had ended two weeks earlier. The war in Japan was still on, in the Pacific. So our choice was to either stay as members of the crew or sign off as members of the crew and stay in England at the -- uh, they had a Seamen’s Club, which was on Wimpole Street in England, in a beautiful old house with twenty gables and, uh -- lovely street. The Barretts of Wimpole Street -- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the -- she lived on that street. One of the houses 29:00near us. The end of the street was the, uh -- Madame Tussaud’s --


OSTRO: -- Wax Museum.


OSTRO: And we were then walking distance of downtown London. So I went to the Seamen’s Club. And we were there and then we had the choice of -- later on, a month or so later, of either being repatriated, brought back to the United States as passengers, or staying in the seamen’s pool, which meant that we would be there until a ship came in and let’s say a seaman had appendicitis or something or got ill and had to be taken off the ship, we would be -- one of us would be ch-- that would be the appropriate craft would take his place, and that ship could be going to Russia or it could be going almost anywhere. So it was -- 30:00I think the war -- V-J Day had rolled around and I think when my choice came I said I’d like to go home.


OSTRO: So I was repatriated on --

DRUMMOND: How long did it take you to get home?

OSTRO: I think it was five or six days.

DRUMMOND: OK. So you weren’t there very long. But that’s a --


DRUMMOND: -- you weren’t in -- you weren’t in England very long.

OSTRO: I was there two or three months I think.

DRUMMOND: Oh, OK. So you were there two or three months.

OSTRO: Yeah, no --


OSTRO: -- the trip home was, like --

DRUMMOND: Oh, was si-- OK, I see. I -- I’m sorry, I was asking how long you were there.

OSTRO: And I think that was what they called a reefer, a refrigerator ship --


OSTRO: -- that traditionally carried about 19 passengers in addition to a cargo. And so we were on it -- the -- all the people from the John Woolman -- there were about 13 of us. We were repatriated on the Athena --


OSTRO: -- and brought back to the Port of New York.

DRUMMOND: What did you do when you were in England for those few months? Did you all -- did you find work or did you just hang out or --

OSTRO: Did you see --

DRUMMOND: I -- did --


OSTRO: -- did you see what was going on in London last night after the Olympics?

DRUMMOND: Yeah? It was like that after the war I guess. Everybody was so --

OSTRO: It was absolutely like that --


OSTRO: -- after the war. All the troops would be sent over from Europe for R&R in England before they got ships or planes or whatever it was. They were going to transport them to their own -- their home countries. So you walked around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus and --

DRUMMOND: And I guess Americans were -- were just, like, honorary citizens at that point.

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: [With?] -- yeah.

OSTRO: We were in great number, too. But you had the Greeks in -- in dresses, you know, in skirts.


OSTRO: -- and Scotsmen in their kilts.


OSTRO: Every, uh, country was represented there. And it was party time. And I was 17 years old --

DRUMMOND: And you had a great time, I bet.

OSTRO: I enjoyed myself, met a lot of nice people and kept up some of those friendships --


OSTRO: -- for a number of years.


DRUMMOND: That’s -- that’s fascinating. That’s -- wow. Wow. I feel like I’ve [been in?] --

OSTRO: And fortunately --

DRUMMOND: -- nothing.

OSTRO: -- you know, on that last ship, nobody got hurt.


OSTRO: When we struck the mine.


OSTRO: Nobody was injured. So it was -- you know, not a bad experience. Prior to that I’ve had some, you know, deaths on ships. But it -- were -- suicides overboard or lost in a rough sea or two guys blew themselves up in Naples taking apart a piece of armament that they found on the beach at -- in Naples. And they brought it back to the ship and then started to take it apart --


OSTRO: -- and they blew themselves up in their own forecastle.


OSTRO: But the last trip was -- that was it.

DRUMMOND: And, uh, you -- you took the option to go back home and went back to 33:00the Yale Club, where I’m sure they were happy to have you back?

OSTRO: Yeah. First we had the 5220 Club.


OSTRO: The 5220 Club was -- returning veterans got twenty dollars a week for 52 weeks, like unemployment insurance. If they weren’t working or they weren’t going back to school or they weren’t part of the, uh -- uh, college crowd, that sort of thing. And, uh, after that -- so almost everybody -- to unwind, relax -- was in the 5220 Club until the year was up and then they started looking for jobs.

DRUMMOND: OK. Oh, I see. So you took your year in the 5220 Club.

OSTRO: Mm-hmm.

DRUMMOND: And then went back.

OSTRO: And hung around with, you know, all the guys back at -- back home, [it was?] --

DRUMMOND: Okay, and your brothers were home then.


OSTRO: Yeah -- well, no, they were all living their lives.


OSTRO: And my -- my oldest brother had gotten married when he first got out of the army and that lasted about 11 months. Almost as long as the Kaiser-Frazer dealership. And then he went back in and became career military and remarried a Southern girl from Columbia, South Carolina --


OSTRO: -- and had two children with her. And the other brother, he was married during his -- during the war. So he went to New Jersey and opened his photography business and then grew there. So he was gone. And it was just my sister and I, and she tells a story -- she didn’t realize we grew up in the same house, because we traveled such different paths --

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

OSTRO: -- that, uh -- and she’s still alive today and she’s older than me.


DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Um, and so then in ’46 is when the 5220 was up.

OSTRO: Right.

DRUMMOND: And you went back to the Yale Club as a waiter.

OSTRO: Right.

DRUMMOND: And you were still a member of Local 6.

OSTRO: Mm-hmm.

DRUMMOND: OK. But it looks like not too long after that you became a bartender.

OSTRO: Yes. I worked the, uh -- that was a summer job at the Osprey Hotel.


OSTRO: I -- veteran of the Marine Corps who owned a liquor store in the town of Manasquan, New Jersey -- when he came back from the war, he decided to build a hotel right opposite the beach. There was one street between him and the beach. When you crossed the street, you were in the sand. And he built the Osprey Hotel and he built the longest bar in America, or in North America he claimed, and there was supposed to be one longer than that in Tijuana, Mexico. But, uh, this 36:00bar, when we opened -- oh, and I -- I ran into a friend of mine -- I was there with a fellow -- frie-- another friend by the name of John Smith. He and I were renting an apartment over a storefront on the boardwalk of that beach, just to relax, to get out of Forest Hills, get over to New Jersey. He knew Manasquan, so we went over there. But we had to get out of the apartment when June rolled around, because that’s when the beach crowd comes in and that’s when the price on those apartments went sky-high. While we were there, that hotel was being built across the street. And I ran into a friend from Forest Hills who was putting in the beer tap system for that hotel. His name was Sonny Genesco. And so I said to Sonny, “Hey, can I get a job here?” And he said, “Well, do 37:00you have any experience?” And I said sure, and I took out my Local 6 union book.


OSTRO: And I didn’t give you the whole name of the union. The union’s name was the Hotel Employees, Restaurant Employees International Union and the Bartenders International League. The BIL.


OSTRO: So I said to Sonny, “Sure, here. I’m a union bartender.” And I showed him the book, and there it was, Bartenders International League. So he said, “OK, I’ll talk to the boss.” because Sonny was Italian and the Marine was Italian. And so they talked and he said, “You got the job.” We opened that bar with 13 -- 12 bartenders and a head bartender. That’s how big the bar was.

DRUMMOND: Wow, that’s -- yeah, that’s a big bar.

OSTRO: And I had a little disk, and on that disk -- if you turned the disc, I could look up any drink and its contents on that little disc, which would fit in 38:00the palm of my hand. And that’s how I made the exotic drinks, other than the usual, you know, martinis or something like that. And I -- I worked nights for about three or four weeks. And then the day job opened up, and I thought, well, that wouldn’t be too bad. So I opted for the day bartender job. Now with the longest bar in the world -- in -- in the country, one bartender on days. And you put up a sign on the bar that says, “This section closed.” Well, if it rained across the street at the beach, they started piling in. (laughter) And that sign just got pushed all the way around.

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

OSTRO: But, um, I could spend my days with the bathing beauties. But the best part of it was that all of the charter boat captains from Brielle and the other -- Sea Girt -- the real fishing ports just below Manasquan -- they would finish 39:00up with their tours, uh, around four o’clock in the afternoon. So all of these captains from the charter boats would meet in the Osprey Hotel bar, and I was the bartender. And they, you know, were accustomed to being tipped by their clients --


OSTRO: -- and they were big tippers. So I made far more money on the day shift than I did, uh, working nights. And then, I learned a lesson.

DRUMMOND: What was your lesson?

OSTRO: One of the night bartenders came to me and he said, “You know,” he says, “the boss is going to fire you.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I don’t know, but I heard that.” Oh. [And says?] “Sure you want that on your record that you got fired?” And I said, “(inaudible) I don’t know. I’ll have to think about this.” So I thought no, I don’t want that on my record. 40:00I’m just starting out. So I gave notice and I quit. Who do you think was the new day bartender?

DRUMMOND: That guy.

OSTRO: That guy. So that was a lesson that I learned very quickly. You know, you don’t take anything for granted or --


OSTRO: -- as gospel until you check it out. So then I stayed around for an-- another couple of weeks. I did have a girlfriend then. And since I didn’t have the apartment over the boardwalk, I stayed with her, and then finally went back to Forest Hills. And I guess that’s probably when I went back to the Yale Club, I think.

DRUMMOND: OK. And here -- OK, so back to the Yale Club, before you went with home -- the Home Linen Supply?

OSTRO: No. Yes.



DRUMMOND: OK. And was it in the -- you sort of picked up your wait staff duties 41:00at the Yale Club, um, same as before?

OSTRO: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: You picked up your wait staff duties --

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- at the Yale Club same as before?

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Mm-kay. And then in, um --

OSTRO: And I worked nights.


OSTRO: Oh, and -- and when I first worked at the Yale Club, uh, as I said I was 15.


OSTRO: I got out of school at three o’clock. I took the subway into Manhattan and I worked 4:00 to 12:00. And then I went home, got up in the morning and went back into school. Needless to say, I didn’t do any homework.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. What were your grades like?

OSTRO: Very good, because I had inherited a fabulous memory.


OSTRO: And so, uh, I was able to pass any test they had, even when I was in grade school. My father used to spend more time there then I did, because they used to call him in and say, “Where’s Justin’s homework?” You know, I -- 42:00I didn’t do it last night; I’m not going to do twice tonight.

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

OSTRO: And besides, there’s basketball out there at night. (laughter) So that’s the way it went. But, uh -- so I worked 4:00 to 12:00, and then when I went back I went on the same hours. I’ve always had a tendency to like to work nights rather than mornings.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Um, from ’47 to ’50 -- is it -- do I -- am I reading it right? Fifty-six? You were with the Home Linen Supply?

OSTRO: No, let me see, I --

DRUMMOND: Or was that ’50? Forty-seven to ’50 --

OSTRO: It’s 1950.


OSTRO: And that was my third union. That was the Amalgamated Clothing Workers at the time. I think it was the Amalgamated Clothing Workers before they merged with the textile workers --


OSTRO: -- and the laundry workers joined -- board, was the unit.


DRUMMOND: OK. And, um, you were [a route?] salesman. So what did that entail?

OSTRO: The company was divided into two divisions. One division was commercial linen supply.


OSTRO: They supplied restaurants, hospitals, hotels with linens, towels, sheets, pillow cases and so on. The other was home linen supply. We supplied (laughs) -- which sounds a little strange now -- but we supplied home linens to families. So if you wanted to, uh, not have to do your wash or anything like that, we would meet with you and find out what your needs were and you would tell us how many sheets and pillow cases and bed spreads and whatever -- and towels you needed on 44:00a weekly basis, and then we would deliver those and, you know, collect the money and that would be it. So we dealt with families and the others dealt with corporations.

DRUMMOND: I’ve never heard of that before. I’ve never heard of that service before. That’s --

OSTRO: Well, you probably also heard about diaper services.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, I have heard about diaper services.

OSTRO: So this was a branch of that in a way.


OSTRO: It was right after the war, so you have to remember they were looking for new things to do and people were probably going to work that never worked before -- although the wives were always home after the husbands left.


OSTRO: But -- so that’s what it was.

DRUMMOND: Is that how you met Kathleen?

OSTRO: No. (laughter) Uh, each day you were in a different territory --


OSTRO: In other words, one day I would be on the East Side of Manhattan, the next day I might be in Brooklyn. The third day -- and those routes were already set, uh --


DRUMMOND: So did you just do the sale and then somebody else did the delivery?

OSTRO: They would call us --


OSTRO: -- that would be what we’d call a lead.


OSTRO: And I’d get the lead and I’d have to go in and talk to the woman for the first time and find out what she wanted and see if we could, you know, consummate the sale and then set her up for the daily visit and tell her what day we’d be there.


OSTRO: That job ended a little bit after a wildcat strike.

DRUMMOND: With the Amalgamated Clothing Workers?

OSTRO: Well, what happened was the people in the commercial -- the drivers in the commercial division were not happy with their conditions, either with the union or the company.


OSTRO: And along came John L. Lewis’s Mineworkers Union, District 50, which was attempting to be a catch-all for trades that weren’t miners. And they 46:00talked the commercial drivers -- we weren’t involved in a -- in the home division -- into striking against the company and the union in a wildcat strike. And the way I actually got that job in the beginning was that the business agent for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers used to drink in a bar in Forest Hills and had a lady friend that lived at the end of my street. So I used to see him all the time, and after the 5220 and everything else that went on, uh, he said to me, “You want to go to work?” And so I said yes and he said, “OK, I can get you a job -- linen supply route salesman. Pays well.” And I said, “OK.” Well, when the commercial drivers went out on strike -- with my 47:00background, I would not cross a picket line. The home delivery drivers, the rest of the drivers, crossed the picket line every day because they weren’t involved. It wasn’t a picket line by their union. As a matter of fact, the other drivers were striking against their own union to go with John L. Lewis’s District 50. That lasted about three days, and Max called me -- he was the business agent who got me the job -- and he said, “I want you to come down, load up your truck and take it out.” I said, “No, Max,” I said, “I’m not going to cross the picket line.” Well, he said -- then he said, “I want you to stay out of sight, don’t -- don’t open your mouth on the picket line (laughs) and stay out of trouble.” And so at the end of three days, the mine workers sort of backed out of it. They weren’t about to spend any money on 48:00that particular wildcat strike, because the clothing workers had a contract and that was a contract bar under the law, and so there was no way they could do it anyway. And, uh, the wind-up was that my relationship with the company was very tenuous after that. And so, uh -- because I was the only home delivery driver that respected the picket line, refused to work. And, um, so I stayed a little while longer and then I had an opportunity to go to school, and that’s when I left the linen supply company.

DRUMMOND: For Republic Aviation.



OSTRO: Somewhere in there -- you asked for some information and I did put it down somewhere. I forget l-- which list. It’s gotta be on this one. Oh, yeah, 49:00number four. How did you come to the job field?

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah. Did you --

OSTRO: You probably can’t read this, because this wasn’t supposed to be your copy. But I got --

DRUMMOND: Right, but --


DRUMMOND: -- yeah, I -- I, yeah, I -- I think that this was --

OSTRO: I got tied up with the basketball finals -- the semi-finals, and the gold game with both the men’s and the women because I’m a follower of the Lady Huskies from Yukon --


OSTRO: -- since I’ve got at least three graduates in the family from Yukon.


OSTRO: And they’re so great that, uh, I got a little tied up. So this was my copy and then I was going to do it properly for you.

DRUMMOND: Mmm, no, but, um --

OSTRO: Yeah, it’s --

DRUMMOND: -- but --


OSTRO: -- it says “missed out due to illness” --


OSTRO: -- “at Columbia University.”

DRUMMOND: OK. So tell me about that.

OSTRO: Well, I had the opp-- I was married then as a matter of fact. I met Kathleen in Forest Hills. That was another story. Um, on a blind date. My best friend and I, Al [Rowater?], we hung out with about seven other guys. One of them was a little older than we were. And, uh, he used to date a girl named Maureen Rooney. And so one night he came into the bar and he said, “Who wants to go out with a couple of nice girls?” Asking the seven of us, and the seven of us didn’t say a word. And he kept after -- you know, hey, seven -- nice girls. You know, they’re very nice girls. Couple of nice girls. And we said, you know, “Joe, we’re not really interested in nice girls right now.” 51:00(laughter) Well, the wind-up was he talked Al and I into going along with it. So we went to a house to pick up the girls and we met their mother -- we met the mother of the house and, um, we went out and we took them to, um, Gallagher’s Steak House in Manhattan. And we didn’t even know who -- which one was our date until we decided when we got there -- it’s just where we sat that selected the girl. And I selected Kathleen and Al sat next to Patty and Joe was with his girlfriend Maureen.


OSTRO: And we ended up marrying the sisters, which made us brother-in-laws. We were good friends. And, uh, that’s how the Rooney clan started. Today they number greatly. (laughs) Have a family reunion every year.



OSTRO: But, uh -- so I was married at the time and, uh, had an opportunity. Columbia -- I hadn’t gone back to school after the war was over. I mean, I might have had a year of high school -- until the time I was fifteen, and then that was it. I went off on the Marine -- in Merchant Marine -- uh, 16. And, uh, Columbia -- I think they called it the School of General Studies. And it was probably because of all the GIs around that were coming back and were in the same situation. Many of them went back to high school and finished and then went to college. Others didn’t but they, uh, didn’t continue their education. And so Columbia had this School of General Studies which said that you could attend if you’ve, you know -- you’d have to put in an application -- if you were accepted, you could attend for a year. And if you got passing grades, then you 53:00could start to matriculate.


OSTRO: And so I was accepted and then I got sick. I was unemployment insurance because I had gotten laid off from the, uh -- conveniently laid off from the linen supply company that wasn’t happy with me. And, uh, for the first time in my life I -- I went into a barber shop and got a shave before I went to the unemployment office, and I ended up with impetigo. This is a terrible skin rash on my whole face, and at the same time I developed a strep throat which was so bad that I had to pack it with ice in order to swallow.

DRUMMOND: So the skin rash was from, like, unclean practices at the barber or --

OSTRO: Yeah, it’s an infection.

DRUMMOND: Oh, that’s horrible. OK.


OSTRO: And it’s one you -- hospitals fight against --


OSTRO: -- make sure that it doesn’t happen. Now they’ve gotten, you know, very familiar with it so they’re able to control it anywhere. But in those days, [that wasn’t in?] -- they used to call it barber’s rash if he just scraped you too hard.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

OSTRO: That’s the only time I ever had a shave in a barber shop.


OSTRO: And -- was the first and the last time. But, uh, the money that I had put aside to attend Columbia was used up on medications, because the price of the medications [were, I don’t?] -- dollar a pill or something like that.


OSTRO: Today it might be four dollars a pill, but -- everything I had. So I went to my father who I told you was a wise man, and I said, “Dad, here’s what happened. You know, my bankroll is gone.” Well, he said -- “What do you think I ought to do?” he said. He said, “Well, why don’t you go into one of those defense plants?” He said, “You could work there for a year, you’d probably make enough money to be able to go at the end of the year.” And I 55:00said, “That sounds like a good idea.” So I applied to two companies and I was interviewed by two companies. And one was Republic Aviation and the other was Ford Aerospace. And, uh, while I was being interviewed, I overheard the manager from Republic talking to the hiring person from personnel that, uh, you know, “These guys will start -- the ones that you set up now will start in three months. But however I do need something like twelve people right away. So I just spoke up and said, “I’m available to start right away.”


OSTRO: So I started, was sent to a training school --


OSTRO: -- for structural mechanics.


DRUMMOND: And what is a struc-- define the work of a structural mechanic.

OSTRO: They build the infrastructure of the aircraft.


OSTRO: And in mass manufacturing, it’s done by sections.


OSTRO: My section was what they called the center fuselage. And we’d build the structure insides. I ended up as a troubleshooter -- shooter, repairing everybody else’s mistakes. That was my final job. But that’s how I went to work for Republic Aviation, and once I started there I got a call from Ford Aerospace and they wanted me to come to work for them and I told them I had taken on a -- “Well,” he said, “if you don’t like it there, you’ve got a job here.”

DRUMMOND: OK. And did you have to go to training school once you were hired, or did you just --

OSTRO: Yeah, yeah, I went to a training school.


OSTRO: Uh, six weeks of training, I guess it was.

DRUMMOND: OK. And you were there for a long time. You were --

OSTRO: Well, that’s --


DRUMMOND: -- or -- you were with them. I guess that’s was your -- the local you, uh, st--

OSTRO: I was on a leave of absence.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, that you stayed with. OK.

OSTRO: From 1955 on -- 1956 on to about 1987, that was a leave of absence and we’ll -- which under our labor agreement, I continued to accrue pension benefits.


OSTRO: As long as I represented members of our union.

DRUMMOND: And you started there in ’51. Is -- was it a closed shop or an open shop or a union shop?

OSTRO: The plant was organized in 1950. And, um, it was in a contested election in which the UAW and the IAM were constantly fighting one another for organizing 58:00targets and raiding one another, and we won the election. And I think we won the election by something like -- either 57 or 75 votes. And the first contract was a union shop. And there were probably about three thousand people there at the time of the election. I came to work right after the election and probably right after the first contract was negotiated. So it was a union shop when I arrived. And, um, the UAW was still around attempting to undermine the IAM. And so we went through and I -- I, you know, ostensibly I was supposed to be there for a year. So I decided, you know, that’s it, I’ll just go to work and I’ll work the year, put the money aside. Kathleen was working. And, um, I’ll go to 59:00Columbia when the year is over. You know, I can get -- you know, the application to -- extended. And I was there probably a year or just under a year when there was a wildcat strike there. And it was led by shop stewards, [in?] --

DRUMMOND: OK, and were you shop steward at that point or were you still just a worker?

OSTRO: No, I was just a --


OSTRO: -- just a worker.


OSTRO: And a member. Uh, to give you some idea, we had five presidents of the union -- four presidents of the union in the first five years. The first president --

DRUMMOND: There was a turnover in local -- for your local union.

OSTRO: They only got one year terms. They had to run for election each year.



OSTRO: The first president who was a good trade unionist but an alcoholic, he was removed by the international union and they set up a trusteeship. Coming to the end of the trusteeship, they elected the second president who basically was a company man. He lasted a year. Then they elected the third president, and these are presidents directing business representatives --


OSTRO: -- [they -- both jobs?]. Third president turned out -- after he lost the election, he won -- you know, got one year, then he was defeated. After he was defeated, the company refused to re-hire him on the basis that he was a communist. And in those days, all you had to do was say that --


OSTRO: -- his -- it probably, if the truth be told -- his parents probably were 61:00members of the communist party in New York, some earlier years --


OSTRO: -- and being their son, the company -- since it’s a security cleared plant -- thought they could use that to refuse him re-hire, even though under the contract if he loses office, his leave of absence is ended and he’s returned to work. In that case, they refused to accept him --


OSTRO: -- and the business agent took the company’s position and so that was the end of the third president. The fourth president was a chief steward of the day shift. And he got elected president directing business representative. And he ended up with two terms.


OSTRO: In his case, the company co-opted him. Out there on Long Island -- this plant is on Long Island, Suffolk County, and you’ve got the North Shore and the South Shore, North Shore -- lot of money. And so the company vice president 62:00used to invite the president of the union to the Vanderbilts’ lawn party and here and you’d see pictures of Adam in his tuxedo (laughs) -- well, that wasn’t -- didn’t sit too well with the -- the members. And then he negotiated a contract in which he gave too much away.


OSTRO: And, uh, I was on the negotiating committee --


OSTRO: -- and I was -- it was a 12-man negotiating committee.

DRUMMOND: And that would have been about 1956 if you started in ’51.

OSTRO: That would be 1955.


OSTRO: And I was the only one that voted against acceptance of the contract. And I stated that at the ratification meeting. And then we went into the election that year and I had promised Adam that I would never run against him. So he said, “I hear you’re running agai--” “No,” I said, “I’m not running against you.” He said, “Why not?” I said, “Because I promised 63:00you I wouldn’t.” He said, “You’re relieved of that responsibility.” I looked at him and I said, “You just made the biggest mistake of your life.” (laughter)

DRUMMOND: So -- so you -- you -- let me just clarify. Were you ever shop steward or did [you just?] --


DRUMMOND: And then (inaudible)

OSTRO: After the strike --

DRUMMOND: -- negotiating committee.

OSTRO: -- after the wildcat strike --


OSTRO: -- 24 of the stewards were refused reemployment by the company.


OSTRO: Those -- they were given a choice. They could either be represented by our union in the grievance procedure for having stayed out for three days or they chose to be represented by the UAW and their lawyer. And they chose the UAW and their lawyer and of course under the contract, they have no standing in that contract. So there’s nothing they could do for those 24 shop stewards. So they all lost their job. After that, nobody wanted to be a shop steward. And then the 64:00people that I worked with, they wanted me to become a shop steward. They weren’t happy with the steward they had, I said no. And then finally we started to grow. We went from three thousand to fifteen thousand, almost overnight.

DRUMMOND: That’s a lot.

OSTRO: And so we eventually got to twenty thousand.


OSTRO: So that was a lot of growth. And so we had one steward under the contract for every fifty employees. So our group got a little bit larger and they were entitled to a second steward and the people came to me again and I said, “Well, if everybody -- every member in this steward’s constituency, you know, the open one -- signs a petition saying they want me as their shop steward, I’ll accept it.” And then we would go and the petition said, uh, 65:00uh, with no opposition, we the undersigned want Justin Ostro to be our shop steward. And so everyone but -- there was one woman out on sick leave and I made them hold it up until she returned. She didn’t return after four weeks, I said, “OK.” We submitted that to the union and, uh, Adam was the president and, uh -- no, he was the chief steward at the time and he said OK, he went with that. And then when he got elected, then I got elected chief steward of the day shift. And that was a shift with fifteen thousand people on it. And then I held that for two years. I was also on the labor relations committee and the negotiation committee. Labor relations committee was the one that settled grievances.


OSTRO: And the shop steward and then the chief steward. And then I ran for office as president directing business representative -- there were seven candidates.


DRUMMOND: Did you run on tickets with other people?

OSTRO: We built our own ticket.


OSTRO: We were the -- the union team. And, um, the incumbent president and ex-president -- two business agents, a senior steward and myself. There were seven candidates. I ended up getting 23% of the vote, which was the largest. The closest anybody came to that figure was 16%. And under the union’s bylaws, all you had to do was have the greatest number of votes. You didn’t need a -- a majority. And so I became the fifth president in the five years.

DRUMMOND: And if that was 1955 --

OSTRO: That was 19-- December of 1955. I took office in 1956 as the president directing business representative.


DRUMMOND: So you were 28.

OSTRO: I was 27.


OSTRO: And, uh, it was the largest union on Long Island and the largest local in the machinist union at the time.


OSTRO: And, um, I was reelected every year for seven years and then, uh -- n-- no, every year for nine years, and then we changed the bylaws to a three-year term. Of course, the directing business representative ran every year. The business agents ran every two years. So every off year, two business agents would run against me each time. (laughs) And, uh, it didn’t work out too well. But I got a three-year term at the end --


OSTRO: -- and then that’s -- I’ll go -- I’ll come back to later on. What happened was six weeks after I was elected president directing business 68:00representative, the company knew me very, very well because I had been the chief steward for two years. And they knew that I went by the book. Whatever the contract said, that’s what has to be done. And if you didn’t do it the right way, we’d file a grievance and you’d have to settle the grievance or go to arbitration. And so I was very rigid as far as the contract was concerned and they knew that about me. They also knew that I only had 23% of the vote. So later on I found out that for those reasons, the company decided to take a strike while I was still supposedly green --


OSTRO: -- and unsupported. And, uh, and I learned that from a -- a reporter that worked for Newsday, that that was the company’s thinking. Because his editor 69:00and Republic’s vice president public relations were drinking buddies and golfing buddies. So Bob Greene who later became the editor of Newsday at -- later on -- he was the one that told me that. And, uh, we had a contract opener -- not an expiration of the contract. It was a three year agreement. But this was the first wage reopener and we went into negotiations and we could open wages, health insurance, pensions, holidays and the company took the position at the table that, um, “Our offer to you, take it or leave it, is five cents an hour. Nothing more, nothing less, and we’re giving you that out of the 70:00goodness of our hearts. We don’t think you deserve it.” So that was almost guaranteed to not sit well with any of the workers. And remember, this is -- fairly new union. They just went through five different presidents, and only 23% of them supported me in the election. And so we held two ratification meetings. And, um, our committee recommended strike. And -- well, I -- I guess I should tell you that the general vice president at that time was a nice guy. He had -- his office was in Manhattan, and he had the eastern territory --


OSTRO: -- at that time, the Northeast, actually --

DRUMMOND: What’s his name?


OSTRO: Uh, Fred -- oh, it’ll come to me before the conversation is over.


OSTRO: Matter of fact, I just had it when I was thinking of him and it -- it disappeared again. But, uh, he was a quiet sort of a guy, and he came to me and -- he was concerned that for some reason I would know that if a union was built on a picket line it would be a very -- in a successful strike, it would be a very, very strong union in the future. Which I didn’t know, because I never really had a role in the union other than as a supportive member. And so he said to me -- he said, “You know, if you steam those people up at the ratification meeting -- you know what steam is? That’s water that gets overheated.” And he said, “When it cools off, it diminishes and it goes back to being water and it’ll run away. And if you steam those people up, that’s exactly what’s going to happen during your strike.” I said, “Don’t worry about it, Fred. 72:00I won’t do that.” And I never did. I told the people the truth. I told them that this company probably will not even want to talk to us for maybe six or seven weeks. And, uh, it -- you’re going to have a hard time and if you don’t have money put aside or family to support you, it’s going to be very difficult. And nobody really in that membership outside of a handful of people probably had ever been on a strike. We were in Suffolk County, which was the agricultural county of Long Island. It’s the last county in the Island, then you come Nassau County, then you hit New York City and Brooklyn. Brooklyn was part of Long Island, believe it or not. And so those people were all potato farmers or clammers. Most of the active people came out of the city, primarily Brooklyn and Queens, and they came to work at Republic. So at that meeting, the 73:00-- we had fifteen thousand people. And I held two meetings, so there was probably seven thousand at one, eight thousand at the other. And I spoke very softly. You could hear a pin drop in the room. And I told them, “This is very serious. It’s not a lark, it’s not something we’re going to be able to, you know, cope with. But if we stick together we’ll be all right.” And since they had no experience, they and their leadership all assumed that you don’t go out on strike to lose. You go out on strike to win --


OSTRO: -- so we never expected to lose. And we didn’t. But the strike took 16 weeks.

DRUMMOND: That’s a long strike.

OSTRO: In the -- that’s four months.

DRUMMOND: Four months.

OSTRO: In the tenth week of the strike, the international union said -- oh, and they brought support in. They brought in six grand lodge representatives. And, 74:00um, uh, we had our general vice president. And, uh, in the tenth week of the strike, the grand lodge reached out to, uh, a general vice president from the Midwest territory, uh, the Great Lakes territory, who was the [generalized?] president assigned nationally to American Can Company. And we were very big in the can companies, because we represent machinists and most of the working can companies are done by machinists on machines. And, uh, he negotiated contracts with the American Can Company. It just so happened that the chairman of -- board of American Can was the largest stockholder in Republic Aviation. In those days, there wasn’t a, you know, a large amount of stock or --


OSTRO: -- it was different than it was today, but I think he owned 215,000 shares of Republic Aviation stock. And if you watched the shares of stock go 75:00from maybe 25 to 20 dollars a share to 18 dollars a share to 15 dollars a share and so on down, it started dropping. So in the tenth week of the strike, they decided to bring in the general vice president from the Great Lakes territory, who was a good guy and a capable negotiator. And the guy from American Can sent in his director of industrial relations to sit with the company. And so between them -- and I tried to explain to them that, um, the issues after ten weeks on strike are more than just the economic issues. We have collateral issues about how the strikers return, what happens in the fu-- oh, and incidentally, even at 76:00the end of the strike, 87% of the people were still walking the picket line. And of the 13% that were gone, half of them quit but the company still listed them as crossing the picket line, which they did not do. What happened was -- since this was a wage reopener and this was a union shop, the company was obligated to deduct dues every month from the scabs. But of course they wouldn’t send us the names of the scabs. They just told us what -- sent us a check for the amount.


OSTRO: And we didn’t get any verification. What they were doing was if you walked in, quit, said you wanted your vacation pay, your -- you know, they would give you all that and then on your final check they’d deduct the dues and then they wouldn’t deduct the dues. So the final amount didn’t change, but as far as the record was concerned, you paid five dollars dues that month.



OSTRO: So that raised up the figures. And those were the people that went to Lockheed in California and Boeing and Washington.


OSTRO: So on the tenth week of the strike, Ernie White, who was the general vice president from the Great Lakes territory and Fred Coonley, who was the general vice president for the Northeast territory --

DRUMMOND: Is that C-O-O?

OSTRO: Yeah --


OSTRO: -- C-O-O-N-L-E-Y, I think it was. Um, they negotiated and he was doing sidebar negotiations --


OSTRO: -- and he said, you know, I could come in, but my committee could not. And I said, “Ernie, I’m not going to do that.” You know, after their experience with one guy that let them down, the last president, and one guy who was a company man and the other experiences, it was a question of trust. So I explained to him that I wouldn’t go in without my committee and he didn’t 78:00want the committee in there, because they wanted to do the sidebar and do all the other things. Well, they did a great job of negotiating. They got more holidays, they got increases in pension, they got increases in the health insurance, they got the wage -- wages up to seven cents instead of five cents an hour. And I tried to explain to them that it’s the collateral issues that are important to us. “Well,” he said, “you know, we want a ratification meeting and Ernie and I -- Fred and I, we’re going to recommend it and Joe Curran was the grand lodge senior -- grand lodge representative and he was going to rem-- yeah, recommend it.” And he was called Papa Joe because he was with us from day one. And I met with our committee and told -- showed them what it was. And they took the position there’s no way we can settle without a strike 79:00settlement agreement, which gives us protection for all of our members. And that’s the position they took. So two general vice presidents and the grand lodge representative presented it to a meeting. Fifteen thousand -- close to fifteen, twenty thousand people. And I presented it for the negotiating committee. More people voted to stay out on strike in the tenth week of the strike than voted to go out in the first week. So that was a shock to all of them, because they thought, you know, it’s business as usual. You come up with a few goodies and people will jump on it and that’s the end of it. It took six more weeks to reach an agreement, and in those six weeks they finally came around and we negotiated a strike settlement agreement which said all time on strike will be counted towards seniority, pension, every other benefit, all of 80:00the holidays missed will be paid for during that period.


OSTRO: Um, all pension benefits are restored. All health insurance, which they cut off at the end of the first thirty days -- all those health insurance claims will be paid retroactively during the entire strike, and we had unions in New York that supported us, and particularly the machinists union, and the first group insurance plan called HIP, Health Insurance Plan of New York, all of their doctors were available to us and they handled all of our claims. And so all that money had to be paid back and we gave that money to the local, the district in New York for the next strike for anybody that had to go.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

OSTRO: So all of those things were in the strike settlement agreement -- were 81:00taken care of. And then we added a few pennies, I think, uh, and the people looked at it -- in the tenth week that the only difference was for them two -- an extra two cents. In the final week, all those other conditions were there. Oh, and that we’d have a right to, uh, discipline under our constitution anyone who crossed our picket line. And they signed on for that, too.

DRUMMOND: Oh, any, um, workers who crossed the picket line to go in and get a work -- whether they were union or non-union.

OSTRO: And when the st--

DRUMMOND: What did you mean by discipline?

OSTRO: We could fine them, we could suspend them, we could --


OSTRO: -- remove them --


OSTRO: -- even though it was a union shop, we could do all of those things.


OSTRO: And on that one, the company took us to court, trying to say that isn’t what they intended.


OSTRO: And I -- I’m trying to remember what the exact line -- which was -- but the language was very clear. Oh, and the judge said the language (laughs) -- 82:00very clear and unambiguous.


OSTRO: And he said we need no parole evidence -- parole evidence being that we wanted to testify as to what was agreed to, which the language didn’t necessarily spell out specifically, that they could be brought up on charges, tried before a union committee and if found guilty serve a penalty. But, um, they won the case. We got, um, uh, stopped by the court from doing that. So the wind-up was workers being workers, they ostracized the handful of scabs that crossed their picket line.


OSTRO: Many of those just decided this wasn’t a good place to work anymore. Others, you know, they’d grin and bear it and that was it.

DRUMMOND: That’s fascinating. Most people don’t have that much detail about 83:00strikes. No matter how many questions you ask, um, other interviewees have not been that, um, detailed about a story about a strike. So that’s fascinating.

OSTRO: And we put out a handbill every week. A newspaper.


OSTRO: Telling the -- the strikers exactly what was going on, who was supporting us, what took place, um, which local unions were there. We’d have -- we held a meeting once every four weeks of all fifteen to twenty thousand members in an armory. And we’d -- and in the meetings, we have people standing.


OSTRO: I mean, you know, for an hour, an hour and a half. No seats. Just shoulder to shoulder, feel the warmth of each other. (laughs) So we held a meeting every four weeks for the entire 16 weeks, put out a handbill every week. 84:00Walked the picket line every day. And, um, we won our strike.

DRUMMOND: And so that was your first year as president?

OSTRO: That was my first year at Republic. Six weeks after I took office.


OSTRO: That year we had to run for reelection and I think there was 12 members on our team, 10 executive board members with the president, vice president and so on down the line, and two business agents. And we won all but two of those slots and the two slots were, like, trustees or something like that. The second year, we ran as a team and we won them all. The third year, the other two business agents [went -- uh?], we added them.


OSTRO: So it was -- it -- Fred Coonley knew what he was talking about. (laughs)


DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I’m going to pause it for just a second.

OSTRO: [Let’s?] --

DRUMMOND: During the ratification meeting, I had to explain to the members also before they voted that there wouldn’t be any strike benefits. That the -- the fund was going to go broke in about -- after two weeks on strike, the first two weeks they don’t get any benefits anyway -- and starts in the third week and it would only last about two weeks, but the fund in the IAM headquarters was depleted and there wouldn’t be any strike benefits after that. And yet they still voted to strike. During the course of the strike, I tried to borrow a million dollars because we were also getting contributions from labor unions all over the country, and particularly machinists, aerospace workers and then all the unions in New York City. And so we were set up to give the members twelve dollars -- vouchers from the supermarkets that they could take in and get twelve dollars worth of groceries. And it was at the wholesale price so that the twelve 86:00dollars bought a lot more than, uh, twelve dollars. And during the strike, we tried to borrow a million dollars and I went to John L. Lewis, the head of the mineworkers, who cost me the unpleasantries of cro-- you know, as a result of crossing the picket line in linen supply. And he was about to lend us the million dollars, but then he -- something happened at the last minute, got a phone call from somebody and he changed his mind. And, uh, so with all the help we were getting in New York City, one of our friends that were helping us, in addition to HIP, which was one of the first group insurance operations, uh, health insurance, the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, they took care of the doctors and everybody, and they provided that for us. The Amalgamated 87:00back in New York came through and lent us a million dollars on my signature alone. No collateral whatsoever. And so we use that to keep the vouchers going and the, uh, and the strike going, and try to work out an arrangement where, uh, our people could survive. And when the strike was over, after sixteen weeks on strike, the first membership meeting after the strike, members came to the meeting and made a motion to double their dues in order to pay off the union’s debts. And we paid off the million dollars in two years. We started building a -- a -- a new union office on the six acres of land that, uh, the prior president had left as the only asset of the union when he finished his term. And 88:00we built and paid for the union’s office in the next year. So in three years, we had paid off the million dollar debt and we built ourselves a very nice building, which when that union was finally mer -- that local was finally merged after Republic closed down and Fairchild moved the plant, uh, that building and its property was sold for over four million dollars, which the New York City Local had inherited it -- got.


OSTRO: So, uh, that was the history.

DRUMMOND: Well, it looks like you were busy, not just at your own Local. And that was Local number 1987?

OSTRO: Yeah, there’s --

DRUMMOND: Local Lodge 1987?

OSTRO: -- there’s two more steps in that one that you might find interesting because --

DRUMMOND: Oh sure.

OSTRO: -- they’re a little bit out of the usual, which doesn’t happen very often. My allergies are driving me nuts. Um, two years later, when the entire 89:00contract came up for renegotiations, the company attempted to lowball us again, thinking that, you know, they just came off a strike --


OSTRO: -- uh, and, uh, for 16 weeks and they won’t want to do it again and they just spent all their money buildings themselves a new building and, um, so we’re going to lowball it. They lowballed it. We had a ratification meeting. The people voted to strike at midnight on Sunday night. And we sent word to the company that if they’d like to meet again in negotiations to negotiate a legitimate offer, we’ll withhold the strike call at midnight on Sunday night. “W-w-when can we meet?” was the answer (laughter) from the vice president of 90:00Republic Aviation. We met, we negotiated an agreement. We had another ratification meeting and that one was accepted. Then three years later, the same thing happened. And, uh, the company was going to hardball it. Nineteen sixty-two. We end up having a strike. This time there were no scabs. At all. Because the company closed the plant. And what it was is they wanted to do some rework inside the plant that -- work that they could do to get the plant back in shape, to get their production lines in order and so on and they thought, well, this way we won’t have to pay anybody while we’re doing it and [we -- gonna happen?]. So we were out on strike for seven weeks. And in New York State, the 91:00law says that strikers, after seven weeks on a picket line, are then eligible for unemployment insurance if they can’t find work. And we were on strike for seven weeks. During that period of time, the company was reaching out to their friends in the Department of Defense and the Labor Department and the Commerce Department to try and put pressure on our international union to get us to settle. And, uh, I had a new general vice president then by the name of Matt [DeMore?] who was a really good guy. They all are good guys, but -- uh, he spent a lot of time as the head of a big district before he became a general vice 92:00president, and so he knew what it was with the troops. And, uh, we got called to Washington because the president of the United States was considering placing us under a Taft-Hartley injunction. Quite honestly, this was unheard of. No union has ever spent seven weeks on a picket line before being hit with the Taft-Hartley injunction, because the Taft-Hartley injunction is emergency action because you can’t do without the work. If they wanted to do that to us, it would be like this: well, we’ve got to put you under a Taft-Hartley injunction as soon as you strike, and then you’ll go for an 80-day cooling off period, which means you’ll go back to work, because we need that aircraft in the war or whatever.


OSTRO: Defense of our country. But this went on for seven weeks, and during that seven weeks -- with the help of friends in the labor movement -- we got the 93:00Speaker of the House in New York State, a Republican, Joe Carlino, to get an interpretation which said that if the union members are forced back in to the plant under a Taft-Hartley injunction and at the 80 days decide to rejects the offer and go back out on strike, they will be instantly eligible for unemployment insurance under the State of New York without waiting another seven weeks. So that was something we had in the background. We went to Washington, I met with the international president, Al Hayes, and he said, well, he said, “You know, we’re going to meet with the Secretary of Labor, Arthur Goldberg. 94:00What do you think the Secretary’s going to say?” I said, uh, “I don’t know Al. I guess he was going to say, ’Can we end this strike?’“ “Well, yes,” he said, “that’s one of the things he’s going to say.” But he says, “[He’s?] gonna make a proposal that you accept the final offer of the company. What would your answer be?” “My answer would be I’d take that to the members of our union and the negotiating committee and, uh, take their response.” And he said to me, “What do you think their response will be?” And the general vice president was there, Matt DeMore, and he said, “In that local, whatever the leadership recommends, the membership will accept.” So 95:00then Al Hayes turned to me and he said, “And what will your recommendation be?” And I said, “My recommendation will be to reject the offer. The offer hasn’t changed since we went on strike.” Although under a Taft-Hartley injunction, both sides are brought together -- [I think it?] -- with the Federal Mediation Service and the union must submit its last final position. The company must submit its last final position. And we had -- I forget, something like 24 things on our list, they had something else. And so that had already been done. So what he’s saying is that it’s going to be the company offer that we’re going to vote on. And so Hayes said, “OK.” Now Hayes and I had grown together over those years (laughs) because I was just -- unknown quantity in the 96:00beginning and a greenhorn and he was the international president with probably the best reputation in the labor movement. We went in, we met with Arthur Goldberg. It went down just the way we said it was going to go down. And the wind-up was we got hit with a Taft-Hartley injunction, which ordered us back to work for 80 days. The end of the 80 days, the final company offer is submitted to the membership of the union by the government, not by the union. And, uh, so we did our homework with, uh, Joe Carlino, the Speaker of the House, and he guaranteed the unemployment insurance. By that time, we had a strike fund and they had a -- you know, and the international strike fund had been replenished. And, uh, during those 80 days, they didn’t try very much to negotiate. But 97:00when it was very clear from their supervisors that the members of the union would go out again at the end of the 80 days if that offer were made, they hired a guy to give us the final offer before the end of the 80 days. Like, you know, maybe a week before. Uh, and he, I think, originally came from American Can, but he ended up as the Postmaster General of the United States in later years. And he came in and he presented the offer, because the company -- they didn’t have it in them to do it. It was such a hard pill to swallow -- of the 24 things on our list, they gave us 23 of them. (laughs) The only thing we didn’t get was 98:00an extra holiday. And I’ve never seen a settlement like that in my entire career, either before or since then, where something like that happens, and the company has to hire somebody to do it because their people couldn’t. And the one guy that always gave us trouble with that company was -- director of labor relations. His name was Wayne Bates, and he was the one that if some poor guy made a mistake and they discharged him and we had a case that should’ve given him his job back, Wayne Bates at the last minute would be the one that said no. And after all this was over, the factory manager of the company was a really good guy. And he and I were having dinner one night, which is unusual, but (laughs) -- we were friends. And he said, “I want to tell you what happened in those final meetings that the company held before they gave you that offer. And 99:00he told me how the president, chairman of the board said this is our offer. And this guy Wayne Bates said to him, ’You’re crazy if you give that to the union.’ He said, ’And yes, and you’re fired.’“ (laughter) And he said, “Bates went.” I said, “Well, I could never understand why he would take them all on like that.” And, uh, the factory manager says, “Very simply. He was married to money.” That North Shore I told you about?

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah.

OSTRO: Where they wined and dined at them? He was married to some heiress. And this was, like, a toy to him.


OSTRO: He could do anything he wanted. He wasn’t worried about losing his job. And for all the years that we worked with him, he was just a stumbling block and probably responsible for a number of those issues in the strikes and everything else.



OSTRO: I don’t know what ever happened to him, but that was it. The rest of that crew went when Fairchild bought Republic Aviation. But, uh, so -- very unusual things that happened, like that Taft-Hartley injunction. You find out that the only unions that get hit with Taft-Hartley injunctions were either the railroads or the mines. And they got the third day of the strike or whatever it was, put them right back to work with the Taft-Hartley injunction. Seven weeks on a picket line and we wouldn’t break so along came a Taft-Hartley injunction.

DRUMMOND: Well -- so this was while you were president of Local 1987. Um, but it looks like you were also --

OSTRO: As they say in New York, that’s where I earned my bones.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. But you were also active with the New York State Council of Machinists?

OSTRO: Right.

DRUMMOND: The, uh, New York Long Island Federation of Labor.

OSTRO: Right.


DRUMMOND: Um, during this time. And did you have active roles or were you just delegate or -- or --

OSTRO: No, I had active roles, uh --

DRUMMOND: OK. What did you do with the New York State Council of Machinists?

OSTRO: I was the vice president, and they had a number of vice presidents. But I had the jo-- I trained people.


OSTRO: I viewed my job and my responsibility as building unions --


OSTRO: -- to help improve the lives of workers and their families. And that’s really what it was. And to train leadership to build teams with team spirits to do that job.


OSTRO: And so we had -- they -- they called a three seat conference, and I chaired that conference and it was like a, um, a workshop. It was a workshop. And we taught them about contract negotiations, contract enforcement, uh, contract violations, how to enforce agreements, how to negotiate contracts, and 102:00so that was my active role. And then in addition to that, we did some politics in terms of, um, government.


OSTRO: Did some lobbying.

DRUMMOND: OK. And, um --

OSTRO: The Long Island Federation of Labor brought together all of the unions on Long Island.


OSTRO: And we were the largest. We helped elect a new president to the Long Island Federation of Labor by the name of Chuck Brown, and he did an excellent job of getting labor commissioners designated in Nassau County and then in Suffolk County and the appointees by the county executive were union representatives that took those full-time jobs and became government employees. So we had -- after going from a non-union climate to a pretty well-organized 103:00climate in Nassau County and then Suffolk County, we were active in that.

DRUMMOND: Um, here it says that you were president of Local Lodge 1987, um, but you were also directing business representative. And was that for your local or was that for an -- a district?


DRUMMOND: That was just for your local?

OSTRO: We did not -- we were the largest local in the machinists union and we did not belong to a district.

DRUMMOND: OK, OK. because sometimes --

OSTRO: District --

DRUMMOND: -- that’s a, you know --

OSTRO: District 15 was in New York.


OSTRO: I tried to merge with District 15 twice --


OSTRO: -- our members turned it down.

DRUMMOND: OK. OK. And -- and as -- the part of --

OSTRO: But we didn’t have any jurisdiction. So that if we merged with District 15 in New York --


OSTRO: -- the understanding was that we would then be given jurisdiction for organizing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Now with the twenty thousand people that we had at our peak, that industry was contracting. And so those, uh, jobs 104:00were disappearing and our members were getting laid off. Well, they were going to work in other shops and they’d call us and say, “Boy, you know, this place is terrible. We need a union.” And we didn’t have the jurisdiction to organize them. We’d have to turn that over to District 15. And they were in Manhattan, so it was a long trip out to Suffolk County. And that was part of the interest in merging. And every time we worked out a merger agreement, our members would shoot it down. The only time -- (laughs) we didn’t get the support that we asked for. And we did it because we knew that eventually -- the entire aerospace industry was contracting. They were going from about 24 major contractors to -- today there are about three. So we saw that and we knew that all these other industries will have to come up on Long Island because it’s -- it’s an area of millions of people and they need work and they don’t want to go into Manhattan. But we never got the jurisdiction because, uh, the merger. So 105:00we ended up as a union almost lasting as long as our number. It almost went out of business in 1987 --


OSTRO: -- and that was its designation. It was Local Lodge 1987.

DRUMMOND: Mmm. Well, as directing business representative, how did that -- how did your work -- was that work different from just your day-to-day work as president or would -- did they -- were they so combined that, like, one would --

OSTRO: The reason for setting up that kind of an arrangement in a union is to keep people from competing against one another in the sense that -- where we have a president and a separate directing business representative, we find them running against each other. The president wants to be the business agent, because maybe the president isn’t a full time job.


OSTRO: And the business agent is.



OSTRO: So by merging the two, it meant that the business agent -- the president conducts the meetings, he chairs the executive board and he represents the lodge in all things. As a directing business representative, he directs the business agents and assigns the business agents to carry out the orders of the lodge and to service the members, and he supervises them. So it’s one job and it works very well.

DRUMMOND: Um, and so then in ’66, you became grand lodge rep. And who asked you to do that?

OSTRO: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Who asked you to be-- who -- to be grand lodge rep?

OSTRO: The international president, Roy Siemiller.


OSTRO: He called me to -- oh, I called him. He sent me a letter telling me that my weekly report was three weeks late and that, uh, I’d better get it in or, 107:00uh, they’ll stop paying me. Something similar to that. So we had just gone through a convention --


OSTRO: -- and we -- in those days, the convention would act on proposals and constitutional changes, but they weren’t final until later on in the year. They were submitted to the entire membership to vote on, in every local lodge. And one of the proposals was to restructure the international dues and, uh -- structure. And the, uh, grand lodge per capita. And we were the largest local. And we worked hard to try and get all of our members to participate by holding a 108:00steward’s meeting, a membership meeting, a -- our monthly picnic, all on the day that the members would be coming to the union hall to vote at the membership meeting on those proposals. And we turned in the second largest vote of the entire union in favor of the grand lodge’s position on that per capita tax increase and the other things. The only one that beat us was the big lodge 701 in Chicago, Illinois. And he gave away a television every hour. (laughter) Don Burroughs. And, uh --


OSTRO: -- so when I got the letter from Roy, I called him up and I said, you know, “I don’t appreciate that letter, telling me I” -- well, he said, “Justin, what are you getting excited about?” I said, “Well, you know, we 109:00broke our back trying to get all the votes in for that resolution and everything and so we’ve been working pretty hard here.” Well, he said, “Justin, that’s a form letter.” He said, “I sent the same letter to Sal Iaccio, business agent in New York City and Barney Kelly, a business agent in New York City and you.” He said, “So I don’t know what you’re getting upset about.” (laughs) “It was just a form letter.” He said, “By the way, would you like to come on my staff?” And I said, “Well” -- I hadn’t even give it -- any thought. Because of my history of taking a very firm position with my membership -- membership of our lodge -- I thought I burned all my bridges when it came to that sort of thing, staff officer -- out of the question. So I was a little bit surprised. I said, “Well, you know, I would 110:00like to talk to you about it. OK, let’s see what we can do.” And so I thought about it, got to talk to my wife, I said, and see what she thinks. And I had just been elected to my first three-year term. So I had served a year and under our bylaws, the vice president, Jack Kennedy, would automatically succeed to the presidency and the directing business representative’s job. So he’d have two years to get his feet on the ground, two years before he’d have to negotiate his first agreement, which would’ve been very close to that same time. And time-wise, it would have been good for the lodge to make that transition. By that time, we were a very smooth-running local lodge -- even with all of the ups and downs of the industry, uh, we held the record for the greatest number of personal letters to the president of the United States on any 111:00single issue. And the single issue was they were trying to take the most sophisticated weapons system in the world away from us and give it to McDonnell Douglas. And it was the last plane we had, the F-105. And so we were lobbying, and everybody on Long Island was pressed into service. We were on the railroads with the railroad unions giving it to their passengers on the Long Island Railroad. We were on the radio, we were in the newspapers. All the unions on the island [were?], but we had personal letters sent to the -- this is before e-mail or --


OSTRO: -- v-mail or computers or anything else. And, uh, so it was, you know, quite an operation and we had built a -- a good reputation. So when I took the job, I met with them. I thought that I was going to be doing what I was doing with the New York State [Council of?] Machinists: teaching classes and training 112:00paid -- trade unionists. And I met with him and he told me to meet with him and I met with him in Florida, along with, um, the then -- his -- the at-large general vice president at headquarters. The headquarters general vice president. And, um, he told me, you know, what he had in mind. And I told him that, you know, if he was looking for someone who was going to tell him what he wanted to hear and, uh, he was -- he really didn’t want me. I said, “Because I’m going to call it the way I see it and I’ll never lie to you.” So he said, “That’s what I want.” And it turned out instead of being a trainer to go around upstate New York -- that’s what I visualized --



OSTRO: -- driving all over New York State and teaching classes -- he was sending me to Connecticut to United Aircraft, which was now United Technologies, and Pratt & Whitney, because we had a strike there in 1960. And that was an open shop. And so the people didn’t have to join the union. And, uh, conditions got so bad in 1960 that the machinists union struck United Aircraft. And their strike lasted either nine or ten weeks. They struck with 38% membership. And in 114:00our industry or in almost any industry, when you’re on strike -- when there’s 51% of the members are inside the plant and 49% are on the outside, you’ve lost the strike. In that case, they only had 38% after sixteen -- well, I don’t know how many [years?] at that time -- 38% membership in an open shop. And yet they still struck because they were so aggravated. The skills stayed out. The machinists, the tool and dye makers, the -- uh, engine rebuilders and the other workers went in. And so they made us -- they had a strike settlement agreement in which the company said they weren’t going to lay off any of the scabs and they weren’t going to bring back all of the strikers. However they will bring back the strikers piecemeal as they’re needed. But if they’re not 115:00back by December 31st, they lose everything -- seniority, whatever. And so that was signed and, uh, the company decided to teach the workers at Pratt & Whitney and United Aircraft a lesson. And so they did what we call compressing the complement. They had people work in there working overtime so that they didn’t have to call anybody back except the ones that they wanted and they made sure that the major part of the strikers did not get back before December 31st. So they lost everything. Then they offered some of them their jobs back at lower grades, at lesser pay without seniority. And so the IAM got angry in Washington 116:00and they filed suit against the company for compressing the complement. And they were in and out of court all -- for about -- it was 1960, so it must have been five years that they were in and out of court. And then Roy Siemiller, who was the president that asked me to go on his staff -- that was my assignment. Ross Matthews was his, uh, headquarters vice president. He described it as, “You’re going there to win hearts and minds in an open shop.” When I got there, they now had 13% membership and 25,000 in the bargaining unit that they represented. The union never had a majority in any one of the plants and they kept the plants under separate labor contracts --



OSTRO: We never had a majority in all the plants at the same time. We had a majority when we won the election to represent them, but we never kept it. So after 16 years, there was 13% membership, hard feelings over the strike between the scabs and the workers and that was my assignment, to rebuild our union at, uh, United Aircraft. And the, uh, the story that was told to me a number of years later by Roy Siemiller was that in the settlement of one of those lawsuits -- the company actually won the lawsuit and we owed them money. We -- we had to pay them a fine and it was in the millions of dollars. And so they worked out an agreement where instead of paying them, we would give the money to a charity -- we’d specifically determine which charity. And so he told me they -- during that meeting at his headquarters, he was with the chairman of the board of United Aircraft. And they worked out the details and then -- was on the tenth 118:00floor in -- in Washington. As he walked the chairman of the board to the elevator and they were waiting for the elevator, he turned around and said to Siemiller, “Tell me, why did you send Ostro to Hartford?” And Roy’s telling me this story at an AFL-CIO convention in Florida, around the pool. And he said, “It’s very simple.” He said, “I heard that United Aircraft was the biggest son of a bitch in the aerospace industry, so I sent our biggest son of a bitch.” (laughter) I had a laugh.

DRUMMOND: Um, so you were the grand lodge rep for ten years.

OSTRO: Mm-hmm.

DRUMMOND: Were you in Hartford the whole time?



DRUMMOND: And, um, I know you were there for aerospace or to help out with, um, Pratt & Whitney and then, um, United Aircraft. Uh, but did you ever have any dealings with the Winchester plant that’s in New Haven? The repeating arms plant?

OSTRO: Only -- only --

DRUMMOND: Which was also organized under the machinists.

OSTRO: That was George [Poone’s?] assignment.


OSTRO: He was a grand lodge representative.


OSTRO: Um, mine was to reorganize, train people, build a union --


OSTRO: -- United Aircraft. At our peak -- now, we’re -- organizing is one thing, where you have to meet with workers and convince them that a union is going to help them improve their hours, wages and working conditions. In an open shop, in order to organize a member, you have to convince him to sign a check-off card to authorize deduction of union dues. So that was our challenge. 120:00At our peak, we were organizing 1700 new members a month. We organized over 31,000 people.


OSTRO: Part of it -- turnover.


OSTRO: And that was during the first five years of those ten years. The rest was building a union. Under their agreement, you had one shop steward for every 250 people and he didn’t even have the right to leave his job to take care of a union problem. So we authorized union stewards. We didn’t call them shop stewards, we called them union stewards and the headquarters in Washington made special badges for union steward and shop steward. We had one union steward for 50 people. And we took the position -- and we had a good staff. Each general vice president lent us a grand lodge representative from their staff. And so 121:00they were there. There was -- we called them the dirty dozen. There was 13 grand lodge representatives and business agents combined. And we said if we can’t organize three hundred shop stewards, we’re not going to organize thirty thousand people. So our job -- first job -- was to organize one shop steward -- one union steward for every 50 people. His job -- again, no time off the clock -- his job was if any one of his 50 people had a grievance, a problem, was being mistreated, he would gather all of the facts and then hand it to the shop steward, the one for the 250, and the shop steward would then proceed. And we really had to turn over the shop stewards, because there was about -- for thirty thousand people, there was about 26 shop stewards in the whole place. And they were all timid, they were all scared -- didn’t want to go through another strike. And so over time, the union stewards that gained the most expertise 122:00would move up to the shop steward role, and then in negotiations we started to negotiate backwards. A shop steward for every 200, shop stewards for every 150 and finally I think we ended up with a shop steward for every 50 over a period of years. And that’s the way we started to build the union. And we gave out a handbill every week at the gates of the plant. We held seven stewards meetings every week. From -- we’re talking about years now.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

OSTRO: And that’s why we got up to the point where we were organizing at the rate of 1700 per month, district-wise. And we had to reeducate the company, because they kept all the plants separate. So they’d bring you into negotiations -- remember, for them it was a minority union. The only time we had a majority was when we won the election. After that, our locals went into 123:00minority status. The company didn’t challenge us because they liked it that way. A minority union has no strength. Therefore, when they went into negotiations with the union, this was their practice. They went in on separate days with each of the plants, with the exception of one, Hamilton Standard. And they negotiated separately with each of the plants. And so they kept them weak and we had to change that. So we said we want to meet for all the plants at the same time. They said, “Oh, no, there’s no way we’re going to do that.” Said, “OK, that’s fine.” Sent them a letter and told them this is our negotiating committee for Pratt & Whitney East Hartford. This is our negotiating 124:00committee for North Haven. This is our negotiating committee for the other plants, and it included five members from each of those plants on a twenty person negotiating committee -- of course, there were four locals whose contracts came up together and Hamilton Standard came six months later. So the company was going to face the same people every day and they were going to do it for different -- so the first day we had the meeting and they went through their routine. Here’s what we’re doing --


OSTRO: -- we’re here, we want to work out an agreement and so on. Second day they’d start over and s-- our committee had gone through classes, I trained them, what negotiations were all about, what was going to happen across the table -- for people who’d never been in a bargaining table -- what to expect from the company and how to be disciplined so the company can’t get away with anything. If I’m talking to the director of industrial relations and I’m 125:00making a point and he doesn’t want to answer it, the guy over there from labor relations is going to say something to our chief steward from East Hartford, to break up the conversation. And they were trained not to respond. All of the people on the company side were assigned to write down every word -- it’s a man-for-man defense -- every word that the man that they’re assigned to says during the course of that negotiations. After each session, they would debrief their side and they’d make a transcript. So they had a verbat-- almost a verbatim transcript of everything that was said. So we taught our people not to respond to those inquiries --


OSTRO: -- to -- we’ll decide what we’re going to say before we go in there. And then our spokesman or whoever he assigns will say, you know, if it’s -- I want somebody on health and welfare, he’ll do that, and so on. And so after the third day -- when the second day came around at the other plant, the North 126:00Haven plant, we said, “Oh, yes, we heard that yesterday.” And this went on for the whole day. Finally by the third day, the company said, “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We will negotiate for the East Hartford plant” -- which was the largest plant -- “and if we reach an agreement with the East Hartford plant that’s ratified, we’ll extend the terms of that agreement, that offer, to the other plants, which you’re going to recommend.” We hadn’t gone to a ratification meeting [of?] --


OSTRO: -- and that’s how we ended it. So we had [won?] negotiations. Still kept the four contracts, but they had to deal with us that way. And it was interesting. And, uh, in this life, very seldom does anybody ever come up and tell you things like that. But at my retirement dinner, many, many years later, that was 1968 -- in 1992, the director of industrial relations for United Technology came up to me at my retirement dinner in Las Vegas. And he said, 127:00“You probably don’t remember me,” he said, “but I was one of those labor relations reps that was assigned to take down what each man said.” He said, “You have no idea how much we enjoyed watching you in those negotiations -- your team teaching United Aircraft how to negotiate a new agreement.” And he said, (laughter) “I just wanted you to know that.” And I said, “I really appreciate you coming up and telling me that.” I thought that was very thoughtful of him.

DRUMMOND: Um, so did anything else -- how -- I mean, you were in New Haven the whole time you were grand lodge rep and you said the first five years was building the union and then (inaudible)

OSTRO: Once we rebuilt the union -- and I’d said this to all of the people 128:00that came to us, because we were then the largest union in Connecticut --


OSTRO: -- uh, the -- uh, United Aircraft lodges -- and the other unions came to us, the labor council came to us, the charities came to us. And I said, well, I’m going to have to tell you that we won’t be able to participate with you until we build our own strength. And when we’re a strong and competent and capable union, then we’ll be able to lend assistance, which could be important. And that’s exactly what we did. So when I finally reached the point -- and I had to take the responsibility, because the leadership there had been so broken up in ways -- they really didn’t have a leader that everybody could look towards, even though they were part of a district. So the DBR of the 129:00district, he was assigned to the North Haven plant and the other business agents that were there -- there were two of them -- they were assigned to two other plants, and then the grand lodge representative stepped in and acted in the capacity of b-- they acted as grand lodge representatives, but they did the work of business agents. And, uh, we started to build our union that way. When we finally got to a couple of negotiations in which we turned the place around, uh, then it was time to build -- to reach out and build the roots to the labor movement, to the political structure --


OSTRO: -- and that’s when we started to do that. So I ended up as the president of the Greater Hartford Labor Council, which was all of the unions in the thirteen counties surrounding Hartford, and started to build the labor council. Because it was in the same condition as -- as the Pratt & Whitney locals. And so we started to build a very strong labor council by bringing more 130:00people into the leadership, uh, unions that the leader -- who happened to be a building trades guy that I replaced, uh, even though that wasn’t the building trades council, it was the labor council -- AFL-CIO -- we brought them in and we built a very strong central labor council. Then we went to work on the state labor council. And as I said, my job was building unions to help workers have a better life. It’s also most important to do that with teamwork. So my job was to build a team of leaders who could do a good job.


OSTRO: So the first thing we did was we took all of the machinists from all over the state -- Winchester and every other local in the state. Over the years, they could never get along with one another because each one had their own agenda. I mean, that happens in every union.


OSTRO: And we had a meeting with all of our delegates at the labor council from 131:00every machinists union in the state and explained to them that, you know, when you split yourselves up, you get written off. If somebody can capture half of your votes and somebody else has got the other half, neither one of them care about you anymore, because you just negated yourselves. So we have to come out of here with one voice. In order to build a union, you have to be in solidarity with one another, and that has to come first. If we have a difference of opinion, it should be here in this machinists union caucus. When we walk out of this room, we have to be one voice. They learned how to do that. So when the president of the labor council asked me if -- what the machinists were going to do -- were they going to support his slate? I said, Yes.” He said, “How 132:00many?” I said, “All of them.” He said, “What?” I said, “All of them.” That was the path we laid for them.


OSTRO: Did the same thing with politics, we did the same thing with charity. And the grand lodge representative’s real job outside of building unions is to work himself out of a job. Every leadership responsibility I took over, I was training somebody to take it from me. New business agents, new DBR, new presidents, new treasurers, and a lot of those people, uh, uh, came from -- the millionth member was organized during that campaign. The machinists union millionth member was organized at District 91 in Hartford, Connecticut during that period. And, um, he was a gem.


DRUMMOND: Excellent. So, um, when you were called to be general vice president, GVP, who gave you that -- whose -- who -- who called you in for that? Who was -- was --

OSTRO: Who was responsible for offering me a general vice presidency?

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah. Who did that?

OSTRO: Bill Winpinsinger.

DRUMMOND: OK, I -- that -- that’s what I was getting at. I figured that the president -- [the IP?] had turned over by that time. Um, or was he -- was he IP at that -- in that --



OSTRO: He was general vice president.


OSTRO: And he was regarded as the best.


OSTRO: Of the best.

DRUMMOND: Yes. And which dist-- which territory were you?

OSTRO: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Which territory?


OSTRO: Um, this was an unusual situation. In our union, very seldom are any of the officers ever removed. (blows nose) Very seldom do any not get reelected, even though they’re elected by a million members at the time. But Bill Winpinsinger was -- decided to build his own team of people that he thought he could count on. And two of the officers for one reason or another -- which was a legitimate reason -- were asked not to run for reelection. Uh, one objected. He was running for general vice president. He was the general vice president and he, uh -- when he wasn’t going to be re-nominated on the -- on Winpinsinger’s slate, he chose to run against Winpinsinger for international president. Uh, the other one took the -- it wasn’t a retirement, but he had 135:00another job that he could go to.


OSTRO: And he went to the other job.


OSTRO: Not in the machinists union. In the community.


OSTRO: And so he went there and so there were four new general vice presidents to be elected. [That could be Dean?].


OSTRO: I left a message for them. Did they knock?

DRUMMOND: Uh -- [who?] -- just tried to open the door. Let me --

DRUMMOND: OK. So it’s -- you’ve been asked by --

OSTRO: Bill Wi--

DRUMMOND: Roy Siemiller to --

OSTRO: No. Asked by Bill Winpinsinger.

DRUMMOND: By Bill Winpinsinger, my apologies -- um, to, um, run for general vice president for -- which territory again? Not a territory.

OSTRO: You don’t -- you -- the -- you run for election, the entire membership has a right to vote for a general vice president -- or all the officers --



OSTRO: However, the international president also has the authority to assign general vice presidents.

DRUMMOND: Oh, I see. OK. OK. OK. And your response was?



OSTRO: Yes, I --


OSTRO: -- just gone through a divorce, so I was single and I was mobile and I had spent ten years in, uh, Hartford, uh, building the, uh, the district there, and I was ready to leave and each position that I took of leadership for purposes of building a union --


OSTRO: -- eventually was turned over to a machinist. He would -- the president of the Greater Hartford Labor Council, Mike Dorsey, was the secretary treasurer in the big local in Ha-- East Hartford. He became the president of the Greater Hartford Labor Council. And then, of course, he went on to be the assistant 137:00secretary in Washington, D.C. and, uh, served as the second highest under, uh, the secretary treasurer. The DBR of District 91 that came on while I was there and he was the one that was trained, Gordon Sawyer, he became the executive vice president of the Connecticut Labor Council. And that’s really what my job was, to build a union and a structure that could survive itself and help the workers. And so the machinists union became a very dominant union in Connecticut, which it already should have been, uh, you know, because of its size. But, um, because of the situation with the company, they never really had a chance to get their feet on the ground. The company was constantly trying to undermine them. So that’s where it ended up. So I was asked to go on with the Winpinsinger team. 138:00George Poulin was asked to go on the Winpinsinger team. Um, Stanley Jensen was asked to go on the Winpinsinger team. And a fellow out of Chicago was asked to go on the Winpinsinger team. And he had a massive heart attack before he was installed in office. He’s still alive today, good guy.

DRUMMOND: What’s his name?

OSTRO: I’m trying to think of his name now. It’ll come to me just like Fred Coonley did. (laughs)


OSTRO: It’s the one thing about my memory. It -- my memory banks are still working -- and, um -- has an Italian name. And, uh, so they had to name after the election a new -- a replacement for him. And they named Merle Pryor, who 139:00incidentally just died.

DRUMMOND: His -- his name is familiar to me, so --

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- yeah.

OSTRO: Matter of fact, Roger Nauyalis might have been his [AA -- it’s possible?]. Well, maybe not. No, Roger might have moved up after that. So the four of us went on in our assignments. George Poulin became the resident vice president of the headquarters. I called him headquarters vice president earlier. But, uh, that’s the resident vice president, like the AA to the IP -- the international president. Um, Merle Pryor stayed in the Midwest territory. And, uh, Stan Jensen went to the Northwest territory. He was a little bit unhappy. He was a business agent in Chica -- in, uh, San Francisco and he was, uh, born and 140:00raised Californian and he thought when he got to be a general vice president he was going to really thrive, uh -- Winpinsinger assigned him to Seattle, the Northwest territory and assigned me to the Southwest territory, which included all of California and Nevada and, uh, the five Southwestern states. And -- yeah, Merle Pryor went to the Great Lakes. The fellow from Chicago stayed in the Midwest, that’s what it was. So Merle Pryor went to the Midwest and -- and -- trying to think of who got the Great Lakes. Well. Oh, there was only three of us out in the field, so whoever was in the Great Lakes stayed there. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: And you were assigned to the Southwestern territory?


OSTRO: Yeah. Now I’ll tell a tale out of school. I hate to put something into this that in any way is not helpful to the union. But my assignment was to go to the Southwest territory and the aerospace industry nationwide, and that would be my assignment as a general vice president. It seems that the staff in the Southwest territory had grown a little -- I don’t know what terminology I can use -- a little lax, let’s put it that way, in their assignments and that -- 142:00Bill Winpinsinger wanted me to go out there and, uh, shape them up.

DRUMMOND: And you did.

OSTRO: Well, I told them that -- yes, I’ll take that assign-- (laughs) if I -- you don’t have any choice when --


OSTRO: -- when you’re a general vice president elected by the members -- and at that time a million members -- um, and the international president gives you the assignment, there’s no ifs, ands or buts. You go. And, uh, I said that every member of the staff in the Southwest territory is younger than -- is older than me except for one. So I will be responsible for re-- replacing them and naming their replacements as they retire. So I’ll be able to change the entire staff for you. “Well,” he said, “well that’s good.” And, uh, I said, “I’ll make you a promise. I’ll never put anyone on the staff simply 143:00because he lost his prior job or because he lost an election or because he’s related to someone I know or someone in the union. They’ll only go on that staff if they’re competent and capable of doing the job that they’re assigned to do.” And he said, “This I wanna see.” (laughter) That’s Winpinsinger. And over the years, I replaced every one of them, including the one that was younger than me. He ended up taking early retirement. And he was a bit of a drinker from Hawaii. Nice guy. But so that was my assignment. And again I was building unions. That’s what I was there for -- to, you know, look at every district, look at all the staff, get people in the training, select new 144:00leadership, build up team spirit. And we did the same thing in California, believe it or not, that we did in Connecticut. We brought all the machinists together at the first Connecticut Labor Council meeting, and the exact same thing happened. We talked about how each one had, you know, had to -- had their own agendas and their own concerns and over the years they never really worried about, you know, getting support from other machinists, but we should talk here in our -- our own caucus. We have any differences of opinion, let’s work them out. But when we leave this room, we leave as one. And now -- the labor council in California has two million members. And again, the president of the labor council, Jack Henning, who was an Assistant Secretary of Labor under John Kennedy, uh -- he asked if we were -- the machinists were going to support his 145:00slate. I said, “Yes.” He said, “How many?” I said, “All.” (laughs) He said, “What?” (laughter) And I said, “All.” That was it. And so they learned that, you know -- and they learned fast. They’d been looking for that for years, you know. And they just -- so many things going on, you don’t have a chance to do it. That was my only assignment, so I had time to do it.

DRUMMOND: Right, right. And that was -- gosh, because you were general vice president, um, about fifteen years. And was that -- did it take a long time for you to get all the machinists together in California -- for you to get --

OSTRO: Not really.

DRUMMOND: Because you already had experience doing that somewhere else and you knew what worked.

OSTRO: Exactly.


OSTRO: And the first thing we did -- because their districts were pretty good. I mean, they’d been around for years.

DRUMMOND: And you were a member of District Lodge 725.

OSTRO: Right.



OSTRO: At the time it was 727.


OSTRO: And the reason I joined that and left my lodge was because the president of the labor council wanted me to take the place of a machinist grand lodge representative who was a vice president of the labor council --


OSTRO: -- and was retiring at age 65.


OSTRO: In order to be on their labor council, you had to be a member of a local that was affiliated with their labor council. So I had to [move from?] the New York local to the California local very quickly and 727, which was the big Lockheed district, was the closest one.

DRUMMOND: And what is the [N?] for?

OSTRO: Um, the original district was 727.


OSTRO: They merged all of the aerospace districts in California since I left there into District 725.


OSTRO: But the local lodges retained the 727 number.



OSTRO: And the N was just part of the number -- actually, it in effect was all the different shops that were not Lockheed.


OSTRO: So the N might have meant not -- in the beginning, but -- you know, whatever they picked that letter for. There are -- there was 727A and 727B and --


OSTRO: -- that sort of thing.

DRUMMOND: OK, I understand. And, um, so back to you getting all the California machinists together. I’m sorry for the digression.

OSTRO: Pardon?

DRUMMOND: Oh, the -- I digressed to ask about the locals at -- about the, um, local you belonged to. But you were telling me how you were g-- how you went out and got all of the California machinists together.

OSTRO: Right. And so they were, you know, a very effective unit because, again, they were the largest union in the state. And that was important, particularly in certain places like Los Angeles County. And they worked well together. And it 148:00was just that they really didn’t have the time in the past to do it and I did, and I had a staff to help. You know, I had those grand lodge representatives. There was 21 grand lodge representatives on that staff, so I had people to send out and do a demonstration project. Your job is to go in there and work yourself out of a job by demonstrating what leadership is all about and helping train your replacement. And that’s how we did it. And that’s really what the union’s all about.

DRUMMOND: And what city was the -- the, uh, territory office in? Which city was the Southwestern territory office?

OSTRO: It was in Long Beach when I arrived there.


OSTRO: It was in a storefront.


OSTRO: [And used to?] get flooded once a year. (laughs) The water would run up --


OSTRO: -- right under the door.

DRUMMOND: But -- but it covered a much bigger area than just California.

OSTRO: It covered the five Southwestern states.


DRUMMOND: So Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and --

OSTRO: California.

DRUMMOND: California.

OSTRO: And, um -- California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada --

DRUMMOND: Not Utah. Not Texas.

OSTRO: Might’ve been Utah.

DRUMMOND: Might’ve been Utah, OK.

OSTRO: I’m trying to think. We ended up making it the Western territory and so then I had -- oh, I’m sorry. Hawaii.


OSTRO: Hawaii. How could I forget Hawaii? I got married in Hawaii. Uh, we -- when we made four territories, later on in years, and reduced the number of general vice presidents by two, uh, the West -- the Southwest territory became the Western territory and it was the thirteen states west of the Rockies.


DRUMMOND: OK. And, um, were you having similar issues in the other states that you were in California when you got out there about, um, the machinists not being on the same page and --

OSTRO: We had to lend our strength to all of the states and all of the districts in the territory. So it was a question of assigning grand lodge representatives to those territories. I mean, they used to be, like, circuit riders.


OSTRO: Riding around. Leave home on Monday and return on Saturday and – of course we’re talking rural Western states, large territories and small memberships. I mean, we had miners in New Mexico and Arizona and, uh, all 151:00different trades throughout. So, uh, we changed that by assigning their home stations to those locations so that they could be there and still, uh, be home -- uh, some liked it that way, some didn’t, because they were on per diem -- daily per diem all the time they were out on assignment. Some, you know, 350 days a year. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

OSTRO: Whereas in this case they were home so they got, you know, just a different kind of per diem.


OSTRO: But it worked out. Everybody was happy with it --


OSTRO: -- eventually.

DRUMMOND: OK. Including your bosses? Including --

OSTRO: (laughs) I never really had a boss in that sense. I mean, the general vice president who was general vice president in the East, uh, never gave me any orders or --



OSTRO: -- told me what to do or anything like that because I did the same thing with people that I had, you know, on our staff. You send somebody out to do a job, you’re not going to second guess them.


OSTRO: If you didn’t think he was competent, you wouldn’t send him. And I assumed that’s how I got there and so -- and I already, you know, served ten years before I ever went on the staff, uh, in the lodges local. So, um, I was seasoned. And, uh, Bill Winpinsinger, he never told me what to do. He just challenged me every once in awhile. He was a great idea guy and he could think of things that we should be doing and usually it was the Western territory that would try his new idea to see if it would work. (laughs) And we enjoyed doing that and he enjoyed rubbing us the wrong way all the time.

DRUMMOND: Well, before we talk about your retirement, is there anything else 153:00about your time as general vice president that you would like to reflect on or discuss or --

OSTRO: Um, well, we also got involved in politics.


OSTRO: And that was important.


OSTRO: And, uh, so in Connecticut we built a very strong political force inside the machinists union and inside the labor movement with the Hartford Labor Council, the New Haven Labor Council, uh, being two powerhouses in politics, and we were able to put people in office and, uh, sustain them in office and get the recognition we needed so that we were able and I -- as the executive vice president of the Connecticut Labor Council, uh, I was assigned to, uh, coordinate our lobbying efforts in the state legislature. And so during that time, we passed two laws. One gave state employees the right to collective 154:00bargaining. And two, we gave municipal employees the right to final -- although I didn’t agree with it in the sense of doing it -- final terminal arbitration in contract disputes. But that’s what the municipal employees wanted because the municipalities were able to drag on negotiations for years. Contracts expired and they just kept the negotiations going for years, whereas either side petitioned for that final and binding arbitration is -- which is what it was, a terminal point, they got that. So those two laws were passed. And that was --

DRUMMOND: Those were both very important for --

OSTRO: Yeah, they were.

DRUMMOND: -- yeah.

OSTRO: We tried a third law, the one from New York, after seven weeks on strike 155:00to get unemployment compensation. And we got double-crossed at the last minute by a woman senator who said -- who gave us her word she would be with us -- and said that, uh, at midnight -- because they kept the session going all the time -- her last comment before she went to the floor was, “Someone has to stand between this and the governor.” The governor was a friend of ours by the name of Dempsey. And he was going to sign it. And so she cast the one vote that we lost in the senate, and as a result of that four other people voted with her that had already also committed to vote with us.


OSTRO: So we lost the law and it was 3013 they called it, the number of the law I think it was, 3013. And we then set out to defeat every one of those five people in their bid for reelection. And we did. All over the state. Two from New 156:00Haven, two from the Hart-- Greater Hartford Labor Council and one from [Camden?]. And from that point on, when somebody gave us their word in the state legislature they kept it. (laughter) And we were helpful, you know -- we named a -- um, uh, the president of the Connecticut Labor Council as a member of the Democratic National Committee --


OSTRO: -- in Washington. Uh, and he got that. And I was --

DRUMMOND: But it looks like you were also elected, a -- an elected --

OSTRO: I was elected in California.

DRUMMOND: OK, once you got to California.

OSTRO: Yeah.


OSTRO: I thought that it was appropriate that the president of the labor council get that position. Of course, he was the head. And, uh, in California it was different. They have 19 Democratic National Committee members. And they all have 157:00to run for elections, so there’s plenty of room for everybody to --


OSTRO: -- fight one another.


OSTRO: I got elected in 1980.

DRUMMOND: OK, and -- um, right as Reagan was coming on --


DRUMMOND: -- board and really right as -- I -- it sort of seems like that was about the time that the Republicans started really closing their ranks and -- and --

OSTRO: That was the time that, uh, Ted Kennedy ran against, uh, Jimmy Carter. When Carter was running for reelection.


OSTRO: Carter was elected in ’76 and I was a Carter delegate to -- Democratic National Convention in ’76 in Connecticut. Then in ’77 I went to California --


OSTRO: -- and in ’80, which was the next convention, the next time DNC members were elected, uh, we supported Kennedy.

DRUMMOND: OK. And not Carter.


OSTRO: And Bill Winpinsinger headed that up and we ended up -- I ended up working with the fellow who became labor commissioner under, uh, Clinton. Uh, good guy. Died in an airplane accident. He represented the, uh, the Kennedy forces and I coordinated the labor forces in California and got elected to the DNC at the same time.

DRUMMOND: Why did the machinists choose to support Kennedy instead of Carter?

OSTRO: Because they were disappointed in Carter. Carter was the one that deregulated natural gas, started deregulating, uh, utilities and, uh, natural resources and, uh, just didn’t show very much leadership. [And?], of course he had the, uh, hostages in Iran that he couldn’t get back. And, uh, it was 159:00pretty clear to most people including Carter’s campaign --


OSTRO: -- that he wasn’t re-electable.


OSTRO: And instead of accepting that, he decided to run for the nomination and then lose the election.


OSTRO: Now he’s a far better ex-president than he ever was as the president. And I -- I know you’re from Georgia. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: I’m not taking this personally. I’m not taking this personally.

OSTRO: But I was a Carter delegate in, uh, in ’76 and a Kennedy delegate in ’80. Um --

DRUMMOND: And Kennedy, [y’all?] -- the machinists just had more faith in his ability to get things done for --

OSTRO: [Right?].

DRUMMOND: -- specifically for labor.

OSTRO: Right.

DRUMMOND: OK. And then Reagan won.

OSTRO: Mmm, yeah, he was --

DRUMMOND: And then, uh, you know --

OSTRO: The air traffic controllers set the stage for --


OSTRO: -- a lot of years of labor strife by, you know -- it emboldened every 160:00manufacturer and every employer in the country to do the same thing.

DRUMMOND: Well, and something that took place at the government level, right? Because the air traffic controllers worked for the Federal Aviation Administration --

OSTRO: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- somehow the fact that he did that with government employees, it emboldened corporations to not put up with their stri-- but the thing is, it was illegal for -- it was illegal for federal employees to strike.

OSTRO: Yes and no. But their problem was so bad that --

DRUMMOND: They had a --

OSTRO: -- they have a new union. Instead of PATCO, Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, they now have NATCO (laughs) -- National Air Travel Cont-- because it’s a very stressful job and nobody --

DRUMMOND: It is incredibly --

OSTRO: -- was paying attention to them. And now every once in awhile, you hear about a mistake that they’re making with people’s lives and aircraft.

DRUMMOND: I always think of it -- you know, people always talk about pilots, but I always think that the air traffic controllers -- because we have the PATCO records where I work, so I’m very awa-- and I’ve met these people. I was at 161:00their 30th anniversary --


DRUMMOND: -- of the -- of the strike last year and I talked to these people. And, um, I always say the hardest job is theirs, because you’re getting a tube of people -- a tube, a metal tube full of people off and then back onto the ground without it hitting anything while it’s doing that --

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- and every time you hear -- I feel that every time you hear a story about an air traffic controller ups-- making -- somebody making a mistake -- that it’s the same stuff we’ve been hearing for the last forty years. It’s -- it’s nothing new. They’re tired, they -- they -- you need different --

OSTRO: The stress is still there.

DRUMMOND: -- and the stress is still there, yeah, so.

OSTRO: Right. So that was [your impetus?] -- difficult.

DRUMMOND: And I guess maybe there wasn’t as much -- it really happened very fast. Um, what was -- and you were in California by this time. Were -- did you all do any solidary -- solidarity strikes with them or did you all come out on 162:00their behalf, did you all --

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- do anything for them?

OSTRO: We did. We walked picket lines for them, we refused to fly.


OSTRO: We couldn’t do it with our members because they were prohibited by law from violating their own contracts on the airlines. But, uh, in their off time they walked picket lines, too. And we s-- tried to support them financially. They had hooked up with an international union -- I’m trying to remember which one it was, but they didn’t --


OSTRO: It was MEBA. M-E-B-A.


OSTRO: Yeah, the Marine Engineers Benevolent Association --


OSTRO: -- District 1, not District 2. And, um -- District 1 was not my idea of a very strong union.


OSTRO: And they sort of let them go. They got threatened with a lawsuit or something like that.



OSTRO: And then they dissolved.

DRUMMOND: So you were elected to the DNC -- are they four year --

OSTRO: Four year term.

DRUMMOND: Four year terms? And so you were elected four consecutive terms. Um, tell me a little bit about the work you did or what it’s like being responsible for -- to -- representing, uh, California, representing a state. What do you do? Um, for people who might not be familiar with what happens.

OSTRO: Uh, you work electing people. I mean, that’s what the Democratic National Committee is supposed to be doing. You work on legislation. Um, you work on trying to get, uh, the structure changed. I served on a lot of committees on the DNC. Uh, sorry to tell you that I voted against the resolution 164:00to congratulate Jimmy Carter after he lost his election. (laughs)

DRUMMOND: Again, I’m not taking any of this personally. I -- I do --

OSTRO: (laughs) You know, I mean --

DRUMMOND: I do not know him from --

OSTRO: -- I guess that’s the thing to do. He was President of the United States. He was a Democrat. The problem is that because he didn’t perform well, at least in the public’s opinion --


OSTRO: -- they didn’t reelect him -- that it really hampered the Democratic Party for a number of years before they ever, you know, got back the White House.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, it was -- it was the Clinton Administration.

OSTRO: Yeah, so, uh --

DRUMMOND: Twelve years.

OSTRO: -- that was one of them. But, you know, changing the structure, liberalizing the Democratic constitution and bylaws so that more people could participate. Diversifying their committees. Uh, passing rules like there’s gotta be 50-50 men and women in your delegation or your state won’t be seated. Uh, and I served on all those committees and then, you know -- and served with a 165:00number of old friends over the years, from New York. Uh, Bob Wagner, who was the Mayor of New York for many, many years, he came in as the chairman of the one of the committees. And, uh, so I served with him and I happen to have a picture of him and his wife and myself -- and I never get pictures taken with the politicians because I realized that I -- they remember my name simply because I represent thousands of workers. And if I stop representing thousands of workers, they wouldn’t know who I was.


OSTRO: And so I try to teach that to our staff and members that, you know, you’re there to represent the workers. And that’s why they know who you are. And if you’re there to represent yourself, you won’t be invited too often. But it -- in that case, he had a photographer with him, he was running for his father’s seat in the United States Senate. Uh, Bob Wagner. And so we had our 166:00picture taken because we were working together on his campaign. And so I brought that to the committee meeting many, many years later and he wrote on it, “Our years in the vineyards” -- you know, working in the vineyards. And Geraldine Ferraro was, uh, my mother’s Congresswoman and I knew her from the DNC. She was on the DNC so we served together. But, uh, they were nice people.


OSTRO: But there was a lot to be done and in the beginning I was sort of, you know -- probably on the outside looking in in the sense that I -- and our union were not happy with going along with the status quo, particularly when it came to equality and diversity and democracy, uh, inside the structure of the 167:00Democratic Party. So that was my assignment. My assignment was from the international president [time?] (laughs) -- oh, before I became a general vice president. And earlier international president.

DRUMMOND: OK, OK. And, um, you retired in ’92.

OSTRO: Floyd Smith. Right.

DRUMMOND: Floyd Smith. Red.

OSTRO: Yeah, Red Smith.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. Um, and you retired in ’92 but continued to be on the DNC for a few more years. But what is your retirement -- and what else has your retirement, um, brought you? Are you active in a retirees group for the machinists or are you active politically?

OSTRO: Uh --

DRUMMOND: because you’ve been retired for 20 years now.

OSTRO: That’s right.



OSTRO: It would be, um, the last four years -- first -- the three -- first three four year terms, I was elected by the Democrats in California. The last term, I was elected by all of the other members of the Democratic National Committee as part of the at-large delegation.


OSTRO: And proposed by Don Fowler, who was at the time the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I was part of his slate that he put up for election. The at-large people -- not from each state but whatever state they’re from, that’s who they might sit with, but they’re at-large, meaning they don’t have that same jurisdictional problem. And the reason for that was in order to be re-elected in California, I had to be a resident and a voter in California. And since I returned to New Hampshire, where my home was, uh, that wasn’t possible so Don Fowler said I would go on the at-large 169:00delegation. And then I did my politics in New Hampshire. And we elected the first female governor to the State of New Hampshire and turned it over to the Democrats after having been Republican for a number of years. She’s now a United States Senator.

DRUMMOND: What’s her name?

OSTRO: Um, knew you’d ask me that. That’ll come up in a few minutes.

DRUMMOND: OK. (laughter) Everything else has, like you promised. Um, but how -- what else are you doing to stay active as a retiree?

OSTRO: Well, in that case I worked with the, um, state AFL-CIO in New Hampshire --

DRUMMOND: In New Hampshire, OK.

OSTRO: -- on the campaign and then, uh, on different legislative things. And then I got involved with the town, but I had decided I -- people had asked me to go into consulting with them and to do different things. My problem is that I can’t do things halfway, that I’m a workaholic and unfortunately trained to 170:00be a perfectionist. So you’re never satisfied unless the job is done right. And my inclination was to go to work free, pro bono, for the one union in that little town in New Hampshire that represented the factory workers. It was an open shop, just like Pratt & Whitney was when I was assigned there and I thought, well, you know, I’ve done this before. I can help them out. And the president -- the international president of that union was an acquaintance of mine. So if I asked him for a storefront and a computer and a fax machine and a, uh, copy machine, that’s all I’d want. And then I realized I’m retired. And I just couldn’t do that part-time.



OSTRO: I mean, I’d end up in that factory every night checking on the people, seeing how their grievances were going and so on, because they had no shop steward, (laughs) they didn’t have anything. So I gave up that idea. And, uh, later on a -- a young friend of mine from years earlier in New Hampshire became the president of that local. And so he and I used to meet occasionally and we’d kick around what his l-- latest problem was, and the company trying to get him fired and that sort of thing, but --


OSTRO: We talked. But then I got involved because the town wanted to take our lakefront away from us. They claimed that we didn’t own it and we all had deeds that indicated our property went to the water’s edge and we had warrantee deeds that said that and the town had a, um, quick claim deed that said they were given that land by the state. So it was a project that we had to 172:00fight. I’ll take that break now.


OSTRO: Too much coffee.

DRUMMOND: OK, let’s continue.

OSTRO: I wouldn’t take any job for money or anything like that. But I would do something that had a terminal point. And so what happened with the town -- the town decided that they owned the beachfront and not the residents. And they threatened to take our docks and our boats, and sent us letters to that effect.


OSTRO: So we went into court to try to get an injunction against them and the judge said to the town, “You mean to tell me you’re going to take their boats and their docks without proving you own anything? Not in this court you 173:00won’t.” So he said, “If you want to clarify title, file suit.” And the wind-up was we had a lawsuit going. And this -- the shorefront that -- this beach was 1600 feet long, and there were three chains of title. There were 23 houses at the end, there was a building association, little cottages. Then there was five houses here -- actu-- yeah, five and then one house at the end. Those two chains of titles. I was in the group of five houses. (coughs) And we went in, we were the ones that filed suit to stop the town from taking our docks and moorings. Long story short, we had a -- a lawsuit and the town ended up willing to settle it and the settlement that we got was that our house had a bulkhead in 174:00front of it, a grassy top on the bulkhead, uh, and 40 feet of bulkhead stone faced and docking and 35 feet of beachfront. And they were all on the water. And so we selected that 75 feet as where we would have our settlement, and then there were four houses next to me going down and so we all used that -- we agreed that we’d get a dock, a 30 foot dock, six feet wide, which was the maximum you were allowed on a lake and all we had originally was, uh, a couple of small docks, seasonal docks. We’d get five moorings, and we’d get the 75 175:00feet exclusive occ -- you know, exclusive use. So nobody else could use it, even though the town claimed it was a town beach. And we gave the town title to the beachfront. Ours went into our deeds and into perpetuity --


OSTRO: -- so if those houses are sold or anything, that mooring rights go with it. And, uh, that was the settlement. My neighbors asked me, the four neighbors asked me, since I was retired, would I work with the lawyer and, you know, step by step to get this thing done in the negotiations and everything else. And so we did that over a period of months and we finally came to that agreement. Then that had to be approved by the Governor’s Committee, which is like a council that the Governor -- I guess the governor’s cabinet, really, is what it is. 176:00But it -- they have hearings over it, so we had to get the town hearing and, uh, we had one person who bought a house next door to us, where the prior owner had disclaimed any interest and been dropped by the town as a participant. The new owner said, “We don’t care what they did. We want in.” And the town said, “No, you can’t have in” and we didn’t want them in, either, because we had given the other one the opportunity to join us and we really thought he would, because he was one of the originals. He was practically the second owner. The deeds of title go back to the 1700s, so there was a lot of research that had to be done. We were trying to prove, um, uh, possession. And we -- getting all that history back out of the old newspaper clippings and things like that. And 177:00we finally reached an agreement. Then we had to present it to the town and that person had three lawyers there trying to fight us and -- so I handled the arguments before the town council and they went along with it. Then we went to the Governor’s Council, and what we did was what we do in trade unions. All of the people at the lake, with the exception of a few that were retirees like me and living there year-round, they all came from another part of New Hampshire. And the members of the Governor’s Council come from different parts, different counties in New Hampshire. So we told them you contact your councilor and you tell him that, you know, you’ve had this property, you have a warranty deed, here’s what happened. You negotiated with the town council and the selectmen 178:00and you agree that this is the settlement and you’d like them to vote for it. So you lobby all of them. So when we came to the Governor’s Council, we already had commitments from almost every councilor. And it sailed through. So then my job was over. But then the town asked me if I would take the responsibility for laying out the mooring fields for all three chains of title because they settled with the others also, basically on the agreement that we worked out that one alone got the same docks and moorings and the ones at the end they got their choice. And so I had to lay out 1600 feet of mooring spaces with -- limited number of mooring, space between them, meet the state’s standards, 75 feet from the shore and so on, and do that. So I got a computer printout that they used with collecting taxes and we worked on that, and then we 179:00brought that to them and they approved it and so that was done, my job was over. So that’s the kind of job I would take that had a terminal point.

DRUMMOND: That’s a lot of work.

OSTRO: Yeah, it was. But, you know, it was interesting. And I was retired --


OSTRO: -- so I didn’t have any problem with that. The next thing they asked me to do -- they needed a new, uh, town, uh, manager. And so they were going to put it out for bids and they got, like, about 25 different kinds of resumes and applications and they asked me if I would sit on that committee to interview, go through, sort out and get it down to three candidates and then give the names of those three candidates to the board of selectmen and let them pick their new town manager. Again, a terminal point. Once that was done, I was done.


DRUMMOND: Mmm. And at some point, though, you didn’t want to stay in New Hampshire. And you mentioned a little bit about that earlier.

OSTRO: Well, what happened was that, um, when they first threatened to -- takes our dock -- take our docks and moorings, I was still working. So one time I was there on vacation and I just got close to retirement and I was thinking I really don’t want to spend my retirement worrying about the fact -- whether, or -- my dock and my mooring is going to be missing in the morning. And so I went out on my own -- my wife was working in California -- and I ended up buying another house. One that was on -- right on the water, had its own 75 feet of lakefront and, uh, nice little cottage on it. And that was it. And so I bought that, so I ended up -- unfortunately, the bottom dropped out of the real estate market, so 181:00we lost about a hundred thousand dollars on that house in six weeks and the house at the foot of the lake, anybody we got to buy it, they couldn’t get financing because the economy had dropped so badly. And so even when I was doing the negotiating, the house was rented at the foot of the lake and I was living in the cottage and we ended up -- my wife hated the house. So I thought I’m trying to make this marriage work, so (laughter) -- ended up tearing down this house that had already lost a lot of money anyway -- and building a new one. And she and I did the demolition and we had two builders -- they were carpenters, [finish?] carpenters, they were great guys. They’re very, very competent people, built beautiful homes, just the two of them together. And they would use subcontractors wherever they wanted to, but I had to be the general contractor 182:00because they wouldn’t do that. So we built a new house. And then finally after years, I got her to sell the one at the foot of the lake and my friend Charlie Traci bought that. And, uh, so I did the demolition and then we worked on a new house in the construction of the new house.


OSTRO: We even had her up there shingling on the roof and laying the beams and so on. So that’s -- then we ended up in a divorce. Turns out that her -- and we went through all of this -- rights at the foot of the lake, the demolition of the old house, the building of the new house, everything was perfect. And it turns out that she had a problem that I was not aware of, which emerged at that 183:00moment in time and so we had a difference of opinion. And the price of freedom was to give her the house, the new house.


OSTRO: Which she promptly sold in less than three weeks without even advertising it. And she walked away happy and I had no complaints even though I went broke during the divorce. And, uh, started looking for a new place to be. I didn’t have any money so [nothing at?] the lake was affordable for me. And then I looked at every place I ever lived or worked -- back in New York, nice to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here now, and California -- yeah, it was one thing working in the smog, because I had to, but moving there into the smog? Even though I had many friends there? No, that wasn’t it. And then Lou Keefer, who lived down here, they shipped me from California to Florida to stay with Lou and 184:00he was going to show me around down here. He lives ’bout forty miles from here and he was in charge of our, uh, work program at headquarters. Um, and I -- I rented in Tampa for a year. And that wasn’t -- it was very quiet, sterile at-- atmosphere. And then I came to the Villages and I was going to rent here for a year, but they wanted -- they had five different rates for five different seasons.


OSTRO: And, uh, they had the same thing in Tampa but I was able to negotiate a single rate -- nine hundred dollars a month, and it ranged from eight hundred to fourteen hundred here. It was nine hundred one -- three months and then it was fifteen hundred the next three and it was eighteen hundred -- so by the time I added it all up and crunched the numbers, I almost had enough for a down payment 185:00in the rent alone, so I came back and said, no, let’s change it from a rental to building a new house here. And they do a good job of that. So that’s how I ended up here.

DRUMMOND: OK. Well, um --

OSTRO: Since I’ve been here, I’ve stayed out of trouble.

DRUMMOND: No more wives.

OSTRO: Ten years. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Well, but -- but from your first marriage, you had four children. You want to talk about those -- about them for a minute? Patricia, Michael, Maureen and John. And they’re all, it looks like, in the -- are they all still in the New York area? Are they also --

OSTRO: Um, starting with seniority, Trish is the oldest. She lives in Connecticut.


OSTRO: Manchester, Connecticut. And Mike lives in Connecticut. He’s next. Uh, he lives in Easton, Connecticut. E-A-S-T-O-N. And Maureen lives in New York. 186:00Upsta-- uh, oh, White Plains, New York on Lake Mahopac. And John lives in Maine.


OSTRO: Uh, Trish had a career in, uh, nursing. She was -- started out as a -- a candy striper and got a degree, a bachelor of science, then she got her RN and she got her MS and then she got her hospital administrator’s license, then she was the director of nursing and then a director of clinical services, a vice president clinical services of different large hospital organizations and, uh, she ended up in the con-- she had her own consulting firm with one partner. And 187:00then when the economy crashed, that stopped and -- uh, and she went back to work for Genesis, a big, uh, healthcare organization, uh, as a regional director. And today I think she’s back to consulting --


OSTRO: -- because the -- it’s getting better.

DRUMMOND: OK. And Michael?

OSTRO: Michael, he was -- he went -- and she went to the University of Hartford. He went to the University of Connecticut. UConn. And he was in a liberal arts course and he was thinking he wanted to be a lawyer and then going into his junior year he gave that more thought and he followed my father’s advice and his father’s advice, which was to find something that you really love doing and if you get a job doing that, it doesn’t make any difference if you don’t have a big title and make a lot of money. You’ll be happy for the rest of your 188:00life. So he decided that he was a football player in high school and a musician and an A student. And that, um, the liberal arts course was not really what he wanted to do, being a lawyer. And so he switched to fine arts. It meant that he had to put in an extra year getting all the art history and everything that he didn’t get earlier. And he came out as a graphic artist. First job was the art director and the creative person in a public relations firm. Then he went to work for -- with two other guys in their own firm in a partnership and that didn’t work out because, um, they owned the building and, uh, they didn’t come through with the percentage of ownership that he was promised when they put 189:00it together. So he left them and went into his own business. Still in his own business and he’s never looked back. And that first year he made at least four times more than he made in that partnership. And, uh, he’s very happy. He’s got a son in Johns Hopkins right now.


OSTRO: And Maureen -- took her a little while to find herself, but she’s happy now. She’s in real estate and she’s working in White Plains and she’s -- last year, I guess she was their biggest seller at the time. So she’s doing well there. She’s still single.

DRUMMOND: OK, and John?

OSTRO: John is in Maine and he owns a franchise. He and his wife own the 190:00franchise. And, um, bowlers had the American Bowling Congress, the ABC. That kept their records, kept their league averages and so on so that when they played in leagues they’d have all that information. For pool players, now it’s a man’s and woman’s game --


OSTRO: -- now they both play. Well, there’s a -- Am-- American Pool-player’s Association, the APA. And he bought the franchise for Maine. He’ll -- he -- he participated in the APA as a pool player and that’s where he met his wife. Uh, and -- in Connecticut. And he got to know it, and Connecticut was probably the second largest franchise in the country. So he saw that, you know, if you -- if you work hard and you build a good set of leagues and everything, you can make some money out of -- six figures, at least, Connecticut. So he bought the 191:00franchise for Maine. And he worked hard to do it and it was almost like building a union when he and I would talk about it. That was exactly what he was doing, because when he got there, the man that had the job before him ran off with the prize money. So the APA’s reputation in Maine was zilch. Their leagues had disappeared and they had no members. And so John had the franchise but nobody to work with. So he had to go to all the places where people played pool and talk to them about possibly forming a league and playing with the APA. Today he has about -- I think it’s a thousand members or twelve hundred members and, um, 192:00leagues going all over, uh, Maine. So he goes around just like a union representative would, building up support, making sure that they get all their prize money and they get the trips to Vegas where the finals are played, and it’s a very good league because they have a system which -- by computer equalizes every player, so that if you’re an expert pool player and I’m a novice -- if we play for a championship, you might have to beat me seven times, but all I have to do in, you know, let’s say a game of eight ball, I just have to beat you once. And when they play in the league, they -- the teams are weighted so that that same rule applies in the league playing. So it’s -- 193:00it’s a level playing field and where there’s -- there’s pool players in the Villages.


OSTRO: But if you look in the newspaper as to who the winners are, it’s the same four guys.

DRUMMOND: (laughs) Really.

OSTRO: Even though there might be fifty pool players --


OSTRO: -- you know, playing in those tournaments -- same four guys because they’re, you know. And that’s some of the skills they bring to the Villages. Everybody has a skill. And I used to teach stewards that. When you’re done learning what it is to be a union representative, you’ll be able to go back into your communities and whether you participate with the school board or the PTA or whatever organization you join, you’ll know all about parliamentary procedure, you’ll know about building a team, you’ll know about getting people to help and that’s how you do it.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. And how many grandchildren do you have?

OSTRO: I have four grandchildren.

DRUMMOND: Four grandchildren?


OSTRO: The oldest is a, uh -- he’s got a degree from U-Conn in, uh, computer engineering and he’s a consultant with the insurance industry, [and?] -- except that the last one liked him so much they talked him into coming to work for him full time, and that’s the Hartford Insurance Group. Uh, the second one is my only granddaughter, and she got her Ph.D. and she’s a child psychologist. She also went to U-Conn and was on the crew team --


OSTRO: -- for U-Conn. The third one is Brian. And he just graduated from U-Conn with a degree -- a bachelor’s degree and a minor in psychology, I think.



OSTRO: And the youngest of the group is Sean, and he’s at Johns Hopkins. He thought he wanted to be a brain surgeon, but he figured out that that would take a lot of time. And even though he’s the most fortunate of all of them because he’s a kid that’s going to graduate from college without any loans or debts -- and that doesn’t happen too often -- but he’s decided that architecture might be what he wants to do.


OSTRO: He went to John-- he got accepted at four universities, two of them with full scholarships. Boston University with full scholarship and Washington University. He picked the one he didn’t get a full scholarship to. (laughs)


OSTRO: Uh, but he wanted to be a brain surgeon, but now he decided he wants to be an architect. So right now he’s at Columbia for the summer --


OSTRO: -- taking some basic architecture. And he’s [great?] -- math, science, head of his class. He doesn’t have any problems. Dean’s list. And he went to a -- a boarding school, which made sure he could [play?] at least three 196:00instruments, at least three sports (laughs) -- community activity, he was the boss boy of the dorm, elected by his -- his colleagues. So they’re -- they’re all good kids.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm. Sounds like --

OSTRO: But we don’t stop there.

DRUMMOND: You don’t stop there?

OSTRO: No. There are now five greats.


OSTRO: Great-grandchildren.


OSTRO: First one born on the 4th of July. She’s probably -- let’s see -- [around?] -- she -- probably ten years old now.


OSTRO: She’s got two brothers. One would be about eight and the other would be 197:00about four. Next three -- uh, two, rather -- are -- and her father is the computer engineer. And then my daughter that’s the child psychologist, she’s got two daughters. One would be also about eight and the youngest one would be about four.

DRUMMOND: OK. Do you see them a lot? Do they like to come visit you in Florida?

OSTRO: Uh, they -- they’re all in Connecticut, so --


OSTRO: -- uh, that makes it easier to, uh, to see them all at once when I go north.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

OSTRO: When I was in New Hampshire, it was a little more frequent, but --

DRUMMOND: Yeah. Well that sounds like that would keep you busy in retirement, making trips to spoil your grandchildren -- great-grandchildren.

OSTRO: I also learned some lessons about that. (laughter) While your children would love to have you around, they really don’t want you in their backyard. And New Hampshire was fine --



OSTRO: -- uh, hour and three quarters, two hours to drive up and drive back, got the lake to -- but, um, they have to -- [it’s the way?] my father taught his children -- you have to be able to stand on your own two feet and handle your own problems and raise your own children and be the role model for them. And, uh, so I -- I don’t hang around too much in that sense. I guess if their grandmother was alive and I was still married to her, it probably would be different in that sense, that mother-child link.


OSTRO: They very seldom cut the umbilical all the way.


OSTRO: And, uh -- but without the grandmother around, it doesn’t work that way. They know where I am when they need me and I know where they are when I want to visit, and, uh --


OSTRO: -- so it works out very well for all of us.


DRUMMOND: OK. Um, well, this has been a wonderful interview. Before we wrap up, is there anything we haven’t covered or anything else you want to say or anybody you want to talk about before we --

OSTRO: Uh, I’m trying to think of anything unusual that, um -- can’t think of anything --


OSTRO: -- other than, uh, did you interview anyone who talked deeply about Bill Winpinsinger? George Corpus?

DRUMMOND: I personally did not. I --


DRUMMOND: -- I didn’t do his interview. Let me turn this off and then we can continue this conversa-- or -- or did --

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- are you asking because you want to talk about him?

OSTRO: Yeah, I’m -- yeah.

DRUMMOND: But -- you know, uh, Rachel Bern-- Bernstein, um, interviewed President Corpus. So -- and I think that he probably did talk a lot about Winpinsinger.

OSTRO: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: But that’s not an interview that I did myself. Do you want to say something about --

OSTRO: No, the only -- I wondered, you know, in depth how deeply that -- he was 200:00a great thinker, and he was a -- he understood the politics of the labor movement and how to do it, and if he was confrontational it was deliberate. And, uh, so he fought a lot of battles because he didn’t like the status quo. And he conceived a lot of great ideas for testing the media, where there wasn’t balance --


OSTRO: -- where they didn’t show equality or where they didn’t give labor the right picture, he felt that -- as many people did -- that George Meany should have retired and not died in the job, you know, stayed until he was in his late eighties or whatever. And so he would take him on at AFL-CIO meetings, because he was on the executive council. Uh, and he tried to change all those 201:00things. He would wear loud jackets. They would attract attention. And he wasn’t looking for the attention other than the recognition -- oh, there’s that Winpinsinger over there. He’s the one I got to watch out for or -- that sort of thing. So he was very clever, very well read. Uh, maximum high school education but, uh, could meet with anybody, stand his own with anybody. Started the computer movement inside the machinist union, the use of computers by signing on with a group of CEOs from a number of major 400 company -- corporations, each one of them had a computer and each one of them was part of the practice of using it and -- in a group which was being trained and tested at 202:00the same time. So he -- very well read. Everything he knew, I’m sure he read. And, um --

DRUMMOND: Did you consider him a mentor?

OSTRO: Did I consider him what?

DRUMMOND: A mentor?



OSTRO: We were -- and I was treated by him as an equal from day one.


OSTRO: Even before I became a grand lodge representative. Because he was assigned to New York. So he knew me in the early days.


OSTRO: And we never worked together. But he attended the same meetings I did at the New York State Council of Machinists and that’s where we worked our magic in terms of unity and solidarity and that sort -- and politics and things like that. When Bobby Kennedy wanted to be the Senator from New York, it was done in that New York State Council of Machinists. And so, uh -- but that’s the way it 203:00was. He wanted me as a team member. That’s the way he put it.


OSTRO: And he did probably the same thing with George Poulin. I think those are the two that he probably picked specifically, and the other two were probably selected by another member of the executive council and then approved by the rest of his team. Uh, so to that extent -- no, I admired him because he -- he was sincere. And he was -- believed in the labor movement and he cared about people.

DRUMMOND: Anything else?

OSTRO: That’s about it.

DRUMMOND: You think that’s about it? OK. Well, thank you very much on behalf of the Southern Labor Archives and the Archives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, um, for talking to me today. It’s been a very informative and very enlightening, um --

OSTRO: Thank you for your time and patience and your visit. I appreciate it.


DRUMMOND: I’m happy -- happy to do it.