George Poulin oral history interview, 2011-12-05

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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TRACI DRUMMOND: This is Traci Drummond, Archivist of the Labor Collections at Georgia State University Library, here doing an interview with George Poulin today on behalf of the Archives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Today is Monday, December 5th, and we are going to, um, start by talking about, um, George’s, your early years. Welcome, George. Thank you for agreeing --

GEORGE POULIN: Yeah, thank you very much.

DRUMMOND: -- to participate in this.

POULIN: Happy to be here.

DRUMMOND: Let me get started with some background questions for you. Tell me a little bit about your parents. Um, where were they from, and, and where did they end up when you, by the time you were born?

POULIN: My, my parents were both immigrants both from Canada. Uh, my mother -- on my mother’s side --she was uh, [Florida LeBlanc]; she came out of Cape Pele, New Brunswick, which is a small fishing community just across from Prince 1:00Edward Island, and and adjacent to New Brunswick Canada. My father came out of the Quebec Province originally from a small town, St. Mary’s Quebec but really out of Sherbrook Cana- Canada. They met in the States, married, had five children. I was the second of the five children. And that was my early presentation onto the stage of living.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And they, they, um, moved down to Hartford?

POULIN: They met in Hartford.

DRUMMOND: They met in Hartford.

POULIN: Were married in Hartford --


POULIN: -- and that’s where they were, and that’s where we, we we grew up all, all of the children grew up --

DRUMMOND: (inaudible)

POULIN: -- in, in Hartford, Connecticut, yes.

DRUMMOND: So there’s you and how many brothers and sisters do you have?

POULIN: Uh, two brothers and two sisters. There was five of us all told.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And, um, so can you describe your early years for us, growing up in Hartford? What was your neighborhood like? What was your family life like? Just a little.

POULIN: We, we come out of, uh -- in those days I was, I was -- I was born in 2:001932. We, we were a poor family. We lived in a tenement which was not a normal flat but had about eight or nine different families in a -- a wooden -- a house in what I would call central Hartford, Connecticut. And in those early days the beginning when I was probably eight or nine I was selling newspapers on -- on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and New Park Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. Also peddled newspapers uh, door to door. And also I was seven, uh -- af--, my years eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, through that period, I did a lot of odd jobs. I worked setting up pins in a bowling alley, which was long before the automatic setup. You had to literally set them up, if you wanted to not get hit with a pin (inaudible). I also worked on tobacco during the war years which was 3:00pretty hard, hard, back breaking, but I was eleven, twelve years old then. Uh, they hired me even though they didn't, they didn’t want to but I was hired. I worked on tobacco, making literally 90 cents a day [hour], which was a big thing for us in those days --

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

POULIN: -- as, as a kid. And we didn’t get the top wages. Uh, top wages was a dollar, but the people that were doing the work top wages were men that were off of Skid Row in Hartford, Connecticut. They used to come in and pick us up downtown in a truck and haul us out to the suburbs to where their tobacco farms were, so --

DRUMMOND: Interesting.

POULIN: And, uh --

DRUMMOND: And the money you were earning through --

POULIN: Went to the house.

DRUMMOND: -- uh, for all of your work went back toward the household expenses.

POULIN: Yes, yeah, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And your -- what was your dad doing in, in --?

POULIN: Uh, he was working at the time all during that time, actually heavy construction, moving buildings. He worked for a firm that moved large, large 4:00buildings, did a lot of work in New York State, literally moved buildings that are eleven, twelve, fifteen, twenty stories high. It was quite a, quite a --

DRUMMOND: To move them whole?


DRUMMOND: From one spot to another?

POULIN: Yeah. Sometimes it was just to turn them around to put them on a, face on a different street. And it was all a question of putting log, log timbers underneath the building, jacking up the building, and it was very, very intricate, and it took a long period of time to move a large building. So that was one of his key jobs. And he worked for the Roger Sherman Company at the time, and that’s what their main function was. Did a little work in the aircraft United Aircraft during the war, also as a, as a mechanic.


POULIN: He started out originally as a young man uh, hauling logs out of the Maine woods with a pair of mules. That’s where he originally started, uh --

DRUMMOND: Did your mom work, or, or did she keep the household?

POULIN: She went to work during the war.


POULIN: She went to work during the war in a little sh--, a, a, a manufacturing plant that made war parts which was just down the street from where we lived was 5:00maybe less than a five minute walk down where she worked. Uh, she worked there during the war, yes. Mm-hmm.

DRUMMOND: So who watched the kids when your mom was at work?

POULIN: Uh, latch kids.

DRUMMOND: Latch kids.


DRUMMOND: They just -- you all took care of yourselves.


DRUMMOND: Okay. And what kind of schooling did you and your brothers and sisters get?

POULIN: Uh, all of us in our early years the eighth grade went to uh, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School through the eighth grade, and my sis--, older sister -- I had my older sister -- I was the second -- uh, she went to Hartford High, graduated. I went to Hartford High, quit in my sophomore year, and went to work at, at sixteen. And my other brothers and sisters also quit at an early age and went to work.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. Was your dad ever in a union, or was there ever -- or did you have uncles, maybe, that were in the union, or were there folks in your neighborhood who knew about unions and saw, and saw, sort of saw it as a way to 6:00maybe have a better life for their families? How were unions perceived?

POULIN: I’m not sure they were perceived at all --


POULIN: -- to be honest with you. Uh, my early exposure to unions was when I was peddling newspapers on, on the corner -- and I told you before, it was, uh -- There was a s-- Pratt Whitney small plant down the street from where I peddled the newspapers, and my first exposure to a union was, they went on strike, because right after World War II the employers were just demanding a lot of givebacks, and there were a lot of layoffs and so forth, and they had a -- and the UAW represented that plant down the street. And I could remember just seeing the commotion and the fights and so forth from the corner where I was, because, uh -- and that was my first exposure to unions, but other than that I had no exposure and really nothing from the family to lead me into being active in the trade union movement.


DRUMMOND: Okay. So, um, so in all the times, in all the time you’re doing all this work you would never -- it was never necessarily an aspiration for you that you eventually wanted to, to get a job where you could join a union and, and make a better life for yourself. Like you, like you, like when -- do you remember your age, or, or, or whenever -- I mean, were you already in the job when you realized that, or, or was there a, a point when you were a, a younger kid and you were like, “I want to get in a union, because I know they can do things for me”? Like do you remember the moment where you sort of realized that?

POULIN: The moment I realized about unions was my short stint in the Royal Typewriter, which is rep --


POULIN: -- which was represented by the UAW.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and that was, um --

POULIN: When I was sixteen.

DRUMMOND: -- your first job --


DRUMMOND: -- when you were sixteen.

POULIN: Yeah, when I was sixteen. That was my first --

DRUMMOND: Real job, I guess.

POULIN: And I really -- yeah, and I didn’t get a chance to get involved in it because I wasn’t there long enough, I didn’t get out of probation, because I knew I was going to another job.

DRUMMOND: Okay, all right. Well, talk a little bit about your time, then. And you were sixteen when you started the job at Royal Typewriter, so you had, um -- 8:00You had dropped out of high school at that point so you could work full time, to work full time.

POULIN: Yes, I was in my sophomore year, yeah. I dropped out of high school.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and, um, tell me a little bit about your work at Royal Typewriters.

POULIN: Well, it was a very short stint, just two weeks, and really I was hired in as a what they called a helper at the time.


POULIN: And I was really segregating keys, weighing keys for the typewriters, and making sure that they went to certain parts on a conveyor belt, which, which was transferred to other people that were assembling them. So that was my basic job for the two short weeks that I was with the Royal Typewriter.

DRUMMOND: But they had -- but they were organized.

POULIN: They were organized under the UAW.

DRUMMOND: With the Auto, Auto Workers.

POULIN: Auto Workers, yes.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. Um, it -- and what did you learn about the union in that amount of time? What, what, what was sort of, um, perhaps -- you know, in the two short weeks you were there were you able to pick up on how that affected the workers’ lives or what they thought of it?


POULIN: No. My, my early recollection was that I knew that if I stood there longer I had to pay dues.


POULIN: That’s it.



DRUMMOND: Okay. All right. But you -- and you, you said you were only there two weeks because you were actually waiting on --

POULIN: I knew I was going to another job that I -- was not going to open up for two, two additional weeks, but I, I did want to earn some money --


POULIN: -- didn’t want to stay idle for two weeks.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and, um, and what was that job?

POULIN: Went to a bakery, which was called Wandy’s Pies in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a very well-known bakery at the time, and that bakery actually made pies for a good number of the in--, industrial plants in the greater Hartford area, which -- where there are numerous industrial plants.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Um, and so at Wandy’s -- could you clarify if, if, if the pies were going to plants, did a lot of the plants sort of have cafeterias --


DRUMMOND: -- that people would come and have their breakfast and lunch, or --?

POULIN: That’s exactly correct.



POULIN: The pies went to various cafeterias in those respective plants --


POULIN: -- yes, mm-hmm.

DRUMMOND: And, but were, but were they -- you said they went largely to plants. Where else would they have been sold? At, at grocery stores, or at, at --?

POULIN: Not mostly grocery stores. Right out of the counter, right out of their, the front of the bakery --


POULIN: -- uh, right out, out front there, and they did service some of the larger grocery stores, but I’m not sure how many, to be honest with you.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And how long were you at Wandy’s? You, so you were still sixteen at this point.

POULIN: Yes I -- just about two years, because I left Wandy’s when I was eighteen years old.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and there was no union at Wandy’s Pies.

POULIN: No, and we didn’t talk about unions, and it was just -- it just never came up, uh --

DRUMMOND: About how many people worked there?

POULIN: There was all told about maybe eleven or twelve at --



DRUMMOND: And what, um, what did you do while you were at Wandy’s?

POULIN: Well, originally started out mixing dough, doughs for the, the pies -- and obviously there’s two types of dough: there’s the a, a dough off of the 11:00lower part of the pie, and there’s a dough for the, the top part of the pie. They were a little different mixture as to texture uh, before you put the dough on, on the pie plates and then you filled them with whatever filling that was going to go into those, those pie plates. Then moved up to uh, from mixing the dough to taking the dough and feeding them through machines that actually flattened the dough out so you could put them on either the bottom layer or the top layer. And then along the -- this was on a rotating machine which also filled the pies, and, and put the tops on, and later moved on to filling the, those particular plates. But basically during my time with Wandy’s, it was dealing with the pies themselves. We did make cakes and all that, but I never got into that aspect of it.

DRUMMOND: Okay. What kind of pies did you make? Do you remember?

POULIN: Oh, yes. We made apple pies, made blueberry pies, we made squash pies, 12:00we made pumpkin pies, we made raisin pies. You name it we, we made it. And it was the best pie in Hartford. I mean, I’m not being prejudiced.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. No, no, no, I’m sure, I’m sure. Um, that’s interesting. And I just remembered, um, if -- and, and excuse the digression, but let’s go back. Your parents spoke French when they got to --

POULIN: Both of them. My mother spoke fluent French and English.


POULIN: My father spoke very little English, almost always all French.

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm. And were there a lot of other families in your neighborhood from --


DRUMMOND: -- from Canada who spoke French? So it was sort of where folks from, from that part of Canada would come and settle.

POULIN: Originally where I was born, I was born in a, in Hartford, but we were -- uh, my parents were living in a section which was called Frog Hollow.


POULIN: Frog being that all the Frenchmen were from there from that particular section, and right now it’s a, it’s a Latin community --

DRUMMOND: Oh, interesting.

POULIN: -- instead of French but that’s where, uh -- yes, and a lot of French 13:00people from Canada migrated to that particular area. They had their own French club. They had their own French-speaking church at the time. And then they --

DRUMMOND: It was Catholic?

POULIN: They -- yeah, yeah, both Catholic. And then they moved away, away from -- not far from French Hol-, Frog Hollow, but just a little bit enough out, so we went to another Catholic school at the time. Yeah.

DRUMMOND: And was that -- because you don’t speak French?


DRUMMOND: Um, so they didn’t want to teach you, I guess, because they wanted you --

POULIN: My father wanted, wanted us to learn French, but he was always, you know, out, out to work, and my mother made a conscious decision not to teach us French.

DRUMMOND: Did she think that would help you?

POULIN: She thought -- yeah, she thought it would, it would hurt us in our education growing up --


POULIN: -- you know, in, in grammar school. Uh, that was the logic as I understood it at the time, yes.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Um. And so moving back forward to after your two years with Wandy’s, um, you moved -- you were eighteen --



DRUMMOND: -- and you were able to get a job at Plax Corp.

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: And what did they do at Plax Corp?

POULIN: Plax Corporation was a division of Emhart Corporation, which was a major corporation that made in those days bottling machines with plastic bottle, I mean glass, glass bottles. And in this plant, which was a division of the Emhart Division they were doing uh, making all type of plastic bottles -- deodorant bottles, toothpaste tubes and they made some special uh, tubing for the government. In those days I didn’t quite understand it, but they called it [Kelrod?]. It was a very high temperature plastic rod that it, they were doing for the government at the time. And what they did was make sheet backing for the rubber industry, for tires and everything. They did those on old rubber, what they called extruding machines at the, at the time. And my job in the Plax 15:00Corporation, I started off as what they called a helper at the time, what -- production worker’s the status that the union gave us, but uh, a production worker, and that was mainly doing work trimming tails off of bottles that the what they call flashings, and, uh --


POULIN: -- uh, after that I moved up to dispatching in the, in the shop, dispatching the materials throughout the plant, to feed the various machines with the plastic. And from there I moved into inspection. I wound up before I left Plax in the inspection department doing key inspection on the items that we were manufacturing at the time.

DRUMMOND: And how long were you at Plax Corp? Because you started when you were eighteen.

POULIN: Uh, basically two and a half years.

DRUMMOND: Two and a half years?

POULIN: Yeah, somewhere around there.

DRUMMOND: And how, um, soon after joining did you get involved with the union?

POULIN: Well, oddly enough we had a ninety-day probationary period. Uh, I knew we had to join the union after a nine--

DRUMMOND: The Machinists.


POULIN: Yes, the Machinists union at the time. And during the probationary period I, I went to work on the third shift. That’s where I started, and the third shift started at 11:00 at night and ended at 7:00 in the morning. Uh, about two months into my probationary period there was an opening for stewards, and in those days you signed up for it. They had put it on the union bulletin board, and you would sign up for it. And I got to the, the -- excuse me -- the committee man on each shift had stewards and committee, committee persons -- committee persons being the one that handled grievances at a higher level than the stewards, and also were serving on the negotiating committee. But the -- there was a posting on, and the committee man on that shift I got to know fairly well working with him. He was one of the skilled tradespersons on that shift, and told me to sign up for it, asked me to sign up for it. And like a dope, I 17:00did. And I did sign, (laughter) sign up for it. And I was, became the steward, unbeknownst to me, even before I was legally eligible to be an employee.

DRUMMOND: So what do you think -- what do you think made you stand out. As somebody on, still in your probationary period for, that someone would come up to you and ask you to, to take on --? And you were still a young man. You were still only eighteen -- POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- when this happened. What, what do, what do you think they saw in you that, that they approached you with this even before you had, you were even able to join the union?

POULIN: Uh, I’m not sure it was my talents or ability. I think it was probably because I was very inquisitive. I was very talkative, and I want to know this and that, and at that age I wasn’t supposed to know this and that, and I, I’m, I’m surmising that might be the case, but I, I really can’t say. Certainly was not my knowledge or intelligence about the labor movement or 18:00contract uh, representation or what the hell the contract even meant, or what words in the contract meant.

DRUMMOND: Right, right. Do you, um -- did -- so, so when he asked you to sign up and you signed up, did you have a real understanding of what the position would require?




DRUMMOND: Were you disappointed when you found out?

POULIN: Hell no.

DRUMMOND: (laughter)

POULIN: It gave me a sense of representation, and authority that I was surprised that anybody working in a shop could have. I’m not sure that makes sense, but that’s really the feedback in my own mind I’d had. And I sort of liked the idea of being able to help the people I was working with. I knew them intimately.


POULIN: We palled around together. We, we went swimming together. We went, you know, we did all those things --


POULIN: -- young kids do at that age together.


POULIN: And I just sort of liked tangling with the foreman on making sure that 19:00the, the contract that we had, as limited as it was, was being lived up to.

DRUMMOND: And coming from a background, little knowledge about unions, not really understanding how they worked, or how they helped families, or how they helped workers, did you have this sort of -- do you think maybe there was this moment where you said, “Oh”? You know, you know, looking at how your parents struggled and how all the kids worked, went to work as early as they could, but did you, do you think you had this moment where you were like, “Oh, the union can help me have a better life”? Like did you -- was that maybe sort of one of the --? What -- was it, was it -- do you think the attraction was more realizing that, or maybe more that, “Oh, I can be active and involved and, and sort of dig in and, and be part of this”? Like what, what was the appeal for you?

POULIN: The appeal for me, as I understand it and remember it, was the fact that 20:00I could actually have a voice and a say in my working conditions and my relationship, and more importantly, those of the people I work with.

DRUMMOND: And that was important to you because --?

POULIN: Well, that was the appeal as I recall it. In other words, uh -- and then I guess I’m sort of prone that if I’m going to take something on I, I want to do it as best I can.


POULIN: And in that situation, uh -- I was impressed --and I remember to this day, and don’t ask me why -- I was impressed with the committee man we had on our shift who come out of a well-educated family over in what was Glastonbury at the time, and a wealthy family. And I’m not sure why he was in the plant at the time.


POULIN: Very educated, very knowledgeable. And I know that in talking to him on one of the first grievances that I was going to be representing uh, for one of my employees with the, against the uh, the foreman at the time his explaining the difference between “may” and “shall” -- that’s how naïve I was at 21:00the time. It, it --

DRUMMOND: Between --?

POULIN: “May” and “shall,” the words in a contract.


POULIN: The, you know --

DRUMMOND: Oh, okay.

POULIN: What effect it would have on that -- and, and it sort of triggered something in my mind, “Hey, you know, words really make a hell of a difference.” And that really got me going to make sure I read the contract. And I remember having several sessions with this committee man, getting his interpretation -- not necessarily what the negotiating intention was of the contract, but what he thought those paragraphs meant as they were written in the King’s English. And I got a lot out of, out of that. And from there I just decided I was going to go to a local community college, and I took a labor course.

DRUMMOND: Okay. So in 1950 you joined the Capital City Lodge, 354. You were a steward before you reached your probation period --


DRUMMOND: -- and you went and signed up --



DRUMMOND: -- the first day, okay, started paying your dues. And how long after that did you decide to go to take the labor course? Was that something you sort of did around that time?

POULIN: Uh, to just to backtrack, just -- my, my local was, like I said, 354, but Local 354 was also affiliated with the district, which was District 26 in, in, in Hartford, Connecticut --


POULIN: -- Okay? That consisted of several local lodges, okay. Uh, 350 was another local lodge, which was a big, industrial local lodge which were the Underwood Typewriter at the time which we had. We had the Veeder Root, Veeder Root Corporation, which made the parking meters and so forth; we had the M.H. Rhodes Company in my local lodge; [note: Veeder Root made electrical components, M.H. Rhodes made parking meters] we had Vulcan Radiator, which made all the radiation for homes in those days, the piping radiation you see around homes that -- So we had that whole varia-, variance. But it was in the -- the answer to your question directly was in my first year in the plant I went to what was 23:00then called Hillyer College, right in the, right in Hartford. I took night, night sections -- sessions uh, at, at Hillyer, and as I remember well, I’m not necessarily was a flaming student, graduated with a C, but I think there was prejudice on their part of the instructor because the instruction we were getting at the time was the General Motors contract, which were obviously UAW at the time, and that was really the framework from which the class was being taught. And in that class there were all management people except me.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Okay. So what were some of the, um, issues that came up when you were a steward? What were some -- do you remember some of the, the issues or problems?

POULIN: Uh, yes. Policing the, the contract as to correct payment for overtime. Uh, making sure that holidays that were earned were paid for.



POULIN: Make sure that people got their -- their vacation. Uh, also question of interpretation of what performance they had to do on a job, who was to do what, because under our contract we had various classifications, and the classifications were set up by labor grades, and those labor grades determined how much pay you got from the, from the top grade to the, to the lowest grade. And if you were working in a grade other than what you were s-- classified as, and they weren’t paying you the appropriate rate, that would be subject for a grievance, and that would be something that we would be arguing over at the time. And at that level as a steward, it was this question of hopefully settling it between me and the foreman at the time.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And how long did you work as a steward?

POULIN: About a year.

DRUMMOND: And then --

POULIN: Nine months to a year.

DRUMMOND: And then you --

POULIN: Went right up to committee man.


POULIN: The committee man on my shift left, and I took over -- I, I was a, 25:00immediately took over that job.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay, and --

POULIN: I was elected, but I took it over.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And, and, as the committee man, what, what did you do?

POULIN: Committee man actually helps the steward --


POULIN: -- as the committee man that I had when I steward helped me.


POULIN: You know, so is the second step in a grievance procedure, and also served on a negotiating committee when the contracts were up for negotiation.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And, um, can you talk about that work a little, as it varied from being a steward?

POULIN: Yeah, well, it was a -- just as I told you --


POULIN: -- it was a question of helping, assisting the stewards it was a question of being involved in a second step grievance procedure, which meant you better do your homework if you wanted to win that case. You could probably wind up being a key witness in an arbitration case, so you had to be prepared for that.


POULIN: And obviously you sat down with the business agent, with the other -- there was three committee men, one on each shift. When we had contract 26:00preparation time we would we would as committee chair -- three committee people meet with all the membership to determine what they wanted in their next contract negotiations. We would formulate that, put that together, and we were the negotiating committee, along with the business agent, with the, with the company.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And, um, did you enjoy the work of, of putting the contract together, helping -- is that something that appealed to you? Was that something that you found interesting?

POULIN: Immensely.

DRUMMOND: Immensely? Yeah, I figured. That, that’s why I wanted to get the question in there. Um, but it wasn’t much longer that in 1951 you became -- you were, were elected --?

POULIN: What happened was in 1951 -- you have to understand that my local is a mixed local lodge, or industrial local lodge is what they call it, and there were several shops in there. We had roughly seven, 7,600 people in it. We were not the largest shop. Uh, there was a lo--, election for a local lodge president at the time --


POULIN: -- and I used to attend local lodge meetings the, right from the 27:00beginning when I, when I got active. And I -- my sense and recollection was that I was sort of prodded into running for it by the business agent --


POULIN: -- and I’m not sure what it would be --

DRUMMOND: For President.



POULIN: I’m not sure it was because of a difference of opinion he had with the current president who was running --


POULIN: -- and was out of the largest shop in our local, but I managed, we were, managed to be successful because we came out of a local -- my, my shop was between 250-300 people. And in those days, it’s no different now. Of course, I don’t know how many people turn out to election --

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

POULIN: -- and so forth. And for whatever reason, we, we were very successful and we turned out almost 95% of our membership --


POULIN: -- and we won the election overwhelmingly, even though we were a small shop in the, in the Local.

DRUMMOND: Okay, so you won Local President. (interruption; not transcribed)


DRUMMOND: So what were some of the new challenges you faced as President?

POULIN: Well, almost simultaneously, it wasn’t shortly thereafter, there was election for District.


POULIN: And the District is comprised of delegates from each local lodge, and we had five local lodges at the time, so there was 25 delegates that comprised of the District and its officers. And I, right fresh off the election as a Local Lodge President, decided I’d throw my hat in the ring for that, and got elected.

DRUMMOND: So did you hold both positions simultaneously?



POULIN: Yeah. I held the position of Local Lodge President and President of the District at the same time.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And then each job had its own challenges?

POULIN: Yeah, as President of the Local Lodge I actually conducted the function of the Local Lodge on a monthly basis. You made sure that the meetings were run orderly and properly, and made sure that you covered all of the correspondence 29:00from the International that you, you had, made sure that everything was functioning properly, from payment of bills or whatever the case may be, or, uh -- in, in those days we were active in, in politics, too. I got heavily in the election loc-- local lodge elections by working the voting polls at, at, at the time, and getting our membership active in getting out to, out to vote on, on Election Day. So that was part of our local activities. And almost simultaneously in conjunction with that, doing the same type of work a-as a District President.

DRUMMOND: And you were still working full time and holding both of these jobs.

POULIN: Yes, yeah, yep.

DRUMMOND: Okay. So that kept you pretty busy --


DRUMMOND: -- I guess.

POULIN: I was single at the time, so -- (laughter)

DRUMMOND: And you were single at -- okay. All right, that’s what I was going to get to next, like were you still single at that point. Okay, okay. And as District 26 President, um, did -- did that entail doing some organizing, as 30:00well? Or did you -- or did, or did more, more, work do, doing the organizing come later?

POULIN: No, there was -- uh, the organizing that was done while I was in office -- President of the District and President of my Local, mainly came from the business agent or any Grand Lodge representative that may have been coming in and --


POULIN: -- in and out of the District, and they would be doing it. But I can remember clearly as, as President being, going out on my time and helping a Grand Lodge representative. I went as far away from Hartford to New Haven to help pass, pass out leaflets and handbills in those days.


POULIN: So I started getting involved in organizing while I was active as President --


POULIN: -- and also as President, because of the sickness of the business agent at that time, was involved in a couple of key strikes at the uh, one of our shops in the Local had at the time. So as President I, I just felt that I should 31:00be involved make sure that the people on the picket line and that everything was going okay, that they had someone to talk to because the business agent was sick.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And can you talk a little bit about the strikes?

POULIN: Well, the first -- the strike I’m thinking of particularly was out of the Vulcan Radiator Corporation --

DRUMMOND: Okay, and that --

POULIN: -- and, uh --

DRUMMOND: -- would’ve been ’51, ’52?

POULIN: Yeah, yeah.


POULIN: And also within its same timeframe there was another strike at the M.H. Rhodes Corporation, so I was active in both of, both of those. And my main work was to make sure that everything was done properly, make sure that the strike payments were made to the, the strikers, make sure that we were giving the strikers as much assistance and aid as possible, or there was you know, food, money or whatever the case may be to make it as easy as possible so we could be successful in winning the strike.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And, um, and, and you did win? The, those strikes had good outcomes for the Local?

POULIN: Both of these strikes were settled -- uh, I would say that consistent 32:00with the majority of what our people were looking for at the time, yes.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And it looks like you took on another hat as Local and District organizer.

POULIN: I did that, uh --

DRUMMOND: Was that after holding those simultaneous positions as Local and District President, or was that another, um, duty that was added?

POULIN: The organizer -- organizing work I did for, was for my Local, which was Local 354.


POULIN: But it happened as a result of, uh -- we, as a District, we felt we have grown enough to have two business agents --


POULIN: -- and the business agent we had was very, very active in politics. In fact, he was the Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut --


POULIN: -- while he served as our business agent.

DRUMMOND: Oh wow. Okay.

POULIN: And we were a--, also active in that campaign, too, but we, uh -- We took the position we thought we were entitled, and the International says, “Okay, you can go ahead and elect another one.” I ran for business agent at 33:00the time, and that’s really what I wanted to do at the time because I was involved in a little bit of a service and arbitration role at that time. And another fellow ran out of the, the largest, one of our larger locals, which was a [gun work?] operation, and he beat me.


POULIN: As a result of that defeat, my Local said they would put me on as an organizer, and I served as an organizer, even though I was President of my local and President of the District.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Oh wow, so, so you were wearing three hats --

POULIN: Three hats at the time, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- at the same time. And how, how were your organizing drives when you were the local and district organizer? Were they (inaudible) --

POULIN: The first shop that I organized was done at a place that I used to have my car serviced when I was working at Plax Corporation. It was a small garage, and they had maybe seven or eight people. I had -- my mechanic worked there, got to know the mechanics at very well there, and knew the owner very well, to be honest with you, and was able to convince them to negotiate a contract and give 34:00us recognition --


POULIN: -- on the basis that we would also try to steer as many of our membership to them as possible, because they would’ve been the only union shop garage in Hartford at the time. And we were able to negotiate a successful contract on that. And the other organizing I did in for the Local while I was Local and District organizer was a toy company in the Easthampton, Connecticut, which was called the Gong Boy Bell, Gong Bell Toy Company. They made all kinds of toys at the time, and we did win that election and that was one of the other successes I had as an organizer.

DRUMMOND: How many folks were there?

POULIN: There was probably just about 230 people in the shop at the time.



DRUMMOND: Um, and so would you say sort of, just talking about this stuff -- would you say that Connecticut was pretty union friendly, was pretty labor friendly, or --?

POULIN: Mixed.

DRUMMOND: It was a mix, okay.


POULIN: It, it was mixed, because the, uh -- we had a -- the Machinists had a large presence and a large membership in Hartford --


POULIN: -- and you have to know New England. New England was up New England and the Northeast Coast was kind of selective. Uh, I can give you an example. In New York State, if you ran up the whole coast of New York State, starting with just New York City, you would find a, a heavy presence of Machinists. Albany you would skip because it was heavy concentration of UAW or Steelworkers. Syracuse would’ve been Machinists -- I mean, Utica would’ve been Machinists. Rome, New York would’ve been Machinists. Syracuse would’ve been UAW, so on up the line to Buffalo. Uh, so that was the, the breakdown of union representation in that whole particular territory. But in Hartford there was a strong union presence, but I have to tell you, there was -- the major resistance came out of the shop that the Machinists represented, which was United Aircraft, or formerly, originally the Pratt Whitney Corporation, which was a very, very 36:00anti-union company, and in those days while we had union recognition in, in, in their plants, it was not a union shop. It was an open shop, and the company cultivated an open shop and did everything they could, including stringently violating the law to, to keep people from joining the union.


POULIN: I’m not sure that covers what you want, but that’s --

DRUMMOND: No, no, no, it’s -- I think it’s just -- it’s good to, um, just get an idea of what the, how the, what the community was like and, and, and what local attitudes were toward labor when you’re talking about all the organizing campaigns and, and things like that. So, um --

POULIN: While I was President of the Local and District I was active in the community activities.


POULIN: Got involved in some community think tanks.


POULIN: Was also working in community development programs with different groups so I, I did wear -- I just remembered, I just wear that, did wear that hat, too, so --


DRUMMOND: Okay. Um, very busy. I know -- I, I know you talked about, um, a big strike at the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. What -- does that fall into this time period anywhere?

POULIN: No, no.

DRUMMOND: No, that’s --

POULIN: That falls in a time period when I was on the international staff.

DRUMMOND: Okay, so that’s, so that’s later. So, it looks like you remained, um, President, District President, and Local and District Organizer from ’51 to ’55? Does that sound about right? That you were active in some part of that?

POULIN: Yes, but I have to tell you that during that timeframe the International got involved in a major campaign in New Haven, Connecticut, which was the Winchester Repeating Arms.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: They tried to organize it in previous years and were not successful.


POULIN: There was a campaign that c--, took place in 1954, but the election would, election was culminated in ’54, December of ’54. Uh, and in the early 38:00part of ’54, the fellow who was assigned to, Grand Lodge rep assigned to head up the organizing campaign and try to organize that shop was the Grand Lodge representative by the name of Victor [Kalaski?] --


POULIN: -- who was the father of Bob Kalaski, who, who later became our editor of our journal and Machinists paper. But the, the -- he, he, he knew us, he knew me because of his relationship working in District 26 for the International, so I did have some sort of relationship with him there. He was trying to help us on some problems we were having. Uh --

DRUMMOND: And how far is New Haven from Hartford?

POULIN: I’m guessing thirty-five, forty miles.

DRUMMOND: Okay, gotcha.

POULIN: And there was another local organizer for the Machinists Union out of the United Aircraft, Local Lodge 741, which was the Hamilton Standard Division --



POULIN: -- and his name was Jerry Page. So Victor Kalaski asked each of the Locals and had permission from the International to put us on this organizing drive, that the International would pay the salary that we were getting from the Local, plus expenses to work on the campaign. So we both worked on the campaign. We both, local organizer Page and Poulin, we, we, we’d sort of teamed up together on that campaign, and we were successful. We won the election almost three to one. It was already 4,500 people in that job.

DRUMMOND: Wow, wow. And so then that caught the eye, um, the eye, perhaps, of the, of the International?

POULIN: What’s that?

DRUMMOND: The, so the, so your work with that campaign caught the eye of the International?

POULIN: Well, what happened was during -- right during the campaign there was openings for a couple of special representatives --


POULIN: -- and one was filled by Jerry Page that, and there was another slot filled by another representative by the name of Bob Day, and the reason he was 40:00given the spot, spot, uh -- Vic Kalaski was also involved in bringing a large, independent union into the Machinists Union, which was up in Sidney, New York. So he recommended that Bob Day, who was a key worker in the plant at the time, who helped bring the independent into the Machinists, he put on as a special. And there really was no room to put me on as I was told --


POULIN: -- and what developed, what, what happened was they referred me to the Office Workers Union, and the Office Workers Union actually hired me.


POULIN: And they wanted to send me to St. Louis to be one of their representatives to handle the whole St. Louis area. But I lucked out. Vic Kalaski prevailed and got the International to put me on the staff, so I didn’t have to go with the Office Workers Union.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And you started as a special rep --


DRUMMOND: -- um, in 1955.

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and what kind of work were you doing? Um --


POULIN: Organizing.

DRUMMOND: Organizing.

POULIN: Uh, what happened was in 1955 uh, Jerry Page, who, who, who, who both of us hooked up together -- we roomed together and everything while we worked the organizing campaign -- he was shipped off -- uh, am I overpowering you? He was sh--, he was shipped off to uh, McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis because with a big raid going on by the Teamsters against the Machinists Union. So I remained in that local, New Haven area working with the special representative, another special representative at the time, who was named Bill [Albrecht]. And we were very successful in organizing several plants: Snow Napsted, uh Snow Napsted Corporation, Geometric Tool and Die Corporation, High Standard, which was another gun, gun plant in the area, made High Standard pis-- pistols. So we had a string of successful elections right in there, so we increased the membership in addition to the Winchester membership by another 1,500, 1,600 people. So we 42:00had a successful run at the time.


POULIN: And so when Jerry came back from St. Louis assignment we just sort of hooked up and [went] where, where, wherever the hell we wanted to go.


POULIN: We just went where we thought there was leads, all over the territory!


POULIN: I mean, this was unheard of at the time, and they, they literally named us the Gold Dust Twins. And we just had a real good string of success -- and don’t ask me why; we were just very successful! (laughter)


POULIN: And that covered a lot of years.


POULIN: I’m, I’m giving you a lot of years that we --


POULIN: -- I’m organizing.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, because that -- because you were Special Grand Lodge rep for almost twenty years.



POULIN: About five years.

DRUMMOND: About five years.

POULIN: Then I became a Grand Lodge rep.

DRUMMOND: And then you became a Grand Lodge rep. Um, but during that five year period, you -- all over the Eastern territory.


DRUMMOND: And, and, and can you tell us what that covered?

POULIN: Yeah. It covered, uh -- we did organizing, uh -- not all, all success, but a lot, lot of success. We organized a shop up in Northampton, Massachusetts 43:00which made periscopes for submarines.


POULIN: They were, they were the sole manufacturer of the very intricate periscope, and highly t-- high technology on, on the optics in there and the, the, the, the honing of the glass (inaudible) just for all the prisms they had for working periscopes, and that was a company that ran away from us from Long Island. And so we were able to capitalize on that, and we had a very excellent contract in Long Island, but they ran away from it. We were successful in organizing it, and we organized that particular shop in two phases. You were able to carve out crafts in those days. We still can, I guess, now. We had a, had a craft, we organized the craft people first, and then we organized pr-- the production people two years later on. We were also involved in a major campaign that, which was called the Bradley Container Corporation. Had about 800 people in Maynard, Massachusetts, and that was a division that was bought out by 44:00American Can Company. So we were successful in organizing that plant. But one of the major things that we did, we developed as, both Jerry and I as organizers, is we started concentrating during a period of maybe six or seven years on organizing federal labor unions -- federal labor unions being directly affiliated locals to the AF of L CIO.


POULIN: Because during the --


POULIN: -- this major organizing period of the early ’50s and ’60s uh, a lot of unions were organized by the AF of L CIO, and they were called Directly Affiliated Locals to the AF of L CIO. But the AF of L had developed a program of trying to divest themselves of unions without being prejudiced toward any particular union. So we, we literally targeted them in the whole Northeast Territory, and went to visit them and tried to persuade them to join, and had a 45:00lot of success. We organized the Monson the [Monson]-Church Seat company which makes toilet seats for American Standard Company.


POULIN: Yeah. And we organized Savage Arms, which was a gun company which had 700 people which was a federal labor union at the time. And we had competition by other unions, but we were --


POULIN: -- successful. So that was -- most of my work in, was heavily organizing for that period of time.

DRUMMOND: So it’s interesting to me that the federal --

POULIN: Labor unions?

DRUMMOND: -- labor unions were in private companies.

POULIN: They were, they were companies that were separate companies --


POULIN: -- that were organized by the AF of L, period.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: And they were directly -- they were locals, directly affiliated with Local Lodges. They didn’t belong to any international union.


POULIN: They belonged to the AFL-CIO. They were serviced by AF of L CIO representatives.

DRUMMOND: Oh, interesting.

POULIN: And that was a segment of, that we were able to convince a lot of the federals in the Northeast Territory that belonged to the Machinists Union. And 46:00other unions were successful also, converting. One of the big campaigns that we have that we were not successful in was the Carrier Corporation in Syra-- Syracuse, New York, and they made Carrier air conditioners and so forth, which is now owned by [Inada?] Technology but was, was a separate corporation at the time. And we were involved in that campaign with other major unions. Sheet Metal Workers was heavily involved in that, and the Steelworkers were heavily involved in, in that campaign. The Steelworkers actually won -- uh and I should say that elections for federal labor union were conducted by the AF of L CIO itself. It was not a Labor Board election. It -- there was a mec--, a machinery that the AF of L CO would send in, a representative separate from the rep that was servicing that plant, and conduct a secret ballot election, just like it was an NO, National Labor Relations Board election, to determine whether or not they would switch affiliation from being a directly affiliated Local Lodge and a, to go 47:00into a particular international. And we had a big battle over the Carrier Corporation, which we were not successful in. We had some major, uh -- we, we, we did pick up a lot of votes, but we were not enough to win it. The one who actually won the election was the Steelworkers, and as a result of -- I’m not sure what, but I know it was a direct violation of AF of L CIO rules, the Sheet Metal Workers wound up with the plant, and there was a hell of a lot -- big battle over that for years between the Sheet Metal and the Steelworkers, and the Steelworkers were the ones that actually won that election, but it wound up being Sheet Metal. Remained Sheet Metal, uh -- I think right to this day!

DRUMMOND: And ’55 to, to ’60, those were the years directly following the merger of the AFL and the CIO, am I correct?

POULIN: Yes, yeah.

DRUMMOND: And so that must’ve been a tumultuous time for them, figuring out 48:00how they wanted to run things and how they wanted -- you know, once the, the, the two organizations merged. Do you think that that affected --?

POULIN: One of the -- uh, you, you jogged my memory. One of the key things that happened -- and I was just talking to Charlie out there, because he did he did an organizing paper, and it was at a point in time where he was referred to a campaign that I was involved in. We were heavily involved, because during that timeframe the UAW -- the CIO, rather, was -- threw out -- took the position that they were throwing out the United Electrical Workers. The United Electrical Workers were represented -- which, short version, UE, which was allegedly -- and I say allegedly because I don’t know firsthand –- communist dominated -- and I personally believe they were. And you have to remember that the United Electrical Workers during a very critical time, particularly during the war 49:00periods, grew tremendously to around 500,000 members, and they represented a very key segment of our industrial society, which was the electrical. Uh, they literally had GE under contract, they had Westinghouse under contract, all the major electronic companies under, under contract. And the CIO threw them out. When they threw them out, the internat--, the IUE was formed, was the International, which was those locals that decided to break away from the UE at the time that went into the International into the uh, the IUE, headed up by President James Carey at the time, went, and then there was a large segment that did not go, and a lot of unions went after them and raided, literally raided them through NLRB elections. And one of the key campaigns that Jerry Page and I got involved in at the time was -- we were, we were assigned there by the 50:00International; uh, we didn’t head up the campaign but we were both assigned to the campaign -- was a Sylvania plant in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. There was a, a joint election -- there was two elections going on. There was a plant in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania. There was a plant in Emporium, Pennsylvania. The distance between Emporium and Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, probably 70 miles in Central Pennsylvania. Uh, in between then old believe it or not Renovo, Pennsylvania, which was a original boomer for the Machinists Union at railroad uh, round house at the time. Uh, but the point I want to make is there was two elections: one was in Emporium -- they had their election the week before us, and we had ours a week after them -- but in those days the Northeast territory and the Cleveland [Great Lakes] territory, which was a Central [Great Lakes] territory were split in half. Now, the State of New York and Pennsylvania was split right down the middle!



POULIN: One, one half was in the Northeast territory and the other half was in the Cleveland [Great Lakes] territory. And the Cleveland [Great Lakes] territory had the Emporium shop, and we had the Mill Hall shop uh, in, in the raids. They lost their election the week before we had ours. We won our election in Mill Hall, against the UE. The point I want to make is those were not easy campaigns. Those were very difficult campaigns, and those were campaigns which a lot of things happened uh -- you know, you could’ve got real hurt, hurt and all, but, uh -- and I won’t go in any further details -- but we were very, very successful, and only because, I think because of our dogged determination. And the key thing that we had going for us was a fellow by the name of Ben Riskin, who was a representative for the UE at the time, who was listed on a subversive list by all the organizations, and he was given conditional hiring status with the Machinists until he was proven either guilty or not guilty as being, you 52:00know, a Communist. And he worked with us in that campaign. He serviced those plants that he was very instrumental in helping us. He later worked with both Jerry and I in Salem, Massachusetts, not hunting witches but also another win--, Sylvania plant, which we were not successful in winning but we, we tried to win. But we were heavily involved in also the UE plants along with you know, what we did with directly affiliated Local Lodges. So there are a lot of a lot of major work in, in organizing, raiding people and so forth, and also during that timeframe defending ourselves. Uh, we were raided at a big Yale & Towne plant during that time, p-- plant in, in uh, Philadelphia.

DRUMMOND: By whom?

POULIN: Uh, by the Mineworkers at the time, District 50 Mineworkers at the time.


POULIN: Okay? We successfully won that plant, and we defeated the, the Mineworkers, but -- so we were also in defensive organizing, you might say. That, that, that’s how I would ter-- I would terminate it. But basically those 53:00years were heav-- for me were heavily involved in all aspects of organizing.

DRUMMOND: Okay. So ’55 to ’60 --


DRUMMOND: -- the busy time. By the end of 1960 you became a Gra-- Grand Lodge rep.


DRUMMOND: And for the, the Northeastern district still?

POULIN: Yeah, Northeast territory.

DRUMMOND: Northeast territory.


DRUMMOND: Okay. Um, how did your responsibilities change with --? First of all, a special rep -- did you quit, um --? When you came on as special rep in 1955, was that sort of the end of your shop work? Did you at that point --


DRUMMOND: -- you were, you had the International, and you were no longer --


DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: I worked directly for the International, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And, and Grand Lodge rep in 1960. How did your -- what were your new responsibilities in that position?

POULIN: Basically the same at, at, at the, at the time, but what happened was as a Grand Lodge rep we got more involved in what the International was, was doing. Uh, we uh -- One of the things that they were doing out of, out of our political 54:00department -- at that time was headed up by Don Ellinger, who was our Political Director at the time -- it was really a heavily uh, beginning us getting a lot, lot more active in political activities. Uh, I know one of the first things that I was assigned to early on as a Grand Lodge representative was to go to a political seminar out in Berkeley, California that was headed up by the, our educational department and Don Ellinger, and what we literally did, did there was learn how to do surveys, learn how to take polls. I actually got involved in poll taking and what to do, actually got involved in writing questions for polls and how to frame those kinds of questions. We were involved in that kind of activity. We were also involved -- they also involved us, at least me in particular in going to school at Cornell for learning job evaluation and time study. So I got to, to know a little bit about job evaluation --

DRUMMOND: (inaudible)


POULIN: -- uh, and time study. And, um. All the time I’m still organizing.


POULIN: And I think one of the key things I left out in organizing, as we were developing and organizing, we’re doing all this work with trying to bring in new groups: uh, we sort of -- even though we, Jerry and I evolved ourselves into doing pretty much what we, we had to do without anybody really complaining about where that, what we were doing, where we were going, we actually sort of set up our own organizing thing. We split the territory in half, and we (inaudible) ourselves as organizing coordinator. Jerry was one and I was one, and we literally helped to coordinate organizing drives for those reps that were assigned to drives, and we headed up the campaigns, you know, as, as coordinators. So it was really that kind of development as we were developing, organizing in a territory and that sort of led to a lot of uh, different things for us in, in organizing. So we did a lot of things that I’m not sure a lot of 56:00reps would, would’ve done or would do today, to be honest with you, but --


POULIN: Uh, and I guess it maybe was because we, we were semi-successful, I would put it, at least.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. And as a coordinator for, for people who might not be familiar with the exact work of the coordinator, can you talk a little bit about specifically what that means to be a coordinator?

POULIN: Yeah, it -- keeping track in what we start referring to ourselves as our territory, keeping track of organizing activities going on, what were some potential campaigns, who was working what campaigns what stage of a campaign uh, that it was at -- uh, was it just at talking stage, was it just developing committee people, active people, was it at, as a signing up people to join the union so we could have an NLRB election? Uh, it was all, all that kinds of things. We were both heavily involved in a major, major organizing campaign with Smith Corona up in Upstate New York. We were never successful. We had four or 57:00five key elections, and came within breath hairs of winning on several occasions. And one of the unique things about that particular organization that I headed up, which was probably the second or third time we tried them -- I was in charge of the campaign at the time -- is we wound up with a, a challenge -- the, these were Board-conducted NLRB elections, uh -- but there was a discrepancy of maybe 200 ballots or 300 ballots, and we -- the Board couldn’t satisfy to me where the hell they were and where they came from and what they were going to be. To make a long story short, the point I want to make is how sophisticated or how delicate these situations got is I told them we weren’t going to accept any, any damn decision. I was going to call in the State Police and, and impound these goddamn ballots until we had an accurate determination. And the only reason I raise this is that uh, we were, we did resolve it. We, we lost by 100 votes or 80 votes, whatever it was but we did resolve, to my 58:00satisfaction, you know, that where the hell they were and where they came from. But the point I want to make is that years later the guy that was in charge from the NLRB came up to me at some function we were at, and he said, “I remember you. You were the guy that was going to lock up my --” (laughter) It was fascinating, it really was.

DRUMMOND: So by this time are you married?

POULIN: Yeah, I got married while I was still a local organizer.


POULIN: My wife -- I met my wife [Toni Arturo] in Plax Corporation.


POULIN: She was working in the shop, and that’s where we got together, and we got, we got married uh, thereafter, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Right. So, um -- and, and she was at, at worked with you, then she was also a union member?


DRUMMOND: How many women did you have in your -- You said there were about 250 folks there?

POULIN: Yeah, and ninety percent women.

DRUMMOND: Ninety--?

POULIN: Or I shouldn’t say ninety. Maybe eighty-five, eighty-eight percent.

DRUMMOND: Eighty-eight, okay.


DRUMMOND: Which is a, a real big difference from what I hear from a lot of other folks, where --


DRUMMOND: -- uh, the, the shops are largely male with a very, very small number of women.

POULIN: Mine was the reverse.



POULIN: Uh, I, I want to say that -- hopefully that was my success. I’m not sure! (laughter)

DRUMMOND: (laughter) But, um, but she knew you were very active in the union sort of going into your relationship, so --

POULIN: Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, she knew what I, what I was doing, and, uh --


POULIN: Well, I was her steward for a long time and her committee man for a long time.

DRUMMOND: Oh, okay, okay. And, um, but then once you became special rep I guess you started traveling around more --

POULIN: Yeah, all --

DRUMMOND: -- and you were away from home, and --

POULIN: All over the country.

DRUMMOND: And did you guys have kids by then?

POULIN: Yeah, we had, uh -- My oldest son [Paul] was born in ’53, so we had it while I was still uh, lo-, working locally --


POULIN: -- and my other son [Jim] -- I have two boys -- uh, boy was born in ’60, but I was on the road then, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And can, so can you talk a little bit maybe about what it was like to have your family at home and have to be gone so much?

POULIN: I’d say rough, rough, very rough for them. Uh -- To be very honest, with me, it was rough being away, but I -- you know, when you’re out doing 60:00what we were doing, you’re just damn so involved, so active and, you know, you just -- and, and, and in those days it was getting home no more than once every, every two weeks --


POULIN: -- get home for a short weekend, and sometimes not even then. Depending on what stage of a campaign you were at, it might go three weeks, it might go a month. So it was really, uh -- you had to have a very understanding wife. Otherwise you would never, you would never last, and a lot of people did not last. You know, I think the --


POULIN: -- the attrition rate amongst the representatives at, sort of on the high side, I would say.

DRUMMOND: Um -- but, but --

POULIN: But we’re both married today -- we’re, they’re going, we’re going on sixty-one years, so --

DRUMMOND: Excellent, congratulations. Well, good. Um, and then as Grand Lodge rep, did your travel continue?

POULIN: Oh, yes.

DRUMMOND: A lot of -- okay.

POULIN: My, my travel continued all the way through the time I retired.


DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. Um, so you were Grand Lodge rep from ’60 to ’76. Does that sound accurate?

POULIN: Yes, that’s exactly right.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And at that time you became resident Vice President. And what does that title mean?

POULIN: If I could, I’ll give, just give a little flavor in between.

DRUMMOND: Oh, sure, okay.

POULIN: While I was on a big campaign that we did not, we were not successful with up in, um, Sprague, Massachusetts, which is up near Great Barrington, up, up through that way, up in the Green Mountains, uh -- Berkshires, I’m sorry, up in the Berkshires -- we got involved in a campaign which we thought there was a distinct violation of AFL-CIO rules between unions, and in the International we had a Jurisdiction Department, a guy who handled jurisdictional agreements between unions to make sure that they lived up to various agreements, and there were certain protocol that you could do and not do against, campaigning against each other, you know. So I filed a charge, and the guy who was heading up the 62:00department for the Machinists was a fellow by the name of Grand Lodge Representative Des- Des- Desford Smith. Uh, he and I -- I gave him all the details. I had to go down to Washington to testify before the AF of L CIO procedures. The procedure under the AFL-CIO was to hear the case, and they made a decision as to whether or not whatever the charges were, whether there was validity, whether there was a violation or not, and, uh -- so he asked me at the time “Would you be interested in coming down?” I said, “For what?” “To do my job.” I guess he wanted to leave headquarters at the time. So I actually got involved in going down to Washington. Red Smith was, uh -- Floyd Smith was the general was the International President at the time, and he had called me just prior to Christmas se-- ’72, latter part of ’72, asked me if I wanted 63:00to come down, and he would put me on in, as the jurisdictional representative for the Machinists union. And to give you the short version, I, I did. I went down in March of ’73. I was at Headquarters working on jurisdiction agreements, and we also had working agreements with the international unions. And Floyd Smith was sort of an expert on that, because he did a lot of that when he was in the field himself, on jurisdictional agreements, and what was involved in those agreements. And al-- also we had reciprocal agreements between both the Machinists and various international unions as to if I left the Machinists and went to work at UAW shop, how, how they would honor or not honor our membership. And all of that was involved in those. And I learned an awful lot from Floyd, or President Smith because we had a lot of sessions on how to handle the 64:00jurisdiction, what, what was involved in some of the earlier thinking. And he was the one that actually repre-- recommended me to the Executive Council to the as the Vice President, as Resident Vice President, uh -- well, it wasn’t Resident -- it was to fill a Vice President’s spot. And I was assigned as a Resident Vice President when Wimpy, President Winpisinger became President. He was the resident at the time. He moved up to International President, and by virtue of what happened I was in -- I was assigned to that job. And then we had, we had another Vice President out of Chicago. He was -- potential Vice President out of Chicago -- which was selected by then the Vice President, Tom Ducy to fill the spot. And during our campaign, while he was one of the guys who was recommended -- and, and his name escapes me at the time. I just cannot remember it. I’ve been trying to remember it. Uh, he had a bad, bad stroke, so he 65:00couldn’t fill it, so they, they, they, they nominated somebody else. I remember Wimpy asking me if I wanted to take over the Cleveland territory, and I told him I would prefer not because I’d moved my family down to Washington, they were just there, just getting settled, and the youngest boy was still, all the good things that go with that, and so I did -- I was assigned as Resident Vice President. And as Resident you b-- you had literally the right arm of the International President, because as, as, as Resident I served in many, many capacities. Uh, I was on the, I worked for the uh, then Secretary of Labor Marshal on the, on, on a, the apprentice the, the Labor Department Apprentice Committee, got a citation for that while I was working with the der-- various unions and the Labor Department on developing apprenticeship programs and refining them and uh, what went into different programs, whether there were machinist programs or carpenters' programs or plumber program or electric 66:00program, you name it. And, uh --

DRUMMOND: And you were working on that committee with other union members --

POULIN: Yes, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- with other representatives from other --

POULIN: For, for -- yeah, w-within the Labor Department. Yeah.


POULIN: And Representative Wimpy at the White House -- we had a meeting with Carter where we were screaming like hell over some of his policies, to be very honest with you. Uh, was his right arm in our anything, anybody but Carter movement when Kennedy tried to run.

DRUMMOND: Can you, can you --

POULIN: I will elucidate on that, uh --


POULIN: -- maybe going to give you a break. You keep looking at the clock here, and you don’t need to transcribe the --

DRUMMOND: I’m just, I just want to know what time it is.

POULIN: Oh, okay, okay.

DRUMMOND: I’m, I’m not, I’m not in a hurry to leave.

POULIN: Okay, okay.

DRUMMOND: I just, I just want to know where we are.

POULIN: Okay. No, no, I knew you weren’t in a hurry. I didn’t want your brain to be overloaded, that’s all.

DRUMMOND: (laughter)

POULIN: That also was very instrumental and was one of the key representatives for the Machine, in the Industrial Union Department of AFL-CIO, or -- and I went to all those meetings. I went to the Metal Trades Department Meeting --


POULIN: -- International Metalworkers Federation over in Geneva, where the key spokesmen for the Machinists -- went to several of their meetings. Literally 67:00traveled all, all over the world you know, at different functions. Uh, did a lot of work representing the Machinists Union with the coalition groups, such as the Rainbow Group and, and Jesse Jackson and his group. Wimpy was very instrumental in being of tremendous assistance of the early organizing of the Football Association Labor Unions.


POULIN: They had an office in our building. He gave them office space free. He’d lend them early money. He’d lend them early legal assistance to formulate their union, and we were heavily involved in all that. We were one of the major players in the big labor rally that we had in ’77 in Washington, D.C. where we had over 80,000 Machinists Union in that parade.

DRUMMOND: Oh, wow.

POULIN: We, we just pulled in w-with one of the best efforts the Machinists ever had in that type of a rally. I was really the coordinator for Wimpy on, on all of that, responsible for handling all of that. And while you serve in that 68:00capacity, and also as a Vice President in other -- whether by territory or whether it’s by Transportation Department, you name it, you also served on various committees, like we have a, a grievance committee. We heard trial cases if a member was brought up on trial for violation of our rules. I headed up many trials, investigations for the Machinists Union had, had several, several of those. A whole myriad of the things that go with that sort of complex running -- you have to remember, at the time that we were running 800,000 members and you had maybe 7, 800 business agents, and you had maybe 4 or 500 Grand Lodge special representatives, so you had quite a few people that you you were working with. And one of the key functions of the Resident Vice President is working to help 69:00the General Vice Presidents in their respective territories as much as possible, whatever they needed from the International, working and coordinating with them, and being of assistance to them. Uh, was heavily responsible in setting up -- for a long time I advocated that we ought to have a general Vice President heading up organizing. We eventually wound up getting one of those, who has since gone by the wayside, but we did have one for a period of time. Uh, I don’t want to be overpowering you --

DRUMMOND: Mm-hmm, I know.

POULIN: -- but there’s a lot of things that go into this, and, uh --

DRUMMOND: It sounds like a very complicated position --

POULIN: Yeah, well, it was a lot --

DRUMMOND: -- that you wore a lot of hats, and that it was --

POULIN: Yes, a lot --

DRUMMOND: -- sort of like “and other duties as assigned,” so you never really knew --


DRUMMOND: -- until something happened.

POULIN: Plus you have to remember, you’re running all the departments’ headquarters. You’re running the departments that have to do with Constitutional interpretation. You have to, the Jurisdictional Department, the Organizing Department the Research Department, you name it, you know.



POULIN: And, uh -- most of that, within the -- as the Resident Vice President.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Um --

POULIN: But I served one full term there, and four successive terms as General Vice President in the Northeast territory.

DRUMMOND: And specifically just for the Northeast territory. Because Resident Vice President was maybe nationwide.



POULIN: Well, just like an International President. It was, you know, he was the right arm of the International President, and did a lot of work I might add, with the [General?] Secretary Treasury Department, which is a whole major department unto itself --


POULIN: -- which handles, you know, all of our finances and so forth. And one of the interesting aspects about that is while we’re sitting here in the Winpisinger Center was the, originally the Placid Harbor Center, okay, and this center here was originally set up as an educational center for the retail clerks. They s-- really had this and they developed this. It wasn’t big as it is right now. There was one little building, and you had the two little houses over there. You had the cafeteria set up around the shore side there. And Wimpy 71:00was talking with the then President of the Retail Clerks, and the Retail Clerk mentioned that they wanted to sell this. They wanted to get rid of this for a lot of reasons that I won’t get into -- and I’m not sure I know them all anyways. But the point I want to lead to is that the President Winpisinger at the time said, “George, you and Gene go down and take a look at this and see what you think of it.” And Gene and I came down here, and I was reminiscing coming --


POULIN: Glover, I’m sorry.


POULIN: Eugene -- it’s Eugene Glover, and he was the Gen-- General Secretary at the time, and was General Secretary at the time when, as I became Vice President. He was General Secretary along with Wimpy. So we both came down here, looked this over, and I was reminiscing coming down -- it had been a long time -- and I came down the same route that Gene and I did, and we looked at this, and right away we said, “Yes, this is a go,” because we really couldn’t resist. The price was something, as I recall, maybe $1.2 million, which was, in my opinion, was a steal at the time. But in conjunction with telling Wim--, 72:00President Winpisinger that we thought it was a good deal and we ought to do this, do this, and we ought to get out of the horse and buggy days of our then Educational Department, which did all of its work out in the field -- in other words, we had the Educational Department in Headquarters, we had representatives that worked there, but also we had, each territory had an educational rep, but all of the education of the Grand Lodge reps, the special reps, and of the officers in whatever schools we had at the time were done in conjunction with different universities -- whether it was Cornell, whether it was Yukon, you name it, we did all of our classes there in conjunction with Rutgers and all those. That’s where all of our -- so we thought it was a good idea to do everything ourselves in-house, set up our own curriculum and do what we want to do, and so we would tailor it to ourselves. And we had the wherewithal to do it at the time, and that was the time to do it. And he then dispatches -- we agreed, and the Council voted to, to do it -- he dispatched both Gene and I to go up to 73:00Linden Hall, which was the Steelworkers, the educational center up in the middle of Pennsylvania, obviously Black Lake, which was the UAW. So we got a feel for them. We went up and learned how, what the hell they were doing, what they were, were not doing, and then we discarded everything we didn’t agree with that and did our own thing, and we made our own program. I have to tell you that the guy that really is keenly responsible for making this a success, in my opinion --


POULIN: -- Okay, was Gene Glover.


POULIN: Because after we committed ourselves to buy the place, committed ourselves to begin to understand what the curriculum was, G-- the GST Department was assigned to elect educational people from within the Machinists, if they could find them. If, if not, from in, within the House of Labor, whether it was from the AFL-CIO [collar?], wherever it was from, or from our own ranks, or, or from someplace -- or right from the educational field. And he was the one that was originally responsible for all of that, and also the maintenance of this 74:00place, which would, needed a lot of work at the time.


POULIN: There’s a whole myriad of things that went into it. And I don’t mean to digress, but that was really a period I don’t think we ought to leave out.

DRUMMOND: No, no, I think it’s important.

POULIN: And I think it was one of the major, major things that the Machinists Union did at the time was to, was to do that, and uh, he was -- Gene did a hell of a job, in my opinion.

DRUMMOND: And from the time you guys came down and saw it and encouraged President Winpisinger to purchase it.

POULIN: Which he did not need much encouragement.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: I mean, I mean, he was, he was really --


POULIN: He was the guy that wanted to do it, and, uh --


POULIN: -- he just wanted to say, “Go, tell me it’s real,” and --


POULIN: -- we did, yes.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Uh how, how long did it take to get it up and running? Do you remember?

POULIN: (pause) Two or three years, I guess.


POULIN: And I’m only guessing. Yeah.


POULIN: You, you know, someone that might help, uh -- and maybe not, because he 75:00wasn’t involved right here initially, but he, he followed Gene and I, which would be Wharton, and you’re going to be interviewing him, Donnie Wharton.


POULIN: He might be able to be more, more specific about that --


POULIN: -- because he, he probably would’ve educated himself when he became the Director down here to the early stages. Okay?


POULIN: So I’m not -- I, I’m sure he could help you with that.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Um --

POULIN: I’m not even a quarter of the way done, kid!


POULIN: You are! (laughter)

DRUMMOND: We’re going to take a break.


DRUMMOND: This is Traci Drummond a-- at the Winpisinger Center for Education and Technology, and George Poulin is joining me again to finish his interview. And when we left off we were going to start talking about your time as General Vice President of the Northeast territory. So can you describe that time -- uh, and you were, you had held that from 1980 to 1997 --

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- so a good long time --

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- and you retired from that position.

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: So between 1980 and 1997, what were s-- what were some of the, the 76:00issues, the campaigns, the things you faced in that, doing that work?

POULIN: Uh, as I said to you while we were off of the air there were a couple of major strike situations I was involved in as a representative in the field which we didn’t cover before, and I’d like to stick those in now just before I get into a dissertation on the --


POULIN: -- duties of a General Vice President.

DRUMMOND: Sure. So we’re going to go back a little first, then.

POULIN: We’re going back to 1960.


POULIN: And in 1960 we had a major strike with the United Aircraft Corporation in East Hartford, Connecticut, and at that time it consisted of the big aircraft engine plant in East Hartford, it consisted of another division of theirs, which was the Hamilton Standard plant that they had up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Hamilton originally was made, made propellers, but at this time they were making a lot of the electronic components for the engine for the big plant in East Hartford. This was a strike that was coordinated and conducted in conjunction 77:00with the United Auto Workers Union, which represented at that time two major plants. One was the plant that they had in Southington [North Haven], Connecticut, which also made engine parts, and they represented at that time the big Sikorsky plant down near Bridgeport Connecticut at that time. Uh, we had what we thought was a very successful coordinated program going into the strike, but you have to remember in that days we were working in the Machinists Union and in the UAW while we had different contracts, which our respective unions negotiated with the corporation. We had a very anti-union corporation that we were doing business with, and they literally went out of their way to thwart all our efforts to organize people in the plant, because they were -- this was an open shop, it was not a union shop -- and they constantly did everything they 78:00could to reduce our membership, which included spying on our members in the, in, in the in the plant, setting up surveillance conferences, uh -- cameras, rather -- and we made a conscious decision a very riskal-- risky gamble at the time, to strike them, knowing full well that we represented at best in the majority of the locations forty to forty-five percent membership and not a majority of membership at the time. But we felt a little bit confident because some of the confidence was bolstered by the fact that we were highly organized in the craft sections in all of those particular shops --


POULIN: -- which was a major component to hopefully leading to a successful strike. We struck for nine weeks. We went through a lot of arrests, a lot of uh, cameras, uh -- the companies had cameras on us full time. They had state police there. We had literally sh-- blocked traffic for hundreds of miles around, 79:00because that’s where all the employees were coming from in the initial days of the strike, and the company moved for a fast injunction in court which limited us to a certain number of pickets on each gate, depending on which gates we’re, we’re talking about. They set up what they called employer gates at that time, which meant that we couldn’t picket that gate, because the employer gate meant that they were bringing in outside contractors from a different trade that were doing work in a plant, and not necessarily our work, even though they might’ve been doing our work. So we were precluded from being able to picket that particular uh, those particular gates at, at, uh -- The courts said we, we were enjoined from picketing. And to make a long story short, as a result of that, we literally did not win the strike. It was really the beginning of, what I viewed as the beginning of [hopefully?] rebuilding from where we were, because we were decimated in our membership, both in the Machinists Union and also in 80:00the UAW, United Auto Workers. And the company literally went out of its way to make sure that most of our active officers from the respective local lodges from these plants did not get back to work and were never recalled, and even -- and they were our most active people, so they knew exactly what they were doing and what they were, they were trying to do. And this strike in, involved the International heavily insofar as the General Vice President of Territory at the time, which was Fred Coonley came in in person to try to help settle it at the end, and we did finally settle it but I have to be real candid: it was not a victory for the union, while we did, while we did settle the strike and the company was very, like I said, very, very anti-union in this situation. And one of the key fallouts of this is that the UAW lost both of the plants that they had. When I say lost, after the strike one plant was raided by the Teamsters Union and went Teamsters -- that was the Sikorsky plant; they took it from the 81:00UAW. They tried to take another plant which was the Southington [North Haven] plant, from the UAW, but the the, there was also an independent union that formed to try to win the bargaining rights, and the independent won and took it over from the UAW. And in subsequent years after that -- like I said, next four or five years -- the Machinists were able to get the independent to affiliate with the Machinists. So the long and short of that strike was that the UAW lost all of its membership with United Aircraft. Some belong to the Teamsters to this day, and the rest coming over to the Machinists Union. And I’ll give you a quick jump forward. As viciously an anti-union as that company was, I did live to see the day that we did negotiate a union shop agreement with them later on while I was General Vice President, and the one who negotiated it for us uh, was a Grand Lodge representative, Bob Thayer, who later became a General Vice President Bob Thayer.


POULIN: And the other strike I think that was worth mentioning, uh --


DRUMMOND: Well, I want to go back to that one.

POULIN: Oh, okay.

DRUMMOND: So when that was going on -- so how much area did that cover? How many employees total did that --? How many, how many people were, were in the shops?

POULIN: At the, at the, at the time the, the employment was in the East Hartford Plant I want to say somewhere around 20, 22,000 people.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and -- but not everybody was in the union. It was, it was --

POULIN: Less than four, less then fifty percent, closer to forty, forty percent, forty-nine percent.


POULIN: And then we were being generous in, in that number.


POULIN: Uh because it was -- sometimes it was hard to tell, because it was a constantly rotating and turnover membership, and we were constantly trying to organize.


POULIN: And in the Hamilton plant, which we represented at the time, there was at least, I’m guessing -- not guessing, but it was close to 3,800 people. And that was the strongest local in the strike of all the unions involved, that the company really went after them and decimated them after the strike.

DRUMMOND: And what kind of tactics would they use against the workers? What, what were y’all up against?

POULIN: Uh, after the strike, or d-- during the strike?

DRUMMOND: Well, well d-- during the strike, or --

POULIN: Well, during the strike they, they tr-- they tried to hire scabs. They 83:00did hire scabs.


POULIN: They did hire other, other production people. They moved a lot of the shop foremen, because they had a formidable amount of uh, shop foremen and su-- junior foremen on the plant floor that could move in and do, do some of the things. Uh, like I say, one of our key strategy was to hold a, a solid craft group in the shop, which were our skilled people, and they were the ones that did carry us through nine weeks o-- of negotiation. But the company did everything imaginable to try to break the strike including the injunctions in court, including going to the, the media to brand us as, you know, violent, vicious people during the strike. There was a lot of violence in the strike at, at individuals’ homes and, and all this. There were a lot of things were not --

DRUMMOND: So, so there were, there were non-union members and union members arguing?


DRUMMOND: Or there were violent sort of --?




POULIN: Yeah. For the first maybe five or six days, because we had mass picketing before the injunction, nobody got in the plant.


POULIN: But slowly but surely, because what injunctions are geared to do is to limit the number of pickets on a gate, otherwise you go to jail.


POULIN: And so that meant that it was easier for people to decide they would sneak into the plant, and the company would sneak them in, liter-- literally.


POULIN: They would drive them in in cars that were, the windows were covered. You couldn’t see who was in the car. And we went through all of that in, in that particular strike.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Um, were these plants, the four of them -- they were in four different cities in Connecticut pretty close to one another.

POULIN: Within a radius of, I’d say, seventy, eighty miles.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Were they sort of, um -- because I know in a minute -- I, I believe you’re going to talk about the Winchester strike, and how the, the Winchester Repeating -- Repeating Arms was such a, um -- it was so rooted in that community, and it was so important to that community.


POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: But, but earlier with the United strike, was that -- were those the same kind of factories? Were they such a part of the makeup of the towns that they were in?

POULIN: Absolutely. They -- not only the town, they were literally the backbone of the greater Hartford area, what I would call the greater Hartford, Connecticut area.


POULIN: Uh, most of the plants sprung up during World War II as a result of coming out of old factories from Hartford, and they moved in and built these large plants as the result of World War II efforts in those thing, and absolutely, they played a tremendous role. And I, I left out an important factor. What we had was toward the end of the strike we had a mass, mass rally of better than 7,000 people that literally marched from East Hartford, Connecticut to Hartford, and if you know the location, you had to go over the Connecticut River to get to the Capitol, which was in Hartford. And the then-Governor at the time was Governor Ribicoff. And we literally ringed his, 86:00the Capitol, and we knew full well he wasn’t in there, and he was out on the West Coast at that time championing the cause of then-President [Kennedy] then the candidate, uh --


POULIN: -- Kennedy to run for President of the United States, and, um, we had to tell him to come home and all that good stuff. And so that’s toward the end, end of the strike, and, uh -- he did not play a, any kind of a major role, in my opinion, to help settle the strike but we did have certain, a, a couple of meetings with him. Myself and the Grand Lodge representative at the time met with the Governor and he literally was very clearly, he was taking the company’s side. And I think the meeting lasted about two minutes and rather than have him throw us out we just left because of his attitude.

DRUMMOND: So what did the outcome of the strike -- the immediate outcome, not, you know, later when you said you, you did get --

POULIN: The immediate outcome of --?

DRUMMOND: What, what did that have -- what kind of effect did that have on the community?


POULIN: Uh -- I’m not quite sure if it had a major, major impact, because a lot of -- all the scabs were back immediately. But the great, the greater impact it had on the immediate community and surrounding communities -- because you got to envision people coming from a, a great area, some from even out of state, to work in these particular plants using their skill -- uh, it, it would have an impact on, on all those areas. But a lot of people did not get back to the work. Like I said, the company very selectively made sure certain people did not get back in there, and as, as the result of hundreds and hundreds of people being put on a recall list, a lot did not get back, so it disrupted their families and whatever effect it had on their local community that they, they, they respectively lived in. Totally decimated our local up in Ham-- the Hamilton Division, you know.

DRUMMOND: What kind of strike fund assistance did they have at the time? I’m 88:00always interested in, in hearing about -- because the Local didn’t have a strike fund, or the Locals didn’t have their own, so they were getting, I assume, stuff from the, or strike assistance from the International.

POULIN: I’m glad you raised the question, because that was another problem we had to overcome during the strike. Uh, at that time -- uh, and it was a high number for us -- we, our strike benefits out of the International was $25 a week, and that was the highest number we had put in as, as contrast to almost $200 today for if you went on strike.


POULIN: Uh, the, uh -- but during the strike the fund ran out and we had to revert back to $10 a week, which did not help us toward the end of the strike, so --


POULIN: That was just one of the events that happened, and it was just the circumstances involving the funding that we had at the time. And, well, one of the benefits of that is we made it, we -- the International vowed to increase the strike funds in later uh, constitutional conventions.






DRUMMOND: Excellent. And then, um, moving forward seven or eight years, the Winchester Repeating Arms strike.

POULIN: Yeah. As a rep-- uh, at --

DRUMMOND: And set the stage, like what was -- how long had the company been there, and their -- and, and where were they located, and --?

POULIN: I, I will, but let me just backtrack again --

DRUMMOND: Oh, sorry, right.

POULIN: -- uh, to the United Aircraft strike. I, I’d speak to you about the United Aircraft strike as a representative assigned to that strike. I was not --


POULIN: -- heading it up, but I was totally involved in all the activity of helping make sure we try to have a successful strike. Now I’ll jump to the Winchester one what, that you just asked me about. It’s -- we had an interesting correlation down at the Winchester -- I was on the original organizing drive at the Winchester Company, which was in 1955, and we were successful in organizing at the plant, and at that time the plant had 4,700 people in it making the Winchester rifle, and so forth. And I will, I will go into more detail if you want, but it was, uh -- we had had several campaigns but 90:00this is one that was headed up by a fellow by the name of Victor Kalaski, who was a Grand Lodge representative, and Victor was the father of Bob Kalaski, who later became the editor of our newspaper and our, our Communications Department. And at the time I was working as a Local Lodge organizer, not on the International staff, and there was another Local Lodge organizer working out of the Hamilton plant, and his name was Jerry Page. And Vic asked both of us to be assigned to that plant, to help organize the plant. And we were there, and the short version is that we were part of a team that was successful in organizing that, that plant. And we organized the plant in December of ’70 -- not ’70, but ’50, ’49 -- I mean ’54, to be exact, because it was ’55 when we 91:00chartered them. Uh, the end -- there was December of ’54 that we successfully won that plant, and it was -- as a result of that plant that without going into some of the nuances, I was put on the staff and so was uh, Jerry Page a-- at the time who, you know, from Local organizer on, onto the International staff. So we were very active in organizing the plant, so we had a history of that.


POULIN: And I was not involved in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company until we had the strike, which was I want to say seven or eight years later, so it would take you to early ’60s -- ’61, ’62, somewhere in that timeframe. It was after the Winch-- the United Aircraft Strike, so around ’62 or somewhere in there.


POULIN: And I did not -- I was not involved in the negotiations that led to the strike. There was another Grand Lodge representative who was named Ed, Edward Peresuha, and he was the one who negotiated, represented the International. And 92:00that local at the time was a, a local of the Machinists Union but not affiliated with any district, so it was serviced by an International Grand Lodge representative. Two days, two or three days after the strike started I got a call from the Vice President, was assigned to take over the strike, take over, over the negotiations. And a quick dissertation finding out -- first thing I did was go in and find out exactly what the hell we were on strike for and what, and how it led to that and where we were. And my quick assessment was is that I didn’t know how we got into this strike, because it didn’t seem like there were some real, real major issues that could not be overcome but I, I cer-- I quickly found out in going into a couple of meetings with the negotiating committee and the company that they were adamant on some very stringent restrictions in the con-, in the contract. And as the strike progressed, and I 93:00saw it was not going anywhere in the early month or so, what I made -- I made a calculated decision to do something that I’m not sure I would normally do. I met with the Committee and I said, “Look, I think it’s time, and we’ve got, we’ve got the strength, in my opinion. We’re out 100%.” There were no scabs getting in there, and the only one doing any, any work were, was minor work by supervision. None of the skilled work was being done because it was highly skilled work in what they call the model shop for, for putting all the final etchings and carvings on the woods and all that. That was not being done. They had a big brass mill, which made bullets there. All, a lot of ammunition there. None of that was being done. Made a conscious decision, said, “Look, the contract we have here is not all that great, and they want to further restrict it.” I says, “I would propose to you that we sit down and we read, we rewrite this whole contract from cover to cover,” which is exactly what we did, putting in hopefully, what we thought was protective language for us and 94:00to, to better service our membership at that time. And I told them at the time, I says, “Now, I want to, want you fully to understand this: if we embark on this and we go in this direction, I’m going to tell you this strike is not going to be over on, at least for another four or five months.” I said, “That would be hopefully the shortest period of time, and I, I want you to know --” And I said, “Do you think we can stand that? Do you think we can hold up, we can, we can do this?” The answer was unanimously yes. And to give you the short version, we did finally settle it after six months on strike. We got almost everything we asked for in the contract. We made it a decent, what I considered a decent contract at the time. And that strike had a lot of some, a lot of violence, but on the picket lines, but, you know, believe it or not, some of the violence came from the Students For Democratic Action [Students for a Democratic Society] --


POULIN: -- in the early days, and they had, they had a divinity school in the 95:00greater New Haven area, which had a lot of people active in, in the Students for [Democratic] Action. And how we found out a lot of them were wor-- right on our picket lines -- and they didn’t tell us they were on the picket line -- is the Mayor. The Mayor told us. The Mayor called us in one day, said “Do you know what the hell you guys are doing?” It was one of those kind of conversa--


POULIN: -- “Yeah, sure, we know what we’re doing.” And then told us who was involved in it, and they had -- they had police surveillance on, on the whole thing. And this was a, a plant which was right in the center of New Haven, and it was the lifeblood of that neighborhood, and literally a good portion of New Haven -- not all of New Haven, but a good portion of New Haven was really the lifeblood. And it employed a lot of ethnic, ethnic people a lot of the the black community was there. And the reason they were there is a lot of them were imported from the South during the war. They were brought up to come in and help expand the plant and make all the different armaments, the guns that they were making at, at the time. And so we had a, a heavy ethnic background of people in 96:00the plant. So it did affect the community. And I have to tell you that that group was solid right to the, right to the end, and, uh -- which really was the key, in my opinion, why we were so, so successful, because the company was not going to shake. And you have to remember, or if you don’t remember, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was owned by Mrs. Winchester at the time, and she was a very, uh -- I’m not sure what her -- she had some weird ideas. She built her own houses. She kept, she probably built a house, and she kept adding rooms on it, and when she died she finally had 100 some odd rooms. Some rooms led to nowhere and all that. This is an aside, but she was really the owner of the Winchester, and, uh -- but the Winchester name at that time was being administered by the Olin Corporation, and the Olin Corporation still to this day owns the Winchester name, but the plant is no longer there, and the -- and the Winchester name is being used by I’m not even sure the firm that’s doing it right now. It might be, be, be out of the country, but Olin still owns the 97:00trademark on that. It’s still in, uh -- you know, and leases it out, or it doesn’t lease it out. But that was a successful strike, in my opinion, and it was a, it was a long strike, and it was something that the employees, we made a determination that we thought they needed to, to go forward in that, and it was unusual to the extent that you don’t normally do that. I would not normally do that but once I was convinced that the company was out to really harm the people, in my opinion --


POULIN: -- at least from my, my experience at the, at the time that I said, “Look, it’s, uh -- we’re, we’re going to, we’re going to straighten this out or we’re going to, we’re not going to have anything here. It’s going to be one of those sit-, situations,” and, uh -- and it was, uh -- It was radical at the time, because I tell you what, the company convinced our International to put money into a study, which was done by a Yale professor, and the study was to find out what kind of an SOB I was and what kind of an SOB, what kind of reaction that the company was involved in a situation. And I've got 98:00to tell you -- and I got the summary of it, too, and I've got to tell you that I’m not sure it was a very flattering thing as far as I was concerned, but I think it was accurate. And I have this, I have the study home, and I don’t necessarily cherish it, but it is a good reminder of, to me of when you’re talking about power versus power that if you really believe in what the hell you’re talking about it stays, stay hitched that you can achieve hopefully the objective that you initially set out for yourself and for the members hopefully for the, the good of all, all the, all the members there. And I don’t want to get into a long dissertation and get off the, off the thing, but --


POULIN: -- those are the things that come to, to, to, to mind.


POULIN: And you never lose that. You never lose that, because you make those kinds of very serious decisions knowing full, full, full we-- uh, full well that you have -- you’re, you’re literally putting into serious jeopardy the lives and families of hundreds of people, not just the 45, 4,700 members that were 99:00there at the time --


POULIN: -- but literally their families, their kids, and the residual, the, the where they shop, where they did, you know, and it was really -- and I tried to get, at that time -- I went to the Central Labor Council, and I said -- and I wasn’t that active, but I, I knew the Central Labor Council President. His name was Vincent [Cerebella]. He later became General Secretary Treasurer of the Retail Clerks but at the time he was a very forceful union rep for the Central Labor Council, which consisted of all, all the trade unions in the New Haven area. The point I want to make is that I said, went to the Council meeting and I says, “Look, I would like this Council to pass a motion that we shut down the City of New Haven. I want -- I would like every union just stop working and just shut down.” This was toward the end of the strike. And they said, “No, we don’t think we can accomplish that. We don’t think that that’s a doable thing.” And the only reason I raise this is because don’t you think that 100:00seven or eight years later he himself did that, and they did shut down the City of New Haven for a short period of time for another situation, another strike situation so I said, “Well, maybe I wasn’t so radical at the time,” but, uh -- but that’s really where where I was at. That’s where, how much pressure was coming from both sides --


POULIN: -- to try to settle the strike and to try to, try to get there. Now, there was a lot of interplay, a lot of outreach on the part of the company to the International, and they would call me and wanted to know if I still had my sanity and all that stuff, you know, as the chief negotiator and I think they were weighing whether they should pull me fr--, pull me or not.

DRUMMOND: (laughter)

POULIN: But I've got to say, to their credit, they left me there, and we rode it out, and from my perspective I think we wound up with a decent agreement at the time.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Let me go back to the picket lines. You said there was a picket -- there were 4,700 employees.


DRUMMOND: And did the picket -- were there people there twenty-four hours? Did they work in shifts?


POULIN: We did it around the clock. We did it at least seventeen or eighteen different gates.


POULIN: This was a sprawling plant.

DRUMMOND: Wow, yeah.

POULIN: It, it, it separated Winchester Avenue -- there were plants on both side of that main street, and if you had any pictures of World War II, they literally had that fenced off for defense purposes.


POULIN: You that whole area -- and yes, we, we, we maintained pickets round the clock seven days a week, and we covered every gates and when the company started trying to do work in outside locations, we would follow wherever that work is and send, put picket lines up there. So we did all, all those kinds of things to follow our work. We asked our brothers, uh -- we had the, the big Olin plant, because Olin real-- really owned Winchester at the time. They, we had another big location that the Machinists represented in East Alton, Illinois, which was part of District 9 of the Machinists Union out there. We literally tried to get them involved to shut their plant down, and the major help that they could be to 102:00us was not necessarily in making the rifles, because they did not make the rifles there, but in East Alton they made all the, a lot of the ammunition --


POULIN: -- and we made ammunition, too, but the main ingredient that we had was the guns and the rifles and so forth. Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Okay. And when you said the Student Democratic --?

POULIN: Student for Democratic Action.

DRUMMOND: Student for Democratic Action.


DRUMMOND: So, so if you’ve got a lot of folks on the picket line, how do -- did y’all have sympathy picketers, folks from other, um, unions maybe in a show of solidarity, come out and walk? I mean, how -- I, I guess I’m asking how they got in without people really knowing that --

POULIN: Well, we had, we had, we had other unions that would come, and the volunteers would give us donations, all that, and walk the picket line with us on different days. We knew who that was because we were coordinating it, but there was never any coordination with SDS. They just --

DRUMMOND: Showed up.

POULIN: -- took it upon themselves to be marching on picket lines.



POULIN: And as I said earlier, how we found out was the Mayor. The Mayor called us in one day and said, “What the hell are you doing? You ever going to settle this thing?” And we said, “Yeah, we’re going to settle this thing.” But we --

DRUMMOND: So did y’all have to go back and ask them to leave? Like what was that interaction?

POULIN: No, we, we, we, uh -- once it was, it came out in the papers we never had much, we never had much more from them.


POULIN: And we sort of tightened up on our police, our activity of picket captains, make sure who the hell was on the line, who they were, and who they weren’t.


POULIN: So we did --


POULIN: It was through the Mayor’s effort to telling us that, that we buttoned it up, to be honest with you.

DRUMMOND: And did you have a lot of community support for, for this strike? Because it was a long strike and a hard strike, and I’m sure that even with strike fund assistance people still couldn’t spend the way they had been spending and, you know, sort of stimulate their local economies the way they had, so --

POULIN: I’m not, I’m not sure that I could categorize it as a lot of community support.



POULIN: I would categorize it as we did not have a lot of community against us --


POULIN: -- in other words, trying to help break the strike and all that. So I think they fully realized what the hell was going on, and also that they, by and large the small retailers around there, were, knew, knew what the problem was. And they did extend credit where they could and all that, so --


POULIN: And they knew their livelihood depended on it after we were through, too, so --

DRUMMOND: Right, right, Okay. Okay. Are you ready to talk about Africa?

POULIN: Africa, Af--

DRUMMOND: And set, set the stage, let us --

POULIN: Africa came up as a result of after I became, I was assigned to, as a General Vice President.


POULIN: Uh, I it -- I was assigned to be the key negotiator for the Machinists Union, and all of our can companies --


POULIN: -- which was the National Can Company, which was the American Can Company at the time, uh --

DRUMMOND: Well then since that’s part of that term -- and we haven’t talked about being General Vice President yet --

POULIN: Right.


DRUMMOND: -- do you want to sort of set the stage and tell us all about moving into that position, and what was expected?

POULIN: Yeah, okay.

DRUMMOND: And then we’ll, and then we’ll --

POULIN: That, that makes sense.


POULIN: And I’ll pick up what happened --


POULIN: -- along the way. Yeah, basically my assignment to the General uh, as General Vice President to the Northeast territory -- and at that time the Northeast territory consisted of all the thirteen states up in New England along the coast, and we went, we went down, clear down to Washington but we only had at that time half of Pennsylvania and half of New York State, because that’s the way the lines are drawn as Vice President in Territories of the Machinists Union at the time. Later on the, the t--, the territory under uh, evolved to pick up all of the Cleveland area, all the way clear over to Michigan and became a much larger uh, territory. And as General Vice President you had the administrative responsibility to making sure that all of the districts in your territory and all of the local lodges under those districts and all of the independent lodges that were not affiliated with any district were being run 106:00properly, handled properly, that were con-- were conforming to the Constitution of the IAM, and also conforming to their own respective local or district bylaws, and that everybody was doing their job, hopefully trying to organize, trying to service their contract, police their contracts, and and the, uh -- had probably at the time when I, I was given the assignment in 1980 of I’m guessing 4 or 500 business agents and DBR District Directors, and roughly 150, 120 Grand Lodge representatives at the time. And as I said, Grand Lodge reps were assigned to shops that did not have districts, and also on special assignment for organizing and doing, doing other things. And as I said earlier that along with that assignment I also was assigned to pick up negotiations for all the can industry and all, all of the General Electric, Westinghouse and all 107:00that, and that was by virtue of the former Vice President. He had that assignment also, so I just picked it up --


POULIN: -- as that, so I became the key negotiator for the can industry, and also for the General Electric and Westinghouse negotiations. We did, we did the can industry and coordinated bargaining -- I mean, the GE negotiations was coordinated bargaining with other unions -- IUE and all, a lot of the building trades that were also in some of the GE plants. But sticking with the can negotiations, the can negotiations was with the, the major corporations of the time, which was American Can, National Can, with Crown Cork and Seal. There were mergers along the way, but those the, were the original companies. And the Steelworkers had had much of the same industry as we did in, in the can industry --


POULIN: -- but the difference was the Steelworker was the dominant union in the can industry. They had roughly in the neighborhood at that time 40,000, 38,000 108:00members in the can industry, and I think our membership maybe being around 11,000, 10, 11,000 people in the respective plants that we had. Uh, we had can companies that were under a coordinated contract collective bargaining agreement all under one agreement, negotiated for several locations. We also had several independents, which were not under a coordinated bargaining situation, so part of the development that I, I tried to put together as the chief negotiator was to bring those under the umbrella of the coordinated bargaining, and the company resisted tremendously. We had [several?] -- I had one key strike over trying to get them into the coordinated bargaining session. But we developed a program along with the Steelworkers to hopefully get together rather than fight each other -- because the company was very adept at pitting us against them and them against us --

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

POULIN: -- which was a natural thing companies did anyways. Hell, they would pit the IAM against the IAM in different General Vice President territories. So that was going on at, at the time. So I, I developed a relationship with the key 109:00negotiator for the Steelworkers union and we, uh -- and I’m going to digress a minute, going back to a time when I was not a Vice President but I was handling jurisdictional agreements in, out of headquarters. The Steelworkers had a strike in the can company, and in the negotiations they had in their collective bargaining agreement -- as did we -- language which said that if anybody struck in that location that we had a right to support that strike. Very strong language which is -- you won’t find in many contracts, and and, uh -- they had a strike, the Steelworkers, and we, and we supported them. We shut them down, and they, they called me up. They threatened to sue me and the -- and the Machinists for $50 million. I said, “To hell with you. I read the contract, and we can support them, and we’re going to support them.” And we did; we shut them down and we, we stayed down with them, which helped them win their, that particular strike. Conversely, later on in negotiations several years down 110:00the road, we had a reverse situation, which the -- they sent their rep out, told us that they would support us. They did not support us. They backtracked. They, they they caved in to the threats of the company to sue them individually, sue the International.


POULIN: And the problem with the Steelworkers was they had major input by their chief legal department, which I don’t think helped them in negotiations.

DRUMMOND: (pause) Were there ongoing issues after --


DRUMMOND: -- afterward?

POULIN: Getting back to to can negotiations -- part of the -- one of the interesting parts that I was involved in with the can negotiation is the Metalworkers Union over in South Africa and Africa --


POULIN: -- had several of the Crown Cork and uh, Seal plant. They had three that I know of, one in Cape Town and one right outside of Johan-- right in Johannesburg.


POULIN: And this was at the -- they had a long strike for over a year, and they just couldn’t get the company to budge, and the relationship there was a lot 111:00different than it was in the States. I mean, the, the laws that they had did not necessarily protect them, but they did have a strong influence and a strong workforce that was solid, and, and they stayed out for a long period of time, but they couldn’t get the company to settle it.

DRUMMOND: Did you have -- in South Africa --


DRUMMOND: -- did you have a, a large black population --

POULIN: Oh, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- working for --

POULIN: Almost all, almost all black.

DRUMMOND: -- uh, working for --?

POULIN: For Crown Cork and Seal.

DRUMMOND: For, but for -- with issues of apartheid and things like that happening at the time, were they, were they at a disadvantage because of like --

POULIN: Well, at the time that I’m s--

DRUMMOND: -- larger -- uh-huh.

POULIN: -- the time I’m speaking of you’re talking about ending apartheid. You’re talking about the election --


POULIN: -- which freed the country, and I was there when they were holding an election. I was not there --


POULIN: -- for the election --

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: -- but I was there during that same time period when they were holding 112:00an election. And you have to understand that the, the International -- the IAM was involved with several of the AFL-CIO unions to make sure that the elections were conducted fairly, and they had union representatives from a lot of unions assigned to monitor those polls, the, the election polls and so forth and --

DRUMMOND: Okay. Oh, interesting. American unions?


DRUMMOND: And -- okay.

POULIN: Yeah. They were there to p-- help police to make sure there, the election --


POULIN: -- was going to be honest. And getting back to my reason for being there is that I met with the Steelworkers prior to going -- well, I met with the, the metal trades. They came over here through the AF of L CIO Department. They contacted Barbara [Shayler], who was our International representative. She dealt with the international departments of other unions at the time. She now currently works for the AFL-CIO, but she was head of the International Affairs with the Metalworkers Union overseas, and also with other international affairs, and she says “Can I bring them up to talk to you?” My office was then in New York City. I said, “Yes, come on, bring them up.” So I met with them, had a 113:00long meeting with them, and I said, “I don’t know what we can do, but we’ll certainly try.” I set up a meeting with the, the Crown Cork CEO President of Crown the CEO of Crown Cork and Seal with the Steelworkers, myself, in Philadelphia, which was where the Crown Cork and Seal Headquarters was. Asked them if there was something that they could do to help us settle the strike, and they were a little bit ambivalent. They weren’t quite sure what we were going to do. We thought that was -- we were trying to suggest very strongly it was in their best interest to settle it, because we certainly thought their actions there would spill over to us eventually, so --


POULIN: -- if they had that kind of mentality that we thought it would be to their advantage to relieve themselves of the, disabuse themselves of that kind of activity. So nothing really materialized too much, so I finally says, “I need to go there and find out what the hell’s going on.” So I jumped on a plane and went to South Africa, met with the local people that came to see me from the, uh –- NUMSA is what they called it, the Metalworkers Union and the 114:00South African -- met with them, met with their key executive officers, their executive board, went with the representatives to the plant that was on strike, met, went in and met the the key negotiators for the company, locally and, and the company. Uh, flew to Jo-- Johannesburg and was there to, to go through their plant there to see what was going on. That plant was not on strike, but we were there -- I just wanted to get a sense of what was going on in, in all the can negotiations, plants that were out there. And while I was in South Africa -- I mean yes, Cape Town, rather -- uh, they had a big rally for the, uh -- I think it the for the apartheid group that, that won and must’ve been 800 or 900 people, and they went, uh -- the metal trades were very active. They went to that meeting there, too, and I went with them, and they asked me to say a few words, and I did, and it was just something unusual which had not normally happened, but it was just an adjunct. And it was during this voting time that 115:00there, that was two days before the election, because I was there while they voted like I said, not in conjunction with the vote but in conjunction with the can situation. And the short version is that we did help them successfully settle that strike, and end, and end that strike through our concerted activity with us and the Steelworkers Union, and, and the the relationship that we had built up with the CEO, CEO of that of Crown Cork and Seal at the time.

DRUMMOND: Okay. I’m curious to know what you said.

POULIN: What’s that?

DRUMMOND: Um, when, when they asked you to speak. Um, well --

POULIN: Well, it --

DRUMMOND: -- or, you know, of course you probably don’t remember word for word, but, but perhaps --

POULIN: It was uh --

DRUMMOND: -- the spirit of, uh --

POULIN: Yeah, I’ll just give you, from what my quick recollection was, because I was not -- I didn’t prepare myself.


POULIN: I wasn’t expecting to speak. I was just there to, to witness this rally, to make sure they got people out to vote, and it was a large audience, like I said, 1,700 people. And I just got up and told them that I thought their cause was a just cause and I thought that they ought to continue to fight, that they were going to win their fight, that it was long overdue, and that with that 116:00would come hopefully some uh, laws that would help the labor workers and help the, the unions that were represented in the hall at that time. And I says, “It certainly can’t be any worse.” Something of that flavor is what really came out of me --


POULIN: -- and, it was not a long speech, but it was maybe, I’m guessing, eight or nine or ten minutes, because I have a tendency when I get on, get the mic not to relieve it. So it was -- but I did, in that case it was probably ten or fifteen minutes.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. And, and what did it mean for you to, to be there, to be able to go and, and do that? I mean, when you started at --

POULIN: Well, it, what, what --

DRUMMOND: -- nineteen, at sixteen at the typewriter company --

POULIN: Yeah, what it meant for me was that it -- it sort of propelled me into what was a serious thing that was happening in that country going fr-- away from apartheid, on, on the election of Mandela, and that was happening at that time, 117:00and by virtue of me being there because of the can assignment and trying to help those workers there, literally what, what Mandela was hopefully going to do when he became President was that I was able to, in a very small way at least, I think, contribute something to it, you know. And if only two people in a hall of 700 went to vote to the right way, then I think it was a contribution. But I felt -- I’m glad you asked the question.


POULIN: I did feel a little satisfaction of that --


POULIN: -- and knowing I was part of history on that, even a very minute part of history --


POULIN: -- but a part of history, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Okay. That’s exciting.


DRUMMOND: You don’t get too many union stories about --


DRUMMOND: -- South Africa, so --

POULIN: No, I’m sure you’re not, no.

DRUMMOND: Fantastic. Um, and so that work with them, and all the stuff you did with the can strike, that was during your term as General Vice President of the north (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

POULIN: Yeah, and which I served four consecutive terms, which would be sixteen years, and, I -- as-- as a general, as, as a Executive Officer of the Council I 118:00served a total of twenty years, but during the timeframe of General Vice President in, in the territory, as a spillover from my transfer from the Resident Vice President to General Vice President, I was successful in bringing the Shipbuilders Union, which was independent, into the Machinists Union at the time.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay.

POULIN: And to this day we do represent the people at Bath Shipyard and so forth, which was not in our union before, so we, we have them -- uh, one of the successful organizing, I had to bring in another international in-into our union and, uh -- I guess the major things that happened during that big timeframe was our membership in the Machinists shrunk --


POULIN: -- and they, we consolidated territories --


POULIN: -- and so the result -- the Eastern territory now became the Eastern and Cleveland Central territory, and also part of the Midwest, so we now -- and today the lines are drawn that uh, the Eastern territory goes f- clear to 119:00Michigan, down to uh, Cleveland, Kentucky, and then over to Washington, D.C. So it picked up a lot of states, so it’s a much more, greater defined territory than it was when I had it under my, under my administration at the time, while I was serving in that capacity, not my administration, but serving in the capacity as General Vice President, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Do you have any observations as to why membership went down so much over that time period?

POULIN: Uh -- during the -- during that time period, we were on an organizing skill like the likes of which the Machinist Union had not been involved in and not seen since.


POULIN: And I’ll just tell you what I mean by that. What I mean by that is that we were then getting very, very close to a million members. And we did 120:00achieve the million member mark, and that million member mark, believe it or not, came out of United Technologies --


POULIN: -- and the guy who was the millionth member was a guy by the name of Chuck Higgins, who was a Vietnam Green Beret, and he was the million member for us there, in there. And as a reflection and digression on that, what happened was in the mid ’60s, International decided to bring on a representative from Long Island. Uh, he later became a General Vice President on the West Coast. He’s not here now; he’s out sick. They assigned him to help rebuild the membership, which was down to practically nothing at the time. And we put on a major, major organizing drive. He asked for what he, he for twelve or fifteen representatives to cover the, the four or six plants. And our job was to help 121:00rebuild the membership in those locations.


POULIN: And we were nicknamed at the time The Dirty Dozen, because the film was, you know, out at that particular time. Uh, but -- but I have to tell you, we had a very, very successful organizing drive, and we built a membership up, well up to sixty, seventy percent, with a lot of hard, with a lot of hard work and a lot of activity. And I was assigned to the Hamilton local at the time uh, helping to build the membership there. And the one nuance that came out of all that is that early on in the very first negotiations that we, we had while we were building our membership to hopefully come out with a halfway decent contract was, is that our contract was so bad that in our bull sessions that we had with the representatives to what we were doing and organizing, and what was successful, what was not successful, I suggested that what we do on the contract that we have now is put on the contract a big skunk right on the front page. That was the contract that we were going to have for United Technology, and we did.



POULIN: And we printed the contract. We had the skunk on the con- -- that was just emblematic of what a lousy damn agreement it was. And United Aircraft, if you wanted the publicity, we were going to give it to you. And that was the, the publicity of uh -- and I don’t know whether I got the idea from Pepe Le Pew or what it was, but it was just something that we did that would -- it really helped us. I did -- it really, I thought, not a major, but it did help us. It really drew a lot of attention to how really rotten and bad the contract was. As I said before we later on lived to see the day that we wound up with a union shop with United Technology, which we have to this day.

DRUMMOND: Okay, okay. Um, any other observations you want to make about your work, or, or anything we didn’t talk about that you want to discuss?

POULIN: Uh -- an-- anything I would do, it might be a little bit redundant, but I’m just trying to give you the highlights of what happened during that, that timeframe. And I did have two major strikes with the can company, and one was 123:00over trying to bring some plants that we had that would not come under master agreement to, to the master agreement.


POULIN: And those were pretty lengthy strikes. Uh, we did finally settle them. Uh we didn’t achieve our, our objective, but, you know, at least we made the, we made a shot at it. And all, all the while during that is you, you have to remember, this is not a constant thing. Those can companies were, were evolving and disappearing, were, were, were being sold and new companies were springing up uh, can companies that were not union, so we had to try to keep track of all of that while we were going along. And, uh -- that basically covers most of it.


POULIN: I mean, I can give you oth-- other generalities, or other instances, but it would be just a repeat of something I gave you.


POULIN: Not the specifics, but similar to what I, I did. Because the, the job 124:00was, needless to say, was, you know, a twenty-four hour a day job. It was round the clock. You were always constantly on the go. You were always going. And in addition to working on those jobs, I failed to mention that I was also put on the Joint Labor Management Pension Committee of the IAM, which administered our joint labor-management pensions that we negotiated in the shop, and also our joint uh, labor-management health and health benefit programs. I was also involved and active in all those. So I picked up a lot of information on uh, what good delivery, health system delivery system is, what belongs in the contract, and what a good pension, you know, pension was, what belonged in a, in a, in a contract. Um -- and doing the normal things you try to do, because our -- you had asked me the question what contributed to the decline in the membership. Well, economics.


POULIN: Again, like we’re facing right now. The economics went down and we 125:00lost a lot -- not only us, but the labor movement lost a lot of membership at that time, and the major driving force was the continuing thing that the companies and corporations do to this day, and that’s to ship all the damn work overseas.

DRUMMOND: Right, right.

POULIN: I mean, we lost a hell of a lot of jobs. We’re still losing a lot of jobs.


POULIN: And nobody wants to really adjust themselves to it. I mean, they talk about it, they just say “We need to do this,” they make speeches about it, but when it comes down to push to shove nobody actually does anything to put the brakes on -- in fact, we reward them! We reward the companies to send the damn work overseas! We give them tax breaks --


POULIN: -- instead of reversing it and give them tax breaks to bring the work back, we give them tax breaks to send the damn work overseas. So, you know, we -- that, we, we fought all, all, all of that. And I think that covers most of it.


POULIN: Uh, I did indicate to you when we were off the record that I gave a closing, closing remarks at my very last staff conference, which was held the 126:00same time period that I retired, and we had a retirement dinner at the time, and the remarks were by the then International President, who retired right after I did, three months after I did, was he thought was important enough to, to put under glass and mail me a copy of it. And upon rereading it I thought I said a few profound things which I’m not so sure were profound at the time. Uh, but I think if you read it -- to me, anyways -- you will say, if you’ve talked to me like you and I have for the last couple, three hours --


POULIN: -- you will say that’s me.

DRUMMOND: Right, okay.



POULIN: I’m not sure that makes sense, but I’m just --



DRUMMOND: Was it censored in any --?

POULIN: No, no, no, no!

DRUMMOND: I’m just kidding. (laughter)

POULIN: Believe it or not, you know, you know, I told the truth. You know, I told them what a bunch of bastards the companies were, and I told them, you know, if you don’t get off your ass and save the labor movement, who’s going to do it?


POULIN: I mean, that’s the general sense of you know -- I said, “You’re the last stop between us and annihilation.” You know?



POULIN: Those weren’t the exact words, but that was the flavor of where the hell I was coming from.


POULIN: And my whole theme was -- and you’ll see it throughout there -- if not you, who? You know --


POULIN: And doing, and doing the job.

DRUMMOND: So you’ve had a lot of struggle in your role in the labor, in the labor movement with the Machinists, but it also seems like you’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction from it.

POULIN: I've got to, I've got to tell you that these, the strikes -- the, the job is a very demanding, and it’s a very physically consuming and draining job.


POULIN: During -- and just give you a flavor -- during my lifetime, in 1960 I came down with a bad case of ulcers and almost died.


POULIN: So much so they cut me open -- you know, in those days they cut you, they didn’t treat you --

DRUMMOND: Is that when you had three different --

POULIN: Yeah, it was during that, those strike periods, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Uh huh, okay, yeah.



POULIN: And but to your point, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.



POULIN: I mean -- from my perspective, the key people that trained me and I learned most of my --


POULIN: -- things that I think went to help the workers I represented I got from the other side of the aisle.


POULIN: You know, the techniques, the negotiating skills. Uh, they learned from us in the early days, and then they took over this, the operations --


POULIN: -- and so it was really a tit for tat, and it was really -- if you didn’t do your homework you got killed in those days --


POULIN: -- let me put it that way. And the thing that weighed heavily mostly on my mind was constantly the effects it had on, on people -- if it was a strike situation, very, very bad effect. If it was an organizing and you want it, you know, you were helping hundreds of people, or whatever the numbers that were, were being organized, but there was always that weight on your side, and you always had, at least in my mind subconsciously was aware that, you know, you’re making a decision for a lot of damn people, some of which you don’t 129:00really personally know, because you know they’re members of yours, and you might not have talked to them but your, your, your reps have talked to them, and, and it does have a profound effect, and some people are going to carry that effect for the rest of their lives good, bad, or indifferent on --


POULIN: -- on the decision that you’re leading. And if you’re doing your job, you’re actually leading them, you know.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah.

POULIN: You’re making decisions that say, you know, “If you’re in the labor movement, you’re supposed to be doing this, and this is what” -- you know, to help your people, and, uh -- that’s really where I was coming from with that. And I guess to be very truthful to you, yes, I got a hell of a lot of satisfaction out of it, because, uh -- I don’t know, I just, I just did. I just -- I don’t want to say enjoyed it, but I did not dislike the work I was doing. (laughter)


POULIN: Including this interview. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Um, well, did you have any role models as -- or can you point to any 130:00particular people, um, that influenced you or sort of mentored you, or --? POULIN: Believe it or not, it’s a strange question to me, because I won’t answer the question from a perspective of anybody that influenced me from the labor movement --


POULIN: -- because I had my people that I learned a little bit about, like the John L. Lewis’s and, you know --


POULIN: You always -- I had those in the background. I had, you know, some of the things they didn’t do or did, did do, and whether they, whether they did, he did tell Harry Truman to go to hell, or Harry Truman told him to go to hell, or Harry (inaudible), took over the railroads and all that stuff. Those were all good. Those were all, I think, instrumental in saying that things can work if you do it right, but the influence I got was from a guy on a Joint Council on Economic Education, which, when I first came on as President of my Local Lodge 131:00when I was nineteen years old, the business agent at the time was also, I told you, Mayor of the City of Hartford, asked me to get involved with that committee. In fact, assigned, didn’t assign me, but, you know, he couldn’t assign me. I was working in a plant. I was just, you know, a President of a Local Lodge. I wasn’t getting paid by them, I was just President of the Local Lodge. And I went -- I did get involved in that. It was -- what the -- it was a group of community people from all walks of life, from industry, from community uh, people in the community, from different organizations, and there was hopefully a plan, the betterment of the citizenship of Hartford, Connecticut, the greater Hartford, Connecticut area. And there was a guy that headed up that Council by the name of Paul; his last name uh, eludes me now at the present time, but I was very, very impressed with this guy with not only his knowledge 132:00and the command of the, the English language and -- but also his pure sincerity of what the hell he was trying to accomplish.


POULIN: That to me had a very profound impact. Uh, for some way, he transferred without telling me a word, just his actions of what I thought I ought to be doing, no matter what field of endeavor I was going to be in.


POULIN: I’m not sure that’s response to your question, but that’s really one guy that had an impact on me without saying so, but just by his pure sincerity, what he was trying to do, and, and the work that he put into that committee that he was the, the Chairman of. And I can’t tell you to this day where he came from and what he’s doing or what he did but that had profound impact on me, to be honest with you, now that you asked the question.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, there’s a saying I really like called, um, “The best sermon is a good example” --

POULIN: Uh huh.

DRUMMOND: -- and it sounds like this guy was very much that for you.

POULIN: He wasn’t a sermonette. He wasn’t, he was the -- a low key, well spoken, well spoken --


DRUMMOND: Well, yeah.

POULIN: -- guy who got to the point and made you want to become of something that he thought the group could achieve. I guess maybe in simple terms that’s what, how I would describe it.

DRUMMOND: Yeah, okay, okay.

POULIN: I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but --

DRUMMOND: No, that does.


DRUMMOND: So you retired in ’97, and that’s, uh -- this is 2011, so that was about 14 years ago. So --

POULIN: Yeah, and what I did after retirement --


POULIN: -- because I told you early on I decided to leave the world of education in my prime as a sophomore at Hartford High School in Hartford, Connecticut -- the first thing, one of the first things I did when I retired was -- and I guess there was a gnawing thing in the back of my mind -- I sort of felt I was never stupid and I could do things and I says, “You know, you can get a high school diploma.” So I went to GED and got it.

DRUMMOND: Excellent.

POULIN: From there I guess I was not satisfied because I went right to junior college.



POULIN: I passed the test to get in there, and went on to get a Associate Degree in general science and an Associate Degree in paralegal. Enjoyed it immensely, and I --


POULIN: -- enjoyed it immensely because I was involved in the educational process again, and whether pure luck or just really trying to do a good job, most of my marks were way up and I was in almost a 390 category when or point level when I finished --


POULIN: -- with the degrees. But the key part of it what really inspired me was literally I was an old man amongst young people, and just being involved with them -- and I was heavily involved. We interacted. We did, did a lot of joint studies together. We did projects together. And that had an impact on me, also.



POULIN: And then from there, after the educational stint, uh -- because I, I did think I wanted to go on and maybe do some law -- I didn’t -- I was asked by a fellow that was a former District Director of my former district. He was also a close friend of mine. Uh, he was out of a shop -- when I was President of the Local Lodge, he was a committee man in his respective shop, one of those things. But he was head of the senior group, uh -- there was a senior retiree group --


POULIN: -- in Hartford, Connecticut under the District 26, said, “You ought to, you ought to get involved. You ought to come over and you know, come to the meetings and so forth.” So I went there reluctantly. I didn’t go right away. I went maybe after a couple meetings. I finally said, “Okay, I’ll go over.” I went over there and went to a couple meetings. I met with him after the meeting. He was president -- no, he wasn’t president, he was on the executive board; another guy was president. I said, “Look, I think there’s a lot we could do with this,” I said, “but if you want my involvement and you want me to be involved with it, I’m going to tell you very frankly: I’m not going to stay involved with this if you continue this as a Bingo game.” We 136:00weren’t playing Bingo at the time, but it was that kind of a scenario.


POULIN: Come over, we’ll chat, we’ll do, have old war stories. “I will be, I want to be involved here if we decide we’re going to be an active group, or we’re going to decide to help ourselves as senior -- we’re going to espouse the causes that we say affect us,” which is Medicare and Social Security and all that stuff, “and we mean it, and we get them to be active, and we become active, and we, we take that activity and we get involved in a political process, or we get involved in whatever marches we have to do, whatever thing we can do to help you know our cause out there.” And so I did get involved with them. We -- I, I got involved, and and I told them I would take the position as a advisor to them, and we really, literally rewrote the whole bylaws and Constitution, made them a very active senior gr-- a senior group. To this day they’re very active. And we built our membership there, and uh, they were, they became a, a very good group, active, and I was very active with them.



POULIN: I then later moved to from the Hartford area, because I was living in the Hartford area a-- after I retired. Uh, I then, um, later moved to Millersville, PA, which is where my oldest son was living, and is still, living at the time. And the area that’s serviced that was District 98 of the Machinists Union. They didn’t have any retirement group at all at the time.


POULIN: I knew the business agent ver-- district business agent. I knew all the agents because they worked for me for a long period of time when I was the Vice President. Talked to the General, the District Director at the time and says, “You know, I’d, I’d like to start a group if you you’ll support it.” And I said, “I’m not going to do it unless you give us support,” because the failure of a lot of these groups go because people give you a lot of lip service within the Machinists Union --


POULIN: -- and they don’t deliver on it. But he said yeah, he was committed to it. He always wanted to do something. And he not only was committed, he did -- he gave us our total support, financial support and everything. And we structured it and we built that program what I consider to be the right way by, 138:00you know, how we, how we built the organization, and we did come -- and it, we have a thriving, successful seniors group, about 120 people right to this day.


POULIN: Our meetings are very well attended. We, we have all kinds of speakers from all over the country that come in and talk to us on all the major issues, you know, from fraud for seniors to --


POULIN: -- health and wealth for seniors, for the fight on Medicare, for the fight against the uh, the Obama program, you know. So, so that’s a lot of -- not a lot, but part of my time is taken up in that.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Okay. Um, well, are there any further experiences you’d like to share with us before we wrap up?

POULIN: Uh -- the only one would be that, uh -- I would be in hopes that 139:00somewhere along the lines that anything that I might say here today or I did say here today would eventually ten years from now, 100 years from now, 200 years from now fall on ears that might say, “Well, you know, maybe there’s something in there that we can relate to, and that would be helpful in this situation.” And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but I would, uh -- that would that would be my hope and my wish and I enjoyed the experience of talking with you and going through this. And I know there’s a whole host of things that I could go on forever, but it would -- to me, I don’t think it would lend any more building blocks to the story or the non-story of my life, as it is in the labor movement. And I will wrap up by telling you that I have been in the Machinists Union for sixty-one years, and I’m a, you know, Golden member. When I was fifty I got my gold card, when I was fifty. Enjoyed the experience, 140:00because it gave me a hell of a lot of education I would not have gotten -- forgetting the formal education I talked about after I retired. I’m talking about the experience of learning about pension plans, learning about apprenticeship programs, learning about all the things that go into uh, collective bargaining and arbitration and all the specialties and, and the nuances. And mostly working with people, and being active and interactive with them, and being able to, in some way, motivate them to do the right thing. And again, I have to qualify what I -- the right thing would be the way I perceive the right thing, and it may not have been right thing, but -- (laughter)

DRUMMOND: (laughter) I’m sure it was. I’m sure, I’m sure it was.

POULIN: Well, I enjoyed it immensely, and like I said, I would hope that it might -- some of the dialog might come to life or fruition later on, which some student at says, “Here’s an interesting SOB, you know. He did all this --” (laughter)


DRUMMOND: Well, we will definitely make it available for research. It won’t be hidden. It’ll be -- we’ll, you know --

POULIN: Can I --

DRUMMOND: It’ll be accessible.

POULIN: Can I just reverse the situation for a minute?

DRUMMOND: Can I turn off the cam --? (laughter)

POULIN: No, I want you to stay on camera, because I’m not going to ask you an embarrassing question, I promise, okay?

DRUMMOND: Okay, fair enough. Okay.

POULIN: I will not ask you to divulge that, uh -- you’re probably saying, “When is this guy going to shut up” and all this stuff. (laughter) But my question would be sincerely to you is: What do you perceive coming out of this dialog? I know you’re getting a different flavor from different people --


POULIN: -- because we all had different experiences. Do you really believe in your own mind that something of any consequence is going to come out of this endeavor, and that you will yourself, if you see some of that come to life later on, say, “Well yeah, I was part of that”?


DRUMMOND: Well, I feel like in this I take such a -- my role is to sort of make things happen, right --


DRUMMOND: -- to make the interview happen, and then to preserve it for --

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- the historical record.

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: Not only for the history of the Machinists, not only for the history of George Poulin, but for the history of labor --

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- and for the history of America --

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: -- right?

POULIN: Uh huh.

DRUMMOND: Um, and we can never predict how people are going to use the resources we have at the Archives.

POULIN: Right, exactly.

DRUMMOND: People amaze me with the topics they have, you know, and, and, and so I know that the oral histories are so important and so special because they are able to provide the story behind the story, and to give a better idea -- to fill in gaps where information might be missing, but then to, um, tell you what really happened. According to one person’s perspective, right, but usually not --


DRUMMOND: -- usually not too far from the exact -- we all have our own interpretation, right --


POULIN: Yeah, exactly, yeah.

DRUMMOND: -- but, but, but not too far from what really happened.

POULIN: Right.

DRUMMOND: And, and, um, and I know that, you know, we’ve got collection material that’s over 100 years old that people are using now, so in 100 years I know that people will use this, that it will still be an available resource -- if the Earth is still here, that it will be an available resource, and -- but I can’t predict how it’ll be used or when or by whom, or for what reason, to what purpose. But I know that it’s, um, essential.

POULIN: No, no.

DRUMMOND: Well, no --

POULIN: Are you still on?

DRUMMOND: I want to thank you.

POULIN: Oh, okay.

DRUMMOND: For sitting for the interview. And I will edit out the part with me answering that question just now.

POULIN: Well, I was hoping --

DRUMMOND: But I’ll send you, I’ll send it to you.

POULIN: I was hoping you would not. I’ll tell you why --


POULIN: -- if you will, you could stay on record, if you want. I was hoping -- the reason I, I was hoping you would not edit it out is that, to me anyways, I think it would add to whatever I said in the respect of how you define what you 144:00just said.

DRUMMOND: Okay. Was that a satisfactory answer for you?

POULIN: Yeah, absolute-- -- well, whether it wasn’t or not --


POULIN: -- yes, it was to me, but --


POULIN: -- but to me, I think it would be helpful to show that, how you did it --


POULIN: -- and you did explain that. And to me, whoever might use it will get a better sense of, well, “At least I know a little bit of how this was conducted and who, you know, who the interviewer was,” and I think it’ll be good. I think it would be complimentary to how you handle yourself and what your definition was, and I would definitely urge you to make it part of my presentation.

DRUMMOND: Okay, all right, then I will keep it in --

POULIN: Thank you.

DRUMMOND: -- per your request.

POULIN: No, seriously.

DRUMMOND: Okay. All right, and it’s here on the record. They hear you asking me and they hear me responding --

POULIN: No, no, seriously, no.

DRUMMOND: -- so nobody can get onto me for this, okay. (laughter)

POULIN: And I deliberately was trying to turn the tables and --


POULIN: -- get the solicitation from you! (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Okay. I don’t like it! (laughter) I don’t like it!

POULIN: Well, I thought you ought to have the flavor before we ended! (laughter)


DRUMMOND: (laughter) Okay, all right. Well thank you, George, so much for talking to us today.

POULIN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

DRUMMOND: And I appreciate it more than you appreciate it.


DRUMMOND: I guarantee you that.