Sam Rodriguez oral history interview, 2013-11-19

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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0:00

BERNSTEIN: OK, let’s -- let’s start over again. This is Rachel Bernstein -- sorry -- November 19th, interviewing Sam Rodriguez. Sam, go ahead.

RODRIGUEZ: My name is Sam Rodriguez. I was born in a city called Valladolid in Spain, the old Castile. And my parents were born there and my family was there for years and years and years. Uh, we were not immigrants, people. Uh, we have to leave Spain because of the Spanish Civil War. My father was one of the good guys. He was an anarchist.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, that’s it, more or less.

BERNSTEIN: Can you spell the name of the town?

RODRIGUEZ: Valladolid. Let me write it for you.

1:00

BERNSTEIN: So you left in 1937 or so?

RODRIGUEZ: I was born in 1937, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and we left Spain in 1939. I was two years old.

BERNSTEIN: And came to?

RODRIGUEZ: Everywhere.

BERNSTEIN: Into everywhere.

RODRIGUEZ: If I begin to tell you what many countries -- I believe that before I was ten years old, I was already in five different countries. But it’s a very long story that --

BERNSTEIN: South America?

RODRIGUEZ: First, we went to France, and then we went to Mexico, Cuba, and then Venezuela, and then Colombia, and we stayed there for a while. And from there I 2:00traveled by myself to lower South America. There’s three countries I’ve never been in, in the Americas, and it’s Bolivia, Paraguay, and the -- and the Dominican Republic.

BERNSTEIN: That’s not very many. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: (inaudible) because working for the machinists union -- I used to work for the airlines, and between the Outlines and the machinists union I’ve been in forty-nine states of the union. The only state I’ve never been in is Hawaii.

BERNSTEIN: You have a travel --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- uh, gene.

RODRIGUEZ: Mm-hmm.

BERNSTEIN: So, so you grew up traveling around with your parents, who were -- continued to be politically engaged --

RODRIGUEZ: No.

BERNSTEIN: -- after they left?

RODRIGUEZ: I, I, I -- I missed something. My father was an anarchist. My mother was a fascist.

BERNSTEIN: Oh my goodness.

3:00

RODRIGUEZ: Very religious person. She believed in law and order, the church, and the nobility and the government.

BERNSTEIN: And they stayed together? Or --

RODRIGUEZ: My, my father was --

BERNSTEIN: -- or only during the popular front?

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, my father -- you see, I don’t really come from the working class. Uh, my father was very progressive and all this, but my family were the -- you know, we have lawyers, and we have doctors, and they have a lot of teachers. I became a teacher you see (inaudible).

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, once in a while, like I said, a doctor, but maybe that was a profession. My mother was -- my mother was a, a graduated nurse when women didn’t know how to write or read.

BERNSTEIN: That’s impressive.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: So you said you traveled around with your family, and then you traveled around on your own?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: When you were still a teen, maybe?

RODRIGUEZ: I --

BERNSTEIN: And tell me how -- at what ages --? And --?

4:00

RODRIGUEZ: You have to connect to my background. You know, my two brothers were older than me, and they were in school age, so I was always helping my father. And it’s very difficult for people to understand the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. An immigrant always leaves with something, doesn’t matter how poor he is.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: Somebody give him a nickel or something. A grandmother can give her -- a chain to whatever. Uh, a refugee, uh, leaves without nothing. Uh, my father was very well connected, so we were not really -- we were bad, but not really that bad. Uh, and, uh -- I don’t know. That’s more or less --

BERNSTEIN: OK, so you --

RODRIGUEZ: So my chil-- my brothers --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

5:00

RODRIGUEZ: -- were in school age and I was educated by my father. My father used to be a teacher. One of his greatest crimes that was teaching the unions how democracy works.

BERNSTEIN: When -- in Spain.

RODRIGUEZ: In -- no, how democracy works anywhere --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- because we never have democracy before that. We have the First Republic, didn’t last too long, but the people [he was paying?] worked very well. Even so, that was not a good education. In general, they were -- they were very (inaudible) educating [the things?], you know. After all, you know, 10,000 years of human civilization, so the worker were -- and the only crime that my father was is that he was teaching democracy and how democracy works, and how the workers will do their destiny and all these things, and [we just said here?].

BERNSTEIN: So you got a lot of your education from your father.

6:00

RODRIGUEZ: From my father. I never went to elementary school. I never went to kindergarten. I went to -- or, uh, uh, this is when -- we were living in Colombia. Uh, when we get economically a little better, uh, I took a test examination --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- for high school, over there is six years of high school, and I was raised in the four year of high school, so I did only two years of high school with --

BERNSTEIN: So you had two years of formula -- formal --

RODRIGUEZ: Formal.

BERNSTEIN: -- education (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

RODRIGUEZ: (inaudible) formal education with my father.

BERNSTEIN: It was the last two years of high school.

RODRIGUEZ: And, and not only that, but the test -- when I took the test --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- what -- I had a high mark without never being in a school.

BERNSTEIN: He was a good teacher.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, excellent.

BERNSTEIN: So what happened when you graduated?

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I started my own business.

BERNSTEIN: What kind?

7:00

RODRIGUEZ: Which is something that you -- it’s -- are you familiar with the zeppole, the Italian made, supported, which -- like, around things that they put in sugar?

BERNSTEIN: Sure, yes.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and in Spain -- and in Spain we call them churros.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, I know what churros are.

RODRIGUEZ: A churro.

BERNSTEIN: Sure.

RODRIGUEZ: So --

BERNSTEIN: Long, skinny, fried --

RODRIGUEZ: -- I, I started churro thing, and, uh, and also I have, uh, m-- uh, the meat pouch, you know, that you make.

BERNSTEIN: Empanadas?

RODRIGUEZ: Empanadas.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: Right. And I was making like a billionaire. I was helping the liberation of the, the Colombian woman, because they took, uh, all women that were making pastries in the houses --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and the woman is -- you need to -- I mean, should be a book about this woman. Not anymore. They’re beginning to lose it. But only Latin American general women from the countryside, poor women, uh, they became maids.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

8:00

RODRIGUEZ: And they treated -- they were abused money-wise, and sexually abused, too. It was a terrible thing. And if they get pregnant, the, the lady of the house would throw them out of the house. Uh, uh, I’m talking about more than fifty years ago. I’m seventy-six now. And I took four of these women, and I say, “Well, you get an apartment, and then you don’t have to do it.” So I rent an apartment. I gave -- I, I bought all four (inaudible). They lived there in until (inaudible) and they were helping me in the store, making the [part?], making [dinner?]. I was (inaudible), but that’s another story.

BERNSTEIN: That’s true.

RODRIGUEZ: Bourgeois.

BERNSTEIN: OK. So [you did?] --

RODRIGUEZ: And then one time I sold it to another Spaniard, and I took the money -- I didn’t realize -- when you are nineteen you don’t -- you, you don’t 9:00realize, you know -- It was a lot of money (inaudible). And I resolved to travel, and I want to travel, like -- I was -- before the hippies, I was a hippie.

BERNSTEIN: Got it, OK.

RODRIGUEZ: The only difference -- the only difference is I work, because wherever I go, I go with truck driver. I help him, you know, loading the truck, whatever, and then he was going my direction --

BERNSTEIN: He’ll give you a ride.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I spent a year and a half doing that. And then I get a visa to come to United States in 1958.

BERNSTEIN: By yourself?

RODRIGUEZ: By myself. Then -- my -- I have -- my brothers, they have been here already.

BERNSTEIN: Ah, OK.

RODRIGUEZ: But then the whole family consolidated in United States.

BERNSTEIN: OK. So what was your first job in this country?

RODRIGUEZ: My first job in this country was in a printing place. Used to be 10:00called Equitable Paper Bag, and in -- and in couple years, I became (inaudible) graphic printer, which was a job that -- people had to wait to get that job. But somehow, I learned it fast, and I have one of my first experience -- not me, but the union and the bo-- it was a big place, a huge place -- the union and the boss really breaking the contract, I guess. Well, not really -- well, not really the contract, I don’t think so. In any event, I was a helper.

BERNSTEIN: You were a printer’s helper, and you were --

RODRIGUEZ: I --

BERNSTEIN: -- a member of the union?

RODRIGUEZ: And that was -- yes.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

11:00

RODRIGUEZ: And that was other people, Americans, uh, older than me, that were -- they were also helpers, and they had more time than me, and somehow the guy from the union touched -- told this guy he likes me, and, uh, the boss probably recognized, whatever, and they made me a printer. So I had to deal with the helpers and explain to them, listen, you know, they offer me the job. What you want me to do, not to take it? And they were -- they understood, and they were very, uh, upset and angry with the union, not with me directly.

BERNSTEIN: Really? That’s good.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that was very good. I -- ever since that day I never worked for no place that was no union [granted?].

BERNSTEIN: Really?

12:00

RODRIGUEZ: Never, never. And, uh, I recognize that the American working class, in my opinion, is the best working class on the face of the Earth, and it’s a mystery. Nobody says that. Nobody knows about that. It’s one of the most bloody labor movements on the face of the Earth.

BERNSTEIN: One of the most --?

RODRIGUEZ: Bloody. Bloody. People die. Everything that you have and I have --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- somebody did it for us, you know, from the Irish to the Germans, the Jews in New York, the Italians, the Puerto Ricans, and now the rest of the people. It’s a tremendous history. You know that.

BERNSTEIN: I do.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I believe there is more people through the years that been murdered in United States than even the Bolshevik Revolution.

13:00

BERNSTEIN: Hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: A lot of people through the years.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. That’s, that’s interesting.

RODRIGUEZ: The, the (inaudible) --

BERNSTEIN: So when you first got your job as a printer, and the union gave you a promotion, did they do that because they knew you were going to be a good organizer?

RODRIGUEZ: It had nothing to do with the union.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: I was not inclined to get involved in the labor movement, because my experience of my father around this. We want to stay away from that.

BERNSTEIN: Because it was --

RODRIGUEZ: Because it was --

BERNSTEIN: -- dangerous?

RODRIGUEZ: -- it was very, uh, very -- my father never talked, he never, never, never talked about the civil war.

BERNSTEIN: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

RODRIGUEZ: We left Spain, and that was it. Never mentioned it. Never said anything.

BERNSTEIN: Hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: In my house, it was never discussed anything.

BERNSTEIN: Well, if, if your mother and your father were on different sides --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, but they were --

BERNSTEIN: -- it makes sense.

RODRIGUEZ: -- they were on different sides, but they talk about everything. They were a good marriage.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

14:00

RODRIGUEZ: Considering the times --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- you know. My, my mother was not Simone De Beauvoir, you know what I mean? Or -- But she was very strong, a very strong Castilian woman with a Jewish, Sephardic Jewish roots.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, yeah?

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: So did she teach you some of those traditions when you were growing up? Now, so --

RODRIGUEZ: We didn’t even knew that we were Sephardic until we came to the Americas and begin to see things that we ne- -- for instance, we always have a, a good meal on Fridays. Why? We don’t know. We never -- we never knew.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, and then you get to New York, and you find --

RODRIGUEZ: We begin to see things that -- my father -- my father knew everything. My father was a genius.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

15:00

RODRIGUEZ: Very calm, cool, and collected. I always wanted to be like him, but I inherit the character of my mother. I’m like a French. (laughter) My father was the most -- I want to tell you something that is funny. My wife loved my father. I think that she stayed with me because she was in love with my father. (laughter) And my -- and my wife, when usually they said that a man went for a woman that remind them of their mother --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- I look for a woman that remind me of my father. (laughter) I think I’m -- I think I’m --

BERNSTEIN: That’s --

RODRIGUEZ: -- going to other places.

BERNSTEIN: That’s funny. So you’re working as a printer.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: And you’re not very interested in the union.

RODRIGUEZ: Not at all.

BERNSTEIN: So --

RODRIGUEZ: My --

BERNSTEIN: -- how long do you stay there?

16:00

RODRIGUEZ: -- my, uh -- I stay until 1964 -- ’54. And then I get a job at the airport, with -- not with airlines. Uh, I started there, a cargo handler. And I don’t want to get involved with the union at all.

BERNSTEIN: And so you never were involved in the printers union. You knew it existed --

RODRIGUEZ: Never, never.

BERNSTEIN: -- but you didn’t have much --

RODRIGUEZ: I --

BERNSTEIN: -- to do with it.

RODRIGUEZ: We, we have a strike, and I was in the picket line, and I knew how to respect the picket line, and I was pushing for the strike and all this. I was never involved, except on the personal level with the chief steward and the business rep.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: For whatever reason, they always called me, and I was a young guy. They always talked to me, and they liked me. But other than that, I never get involved. I didn’t want to be -- and when I worked with the airlines, it’s the same thing. I didn’t want to be involved with the union. My goal -- my dream was to be a college professor. I have the idea of teaching Spanish 17:00literature and Romance languages. I speak Italian and I speak French and Portuguese and Spanish, and my friend says (inaudible) -- because he only speak English. (laughter) And that was my goal. But then I realized that was more politics in academia than in the union, and I was more into the labor movement by accident, totally by accident. I did have the roots. I have the things. I found my sympathy for the workers that were coming from my father. Uh, but I, I want to do nothing. And then one time I have a grievance.

BERNSTEIN: You have a grievance. This is --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- you’re working as a cargo --

RODRIGUEZ: I worked --

18:00

BERNSTEIN: -- handler --

RODRIGUEZ: I go --

BERNSTEIN: -- at --

RODRIGUEZ: I’m not with airlines. Not with airlines.

BERNSTEIN: Not with airlines. At which airport?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, at -- Kennedy. Not with airline. Now it’s taken by Delta. Uh, and I have a grievance, and I wrote the grievance, and I gave it to my chief steward. His name was Julius Broski. Nice guy, a nice guy, good union man, but he took my grievance -- that happened all the time -- he put it on his desk, and he’s forget to submit the grievance within timeliness, and he’s still telling me -- If he have tell me, “Sam, I forget, we really -- let’s see we can do something --” No, he told me that I have no grievance. And I said, “Oh yes, I do.” I said, “(inaudible) I can’t read the contract. What, 19:00what’s something insignificant?” Then he called me for overtime in my day off when I was, was to recall. That was eight hours of overtime. Not, not a big thing, but the fact that he was denying me, I didn’t feel good, so I pursue it. And that way you sometimes gain the bureaucracy of the union and the system in which sometimes many workers get frustrated --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and then they say the union is no good. So I went to the local lodge, my local lodge, 1894, and I make a complaint. And, of course, this guy was going to the local lodge for 20 years. They knew him. So they said "Oh you have nothing." So we were divided into locals and districts, so I (inaudible) [in touch with?] my district in Minnesota, in, in, um, Minneapolis, called on 20:00the phone, and they say, “Yeah, Julius told me that, but you don’t have it.” “Yes, I do.” Again, this guy took it to the convention for the district. They knew him. They deny me. So, uh, I get this guy -- this guy so, so frustrated, Julius Brodski, tall, big guy, nice guy, and I’m telling you nice --

BERNSTEIN: This is the steward --

RODRIGUEZ: -- nice guy.

BERNSTEIN: -- who you just thought it --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, he was the chief steward.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, but he says, “You don’t like the way I’m doing things, there’s going to be nominations in November. It’s an election in December. You don’t like it, run for office. Don’t bother me. Let’s see how good you are.” And I said, “You bet you I’m going to run.” (phone noise) Oh -- I’m sorry.

21:00

BERNSTEIN: That’s OK. We can --

RODRIGUEZ: That’ll be my -- (brief phone conversation; not transcribed) That’s my son.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: Which is another story, with my children. (laughter) Anyway, uh, I run, uh, surprise, surprise. I --

BERNSTEIN: Did you campaign?

RODRIGUEZ: I -- huh?

BERNSTEIN: Did you campaign?

RODRIGUEZ: Nothing. I didn’t campaign nothing. I told people, “I’m running for chief steward.” “Yeah, ha, ha, ha, ha.” And the election came, and I vote-- I, I went -- I mean, there were like 300 people there. I got, like, 200 votes. (laughter) And I took it -- and nobody believed I was going to take it 22:00seriously. At that time, you have to see the composition of the working class in the airport. There was no Hispanics. I was the only Hispanic. Was one or two blacks. Uh, was mainly the so-called American: Polish Americans, Irish Americans, German American, (inaudible) -- And, uh, I began to take -- and I didn’t know -- I didn’t, I didn’t know what to do. I went to Brodski, (inaudible), “I don’t know what to do.” He says, “I help you.” And then I got with the mechanics, and I got with the cargo people, and I began to process grievances and all this. I (inaudible) carry my attaché case. My fellow workers used to call me Puerto Rican Perry Mason.

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) That’s a good nickname.

23:00

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and then that was history. I -- I was -- I worked for the airline for seventeen years, I think, and I was fired fifteen times in seventeen years for union activities.

BERNSTEIN: That’s impressive.

RODRIGUEZ: And then --

BERNSTEIN: What, what kinds of things were you fired for?

RODRIGUEZ: Insubordination, doing things like that, cussing a me-- cussing the manager -- They accused me of conducting a, a [white collar?] strike. The union was on my back, too, and unfortunately I have nothing to do with it. I was not -- I was on vacation when my fellow workers go to strike. But what happened is that I -- oh, one thing that I have not forget: the American working class, how good it -- they recognize when somebody’s serious and sincere. And with all the baloney that they gave me because I was Hispanic and I have an accent, uh, 24:00they recognize my efforts, so they used to collect my salary every week when I was fired and give it to me. Every week they -- they (inaudible) my salary, which that was a tremendous help. And then I became an officer in my local, in the local, and I became an organizer with the local, and I organized 2,000 people, belonged to a company called Marriot Corporation, from the Marriot Hotel.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And everything I do probably from my father. I followed through. I followed, you know -- (inaudible) read everything about Mr. Marriot, I found out that they were Mormons. I know where they come from. I know how they get started, with the hot shops in Washington, DC, selling hot dogs and root beer --

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

25:00

RODRIGUEZ: -- and now they are multimillionaires, and they hate the unions. And they give, uh --

BERNSTEIN: Now, what, what gave you -- how did you target them, initially?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, like any other thing, the -- some workers came, and, uh, and they said that they, that they need a union.

BERNSTEIN: They came to your local lodge.

RODRIGUEZ: They came to my local.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and they talked to a friend of mine that became a commissioner, commissioner of labor in Nassau County.

BERNSTEIN: Oh.

RODRIGUEZ: A good Irish guy. In the airport, I was with the Irish. Most of the people were Irish. When I became an officer of the machinists union, I -- well, everybody was Italian. But anyway, I organized that. And to me, it was, like, this is what you’re supposed to do. I didn’t realize that very few people 26:00organized 2,000 people.

BERNSTEIN: So these were 2,000 workers who did what --

RODRIGUEZ: They, they do the --

BERNSTEIN: -- for Marriot?

RODRIGUEZ: -- Marriot, they do the in-flight services. They used to put the food in the plane.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, I see. OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And they worked in the kitchens and all that. They have it in LaGuardia and Kennedy. They have (inaudible) [small racer?], like the one they have here, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: And they have, uh, seven or eight, uh, kitchens where they prepare the food, and they have truck drivers that deliver the, the food to the airplanes. It was very complicated, and very demanding, twenty-four hours a day. And, uh -- oh, before the union, uh, make me a Grand Lodge rep, I became a business rep for Marriot. I was doing the, the negotiations and all the -- and that was another story.

27:00

BERNSTEIN: (pause) OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I was the only guy that was fired by the union. The machinists union fired me. And it’s funny.

BERNSTEIN: Keep going. I’m just going to check these --

RODRIGUEZ: One of my Irish friends -- his name is Tim Connelly. He’s retired. He worked for Transportation. He was in charge of, uh, of all the things in, in the East Coast (inaudible). Very intelligent guy. The kind of guy that if there’s a catastrophe and there’s only two people left, I’m wishing if I’m left, I would like to help Tim Connelly, because he --

28:00

BERNSTEIN: Can do things.

RODRIGUEZ: Very intelligent, an Irishman, is streetwise, from Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t know -- I don’t know how much education he had, but very smart. You can talk with him about anything, he had knowledge. Very different from many other Grand Lodge reps. And I was doing negotiations, and he signed the first contract, and then I began to do negotiations. The company immediately started a petition to decertify the union. I was serving over 2,000 people with grievances, problems, and the petition to recertify, people that were fired, I have arbitrations, and when we were negotiating the second contract, Tim 29:00Connelly came. They sent him to assist me. And he came, and he -- at one point in time he says, “Are you -- I, I leave you alone all, uh, this time, but now, uh, I’m going to intervene the negotiations, because after all, this is my territory,” because I figure out that the international sent him to do that. And I said, “Wonderful, Tim, but I’ll tell you one thing. These other things I cannot tell you, because all this corruption.” Uh, something happened there somewhere. Anyway, uh, when, uh, when he said that to me, I said, “I tell you what, Tim: I have work for my neg- -- You can take my negotiations, you can negotiate the contract, but you are going to sign that contract, not me. I’m 30:00not going to sign a contract that you’re not going to negotiate, because you’re ready to negotiate the first contract, and I had it all these (inaudible) negotiations.” So he was a little bully, you know? Uh, don’t forget, you know, the Hell’s Kitchen?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: So he says to me, “Give me your credentials.” And I believe that he have -- (inaudible) believe that he had the authority from the international. So I said, “Of course.” He was used to intimidate people and people back off. I said OK, into my wallet, give him my credentials. And when I give him the credentials, I put it on the table, in front of all the negotiating committee, uh, all the people from the negotiating committee were -- and then he says, “So you are quitting, huh?” And that’s when I realized he had no authority.

31:00

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: And I said, “No, I’m not quitting. You just fire me, you stupid Irish ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, ba-da-boom” and I went to hit him, and the guy grabbed me, and I was trying to kick him, and they grabbed me. (laughter) What -- it’s funny today but was not funny that day. So anyway, I left.

BERNSTEIN: Goodness.

RODRIGUEZ: And I went --

BERNSTEIN: Well, wait. Anyway you left -- ha-- what happened? They --

RODRIGUEZ: I left. I left the room because I was fired.

BERNSTEIN: And they kept negotiating?

RODRIGUEZ: No. I went back to the airlines. I went back to the airlines, and, uh -- because, you know, I have a leave of absence from the airline. I went back to the airlines, and then the, the vice president -- his name was Peterpaul.

BERNSTEIN: Of the --

RODRIGUEZ: Vice president of transportation from the union.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: One of the divisions of the union.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

32:00

RODRIGUEZ: He called me, and he says, “What’s the matter with you, son?” I said, “What’s the matter with me? That stupid Irish ba-da-bing, ba-da-bum, ba-da-boom fire me.” He said, “He has no authority to fire.” I said, “I know that now. I didn’t know it then.” And he said, “I want -- go back. Go back to your job. I need you badly.” And I said -- I said, “John, I’m already back with the airlines.” And he said, “Oh, (inaudible), you are faster than Speedy Gonzalez. Why you didn't call me?” Anyway, he say, “OK.” Now the union always were afraid that I may sue because I was an elected officer, so they put in the record a voluntary leaving the job.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: That’s how it appears in the record. I was a business rep --

BERNSTEIN: Who left.

RODRIGUEZ: -- I voluntarily -- I left the job. And then I -- then to -- they 33:00called me and offered me, I work with the airline and all this. They called me and they offered me a job as a Grand Lodge rep. And the guy who called me, a fellow named Donnie Pantalano, I said, “Who are you?” “I'm a Grand Lodge rep. I want to have an interview with you.” I said, “About what?” You know, it was very -- and I met with him. And, uh, he said, yes, they were looking for a Spanish-speaking person --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- who had a Spanish last name. I realized that immediately. I went to my wife. “They’re looking for [a talker?].” And she said, “Try it. (inaudible) you --” My wife said, “You are dedicated. You believe in this. You came to this, if you don’t like it, you go back to airlines -– try it.” And I said, “OK.” But I can’t interview with Donnie. Then had an 34:00interview with the guy that was the administrative assistant, an alternative (inaudible), and then I had an interview with the vice president, who was Sal Iaccio, that easygoing Italian fellow from Brooklyn, from the Navy yard.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: A veteran of the Second World War, and Winpisinger. And I was in the office and Sal was very cautious. He said, “Sam, we hear a lot of good things about you, uh, but I’m going to be very honest. We’ve heard a lot of bad things about you.” And I said, “Of course, you know. I have a lot of political enemies, and I got this and that.” And we were going around that. And then Wimpy says -- laughing, he says -- can I curse? Or no? Or I cannot curse?

BERNSTEIN: Yes, you can. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: Wimpy says, “Sam, we hear that you’re a fucking Communist.” And 35:00I said, “That piss me off, because I’m not a Communist. I’m a fucking anarchist.” (laughter) So Wimpy -– Wimpy started laughing, and Sal went like this, and back to my wife, said what happened. She said, “Why you tell him that?” I said, “Well, because they asked me, and they pissed me off, you know, they call me. They call me, I became the grand lodge representative for organizing. And I did that for, uh -- since 1980 to ’97, when I retired.

BERNSTEIN: That’s --

RODRIGUEZ: I retired at 62.

BERNSTEIN: That’s a long stretch.

RODRIGUEZ: Because I was -- I was beginning to -- I fight with everybody. All these guys, “Oh, Sam is a good organizer, he’s [a pain in the ass?].” I organize. And the only reason they didn’t fire me is because (inaudible) I [knock in doors?]. I break -- I bring the bacon home. I organize.

36:00

BERNSTEIN: One by one.

RODRIGUEZ: More than one by one, see, and I continued to do that. And I’m retired. I’m still organizing.

BERNSTEIN: Tell me more about your on-the-job -- uh, before you retired. You did a lot of organizing --

RODRIGUEZ: That was all --

BERNSTEIN: -- plus --

RODRIGUEZ: I wanted to -- they called me every time they had a lead. Uh, sometimes they call me, uh, when they have foreigners. I --

BERNSTEIN: How much of the organizing did you do using your languages, other than English, do you think?

RODRIGUEZ: Small. For what they hire me, I organize more English-speaking people than minorities. Uh, I have all these other story that -- and I was always in 37:00trouble. One time, uh, they used to send me in the -- in the winter I was working north and in the summer I was working south. I was assigned to organize the, uh, technicians that made the mus-- the missiles for the training, the Trident submarine --

BERNSTEIN: Oh, wow.

RODRIGUEZ: -- in King’s Bay, Georgia. It was terrible, because that lead were not really by me -- I have nothing to do with the lead. Some other guy was rep, received the lead --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and they gave it to me, which usually was a no-no. The guy was new, and they sent me the lead. So they sent me to King’s Bay, Georgia, near the Okefenokee Swamp.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: I hate nature.

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) Not to mention this is Georgia in the summertime.

38:00

RODRIGUEZ: In the summertime.

BERNSTEIN: Ay-ai-ai.

RODRIGUEZ: I was in Cumberland Island and all that, you know, in -- and was funny when -- when I said about the American working class anyway -- I had a committee of about twenty-five people, mostly people that came from the Air Force and the Navy, the military, that have these [cues?]. They were not only have college degrees, but they also have some, some technicians there, you know, (inaudible) the resistance of metal, the resistance of this, uh, how much, uh, fire something will cut. They were making it -- so one time I was having a meeting, and they were talking among themselves, and I say, “My God --” I been having problems understanding these guys with that broken accent, you know, 39:00I mean, the, the Southern accent. And I said, “My God, if I have problems understanding them, they must have a big problem understanding me.” (laughter) So I said many, too many times, I said, “Guys, if you don’t understand what I said, please tell me, because I know what I’m doing, and I don’t want you to lose this election, I don’t want anybody to get fired. If you follow what I’m telling you, we will win and nobody will get fired.” So finally, a kid named, uh, Roy Sutton -- he was a local guy from that area -- he says, “Sam, we have no problem with your accent. You are the only guy from the north with a decent accent.” (laughter) But you had to read in the line that really what he 40:00was saying is, “You have an accent, but you’re not a Yankee.”

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: That’s exactly what -- (laughter) And, um, the reason he said that is because --

BERNSTEIN: That’s funny.

RODRIGUEZ: -- there were people totally different than me in the way they think, military, uh, military, the way they think, the way they act, they have nothing in common with me.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: One thing, very important thing they have at that point: working class. They didn’t even know that themselves.

BERNSTEIN: But that’s what I was just going to ask. You talk about the American working class, but if you ask Americans --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- who economically fit in that, they don’t call themselves --

RODRIGUEZ: No, they don’t.

BERNSTEIN: -- working class.

RODRIGUEZ: No.

BERNSTEIN: So how do you get off calling them --? Do you use that term?

RODRIGUEZ: In front of them?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: No. You cannot use “working class.” We having a problem with one 41:00guy because at the time Winpisinger endorse Jesse Jackson for president. And I -- while I was asking questions, I said, “I don’t know what they do, you know. Important -- we are going to organize this place, and we are going to give you a good contract.” And I took it away from the politics. Oh, the --

BERNSTEIN: That must’ve been hard in the South.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, yeah. But I never had problems organizing the South. Never. You know, the -- I went to the campaigns. I worked on my campaign. Oh yes, I went to another campaign in Florida. We went to Alabama and Mississippi. There were campaigns for somebody else. And I came to help. And I were doing campaigns in Chicago, a couple of campaigns in Chicago. And each –- to tell you the truth sometimes when I look on my records, these places that we organized, I totally 42:00forget. But it seemed --

BERNSTEIN: How many places would you go in a year? Give me an idea.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, it depends, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: Four, five places. Don’t forget that when you have a serious campaign -- sometimes you go to a campaign and it’s not there. You can tell it’s not there, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: When people go and insult you, they don’t open the door, or something like this, you know. But the story I tell -- I told you, I have a hundred stories like that. And I always --

BERNSTEIN: About connecting with people --

RODRIGUEZ: People.

BERNSTEIN: -- that you have very little --

RODRIGUEZ: I, I --

BERNSTEIN: -- in common.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I came to the conclusion that when people talk about the rednecks, I already immediately realize that you have the rednecks from the South, but you have the rednecks from the North, and (inaudible) that border 43:00between New York and Pennsylvania.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: Well -- was built in New York, right by the Pennsylvania border, that was, that was the South. (laughter) That was the South. And I discovered something that had nothing to -- well, it had to do with the union. One time I was driving, looking for -- because I get familiar with the whole area. The first two days I find everything about the town, the people, what they do, what they make in industry, what they go and drink, who is the boss. Do the boss have a --

BERNSTEIN: And you do this by yourself --

RODRIGUEZ: -- do the --

BERNSTEIN: -- or with a local guy?

RODRIGUEZ: No, by myself. Do the boss have a mistress? Does the --? And this is before all this -- I don’t know how they organize now with all this high technology, because I saw people today that they are there all the time in the telephone or the computer.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

44:00

RODRIGUEZ: What happened with the one-to-one, face-to-face organizing? My whole -- my whole indu-- well, my appointment book, you know -- I have my appointment book. Then I bought a big one to write in some dates and meetings, and all the, uh -- I don’t know how they do it.

BERNSTEIN: With the technology instead of the face-to-face.

RODRIGUEZ: The technology --

BERNSTEIN: So you were saying you go to a place, you drive around, and find out everything.

RODRIGUEZ: I find out everything.

BERNSTEIN: How do you find it out? Just by going to bars and listening to people?

RODRIGUEZ: You know, I think that you, after a while, you develop certain things, and you develop also certain psychology. Uh, when people said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” or “To hell with you,” and they don’t know you, you know, a lot of things that you find out, and you have to be very careful, because sometimes people -- uh, one time I was calling my wife -- I don’t even want to 45:00tell them my friends that are in the union from those states. One time I was in Mississippi, and I went to a house, to a house call, and I get a flashback. I cannot believe that I was in United States. I get the feeling that I was in Honduras.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

RODRIGUEZ: Was no difference. But these people, they don’t know that. They are Americans.

BERNSTEIN: Right. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: “We are the best country in the world.” And this -- that may be true, but they are not living the best life in the world. A lot of millionaires in Nicaragua that live like kings.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: But that was very -- but it -- There was mud floor. Uh, I called my 46:00wife, said, “Honey, (inaudible) other than these people are good at speaking English, I believed I was in Guatemala, in one of the Indian villages.”

BERNSTEIN: When -- how -- when did you get married?

RODRIGUEZ: You are getting now a different -- (laughter)

BERNSTEIN: Well, I feel like being an organizer --

RODRIGUEZ: I met --

BERNSTEIN: -- and having a family --

RODRIGUEZ: I met my wife --

BERNSTEIN: -- that’s a delicate balance. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: I was -- when I went, uh -- I came to the United States and I didn’t like it. I went back to Europe, and I was a tourist going to Mallorca.

BERNSTEIN: You came to the United States and went back to Europe for a while --

RODRIGUEZ: Right.

BERNSTEIN: -- before you came here.

RODRIGUEZ: Right, yeah. When I went back to Europe was really -- I didn’t know Europe.

BERNSTEIN: Because it was --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- postwar.

RODRIGUEZ: So I became a tourist guy in Mallorca for a year. And, uh, then I 47:00escaped with Swedish woman to Sweden, to Stockholm, because I was coming here, and she said, “Oh, I’m going to United States, (inaudible) come to Sweden.” And what a difference, because when I went to Sweden to work for three months or so, uh, before they give me the visa to work an immigrant worker or whatever, they gave me my Social Security. They gave me my -- what were going to be my pension, my medical plan, all these things. But I didn’t --

BERNSTEIN: It’s incredible, huh?

RODRIGUEZ: I didn’t really work in Sweden. I -- I -- it’s -- I don’t even want to mention that. So I was engaged with a girl from Mallorca, and I have a house in Mallorca, and I sold the house in Mallorca. Uh, then I said I would never submit myself to anymore of this, and my whole goal was to look for a rich, old French woman and get married. Well, I met one, (laughter) and she 48:00introduced me to my wife. And my wife was in the streets for parties all the time, [IBM, Hollywood, profiteur de guerre?], you know, marching, and I told her, because I -- six years over there. I -- “Don’t do that. Don’t be stupid. Don’t (inaudible) politics is terrible. Look what happened to me, OK?” But she was my father, so I married her. (laughter) But that was not easy. I wanted marry her, but she didn’t want to marry me. So we went, and, uh, we had my daughter.

BERNSTEIN: Before you got married.

RODRIGUEZ: Before we got married. Uh, too many little things in between. And then we ended at, uh -- they were going to throw me out from France, but they 49:00cannot. She was a French citizen. Eh, so I left, and she never told me she was pregnant.

BERNSTEIN: Aye.

RODRIGUEZ: Never.

BERNSTEIN: Oy.

RODRIGUEZ: Then a friend of mine told me, “Oh, your daughter --” I said, “What?” So I called her, and we get together, and I said, “Why you do this to me?” And she said, “I don’t want to obligate you to anything.” And finally she came to United States. According to her eyes United States was the enemy. And, uh, we spent almost two years until I say, “Honey, we have to get married” --

BERNSTEIN: It’s time. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: -- “or they will deport you, and we will be in the same situation that before.” And we already waiting -- she was pregnant, waiting for my twins. I had twin boys.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: And then she said, “You’re right. Now we’ll get married.”

50:00

BERNSTEIN: So she didn’t want to get married because she was --

RODRIGUEZ: Because she didn’t want anything to be obligated to her, the piece of paper. She said, “We love each other. We are together.” She just was very advanced. You should interview my wife. (laughter)

BERNSTEIN: I, I agree with her on that subject. I -- (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: She is a fantastic woman. A fantastic woman.

BERNSTEIN: So you got married before you really became an organizer.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I was already in -- when we get married, I was beginning to get into the union --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- but my goal still was to be a college professor. Then I have to switch my inspiration, because I wasn’t (inaudible), so I went to, uh, uh, get licenses to teach. I got a license to teach Spanish u-- in the city of New York -- Spanish junior high, Spanish high school, social (inaudible) -- social 51:00[studies?] bilingual, junior high and high school, and Italian also. That was -- that was my, my license. But I never pursue it. I --

BERNSTEIN: You never used --

RODRIGUEZ: No, I, I was a --

BERNSTEIN: You got licensed and then you couldn’t --

RODRIGUEZ: I was, I was a substitute teacher all the time.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: I did -- I did substitute teaching for almost ten years when I was working with the airline.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, you did both at the same time.

RODRIGUEZ: I --

BERNSTEIN: You taught on the side?

RODRIGUEZ: I, I -- no, I t- -- I used to -- I used to work the midnight shift. I worked till, like, 10:30, eleven o’clock, go home, take a shower, uh, have breakfast, and then I go out, go out teaching, and then I come back home and I sleep, and then I went back to the airline, a routine, a routine.

BERNSTEIN: And you did that while you had a family?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: How did you ever have time for the family? That’s a lot.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, I was with the family there.

BERNSTEIN: That’s a lot of family.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, uh --

52:00

BERNSTEIN: That’s a lot of time working.

RODRIGUEZ: It was -- you know, when you have -- when you have -- oh, jeez.

BERNSTEIN: And did your wife stay home with the kids while you --

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Is that why you did that?

RODRIGUEZ: She took that --

BERNSTEIN: So that she could have time with the kids?

RODRIGUEZ: She took that option, totally conscious that she wanted to be a housewife.

BERNSTEIN: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

RODRIGUEZ: She says to me one time, “I know you, and you will always bring bread to this table. I know you will always have something. I don’t have to worry about you that things are not going to be done, uh, but I would like to stay home.” And that was it. There’s one more irony.

BERNSTEIN: What’s that?

RODRIGUEZ: I gave you all this background, right?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: My twin boys, uh, they have masters degrees. My daughter’s a nurse. 53:00My twin boys became policemen in the City of New York. (laughter) From an anarchist father, and from a union fa-- from an anarchist grandfather and union father, and my twin sons -- my two sons are policemen. Uh, we disagree all the time in everything. My --

BERNSTEIN: Wait, are they Republicans?

RODRIGUEZ: No, they are not Republican, but they are policemen. You know what I tell them? I tell them, listen: the reason why they pay you such a good salary and benefits and pensions is because you are the means of repression of the ruling classes over the working class. That’s what you do. That’s your job. Don’t believe that you’re catching thieves. I say, you were catching thieves, you would be arresting Rockefeller’s son, and that will never happen. So we always talk about -- but they say, “Yeah, yeah, we (inaudible).” Uh, the first one, Joey, became a (inaudible) that’s very sad, because he had a 54:00master -- he was accepted in, uh, in St. John’s University, Columbia, and NYU for law school.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: My daughter-in-law, which is one year younger, took the test, too, and my son had higher marks than her. She's a lawyer, today. And my son is a de-- my son is, uh, a sergeant of detectives. Uh, he became a hero in the Towers.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: In the machinists union -- he was a machinist, because he worked in the airport for a while -- um, in machinists union gave honors to him in one of the conventions. Uh, you know Father George, the priest that was the chaplain for the fire department?

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: The first -- the first person that died?

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

55:00

RODRIGUEZ: He died in my son’s arms.

BERNSTEIN: Oh my goodness.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Oh, he have very sad stories about that. And then the other one was another policeman. Uh, when the Towers, he went to help. He was a worker. He went to help. And then he, “Gee, I want to serve my country.”

BERNSTEIN: And that’s when he decided that he wanted to --

RODRIGUEZ: That, that -- when he told me he was going to serve the country, I said, “Go to -- go to Afghanistan and get a good, a good -- a good life insurance for my name.” (laughter) (inaudible). He’s a detective. Uh, Joey’s a, a sergeant of detectives in, uh, the same precinct. He started Chin-- uh, little Ita-- little Italy and Chinatown.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: That’s why he responded immediately --

BERNSTEIN: Because he was down there.

RODRIGUEZ: -- at the, at the towers. His -- he really wanted to call us to tell 56:00us that plane hit the Towers.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: He didn’t know at the time how -- and then we didn’t hear from him for eighteen hours.

BERNSTEIN: Aye.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: That would’ve been just --

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, yeah. So, you know, me being --

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: -- me being a Jewish mother, I was hoping to say my s-- my son the detective, my son the professor, and my daughter the, the nurse. (laughter) Now the only one I say my -- the only one is my daughter the nurse. (laughter) The other ones are cops.

BERNSTEIN: Tell me a little more about being a Grand Lodge rep.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh!

BERNSTEIN: You, you organized everywhere, and --

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all --

BERNSTEIN: -- were you involved in headquarters?

RODRIGUEZ: (inaudible). Do you follow what I come from about this? Uh, I’m not too much for yes sir, no sir, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Well, you said that they wanted to --

RODRIGUEZ: I, uh --

BERNSTEIN: -- fire you over and over again --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

57:00

BERNSTEIN: -- so I need to hear a little bit more about that.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, see, I always question the policies.

BERNSTEIN: Why did they need to fire you?

RODRIGUEZ: I always did things -- I always disagree with them. Uh, I have good friends. Tom Buffenbarger, Tom Buff-- I know Tom Bufferbarger when he used to have hair. (laughter) OK, he was a kid. Uh, I have the ten-year seniority on him, when he became a special rep. He was a very timid guy.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh -- and we were friends, good friends, until he became my boss. That was the end of the friendship. Now retired, and we are friends again.

BERNSTEIN: Got it. You’re not easy to have as a --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Uh --

BERNSTEIN: -- s-- to supervise, I guess. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: So -- yeah, that’s, that’s you can ask Charlie, all right? You have to realize -- probably you know this -- that the machinists union was founded by masons.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

58:00

RODRIGUEZ: I’m a mason. Uh --

BERNSTEIN: When did you become a mason?

RODRIGUEZ: In 1980.

BERNSTEIN: Nineteen eighty.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: So you were in the union before --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- you were a mason.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, yeah. I became a mason in Manhattan.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, my lodge is the same lodge of many very important people. Uh, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a mason from my lodge. Teddy Roosevelt was in my lodge. Uh, Fiorello LaGuardia was a mason in my lodge. Uh, but (inaudible) Fiorello LaGuardia, he was a Sephardic Jew. Didn’t know that, huh?

BERNSTEIN: I actually did not know that.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, he, he was Jewish. Italian Jew. Yeah. And, uh -- so you have to -- the reason I’m telling you I’m a mason is because I understood the machinists union immediately. All the whole -- all the structure of the 59:00machinists union is masonic.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: The first person that wasn’t a mason, I believe, was Winpisinger --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and then none of the other (inaudible) are masons. But before that, I believed everybody was a mason. And when I came (inaudible), lot of Grand Lodge reps that were masons. And we inherit that from the masonic lodges. We have district, and we have Grand Lodge reps from the grand lodge.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: The grand lodge used to be called -- the president of the machinists union used to be called grandmaster machinist --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- or something similar.

BERNSTEIN: OK, that -- yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: So that was the structure. Now, the idea of the union having grand lodge reps is the grand, the grand lo-- the grand lodge reps were going to be the cushion between the international and the membership.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

60:00

RODRIGUEZ: The -- we are always representing international president. That is why when Tim Connelly came and fired me, I believed that he had authority, but he didn’t have authority.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: Because that was the only difference. But that is structure of the machinists union. So when I came in was -- I don’t know, the, the Ger-- the mechanics of the machine -- so for the ma-- the union machine --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- was working. But that -- in the human aspect, was --

BERNSTEIN: The spirit wasn’t --

RODRIGUEZ: -- was terrible.

BERNSTEIN: -- strong?

RODRIGUEZ: Everybody drink, everybody (inaudible) woman, everybody -- guys got three or four divorces, you know. That was not -- that was not masonic at all. But that was just trouble. But then that broke just about five years before I get involved. And while that, in my case, and many other people, when you begin 61:00to work for the machinists union, well, you become an employee of the machinists union. So finally some of these grand lodge reps decided to create the union to represent them, and they create an association.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And then other people within the union became association. But the machinist union before that, the National Labor Relations Board found them guilty of contempt of, uh, labor, you know, charge it. They filed charges against the machinists union, were trying to break up our union. (laughter) So when I came, I already had a union in the union.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And they hate it. And the union -- and the, the union in the union 62:00were never very strong, because the membership was never very strong. My great dream was that the grand lodge reps strike the union.

BERNSTEIN: But you maintained close relations with Wimpisinger --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- in spite of the fact that you were --

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: -- agitating --

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: -- on behalf of the organization.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, because he -- he knew I was a union guy. Um, we, we always have, uh -- when, when I first start working, my godfather was Sal Iaccio and Wimpy, so I was in paradise with the job, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: I used to drive with them. I used to drive them to New York. Uh, I used to go up for dinner with him, lunch with them. Uh, and then I get laid off. There was a layoff at the machinists union. And when I came back from --

BERNSTEIN: Not for causing trouble, but because --

RODRIGUEZ: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: Not for causing trouble --

RODRIGUEZ: No, no, no, no.

BERNSTEIN: -- just because of a downsize --

RODRIGUEZ: Because -- yeah, right.

BERNSTEIN: -- layoff, OK.

63:00

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. And, and when I came back, my godfather Sal Iaccio was dead and then, then began to say, “Ooh, wait a second.” I came back, and before I was, you know, one of the boys, and I came back and I was an outsider. Bang, bang, you know.

BERNSTEIN: That’s so funny.

RODRIGUEZ: So I said, “Ooh, wait a second!” I began to realize all these things that were doing it. But, uh, I always have a relation with Wimpy, and I have the opportunity more than many other people -- except the people at headquarters and the secretary, you know -- that every time he come to New York to -- at one time I drove him from New York to Hartford, Connecticut. Uh, he was going to, uh, to talk to the people [probably?] with me, at the time [probably?] in East Hartford.

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: Where they make the engines --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm, yeah --

RODRIGUEZ: -- for the [Boeing?].

BERNSTEIN: -- right.

64:00

RODRIGUEZ: And we were talking about politics and all this, and, uh, he asked me what the people say, I think, I say some people said, “You are a Communist” I think. I -- he, he got very upset with that. Uh, on the way back -- when he spoke there he said that the Reagan administration believed that anybody that worked in America and was a worker like us, that we were all lumpenproletarians. So on the way back I said, (laughter) “Hey Wimpy, so the Reagan administration believes that we are lumpenproletarians.” He turned around and looked at me, and he said, “You know, I bet you were the only son of a bitch there that know what lumpenproletarian mean.” (laughter) So that’s the relationship I had with him, you know? Then there was a lot of reports -- they were giving a lot of 65:00reports about me. Uh, he --

BERNSTEIN: A lot of reports about you --?

RODRIGUEZ: Ah, general [sense?], and, you know, uh -- on the -- I have the tendency, talking, uh, working class languages, I don’t need [popular?], see what I mean? (laughter) So there it was complaining about things, never about Wimpy. And I very seldom talk anything about the guys in power, because I tell them to their faces.

BERNSTEIN: That’s a better way to do it.

RODRIGUEZ: Oy, I have a lot of problem with Charlie, with this Charlie, (laughter) because I said he’s a teacher. “You’re a teacher for years, and Charlie, you cannot be a director and a teacher. Especially for retires -- we are not getting paid. You see, you have to be a director.”

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

RODRIGUEZ: “You have to direct people.” But he have that school.

66:00

BERNSTEIN: He has --

RODRIGUEZ: He always been a teacher.

BERNSTEIN: Yep, absolutely.

RODRIGUEZ: He’s never been a, you know -- of course, when he was fifteen years old or whatever he was working somewhere, but he never been a really --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: You know, he never have a, a post on top of a mule. But that’s what happened with, with people. But in general, uh --

BERNSTEIN: And so you -- people reported you, but you kept on organizing, and so --

RODRIGUEZ: I, I kept -- I kept doing what I have to do: organizing. And I was never, never really -- I liked the job. I was happy with the job and all this. I would never worry about, uh -- one time I had big dispute with Tom Buffenbarger.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And I felt that he never organized anybody in his life. Uh, 67:00(inaudible) in piece work. And I was in big trouble with a vice president from the eastern territory, George Poulin. Uh, he came -- he call headquarters, and he said that he don’t want me in New York anymore. And, uh, then he pulled me to Cleveland, and I spent (laughter) almost two years in Cleveland.

BERNSTEIN: Did you move your family there?

RODRIGUEZ: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: Did you move --

RODRIGUEZ: No, no, no. Just by the contract that we have, the maximum that they can keep you away from your house is two weeks. So what I did is every two week I go home, but in the week I was not going home my family will come to Cleveland, to visit me or whatever. Uh, I practi-- I practically lease a, uh, a nice room in the Holiday Inn in Cleveland, and was room for my children, my wife 68:00to come visit me.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: So the family lived, you know --

BERNSTEIN: So they would come --

RODRIGUEZ: -- on --

BERNSTEIN: -- for the weekends?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. And the people from, uh, from Cleveland, I discovered that I developed better friends in Cleveland than I have my Italian friends in New York, where they used to take me for dinner every day --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and, you know, “Sammy, uh, I love you, Sammy, (inaudible),” all this, and then a lot of things happened. So it’s, uh -- But with Tom in Pittsburgh, he call me to tell me that I was going back to New York. That, by the way, I didn’t really want to go back to New York. I was telling them that I want to go back to New York, that I was not happy in Cleveland, because if I have tell them that I was happy in Cleveland they would send me to New York. 69:00(laughter) So anyway, the time came that they sent me to New York. And he was really gave me a beating.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: Tom Buffenbarger. And I said, “Tom, the greatest aspiration of humankind is not to be a grand lodge rep. That’s not the greatest aspiration.” And I said, “As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s of a great aspiration or priority in the world to be president of the machinists union. There’s other things in life.” I said, uh, “Everything can come to an end.” Now he say, “You go back to New York.” I left to go and I was furious. I was driving back to Cleveland to get my underwear, and in the road I get so furious -- you see, I have delay. Sometimes I don’t explode like that, 70:00but the more times I go, I get angrier and angrier. So I was driving, going back to Cleveland from Pittsburgh in one of those strips for the police where you are not supposed to make the turn --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- I turn around. I was going to go back to Buffenbarger. I was really going to smash him. But I have no gas, so I pass -- I stop in a gas station. That was before the portable phones, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: They were really -- they were just coming, the car phones that were, like, this big.

BERNSTEIN: Right, they were funny --

RODRIGUEZ: And you have to have a big thing in the --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- part of the car. So I just stopped in the gas station, and I said, “Let me call my consiglieri,” my wife. And I called, and I told her. And she said, “But are you going back to New York?” I said, “Yeah, but this guy, you know -- I believed he was my friend, and look what he’s doing.” And, uh, he -- she says, “Listen: go and get your things from Cleveland. Come back to New York, and when you are here we talk about it and if the things get bad, you 71:00know, you tell him what you want to tell him. Relax. Relax. Take it easy.” And I say, “Oh, you always --” I say, “How come you are so smart? OK, I’m on the way there.” And I went back to Cleveland, and then I went back to New York. And that relation continued to be, you know --

BERNSTEIN: Tense?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, tense. And then was ’97, I was sixty-two, and I was not getting happy with these things, you know, so I, I retire. When I told Tom Buffenbarger I retire, he had a smile from ear to ear. (laughter) I was -- how happy he was.

BERNSTEIN: You were a thorn in his side.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, that’s right. Very proud. So that was, uh -- in ’97 I retire, and, uh --

BERNSTEIN: Tell me a little bit about what -- what, what were you doing that 72:00made --

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I was planning to go back teaching. I have a million things to do.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: A million things.

BERNSTEIN: No, but what were you doing that caused the ten-- the -- caused the friction?

RODRIGUEZ: The -- first of all, they, they started with a program in organizing.

BERNSTEIN: With what kind of organizing?

RODRIGUEZ: A program.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, program, OK.

RODRIGUEZ: In organizing, that used to be called -- the guy f-f-- uh, Roy (inaudible) that’s here, he was one of the initiators. He was [in a ongoing?] -- and, and, uh, Tom Buffenbarger was, uh, my coordinator, and a grand lodge rep from Florida, Klinakis, Tony Klinakis from the airline, they were my coordinators. And, uh, the program was organizing by the book. And I said, “this never works.” And everybody was new in the new organizing department. 73:00Nobody want to raise their voice. Nobody want to say anything. And, uh, “Why you say that, Sam? Why are you so negative?” Say, “I’m not negative. Organizing by the book,” I say, “you have to organize it whatever you can. You have to organize from the top and the bottom (inaudible). This organizing --” I said, “You know what? I want to write the book how to organize not by the book.” (laughter) And I remember (inaudible) happen again. Tom -- and, uh, Tom Buffenbarger and Klinakis, uh, we were the three of us talking, and they were going to be my coordinators, and I said, said to them, “This is some shit. I have the two of you as coordinators, coordinators of me and other people, and you never organize a human being in your life,” which is true. They never organize anyone. About ten years later we were the three of us 74:00together again, and something happened, and I reminded them, and Tom Buffenbarger was laughing. He was, like I’m saying to you, right -- Tony Klinakis is a grand lodge rep. He was furious I said that. (laughter) He can’t organize. And this is one of the things that happen, that we get people in leadership that never organize.

BERNSTEIN: Who might have other good qualities --

RODRIGUEZ: You’re right.

BERNSTEIN: -- but don’t have that.

RODRIGUEZ: You’re right. I -- when -- after we organized United --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- there were, like, 30,000 people, and they assign a whole bunch of people to LaGuardia -- LaGuardia, Newark, and Kennedy. It was people on top of people. And I called headquarters. “Listen, no more calls coming from here. 75:00New York City, LaGuardia, Newark, it’s 100% they’re going to go. You have all these people who are doing nothing.” I said, “But we have a whole bunch of little stations all over New England” --

BERNSTEIN: Oh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- “Hartford, Connecticut, the airport in Westchester County, uh” --

BERNSTEIN: (inaudible)

RODRIGUEZ: -- “Albany, uh, Pla-- uh --”

BERNSTEIN: Plattsburgh?

RODRIGUEZ: “Plattsburgh, uh, Buffalo. And then in, in, um, in Maine, Bowdoinham, uh” --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- “uh, Vermont.” And I said, “Let -- I’m going to try.” “Alright, Sam. You’re right, you’re right. You do whatever you want.” So I said to my wife, “Let’s go for a mini-vacation.” The kids were grown up and all that. So we, we went with my wife, and what I discovered is that twenty people here, ten people here, eighty people here, at the end of the day, lot 76:00more people than the people working in LaGuardia or in Connecticut, and nobody ever visit them. Nobody was there. So it’s like I was feeling El Dorado.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: Everybody was signing cards, and I was talking with them. And, um, we have a great party in Reno when we win the election.

BERNSTEIN: In?

RODRIGUEZ: Reno, Nevada.

BERNSTEIN: Ah, OK.

RODRIGUEZ: He was celebrating it --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- Tom. And, uh -- and then I want to help in a campaign but not with airline, uh -- but the guy that was the assistant to Tom, the vice president, the resident vice president was Bob Keil, and we were great enemies.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

77:00

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. And, uh, he said, “No, you cannot go there.” I said, “Why?” I said, “I’m the only guy that understand --” Because I’m one of the few people that know how to organize in the different laws of labor in, in United States. You see, you have only for -- the ruling classes, for the purpose of dividing us, we are the only one country that have the National Labor Relations Board, the Lab -- Labor Act, the Farmers, uh, Law, the Jobs and Securities, (inaudible), you know, di--

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- different things that -- I’m, I’m one of the few persons that I know how to organize in all these fields. So I want to be because I came from the airlines, and he didn’t let me. So at that time I organized a [doghouse?] in Tampa, and I organized a company that was a serious company, now one of the 78:00biggest groups in the machinist union, Hudson General, but they changed the name --

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and I organized them in, uh, in Miami and in, uh -- what are the other cities I was in the coast? Fort, uh --

BERNSTEIN: Fort Lauderdale?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Uh, and with that, I didn’t go to the campaign I want to go, and I was sixty-two, uh, when I retire.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, before we move on to the retirement, one other question: how did you manage to keep your -- happy in your family and good at your job when you were on the road so much? Now, you already keep telling us --

RODRIGUEZ: Be--

BERNSTEIN: -- about how you’re calling your wife all the time.

RODRIGUEZ: Be-- because -- because I’m a sweetheart.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. (laughter) I see. It’s simple.

RODRIGUEZ: I don’t know, maybe my personality. Maybe because, uh, from my 79:00family we have a very strong family values, you know. Uh, nobody ever in my family for generations and generations they were divorced, or they never have, uh -- in my family, we never have children, uh, out of being with one woman or marriage, you know, it -- Because even so, when we were not married with my wife, we were in a marriage --

BERNSTEIN: You were together.

RODRIGUEZ: Right, together. So it’s, uh -- and, uh, especially, I think, another reason is that my wife is a strong woman. She is not a push-around. I will never be able to marry a weak woman. Never. I will get bored with a weak -- I will get disgusted with it. She’s a very strong woman. But she’s the opposite of me. She is my father. She’s calm, cool, and collected. She’s -- 80:00that’s the way she is. So that, you know, that is --

BERNSTEIN: So she --

RODRIGUEZ: -- that is that.

BERNSTEIN: You both figured out how to deal with you being gone all the time and still staying close.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes. I got -- (laughter) I got few things to -- When I was getting the job that was going to travel I said to my wife, “There’s always going to be lot of traveling. If I come home and I find a pair of boots in my closet, they better fit me.” (laughter) So she says, “That’s fair. But let me tell you something,” she says. “If you come home when -- from one of your long trips and you are too tired, we are in trouble.” (laughter) So I have to prove myself when I get home, even if I have a headache.

81:00

BERNSTEIN: OK, tricks. (laughter) Tricks of the trade.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: So she supported you about the decision to retire at sixty-two?

RODRIGUEZ: She always said to me all the time, “Do whatever you want to do, but do it right.” Like, for instance, when I was going back to Pittsburgh, that was great advice, a couple of times. Even here in the organizing, one time with Maria Cordone I was ready to leave. That Maria Cordone really -- I always use the expression from The Godfather: when I retire, I have a great reputation in New York. There’s a lot of independent unions that were calling me to help them. In the Machinists union, uh, we take -- we take a vow of poverty, the workers.

BERNSTEIN: OK. (laughter)

82:00

RODRIGUEZ: The workers. And is corruption of people do things, but really is above the board. So I get -- I get offers from independent union. So I went to work a couple of independent unions, and they were paying me cash on the side. And I wasn’t in there for one year. I told Buffenbarger, I told everybody “I’m retired now, and now I want to make money,” (laughter) because you never let me make money. And, I remember Tom Wharton -- he is retired; he was the, the money man, the --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh -- he say, “Well, you want to work for another union, and we can halt your pension, you know, because dual membership --” I said, “Let me tell you what: when I retire, and you cut my pension, tomorrow you have Schwartz 83:00and Schwartz talking to you from New York.” And he start laughing. Well, you see, for anybody that is [weak?], they can intimidate you.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: All these years, and they were going to cut my pension. Believe me, I’m serious: Schwartz and Schwartz would be there, and you know what I’m talking about. (laughter) So anyway, we’re doing that.

BERNSTEIN: So you retired and you --

RODRIGUEZ: Retired. I was happy.

BERNSTEIN: -- immediately worked --

RODRIGUEZ: I was happy. I --

BERNSTEIN: -- for other --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and then --

BERNSTEIN: -- unions in New York?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, in New York, right.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: And then --

BERNSTEIN: Who’d you work for?

RODRIGUEZ: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: Who did you work -- what unions did you work for?

RODRIGUEZ: No, I cannot tell you that. Uh, I’m afraid --

BERNSTEIN: Oh, OK.

RODRIGUEZ: -- it’s, uh, independent union.

BERNSTEIN: Perfect.

RODRIGUEZ: I don’t forget (inaudible). So, uh, Maria Cordone called me, and she asked me if I wanted to help with her something with the retired, that she 84:00have nobody in New York, and I went, because I love Maria, uh -- I love Maria as a person, as a woman, but I’m not in love with Maria. You know (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

BERNSTEIN: Everybody loves Maria. I got it. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: No, a lot of people -- there’s a lot of people that hate her --

BERNSTEIN: I love Maria.

RODRIGUEZ: -- like lot of people love me, lot of people hate me. So I came to Maria, and I began to work with her. And I like it. Wasn’t no pressure. Even so, this -- you know, Maria never allowed the politics.

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

RODRIGUEZ: Charlie did. He said no, but Charlie did, and Charlie was doing things that -- like all of the new guys (inaudible) that way, and I told Charlie. Charlie knows, you know -- what I’m saying to you, Charlie knows how it --

BERNSTEIN: Right, yep.

85:00

RODRIGUEZ: (clears throat) Uh, and, uh, and I always said that I was trying to get out, and Maria brought me back in. That’s from The Godfather. (laughter) And I’ve been doing -- and I’ve been organizing, besides that. Uh, I was getting -- talking to people, getting the cards signed, and give it to, to the district lodge and all this.

BERNSTEIN: So not just retirees?

RODRIGUEZ: After retiring, after I retire. No (inaudible), no people, you know. I organize a, uh, maintenance people for a couple of buildings in Manhattan, like 200 people out of that. That was something that if I was, if I was -- if I wanted -- oh, that’s another thing. I get people retire from the machinist union but call me because they want to -- they want me to start an independent union, you know, which is -- you know, it’s a lot of money in that, but this 86:00is home. I’m married to one woman, I’m married to one union, for better or for worse. (laughter) But that’s it. Other than that, I will be here, [take?] whatever.

BERNSTEIN: So you’re still organizing?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, lately it’s been nothing, because I was --

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: And my wife was very sick two years ago, but she’s OK now.

BERNSTEIN: So are you getting tired? Do you want to take a break?

RODRIGUEZ: What else you want to ask me?

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) Uh, I want to ask you about Ohio.

RODRIGUEZ: Ah. That was --

BERNSTEIN: Tell me a few stories about that.

RODRIGUEZ: Oh, that was --

BERNSTEIN: But if you want to get a drink of water first, that’s OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Not really.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Not really.

BERNSTEIN: So, um -- so tell me how you got involved.

87:00

RODRIGUEZ: I was involved in two campaigns in Ohio, the first one and, and the second one. (laughter) Uh --

BERNSTEIN: So in 2008 --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, [and '12?].

BERNSTEIN: And how -- tell me how you first got --

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, I’m a Hillary guy. I was totally with Hillary. Uh, [eight?] --

BERNSTEIN: All the way to the very, uh --

RODRIGUEZ: To the very end.

BERNSTEIN: -- last end? (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --

RODRIGUEZ: When Hillary was not there no more, uh, then I, I went with Obama. Um, when the machinist union was they were flipping, flopping, and finally they endorse Obama. Uh, I was campaigning for, for, for Hillary all the time. She’s such a smart woman, and when you see her operating in small groups, like sixty, seventy groups, seventy people --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- (inaudible) and she’s, she’s an encyclopedia.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

88:00

RODRIGUEZ: And very --

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, she’s --

RODRIGUEZ: -- very, very smart woman. Let me show you how smart she is. One time my son was guarding her, uh, and he was with the daughter.

BERNSTEIN: Chelsea.

RODRIGUEZ: Chelsea. And finally one of the [cops recognized?] said, “Can I -- can we take a picture with you?” And she said, “Yeah, OK.” So my son said, “You know, my father and my mother know you.” And Hillary said to my son, uh, “Oh yeah? What are their names?” And my son says, “Sam and Sylvia Rodriguez.” Hillary said, “Oh, of course I know them.” She may recognize us by face, by talking, by all this, you know, because we saw her many, many times.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: But I never went to her house for tea, (laughter) and she never came 89:00to my house for coffee. But “Of course I know them.” She made my son look like a million dollars.

BERNSTEIN: The instinct.

RODRIGUEZ: All his fellow cops, “Oh, look at that.”

BERNSTEIN: She has the political instinct.

RODRIGUEZ: Right. She is a fanta- -- this is the things that regular people don’t do. Some people say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah --” “Of course I know them.”

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) That’s great. So you were campaigning for her --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- and then finally Obama gets the nomination --

RODRIGUEZ: Right.

BERNSTEIN: -- and the machinists finally decide to support him. And how did you get, uh --

RODRIGUEZ: I went, and I was working -- excuse me for forgetting names. Oh my God -- (inaudible) in a small town that was, uh, an iron town, or the 90:00steelworkers, between, uh, between Cleveland and Toledo. What’s the name of that place?

BERNSTEIN: Yellow, um --?

RODRIGUEZ: No. It’s right by the lake. (coughs)

BERNSTEIN: Not Youngstown.

RODRIGUEZ: No.

BERNSTEIN: By the lake. Uh --

RODRIGUEZ: (inaudible) -- but whatever.

BERNSTEIN: We’ll f-- we’ll come up with it.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. And, uh, I was surprised when I get there and I see the group that Obama had. First of all, it was a whole bunch of young people.

BERNSTEIN: So this is in Pennsylvania.

RODRIGUEZ: No, no, no, this is in Ohio.

BERNSTEIN: In Ohio, when you first get to Ohio.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: And, uh --

BERNSTEIN: You were surprised at who was there volunteering.

RODRIGUEZ: Volunteer. The young people --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: Number one, the young people --

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: -- uh, from all over the country.

BERNSTEIN: In 2008, it was --

RODRIGUEZ: Right.

BERNSTEIN: -- remarkable how many young people --

91:00

RODRIGUEZ: And not only that, but, uh --

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) Well, let’s check it out. OK. It’s --

RODRIGUEZ: What --?

BERNSTEIN: -- it’s a, it’s a message from Traci. Just, uh, the form to sign at the end.

RODRIGUEZ: OK. So, um, the machinists union -- it’s embarrassing, when you are the least -- that’s another battle I have with Buffenbarger. Uh, with, uh -- taking a list of the retired, list of retired people --

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- call up the retired, call people that are dead --

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- people that are -- and sometimes you call and somebody says, “Oh, thank you for calling my father. That union never got in touch with my father. He’s dead for ten years.”

BERNSTEIN: That looks bad.

92:00

RODRIGUEZ: So when I was there, uh, I went to help with Hispanics. I began to call some Hispanics, and I began to realize the same thing that happened to me in Texas that some of the Hispanics (inaudible) their name. So I told the guy, I said, “Listen, you know, all these Hispanics, they are all bilingual. They don’t need me. They can talk to anybody.”

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: I said, “Why not give me a list of all the people I need from the unions.” And then he say, “Oh, OK.” And the computer, (makes whooshing sound) gives me something like this. And I begin to, to go over the forms. I say, “This guy’s in -- ninety years old. This is 102. They are dead.” “Oh, no.” I called those people, and they were alive.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

93:00

RODRIGUEZ: Every single one of them. There was not one, not one person that was not alive.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: And I said, “How come these people can do that, and we cannot do that with the [machinist retirees?].” And the --

BERNSTEIN: So wait, the Obama list --

RODRIGUEZ: The Obama list.

BERNSTEIN: -- even if they were 102, they were still alive --

RODRIGUEZ: They were still alive.

BERNSTEIN: -- and they still knew, and the machinists --

RODRIGUEZ: The machinists --

BERNSTEIN: -- just -- they’re calling families.

RODRIGUEZ: Calling people that were not --

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: -- dead, people that were not in touch, people that, that moved. And the reason we don’t have that is because it’s in a stupid thing in the Constitution that you have to have your withdrawal card, your retirement card. The retirement card costs $10, and no, no local is going to take your $10, so people retire and they leave, and we’ve lost them forever.

94:00

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: So we have some --

BERNSTEIN: Which is a big -- which is a big loss.

RODRIGUEZ: It’s stupid.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: And at one time -- (clears throat) I want to drink water because of the (inaudible).

BERNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. Uh, here --

RODRIGUEZ: Not because I’m tired, but because I, I drink of water.

BERNSTEIN: But you don’t want to cough. Yeah, let me just, uh, pause -- OK, this is, uh -- we’re back --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- after a short break --

RODRIGUEZ: So --

BERNSTEIN: -- for a glass of water.

RODRIGUEZ: -- so I, I, I began to do the ha-- the telephone call, and to see a few people, and I was the only guy really from labor who really was on the Obama campaign. And, uh, I made friends very easily, you know. One of the first things I do is I invite people to -- people for lunch. I buy them lunch or whatever, you know. And they were very happy with me. And Charlie came one time and 95:00transferred me to south of, south of Toledo. And then when I met, uh, the young and, uh, the (inaudible) ladies about the way they came from United --

BERNSTEIN: Ah.

RODRIGUEZ: -- at one of the places I organized -- they don’t know me, but -- and I worked with them, and I worked with one couple, one -- from a local, the Communication Workers of America, and we did the same thing.

BERNSTEIN: And you were using lists from --

RODRIGUEZ: From, from the Obama people.

BERNSTEIN: From the Obama people. But you were all a group of labor people.

RODRIGUEZ: I believe that when we went to Toledo, we were probably using a list that the Obama people give us --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- or we were using a list from the -- how you call it -- from the, how you call it, uh, different unions around. And we were call--

96:00

BERNSTEIN: So mostly when you’re doing this, you’re knocking on union doors.

RODRIGUEZ: In the first campaign, we didn’t knock on too many union doors.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, in 2008.

RODRIGUEZ: Eight, and on ’12 we did.

BERNSTEIN: OK, but i-- let’s -- 2008 --

RODRIGUEZ: In 2008, I’m knocking doors. What the fricking hell, this town -- Lo-- Lorene? Lorene, Lorraine?

BERNSTEIN: Lorraine --

RODRIGUEZ: Lorraine, Lorene? Something like this.

BERNSTEIN: Could be. I’m --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: -- never been to Ohio --

RODRIGUEZ: Used to be an iron town.

BERNSTEIN: -- I’m so sorry.

RODRIGUEZ: An iron town --

BERNSTEIN: OK, yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: -- that iron town is dead. You know, the --

BERNSTEIN: There are so many.

RODRIGUEZ: -- th-that was [corporal?] -- [what’s the word?] -- owned by Japanese --

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and then the Japanese left, too, and they have everything. They have the iron. They have the coal. They can continue to do --

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

RODRIGUEZ: -- but we’re importing cheaper steel from India and Korea, that, by the way, we built --

BERNSTEIN: Mm.

97:00

RODRIGUEZ: -- you and I. We built the base, uh, is steel mills in Korea with the height of technology, for them to send us to buy, and we have it right there in Ohio. And the same thing we --

BERNSTEIN: It doesn’t make sense.

RODRIGUEZ: Of course. It makes sense for capitalism.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, yeah, yeah. It makes sense for some people.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: So you got the --

RODRIGUEZ: So that was -- the second campaign was harder because Obama had a record --

BERNSTEIN: Wait, before you start, you -- when you started in 2008, you were working for Hillary, and what made you -- who drew -- how did you get to Ohio? Do you know what I mean? H- -- I know you’re an activist, so you -- once Obama was the candidate, and the machinists had it -- had endorsed him --

RODRIGUEZ: I drove my car.

BERNSTEIN: But you decided that was where you belonged?

98:00

RODRIGUEZ: No. You know, I -- I, I do a lot of critiques when I do this, but I’m a good soldier. You see, whatever they do to -- I do it.

BERNSTEIN: OK.

RODRIGUEZ: So I drove from -- I drove my car from New York, and I used to drive to Cleveland every two weeks, so -- going to --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: Uh, I drove there, and, uh --

BERNSTEIN: So you j-- you heard that there was a necessity, and you --

RODRIGUEZ: No, no, no. Charlie assigned me.

BERNSTEIN: Charlie assigned you.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Got it. OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. So I went to Ohio, and when, when all everybody liked me, and I was happy, he sent me to Toledo. (laughter)

BERNSTEIN: Of course, because you’ve got to share the wealth. (laughter)

RODRIGUEZ: Like I said, all the women were crying for me -- well, not the women. There was a lot of guys. I made friends with everybody, you know.

BERNSTEIN: And did you think that made a difference?

99:00

RODRIGUEZ: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: Do you th-- did you feel at the time that it made a difference in 2008?

RODRIGUEZ: Always make a difference. When you do work, it always makes a difference. Uh, we have lot of people coming. Uh, we have the -- the guy that was the governor of New Mexico. What was his name? He has an Anglo-Saxon name, but he’s Mexican.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: Huh?

BERNSTEIN: I know exactly who you mean.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Parkinson? No, it’s -- I forget his name. He came to that town, and I was chatting with him, and we were making fun, because we were saying, you see -- they say, you s-- you and I, we pick two languages, and he say, “How come?” “I know it’s because we speak -- like, we, we speak in Spanglish, to them. No one understand that.” “You’re right,” he says to 100:00me. (laughter) We speak in Spanglish, you know. Seems that sometimes if you talk, if there’s a person there that doesn’t speak any English, they’re Spanish, they don’t understand --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and if you -- and it’s an American, they don’t understand either, because -- (laughter) (inaudible) Spanish. And he was there, and was a priest there was. But it was regular house calls and demonstrations, and more [than demonstrations was?] meetings in different union halls in the area, shameful, really, old buildings. You could see that it was like a poor house.

BERNSTEIN: Such a decline, yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, poor house.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: Terrible.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, that’s hard to --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. But the second campaign was much more -- because Obama already had a record.

101:00

BERNSTEIN: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: And, uh -- we were, of course -- we were, of course -- I don’t know, we were somewhere --

BERNSTEIN: You --

RODRIGUEZ: -- south of Cleveland.

BERNSTEIN: You were in, uh -- right. You were in Ohio again.

RODRIGUEZ: And in Ohio, and then we went to Toledo. And that was really the, the house calls. And that was a great experience. Uh, they told me I’m going to talk about that today at four o’clock. I’m going to be with that group.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, excellent. OK.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Uh, that was -- I’m going to give you a preview of what I’m going to say. That was so great, uh, of what people can do when they act together, what people from different unions, people from different organizations, gays and lesbians --

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

102:00

RODRIGUEZ: -- uh, young and old, and we were having a party. You know, we were in south of Cleveland.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

RODRIGUEZ: There was one guy from the union, that he almost screwed everything, because he had lot of people -- he was, “Well, you come here.” Somebody had to stop him; I don’t know who. But I usually made lot of fun of people that are dogmatic, you know, the Hitlers --

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: -- and the Mussolinis and the Francos and all these people.

BERNSTEIN: Doesn’t win.

RODRIGUEZ: That’s the same problem I have with the leadership of the machinist union. Some vice presidents -- not all of them; I have great friends that were vice presidents. You know, the chairman was a good friend of mine. Peterpaul was a good friend of mine. Uh, Sal Iaccio, Aus Aster from California, Peterson from California. They were -- they were --

103:00

BERNSTEIN: But some of them you think are too didactic, have been?

RODRIGUEZ: It’s amazing what happens to people when they get power, or a little power. They begin to believe that -- and you have the, the whole elements of humankind, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: The manipulator, and the selfish (inaudible), the mellow fellow guy, you know, all these psychological profiles.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: And sometimes they’re terrible, but --

BERNSTEIN: So -- but that’s -- oh, back to the campaign in 2012.

RODRIGUEZ: Twelve.

BERNSTEIN: Was one of the bis-- big issues the safety net?

RODRIGUEZ: Th-that was a big -- like, w-when we get there, I believe that Obama was, like, ten points behind, and when we ended, he win Ohio by almost seven points. I personally --

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) That’s huge.

RODRIGUEZ: -- with some -- with some of the -- with some of the ladies, uh, my 104:00sisters, uh, I, I am knocking about easily a thousand houses to get the vote.

BERNSTEIN: That’s amazing.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I’m --

BERNSTEIN: And in what stretch of time? How long were you there?

RODRIGUEZ: Six weeks.

BERNSTEIN: Six weeks, a thousand houses.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. Um, I, um -- I’m dying to run into Senator Bur, uh, Brown, because I want to tell him that we saved his job. (laughter) Uh, the Koch brothers alone was like $10 million to the fe-- to the (inaudible), and other people, too.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah.

RODRIGUEZ: We lost a woman that was -- a Congresswoman that was dynamite, but, uh, uh, they restructured the districts. We see something that their money put in very well, the Tea Party people and all that.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

105:00

RODRIGUEZ: There’s one, one district in Ohio that, uh, was very solid Democratic, and they merge it with, uh, with Republican area, and with a lot of Republican area that geographically was almost across the lake in another part.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

RODRIGUEZ: Those people there have nothing in common with the people here, but --

BERNSTEIN: But they wanted to --

RODRIGUEZ: -- but, yeah, by adding those Republicans there, and they --

BERNSTEIN: They got a district (overlapping dialogue; inaudible).

RODRIGUEZ: They've got to get out.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. Gerrymandering, right?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: What did I forget to ask you?

RODRIGUEZ: What you forget to ask me? You didn’t ask me if I was a pain in the ass, but I told you that. (laughter) Uh, I don’t know. The -- I try to be 106:00happy. I try to trust with people. I love people. I love people. I really do. Uh --

BERNSTEIN: That has something --

RODRIGUEZ: -- uh --

BERNSTEIN: -- to do with how you organize --

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I --

BERNSTEIN: -- so effectively.

RODRIGUEZ: -- I love -- I love and respect the working class. Sometimes the working class is a pain in the neck, too. Remember what Karl Marx says. Karl Marx says that (inaudible) [want to do with the?] what are we going to do with revolution. Was it Marx? No, it probably was Lenin. He says we will wake up the working class at seven o’clock in the morning and put them to sleep at 7:00 p.m. at night. (laughter) Something like that.

BERNSTEIN: (laughter) Oh, boy.

RODRIGUEZ: I used to -- well, I used to --

BERNSTEIN: That’s very funny.

RODRIGUEZ: -- I used to have to have a nice – an Irish friend, typical Irish 107:00friend, the baloney type, you know, [from Ireland?]. And he used to say quotations, uh, of people, of these -- and he used to say, “A great Irishman wrote this and that.” And finally, he quote something that was not an Irishman. (laughter) Until then I learn it, so now I quote the great Spanish revolutionary Carlos Marx says -- (laughter)

BERNSTEIN: Adopt them. (laughter) Very nice. Well, thank you, sir.