Frank Waldner Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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TRACI DRUMMOND: Hello and welcome. This is Traci Drummond, archivist for the Labor Collections at Georgia State University Library. And I am at the Winpisinger Center in Hollywood, Maryland with Frank Waldner, who is going to be doing an oral history with us for the archives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Today is Sunday, December 4, 2011. Welcome, Frank. Thank you for agreeing to do the interview with us.

FRANK WALDNER: Well thank you, Traci. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here.

DRUMMOND: So we’re going to start with some questions about your family background. Can you talk to us a little bit about your parents, where they were from, and what kind of work they did?

WALDNER: My parents would have been born in Baltimore, Maryland. Uh, my father, uh, at the end of his uh, working career, was uh, an electrician in uh, 1:00Bethlehem Steel uh, shipyard. Uh, my mother uh, was a uh, production worker in a uh -- in a bakery.

DRUMMOND: And were they in unions? Were they organized?

WALDNER: Uh, my father was. Uh, I’m not certain uh, which union he was in, but uh, he was a very strong supporter of that union. I don’t believe my mother’s uh, bakery was organized. And when I say bakery, it was a large bakery that employed hundreds of people.

DRUMMOND: Do you know if your grandparents were in unions, or if there were any union history going back to former generations?

WALDNER: Uh, I -- my only recollection in that respect would be I had uh, a uh, maternal uh, uncle uh, who worked for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and uh, he was in a union. I’m not sure which one. He also, as I recall, thinking back 2:00to my childhood, a very strong supporter of -- of that union.

DRUMMOND: OK, so you had some union -- your family knew about unions.


DRUMMOND: And overall, would you say that it was -- they had a positive attitude toward unions, that they thought of them positively?

WALDNER: Very positive, because we were uh, at best, uh, lower middle class. (laugh) Some may say working class. And uh, they had a struggle, as a lot of folks in our neighborhood did. And uh, they saw the union as a very positive way to uh, be able to support a family, and uh -- and get by.

DRUMMOND: OK, and would you say that your community overall was a pro-union community?

WALDNER: Uh, yes. I lived in a neighborhood where most of the men uh, worked in a factory, some skilled, some unskilled. The women, for the -- for the most 3:00part, were stay-at-home.

DRUMMOND: And you said your parents were both from Baltimore, met there, fell in love, got married. And so there’s you. Do you have any brothers and sisters?

WALDNER: Uh, I had three sisters, uh, one now deceased, two still living, no brothers, so I was the spoiled one.

DRUMMOND: OK, well, fair enough. So what was it like growing up then as a kid in your neighborhood, with a dad in a union, upper working class, lower middleclass? Upper working class, it was not good?

WALDNER: There were no upper working.

DRUMMOND: Upper working. You know what I mean. Well, you remember middleclass. Perhaps, you were meaning the higher end of the working class.

WALDNER: Let’s say everybody was struggling.


DRUMMOND: So it was just a regular childhood, school, public school?

WALDNER: Uh, yes. I went to a parochial uh, grammar school, and a parochial high school, uh, which was uh -- which was a bit of a strain on my parents. They had to pay.

DRUMMOND: Right. And so in parochial high school, were you sort of prepped for the military, or for a career, or for -- and then about how old would you have been when you graduated?

WALDNER: Eighteen.

DRUMMOND: OK, eighteen. And were they preparing you for anything in particular, or did you go through school with an idea of what you wanted to do when you got out?

WALDNER: I had absolutely no idea, as most 18-year-olds. I was -- I was thinking about other things in the future. (laugh)


DRUMMOND: OK, and so what did you end up doing, once you graduated?

WALDNER: I uh, decided uh, eventually, to uh, join the Navy. I uh, saw all those posters, and a uh -- I liked what they said. And I saw great adventures ahead of me, and I joined the United States Navy.

DRUMMOND: OK, but before you graduated, were you -- did you work? I suspect for a family like yours, the way you’ve described it, you were probably expected to have a part-time job, if you wanted.

WALDNER: Uh, well, going back to my childhood, as a young -- a young kid, uh, you know 10-12-years old, I had a newspaper route, and uh, brought the uh, evening paper around to uh, subscribers, and uh, also the uh, weekend editions. And then uh, I suppose I was about uh, 14-15, I got a job in a supermarket, 6:00doing whatever the manager thought I should be doing.

DRUMMOND: And so to not interfere with your schoolwork, it was part-time?

WALDNER: It was part-time, uh, full-time Saturday.

DRUMMOND: And was that a nice jump in pay from being a paperboy?

WALDNER: Oh, yes, yes, uh, including -- including tips, if I carried the bags to the car.

DRUMMOND: OK, do you remember what you made working in the --

WALDNER: I - I don’t recall. It couldn’t have been much. I’m -- I would -- it would be just a wild guess. My gosh, we’re talking about the ‘40’s. It couldn’t have a dollar an hour. I would think it would be under a dollar an hour.

DRUMMOND: OK, but you were in a union at that point. That was your first union.

WALDNER: I was, as a -- even though -- even though I was a part-timer, uh, part-timers were expected to be in the union.


DRUMMOND: OK, and so what were your thoughts about unionism at that point?

WALDNER: Uh, strong.

DRUMMOND: But did you -- I mean it was only a part-time job. Did you take it maybe as seriously as --

WALDNER: Well, yeah. I can -- I can say, though, I was uh, an avid supporter of the union in terms of wanting to go to their meetings, what have you. But having listened to my dad over many years about how great unions were for the working man, it was uh -- uh, it was embedded in me that they were the good guys, and uh, we needed to band together, if we were going to improve our -- our lot in life and -- and progress.

DRUMMOND: So were you -- did you attend meetings as a part-time bagboy?

WALDNER: I can only remember going to one meeting, and that was a ratification meeting with a contract. And uh, it was interesting, because I can still remember the figure. Uhm, the part-timers, after all was said and done in this 8:00assembly hall, speeches were over, and the vote was taken, uh, all the part-timers got a five cent an hour increase.

DRUMMOND: Well, that was a lot. That was a lot back then.

WALDNER: We thought it was great! (laugh)

DRUMMOND: Yeah, yeah. So fast forward; you graduate and you finally decide the Navy.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: And talk a little bit about your experience in the Navy.

WALDNER: I went to boot camp in uh, Bainbridge, Maryland, which is still there, but it’s used for some other purpose. The Navy still owns it. Uhm, I then uhm, decided uh, that uh, I -- I think I’d like to work on airplanes, or around airplanes. That fascinated me, even though in my family, there was never any talk or interest in aviation. But uh, airlines were coming into their own then, 9:00and it was sort of the glamor industry, and I think still is, to a large extent. So uh, I uh, was sent to uh, airmen school in Ok -- uh, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and from there to uh, Memphis, Tennessee for advanced training, where I was uh, designated as uh, aircraft mechanic.

DRUMMOND: OK, so you were in the Navy, but you were learning to fly a plane.

WALDNER: Not fly, work on them.

DRUMMOND: Work on them, OK, work on them.

WALDNER: Yes, fix them so they could fly.

DRUMMOND: Fix them so they could fly, OK. And so you joined the Navy in ’52, and were in there for -- it was -- you were in there four years.

WALDNER: Four years.

DRUMMOND: And coming out of the Navy with the training then, this makes sense. 10:00If you learned to fix airplanes, and work on them so that they would run, what was your first job heading out?

WALDNER: Uh, working for an airline.

DRUMMOND: Working for an airline.

WALDNER: I uh --

DRUMMOND: As a mechanic.

WALDNER: Uh, yes. Uh, it was -- it was a natural gravitation, because uh, I liked what I was doing in the Navy. And uh, I didn’t particularly care to stay in the Navy, but I’d like to continue in that field. So I was uh, fortunate enough to get a job uh, at uh, the former uh, National Airport, which is now Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. with Capital Airlines. And this would have been in 1956.

DRUMMOND: So the Navy took you to Oklahoma, and then to Nashville.

WALDNER: To Memphis.

DRUMMOND: To Memphis. And then you, I guess, gravitated back toward home, and started looking for work.


WALDNER: Well, no. Uh, the schooling took part in my first year in the Navy, and then I served uh, on uh, among other things, three aircraft carriers, and also an air station. Uh, so yeah, my training was --

DRUMMOND: So you moved around a good bit before you --

WALDNER: Uh, yes. I -- I traveled extensively. The poster really worked out for me.

DRUMMOND: OK, good, good, good. But afterwards, you found your way -- or you found yourself back near home, which is how you ended up at Capital.

WALDNER: Well, I got uh -- I got married uh, the last year I was in the Navy, and uh, my wife worked for the Navy department. Uh, and uh, I was stationed in Anacostia Naval Air Station in D.C., adjacent to D.C., and uh, met her. Uh, we 12:00got married and uh, settled uh, in that area. And uh, that’s where uh, within short order after being discharged -- because when I got married, I was still in the Navy. So when I got out of the Navy that September of ’56, uh, in short order, I was able to land a job with Capital Airlines, right there at National Airport, Reagan, I should say now.

DRUMMOND: Ok, as an aircraft mechanic.

WALDNER: Uh, yes.

DRUMMOND: You hesitated a little.

WALDNER: Uh, only because I didn’t work on aircraft initially. I was working in the engine shop, because I didn’t have an -- uh, I wasn’t a licensed aircraft mechanic.

DRUMMOND: OK, so they put you in the engine shop first. And explain the difference, for folks who might not understand the difference there.


WALDNER: Well, in order -- in order to -- in order to certify an aircraft as air-worthy, it takes uh -- you must be a holder of an aircraft and power plant license issued by the federal government, and uh, I didn’t have those qualifications. So consequently, uh, although I worked on aircraft in the Navy, I didn’t have the necessary qualifications to work on the aircraft, themselves, at the terminal building, or out on the line, so I was assigned to work in one of the back shops, the engine shop. Uh, at that point, I decided to go to night school, uh, and did for uh, just under a year, to acquire my aircraft and power plant license, which then gave me the ability to finally work on aircraft.


DRUMMOND: OK. How long were you in the engine -- how long did your schooling take?

WALDNER: Uh, a little under a year.

DRUMMOND: OK, so it was a local program, like a night school program.

WALDNER: Night school, yes.

DRUMMOND: And then perhaps you did that with an eye to not only working on aircraft, but also increasing your wages.

WALDNER: Advancement, yes.

DRUMMOND: Advancement.

WALDNER: When I uh -- as soon as I got my A&P license -- and I believe it’s still true in the airline industry -- uh, licensed mechanics get a little bit more. You get uh -- oh, it may be -- I believe I immediately, uh, once I showed the management my certificate that I received from the FAA, Federal Aviation Administration, that I had acquired my licenses, I immediately got, I believe, a uh, 20 cent an hour increase, 10 cents for each license.


DRUMMOND: Oh, nice. So was Capital -- so you were there. You got your degree. You started making more. Had you already joined a union? Was Capital already unionized at that point?

WALDNER: Yes, it was.

DRUMMOND: And was it sort of a shop where everybody automatically joined the union, or it was, you know, certain people joined, and maybe other workers did not?

WALDNER: Uh, no. We had a -- we had a closed shop.

DRUMMOND: OK, you had a closed shop.


DRUMMOND: And so you had joined pretty much when you started even, when you were still in the engine room.

WALDNER: Uh, there was a probationary period of three months, and uh, the union would not (laugh) accept the applications until you had cleared your probationary period.

DRUMMOND: Oh, wow!

WALDNER: Uh, in fact -- as a matter of fact, I applied to go into the union immediately, because of my family background and orientation, (laugh) uh, and I 16:00was turned down, and I was told I had to wait the full 90 days (laugh) before I could join. So I didn’t -- I couldn’t join until uh, January 1 of ’57.

DRUMMOND: OK, and so it was a closed shop. Everybody was in the union. About how many people were in that shop, working in that shop?

WALDNER: Well, uh, when you say shop, or do you mean --

DRUMMOND: Well, for Capital.

WALDNER: Uh, I’d say uh, all told, there were about 1,500. That was -- that was their maintenance base for their entire system.

DRUMMOND: OK and that would have included mechanics. But what other kinds of jobs would that have included?

WALDNER: Well, up on the line at the terminal building, of course, you’d have your baggage handlers, your cleaners, your fuelers, different classifications that supported the operation, along with mechanics.

DRUMMOND: And they were all machinists. That was the only union.


WALDNER: Uh, that is correct. Capital Airlines would have been -- other than pilots and flight attendants, of course -- all IAM.

DRUMMOND: OK, and are you saying the pilots and flight attendants weren’t unionized at all, or that they belonged to different unions?

WALDNER: Oh, no. They were unionized, alpha and F -- uh, air -- the uh, flight attendants union, mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: So you started in ’56. In ’57, you joined the union. What was your early union activity like?

WALDNER: Uh, sparse, initially. I wasn’t uh, heavily involved. I was -- I was interested enough to start going to meetings uh, and uh, find out what was going on. I mean you always had the rumor mill in the plant, but you had to go to the union meetings to find out what’s -- what’s really going on.


DRUMMOND: Were members really active in the union at that point? Did you find that membership -- that they were active, that they attended meetings regularly, were they gung-ho… or had they organized just because it was in place, and it was something they were expected to do? What was the culture? What was the culture?

WALDNER: Uh, I would have to say uh, disappointing, to me. I -- I was somewhat surprised when I first went to a union meeting, and there were -- I think the uh, executive board at the front of the hall outnumbered the attendees. Uh, it was very, uh, very poor. And uh, there wasn’t a great change in my years working for that airline, quite frankly, other than when you got down to contract time. Then you had to get there early to get a seat. But once the 19:00issues were resolved, you were back to the hardcore. And uh, pretty that’s well -- the way -- the way it was. It wasn’t that guys weren’t interested in having a strong union. They just wanted somebody else to do it.

DRUMMOND: OK, that’s an interesting way to put it, but perhaps, still holds true in many places. How long did it take for you to get a position in the union?

WALDNER: I was uh -- I was going to meetings periodically, as I said earlier, until uhm, I became shop steward, uh, I believe in 1960. And I uh, then was expected and did go regularly to uh, union meetings, uh, representing my -- my 20:00crew, if you will. And uh --

DRUMMOND: And when you were elected shop steward, when you went, did you -- would you have run a ticket with a group of people, or is that more of an individual kind of --

WALDNER: No, it was solo. It was uh, in uh -- it was just a solo position. And uh, generally speaking -- and I think it’s probably still true -- the guys, uh, and gals, uh, know who stays active, or seems to be going to union meetings, and is in the know on what’s going on, and they uh -- they tend to wind up as the shop stewards. And that’s what happened to me. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: OK, so were you sort of coerced into running, or did somebody approach you and say hey, I think that’s a great idea? This is something I really feel 21:00like I should be giving back to my -- like what was your, I guess, attitude toward running?

WALDNER: Uh, my recollection is that uh, someone asked me, yeah, that uh, I didn’t really give it much thought. Uh, someone asked me uh, why don’t you run, Frank. You’re always down there, uh, you know, uh, finding out what’s going on and telling us, so why not be shop steward?

DRUMMOND: As shop steward, you handled a lot of the grievances that the -- or when workers had an issue, they would bring them to you.

WALDNER: Uh, yes. If they had a -- if they had an issue of complaint, concern, uh, with the for – with – with any foreman, or management personnel, they were expected to uh, let me know. And we quite literally had what was called a grievance form that they would fill out, and I’d countersign, and I’d approach the foreman or manager, and uh, present it to them with the person’s 22:00uh, complaint.

DRUMMOND: Can you recall some of the typical grievances, or even some of, perhaps, the atypical grievances, or complaints, or issues, or concerns that you got at the time?


WALDNER: Well, for the most part, (laugh) it would be where uh -- where a foreman would uh, call somebody into his office, and inform the -- the person that he was going to be disciplined for a particular infraction, whether it was sloppy work, absenteeism, you name it, and then uh, perhaps give the guy a day off, two or three days off. And uh, he would then come to me and, if you will 23:00appeal it through the grievance procedure that that’s not fair, and I want a hearing.

DRUMMOND: So you were shop steward. Did this sort of encourage you to look at maybe moving up in terms of being a representative of your Local? Did you -- Was it satisfying for you to be a shop steward?

WALDNER: Uh, yes, I -- but it -- it didn’t encourage me to look further. I uh -- I did my best, and uh, had -- really had no thought about seeking higher office. I was quite satisfied with -- I was quite satisfied with working as a 24:00mechanic, and as -- as the need arose, be a shop steward.

DRUMMOND: However --

WALDNER: However.

DRUMMOND: -- despite -- despite not having bigger goals, what happened in 1963?

WALDNER: Well, (laugh) to my surprise, I was uh -- I was uh, at work. And uh, I should preface it by saying I uh -- in going to the union meetings on a more and more regular basis, I -- I became uh, pretty friendly with the local president. We seemed to just hit it off.

DRUMMOND: Do you remember his name?

WALDNER: Uh, yes, uh, R.W. Thomas, uh, Richard, but we called him R.W.

DRUMMOND: And I don’t think we’ve said this. Let me interject for a second. 25:00This was Local Lodge 1759 in Alexandria.

WALDNER: Correct.

DRUMMOND: OK and I’m sorry. I forgot to mention that earlier in the interview. So Mr. Thomas?

WALDNER: Mr. Thomas was the president. And uh, I was up on my work stand, working on an engine, and he said, “Frank, can I speak to you for a moment?” came down off the stand. And he said, “You know we’re uh -- I’m getting my team together.” We ran -- the officers had to run annually in those days, so uh, he said, “I’d like to put you uh, on my slate uh, for vice-president.” And I was stunned. I had no idea, in my mind, of seeking any office. I didn’t ask anybody about it, certainly not him, but he came to me. So uh, I uh, agreed. I was uh, of course, very -- I was thrilled. And uh –


DRUMMOND: But what did you think of it? What did you think of being – you were thrilled, but was it just because you were flattered, or did you really think oh, this is some – you know I can make a difference? I can help my fellow members.

WALDNER: To be honest, I was probably more thrilled than anything, and then secondarily, uh, that I’d uh–I’d become part of the inner circle. I’d be part of the executive board, the guys who made the decisions, the guys who ran the union. And uh, yeah, it was thrilling.

DRUMMOND: Ok. Ok, excellent.

WALDNER: I’m getting carried away.

DRUMMOND: No, no, no, please get carried away. So you ran for vice-president with Mr. Thomas.

WALDNER: Our – our slate, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Your slate.

WALDNER: Uh huh.

DRUMMOND: And you were elected.


DRUMMOND: And then how did you feel about it once you were elected?

WALDNER: Even more thrilled. (laugh)


DRUMMOND: And that position brought along with it also being chairman of the education committee.

WALDNER: Chairman of one. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: A chairman of one?

WALDNER: Chairman of one, yeah. Uh, I’ll – I’ll use the term Tommy. He’s now deceased, but always was a good friend. Tommy asked me if I would uh, like to be shop steward instructor, and uh, I uh, agreed. He said, “Well, the international – which was then on Connecticut Avenue – is running a program on uh, training shop steward instructors, and the Local will pick up your lost time, if you will go over and spend a week with -- with a – on a class, and uh, take the training. And then I’d like you to run a shop steward’s training program for our Local.” So that, all of a sudden, became part of 28:00being vice-president. I was also shop steward instructor.

DRUMMOND: Sometimes you hear that the vice-president is really more of a wait around and see what needs to be done position, that the president’s running things, and the vice-president maybe has not so clearly defined duties. Did you have clearly defined duties in your job? And I’m talking vice-presidents in general, not specifically for the union.

WALDNER: That – that was the only one, really. Uh, of course, attend – attend meetings, attend executive board meetings, but primarily, uh, the shop – shop steward instruction uh, classes.

DRUMMOND: How many of those would you teach? Were you teaching as vice-president?

WALDNER: Uhm, probably every other month, uh, because we’d have a – we’d 29:00have a turnover of stewards. Uh, guys would stop uh, wanting to be one, or transferred to a different department, and we’d have -– we’d have -– we’d have a new shop steward. It was an ongoing process. And we’d hold the –- uh, we’d hold the training down at the union hall. But -– but my training, of course, started at the international, because that’s where I learned the – the rudiments of teaching, somewhat. I wasn’t all that great, but I knew more than I knew before.

DRUMMOND: I always say with teaching is that I know more than the people I’m teaching. And that’s how it starts, and then you get better over time.


DRUMMOND: I mean did you feel like that was the case, that you did it, and it was rough, and then you sort of understood how to talk to your constituents -–

WALDNER: I got –- yes.

DRUMMOND: -- and how to work with them, and what they needed to know?

WALDNER: I was scared to death the first time I held a group in front of me, because these were, for the most part -– I was a young guy. These are older than me. They had been around.


DRUMMOND: So you were still in your mid 20’s, your early --

WALDNER: Uh, I would have been –- uh, yes, uh, mid 20’s, uh huh. So uh, I’m looking out this audience of guys who have been around a long time, and here I am, telling them how to be a job steward, and I hadn’t been one that long, myself. But uh, I – uh, I got better at it, and to a point where uh, I was extremely comfortable doing it.

DRUMMOND: And in 1967, perhaps you were so good at doing what you were doing that you were nominated.

WALDNER: Uh, that’s when I was –- uh, well, I wouldn’t have been –- uh, let me think. Uh, you’re going to have –- yeah, can you let me think?

DRUMMOND: OK, so 1967, you were nominated and elected by District 141 to be vice-president east. So tell me first, District 141, what ground did that cover, 31:00the entire district? What are we -- How many states are we talking?

WALDNER: Uh, one -- 141 was nationwide, in fact, all the way out, up to and including Hawaii, uh, and uh, primarily United Airlines, uh, but uh --

DRUMMOND: So the district was broken down by airline, or by type of work, as opposed to by region.

WALDNER: Uh, no. The -- the --

DRUMMOND: The district.

WALDNER: The district encompasses uh, X number of local lodges, from Hawaii to Baltimore, all over the country. They had uhm -- I’m just going to guess now -- 50 locals.

DRUMMOND: OK, across the United States.

WALDNER: Across the United States, and that would be District 141. At the time, 32:00I think we had, within the IAM, five or six districts, and each one would have a component of local lodges they were responsible for. Ours was primarily United.

DRUMMOND: OK, and so you were vice-president east, and then there was someone else who had been elected as vice-president west.

WALDNER: That is correct.

DRUMMOND: OK and do you remember who that was?

WALDNER: I don’t.

DRUMMOND: So what territory did vice-president east cover?

WALDNER: Uh, it encompassed uh, Omaha, Nebraska east, and then of course, the vice-president west was west of Omaha. So I had --

DRUMMOND: And you had to -- Did this, for the first time, involve a lot of travel?

WALDNER: Oh, yes, the first time in my life that I really uh, got involved in 33:00extensive travel. And that’s where my uh -- my initial training as a shop steward instructor came in hand, because as vice-president east, I was assigned by the president of the district to do the uh -- virtually the same thing. I would go from station to station under the jurisdiction of 141, and instruct their shop stewards and officers as to their responsibilities and duties, and how it all tied in with our district, and conversely, what our district did to provide services for them.

DRUMMOND: How did that impact, may I ask, at this point, because you got married when you were still in the Navy.


DRUMMOND: And by this time, I assume you have a couple of kids, at least.

WALDNER: I had two at that time.


DRUMMOND: How did this impact your home life? I suspect it was difficult for your family, and for you.

WALDNER: Uh, it was -- it was tough on the wife, in particular, uh, always was, all the years I was active in the IAM. I think every man uh, will say that. Maybe the women representatives will now say that for their -- for their husbands. But yes, for the first time in our married life, I would be gone for days on end, as I would make my rounds to these various stations, so it was tough. And the -- and the children were small, so she had her hands full. They would have been -- uh, well, my son was born in -- uh, in -- uh, let me see -- ’57, and my daughter in ’58, so uh, she had her hands full.


DRUMMOND: Yeah, they were getting on about eight or nine at that point, yeah.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: But then you were not in that position for very long, because in August of 1967, just what, four or five months later, you became assistant general chairman for District 141.


DRUMMOND: And that was the first --

WALDNER: That would -- that would be a full-time position.

DRUMMOND: Oh, and what we didn’t say before --

WALDNER: Yes, what we didn’t say before was when I was vice-president east, I was still -- I was wearing three hats. I was uh, still remaining president of the Local. I was still a mechanic, when I wasn’t doing union functions. And uh, I sound like Perry now, who was the third. Oops! (laugh)

DRUMMOND: You are chairman of the education committee.


WALDNER: Oops! (laugh)

DRUMMOND: So at that point, you were the president. You were chairman of the education committee.


DRUMMOND: And you were vice-president east for District 141.

WALDNER: Yes, and if I wanted to go on -- if the district asked me to go on business, uh, I had to go to the -- uh, to the management -- it was not a problem, but it was a formality -- advise them that I won’t be here for these dates. I’m going on 141 business, and I’ll be back on such-and-such, and open up my toolbox again, until my next assignment. So that’s the difference. Once I became general chairman, uh, just like a business representative, it was full-time.

DRUMMOND: It was full-time.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: It was one job, and there was no more sort of shop work for you at that point. It was all --


DRUMMOND: It was all administrative after that.

WALDNER: Uh, administrative, and lots of travel.

DRUMMOND: And lots and lots of travel.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.


DRUMMOND: Talk a little bit about that job, and the additional responsibilities you gained as assistant general chairman.

WALDNER: Uh, well, what happens --

DRUMMOND: Because this is District 141, so it was all over the United States, not just part of it.

WALDNER: Uh, that’s correct. Uh, I was given uh, essentially -- uh, the -- the -- uh, the fellow I -- I replaced the fellow’s uh, territory who became uh, the president of district. He -- he had essentially the east coast of the United States. He had uh, from Buffalo, New York to Miami, Florida, and everything in between, including LaGuardia, JFK, Newark, Baltimore, Washington, you name it, all up and down the east coast. So I had his territory, and I also had uh, 38:00responsibility to uh, place that agreement for the members, but also to negotiate uh, several contracts for what we call fixed base operators. These would -- one would be a fueling company, Allied Aviation. The other was Page Airways. And I uh, negotiated both of those contracts at that -- during that tenure. So I was -- uh, I was busy.

DRUMMOND: And, That -– It seems, I commented earlier. It seems that you had your jobs for three years at a time, but in 1970, in August, you were appointed by who?

WALDNER: By uh, President uh, William W. Winpisinger.


DRUMMOND: To what position?

WALDNER: I would have uh, been the uh, assistant -- become the assistant airline coordinator.

DRUMMOND: Under John Peterpaul.

WALDNER: Under Vice-President John Peterpaul.

DRUMMOND: Talk a little bit --

WALDNER: I’m sorry, I misspoke, under airline coordinator John Peterpaul.

DRUMMOND: And so going from being assistant general chairman into being the assistant airline coordinator, how did your duties change at that point?

WALDNER: Well, for one thing, uh, my travel sure as hell dropped off, (laugh) uh, because I worked at the old machinist building on Connecticut Avenue, and uh, lived about 12 miles away, I suppose. Uh, so it was -- uh, it was -- it was 40:00a drastic change for me. Uh, it was a -- it was an office environment. It was an administrative role, which I had never had before. I had administrative, to an extent, but it was mostly keep on the move, one-on-one, lots of uh, dealings with different people, different problems, issues. Uh, when I went to headquarters, it was uh, a slower pace. Uh, I would be given assignments such as to uh, look over a proposed contract that a district rep had sent in for review by the airline coordinator’s office, to see if it was uh, adequate to be 41:00agreed to. Uh, the airline coordinator would bring it over to my office and say Frank, how about looking this over, compared to their old contract, (laugh) see if it matches up and so forth, uhm, modest administrative functions.

DRUMMOND: Were you relieved by the slower pace?

WALDNER: I missed the action.

DRUMMOND: I could tell by when you were saying that.

WALDNER: It was -- uh, it was a difficult -- not difficult, but it was -- uh, it was a transaction -- or not transaction.

DRUMMOND: Less of an adrenaline rush.

WALDNER: It wasn’t -- it wasn’t uh, as personal, uh, interpersonal with -- I wasn’t dealing with lots of folks. I was dealing with a handful of people in an administrative function, and uh, in an office. And I -- I missed -- I missed 42:00being on the road, to -- uh, to be truthful with you, initially.

DRUMMOND: Initially.

WALDNER: Uh, but uh, as time went on, I realized the benefits of uh, being home almost every night, and being with the kids, and uh, being able to participate more and more in uh, their soccer games, or baseball, and the normal kind of existence, you might say, as oppose to when I was a general chairman, and really on the road quite a bit. Uhm, but uh, as far as the -- the job itself, again, the word says it. I was the assistant. And whatever the airline coordinator felt was uh, something that didn’t need his particular attention, wasn’t all that 43:00important, the assistant could handle it.

DRUMMOND: And then in 1972, you actually became the airline coordinator.

WALDNER: Uh, correct.

DRUMMOND: With no assistant.

WALDNER: No assistant. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: With no assistant. And what was that like, to go up and not have anyone to help you out?

WALDNER: Uh, tough. (laugh)


WALDNER: Yeah. Uh, I -- uh, fortunately, I had uh, John Peterpaul, who had been the airline coordinator ahead of me. I -- uh, I had him to rely on, because he was just down the hall. Even though uh, he was now the general vice-president in charge of transportation, uh, I could readily go down and say John, what do you 44:00think about this? Uh, we had uh, that kind of relationship, and uh, I needed all the help I could get. And uh, so uh, it was -- it was a difficult transition, and it -- and it was more challenging, because of the fact that I didn’t have anybody to say hey, Frank, how about looking this over, (laugh) and get back to me later with what you think. I had to make the decision on my own, or oftentimes, of course, asked John for his opinion.

DRUMMOND: And the airline coordinator position was part of transportation within the union.


DRUMMOND: So what were some of the goals when you were airline coordinator? What were some of the -- Do you remember some of the big goals?

WALDNER: Uh, the primary goal would -- would have been to uh, obviously, have 45:00the best possible wages, hours, and working conditions for the people we represented, and that meant uh, to -- to the best of our ability, to keep those contract benefits improving uh, on and on. Uh, you never reach too good. The next time negotiations rolls around, you want to do better. The uh, airline districts were uh, required to send in to the airline coordinator’s office their proposals that they were going to submit initially to the carrier, the airline. And uh, it was my responsibility, as airline coordinator, to look those over, to make sure that they conformed uh, for the most part, with what we were trying to achieve.


DRUMMOND: And you got them from all over, Locals all over the United States.

WALDNER: No, from the districts.

DRUMMOND: The districts.

WALDNER: The districts -- yeah. The Locals have no responsibility to the airlines to negotiate anything.

DRUMMOND: -- Okay, It’s all done at the district levels.

WALDNER: -- Only the districts negotiate on behalf of the Locals, their affiliated Locals

DRUMMOND: And at this point, you had been in the union about 20-some-odd years.

WALDNER: [Inaudible]

DRUMMOND: No, 15 years, 15 years.

WALDNER: Yeah, yeah.

DRUMMOND: Had labor changed a lot from the time you got started to this point?

WALDNER: It was --

DRUMMOND: And maybe you see it differently, right, as you rise through the ranks. And the way you think about it is different, going from shop steward, because in the position of airline coordinator, I would think you would be much 47:00more aware of politics, the MNPL, the work they were doing, and then really understanding negotiations at this very high end level, and how it impacts the international. So can you speak a little bit to, I guess, what you had learned at that point, how the way you thought about the work changed, maybe, how attitudes toward labor in general changed, and how you always were sort of -- perhaps, keeping that in mind, that was always informing the decisions you were making? And maybe I’m off base with that. Maybe that wasn’t -- or maybe it came so gradually and naturally, you maybe didn’t realize it. But is there anything you can kind of say about --

WALDNER: Well, we had a -- we had a period of time. And one thing that jumps out 48:00at me is the -- uh, during the uh, Nixon administration, uh, with his wage and price controls that he put on -- uh, on the unions, that had a stifling effect on our ability to uh, provide -- uh, improve benefits for our members. Uhm, we certainly had a uh, more hostile environment by the -- uh, by the administration uh, during much of that time, against the labor unions, in general. Uh, I was removed, of course, from the day-to-day activity on the airport, to a large extent. Uh, it’s -- that’s a very difficult question. Uh, and like you said earlier, it was -- maybe it was such -- such a gradual evolution that it didn’t jump out and grab you. It had to be a big event like Nixon clamping on 49:00wage and price control on uh, all union contracts, that sort of thing, uh, but I’d -- I’d have to give it more thought.

DRUMMOND: OK, and maybe we could come back to that at some point, if you think of it and have any recollections. But that was not where you ended your career as a machinist, because from ’74 to ’94, you were the administrative assistant to the transportation general vice-president.

WALDNER: Mm hmm, yes.

DRUMMOND: If the dates are right and all that, OK. Tell me about going from airline coordinator, to administrative assistant, to transportation. How did the roles change --

WALDNER: Uh, the roles changed --

DRUMMOND: -- or the work, the job change.

WALDNER: OK, whereas when I was the airline coordinator, I was uh, already set 50:00in my primary responsibilities, but now, I was also uh, expected and uh -- to as -- to handle much of the workload for my boss, let’s say, uh, paper -- uh, a lot of paperwork involved, uh, letters uh, that had to be reviewed and answered, a lot of correspondence.

DRUMMOND: But then did that also sort of take on the responsibility of learning more, because you’d always worked in the airline industry and aviation. Did that take on learning more about trucking, and railroads, and having to know more about those areas?

WALDNER: Uh, somewhat, but uh, not to a great extent. The -- uh, the trucking industry, and uh, the railroads, although they fell under Vice-President 51:00Peterpaul, uh, I really had uh, very little to do with the two. Now obviously, uh, we all worked in the same office environment. Uh, I would occasionally go to uh, their conventions, but as far as day-to-day activities, very little. They pretty well uh, ran their own show, reported directly uh, to John Peterpaul. So my administrate -- my a -- my role was primarily, uh, even though I was no longer airline coordinator, I would say primarily still airline related, because that was still our big segment by far over the other two, uh, and that’s where 52:00he had the greatest challenges uh, to me.

DRUMMOND: And what were some of those challenges?

WALDNER: (laugh) Well, uh, primarily, of course, negotiations. When you have a -- when you have an industry that large, with so many airlines, and all the issues and problems that go with it, uh, every day is Monday. And uh, it -- uh, between phone calls, and telegrams, and uh, people looking for some kind of assistance, guidance, you name it, uh, our office was a beehive of activity. Uh, it’s hard to really pinpoint one thing. It -- it -- I think back and uh, no -- 53:00no one -- every day was different. There were no two consecutive days alike. Uh, that’s one of the things I loved about the job. I’d roll out of the bed in the morning and go to work. I didn’t know what I was going to confront when I walked in the office. And when I left the office, I didn’t know what I might be doing the next morning. It was that -- it was -- that was the dynamic of the transportation department, and in particular, working, uh, or dealing with issues involving airlines.

DRUMMOND: So going from ’74 to ’94, so that would have been from the Nixon administration through Clinton, the beginning of Clinton’s administration. Certainly, there were a lot of changes in attitudes toward labor during that 54:00time. Can you recall any particular events that affected your work?

WALDNER: Well, I had mentioned earlier the Nixon uh, clamp down, or attempted clamp down. Oh, I must say that uh, through the efforts of our union, along with the AFL-CIO, uh, we were able to somewhat soften the blow as time went on. I think uh, he got the message that we weren’t going to just roll over. And uh, we made -- uh, we continued to make uh, advances, although somewhat modest compared to previous. We were not “frozen”. We -- we kept moving uh, ever so slight, like an -- like an iceberg. And uh, of course, we were delighted when he left office, and things then did uh, start to improve once again.

DRUMMOND: Improved under Ford?


WALDNER: That would have been Ford.

DRUMMOND: OK, so things did improve under Ford.

WALDNER: Uh, yes, they did. He was not pro-union, uh, but I would certainly say he was understanding. He was a moderate.

DRUMMOND: And his Secretary of Labor was W.J. Usery, Bill Usery. Bill Usery was President Ford’s Secretary of -- he had been an assistant to Nixon, but –-

WALDNER: Yeah, Dunlop was Nixon’s. In fact, one of my photographs is signing the National Labor Agreement on behalf of the IAM, with John Dunlop at the table with me.

DRUMMOND: But do you think that Bill Usery might have had something to do with Ford not being as -– because W.J. Usery, Bill Usery started as a machinist.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.

DRUMMOND: And do you think he might have, not so much softened the blow, but tempered?


WALDNER: I –- I really don’t –- I really don’t know, but I had met Ford on a number of occasions uhm, at Washington functions, uh, including uh, union conventions and so forth in D.C., and he always struck me as a –- uhm, as a moderate republican, not out to cut the juggler vein, uh, somebody you could work with. Uh, Nixon was just –- uh, you know, he’d soon –- well, I –- I don’t want to –- (laugh) I get riled up even thinking about the guy. But uh, I –- I think Ford was a much more fair-minded man. I’m not saying he was a union supporter, but he was somebody, I think, that uh, wanted everyone to prosper.

DRUMMOND: And you started your work as administrative assistant to 57:00transportation under John Peterpaul?


DRUMMOND: And then Dan [Blue?]?

WALDNER: Uh, yeah. Dan -– uh, let me think now. Uhm, Winpisinger –- uh, yeah, Winpisinger was the uh --

DRUMMOND: This is Traci Drummond at the Winpisinger Center. This is Part 2 of the interview with Frank Waldner from Local Lodge 1759. Today is Monday, December 5, 2011. And we left off the last part of the interview talking about his work as administrative assistant to the transportation general vice-president, and we left off where he had talked about working under William Sherry. Can you talk a little bit about what your last years leading up to 58:00retirement were like under Mr. Sherry?

WALDNER: Uh, well, I continued uh, the -- the customary uh, duties that uh, went with my position at headquarters. Uhm, Bill Sherry, of course, uh, had his -- as we all do -- his own style, if you will, and -- but we got along well. Uh, I had a -- it was a relatively short time that I was uh, working with him, but uh, at that particular time, uh, is uh, when I could -- uh, you could see that uh, our transportation department, and the airlines in particular, was facing uh, growing unrest, and rump unions trying to make some erodes among our membership. And uh, we were uh, of course, concerned with what seemed to me -- uh, I can 59:00only speak my -- my own opinion in this regard -- it was becoming a classification warfare. Today, we talk about social class warfare. Well, in some respects, we were having that in the airline industry where uh, those uh, less skilled then mechanics had gradually gotten into positions of leadership, uh, because they were eager to advance themselves financially and otherwise. While the maintenance groups, I felt, on the -- uh, for the most part -- and this seemed to be true across all the airlines -- uh, the mechanics had grown uh, somewhat complacent, and uh, almost uh, let Charlie do it attitude. And into 60:00that breach stepped uh, ramp service personnel, baggage handlers, fuelers and so forth, and it was not uh, unusual to find major local lodges in the air transport that were dominated by other than mechanics, including the top leadership positions. Uh, so they were -- they were in the position, finally, in their own minds to push their agenda. Uh, the mechanics were still insistent on them staying well ahead of the “non-skilled”, but the --

DRUMMOND: In terms of pay.

WALDNER: In terms of pay and benefits. Uh, they felt they were more deserving because of their background, their training and so forth, but uh, they had -- uh, they had given up, to a large extent, the positions that enabled them to get those greater benefits over the years than the non-skilled personnel. So the 61:00playing field was starting to level off somewhat, and the mechanics were taking umbrage at that. Uh, but uh, I -- uh, I felt strongly then, as I do now, that uh, it’s hard to find fault with somebody trying to advance themselves economically. And uh, if a mechanic doesn’t want to take the time and trouble to go to the union hall, become involved, run for office, and all that goes with it, put in the extra time that the non-skilled personnel were willing to do, eventually, uh, we -- we saw what happened.

DRUMMOND: How did the mechanics react to that?

WALDNER: The reaction of them was what we need is our own union, and that -- that was -- that started to permeate through the mechanical ranks, that well, the problem is that we’re not getting as much as we used to. We’re -- 62:00we’re -- the gap is slowly but surely closing and we certainly are more deserving of that, as we always were. Uh, and uh, they had the -- and this goes back long before what I’m discussing. There have always been uh, rump organizations around, not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, who were ready and eager to jump in the breach if it ever opened, and grab hold of the mechanics, the so-called skilled crafts. And uh, AMFA, Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association was the ringleader in that effort. Uh, they had been a thorn in their side, even back in the days of Capital Airlines, when I was working as a mechanic. Uh, they 63:00were on the scene to uh, a very minor extent, but they were on the scene uh, back in the -- uh, in the ‘60’s uh, prior to and following the strike on uh, Capital Airlines. Uh, they were nosing around, trying to get the mechanics to form their own union, and break us away from the IAM. Then they sort of uh, fell by the wayside for a while, but like a bad penny, they came back. The second time they came back, the mechanics, to a large extent, had given up leadership positions and roles within their Locals, so all of a sudden, you had a situation where uh, the mechanics still wanted what they were accustomed to, but the non-skilled were in a position to get their larger share of the pie. So that -- 64:00uh, and when that occurred, and it did, the gap did uh, close somewhat, uh, the mechanics, uh, not all, of course, but a sizable number started to uh, give a ready ear to that kind of theory that it’s about time that the true craftsmen had their own union, and this AMFA sounds a might -- might like it might have the right answer.

DRUMMOND: So did you see a lot of folks leaving membership with the machinists to join AMFA? Were they able to really, I guess, gain speed with the other union, and really recruit a lot of the mechanics from the machinists to their organization?

WALDNER: Uh, no. They couldn’t. Uh, if you worked -- uh, it’s still the case, I’m sure. Uh, in order to work under uh, IAM airline agreement, uh, you 65:00have to belong to the machinist union. That’s a condition of employment. Now, if you want to, I suppose, on the side, join some other non-AFL-CIO rump group, uh, I guess that’s your privilege, but that -- that really never was an issue.

DRUMMOND: So there was really more bark than bite behind the machinists, the trained mechanics who --

WALDNER: They weren’t -- they weren’t joining the AMFA, which was -- which was the principle problem, but uh, they were -- uh, they were more and more vocal in their support of the idea of having that union come in and overthrow the IAM as far as their representation was concerned. Uh, and to make matters 66:00worse, you have the non-skilled who are now in leadership roles, saying you know what, we really don’t need those guys. If they want their own independent union, God bless them. That means we’ll be in a position to get even a better deal for ourselves, and let the mechanics fend for themselves. So there was real, as a class -- classification warfare going on.

DRUMMOND: What became of that? I mean did they eventually --

WALDNER: We had -- we had raids. We had to defend ourselves at United Airlines on AMFA raid. We had to defend ourselves on Northwest Airlines uh, against an IAM raid. I mean this was a full scale assault by them, and we had to put on a full scale defense.

DRUMMOND: What were the years or an approximate date range for that?


WALDNER: Uh, probably late ‘80’s. Uh, you’d have to check the records uh, for that.

DRUMMOND: But full scale raids, what kind of --

WALDNER: Uh, early ‘90’s, early ‘90’s, I’m thinking.

DRUMMOND: What kind of tactics were they using?

WALDNER: Uh, the tactics would have been plain and simple. It’s about time the truly skilled crafts got their just due, and not be dragged down by these unskilled, untrained other personnel that you’re compelled to bargain with as a group.

DRUMMOND: How did the machinists counter that to sort of keep harmony in the Locals?


WALDNER: Uh, in unity, there is strength. That uh, over the years, it was shown -- uh, well first of all, where the AMFA did have exclusive bargaining rights on several smaller regional carriers, we could show uh, clearly, by uh, displaying their contra -- their existing contracts that they fell short, considerably short of what we had uh, with respect to uh, the mechanics under our contracts. So they were woefully behind, uh, but their only -- uh, their continuing claim was well, just give us a chance. We haven’t been around as long as the IAM, and if we could ever break away from the non-skilled, we could really advance rapidly, and go beyond where you are now.

DRUMMOND: Did the groups sort of come to an understanding, or a détente. I mean 69:00still today, could you say there’s still some animosity between the classifications, or have they, perhaps with dwindling union power, they’ve decided to close ranks and really work together, and stick together?

WALDNER: I can’t speak to today. Uh, I can only say that uh, early on when I came in the industry, uh, that never seemed to be an issue. Uh, people seemed to accept the classifications they were hard into and worked in. But again, I think part of the reason was uh, for all practical purposes, as far as administering and negotiating contracts, in effect, it was a mechanic’s union when I first started in, and for a considerable time. And it was a slow but sure evolution of 70:00-- uh, of the -- uh, we called them non-skilled, if you will, uh, gradually becoming, uh, or taking over leadership roles in many of the local Lodges. Uh, we get back to complacency again, I suppose.

DRUMMOND: And you talked earlier to me about complacency after the ’66 strike, but then let’s revisit the 1958 strike against Capital. And you would have been in the --

WALDNER: Uh, I -- In 1968 -- uh, yeah, 1968 strike --


WALDNER: Uh, no, ’58, yeah, yeah. You threw me, OK. (laugh)



DRUMMOND: We’re going way back with this one.


WALDNER: In ’58, uh, I was a mechanic uh, in the engine shop, and uh, I was uh, also uh, strike captain. Uh, when you go on strike, you have to have a breakdown of bureau -- you have to form a bureaucracy, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week operation. And I would have been one of many strike -- so-called strike captains where I would have had uh, 15 or 20 fellas under me that I would have to uh, make sure they were aware of what uh, pick of duty, the uh, assignment they had for -- uh, for each week. And uh, if they didn’t show up, find out why, give them an extra prod, and try to get them on the picket line when they were supposed to be. And so I spent considerable time uh, at the union hall during that strike.


DRUMMOND: Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy sort of being able to break out from the day-to-day?

WALDNER: Well, enjoyable is -- uh, let’s say it -- it was a --

DRUMMOND: Was it satisfactory?

WALDNER: It was. It was. I -- uh, I didn’t get paid. I was -- I was like everyone else. I wasn’t getting paid my wages. Many of them went out. No criticism, because you had uh, families to support. I had two small children, myself. But I uh, didn’t get a -- I didn’t go out and get a job. Instead, I was able to uh, work closely with what was going on down at strike headquarters, which was our Local hall, and pretty much was there almost every day throughout the strike. Uh, now we did get uh, a strike -- a so-called strike benefit at 73:00that time.

DRUMMOND: From the union.

WALDNER: From the union of $10 a week, and uh, that didn’t go too far, even in 1958, (laugh) but uh, it helped. It helped. I don’t think -- uh, I don’t believe at the time, we had a formal strike benefit program as we now have. Uh, it was sort of an informal uh, arrangement whereby the executive council of the IAM could decide to -- could decide uh, on its merit who really needed some -- some extra help during a critical time. And uh, so after -- I forget. They may have used a criteria of you had to be out two weeks, or three weeks, whatever it might have been. We started getting $10 a week each, provided you performed your 74:00strike assignments.

DRUMMOND: How long did that strike last?

WALDNER: Forty one days.

DRUMMOND: Forty one days. And you went on strike for benefits, wages, the typical stuff.

WALDNER: I’ll tell you our strike, uh, we were going on -- essentially, most guys, including myself, were going on it for extra money. Uh, the wages were -- uh, were -- well uh, compared to other skilled occupations outside the airline industry, uh, auto mechanic uh, being one of them, if you will, we felt that we were underpaid for our skills, and training, and education we had to put into getting our licenses and so forth, and uh, money was the number one objective. I 75:00can still remember -- as -- it sounds ridiculous today, but it was, it was serious. Our -- uh, our buttons and logos said uh, 25 cents or strike. That was our theme, 25 cents or strike.

DRUMMOND: And you wanted an extra 25 cents an hour.

WALDNER: Now we were -- we were talking about 25 cents an hour. Now when that 41 days ended, and we went back to work, we found ourselves with a -- uh, as I recall, a two-year contract, uh, perhaps even three, that came up to 25 cents, but it wasn’t (laugh)-- it wasn’t the same formula that we had in mind. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: Were you asking for rates that were sort of competitive with -- because there’s a lot of aerospace industry on the west coast. So you had a -- no, you were in Virginia.

WALDNER: Mm hmm.


DRUMMOND: Well then was it competitive with other mechanic shops in other airlines? Were you all looking at maybe a model of other companies?

WALDNER: No, we were real -- really, uh, we were really sort of looking out at uh, occupations in general. What does an electrician make? What does a plumber make? What does an auto mechanic make? What does a bricklayer make, some skilled -- skilled craftsmen?

DRUMMOND: Skilled craftsmen. And then a lot of the ones you just mentioned are traditionally union, or are organized, as well.

WALDNER: Yes, yes. And uh, a good example, my uh, brother-in-law at the time was in the Teamsters union, and he was driving long haul truck. Uh, he was making considerably more than I was uh, for being behind a steering wheel, going from 77:00point A to B, and here I was uh -- at least I thought I was a skilled aircraft mechanic, making uh, much less. And uh, so I had an example right in front of me, and -- and that was across the board. The airline aircraft mechanics at that point in time, I think it’s fair to say, were -- uh, were underpaid for their skill. And uh hopefully, that’s improved vastly.

DRUMMOND: But it was just eight years later, in 1966, that Capital had another strike. No, it would have been United by then, right, 1961?

WALDNER: Uh, yeah. Uh we uh, merged in ’61. Capital merged with United, so you 78:00had five airlines that went out on strike together, and uh, the primary reason being, again, unity. Uh, the airlines in the interim between the time we struck at Capital -- I’ll take that back if I may. I believe the airline Mutual Aid Pact may have been in existence when we struck on Capital Airlines, and the airlines who were members of the Mutual Aid Pact, after so many weeks or days, they had to start contributing into a kitty to help support Capital survive. Uh, so uh, it was a very popular notion among the airline management, with the top leaders, that they get their -- themselves together uh, and uh, form a Mutual Aid Pact that would uh, stand up against any union that cared to take them on in 79:00terms of contract negotiations, and -- uh, because remember what I said earlier. Uh, we didn’t negotiate uh, all at once, uh, up until -- what year are we talking about now?


WALDNER: OK. We -- we were leapfrogging. We were doing -- Eastern would go, and six months later, TWA would go, and so on and so on, so we would build on each other’s contract. And the airline said well, no more of that. We’re going to form this pact. And if the IAM, as an example, were to take Trans World Airlines on and they go on strike, those of us in the pact will donate mutual aid to TWA to beat the union.

DRUMMOND: And did that, did they have any success with that?


WALDNER: I think they had -- I think they -- those are -- those are the kinds of things that they’re impossible to answer, only in this sense, and that is (laugh) we’ll never know. It’s my opinion that uh, it gave the airlines from that -- at that point more leverage than they ever had before, and quite possibly, prevented unions from gaining as much as they had hoped to.

DRUMMOND: Do airlines still have Mutual Aid Pacts with each other, or was that a practice that sort of faded out?

WALDNER: They finally fell apart, as thieves do. And uh, they uh -- I don’t know what the situation is today. I’ve been away from the industry for some years. But uh, it -- it gradually fragmented and uh, went away. Now, having said 81:00that, part of the -- part of the reason I think lies uh, with the fact that when President Nixon came in, uh, at some point -- I forget the year -- he imposed wage and price uh, controls, and that dampened considerably the ability of a union, uh, any union to uh, ask for more than -- I think the figure was 3.2% in wages and benefits combined. Uh, and uh, we had a heck of a time, at that point, coping with uh, what amounted to a presidential mandate through the Labor Department that you will not exceed -- and they were not just telling us. They 82:00were telling the companies you can’t -- even if you want to give these mechanics more money, you can’t, tongue-in-check, wink, wink, wink. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: But you said that once, I guess, Nixon was impeached and Ford became president, that the impact of that sort of softened under Ford.

WALDNER: In -- in my opinion, it did, yes. We had -- we had better relations. Uh, the Labor Department uh, yes, I think they brought in people who were -- whose agenda was different than destroying unions.

DRUMMOND: And then I want to talk about the Eastern strike, because I know that 83:00you were the administrative assistant to transportation at that time. But do you have anything… -- Reflecting back on the PATCO strike, which a lot of people acknowledge as sort of a huge turning point in labor management relations in the United States, do you have any reflections on that strike, and perhaps, the machinists’ decision to not be involved, and to not have a sympathy strike, or how it might have affected --

WALDNER: Well, the machinist union certainly was supportive of the -- of uh, PATCO. Now, as you know, PATCO was not an AFL-CIO affiliate, which -- uh, which no question, from the get-go, hurt them badly. And uh, it was a major deterrent 84:00for them uh, to start out with, once the government just arbitrarily fired the entire PATCO workforce. Uhm, over time, uh, AFL-CIO uh, and its affiliates, I believe, came to the realization that like or not, even though they’re not affiliated with AFL-CIO, uh, they are independent union, uh, nonetheless, uh, if we just let them get crushed, uh, we’re next.

DRUMMOND: So it was kind of like a wakeup call.

WALDNER: Uh, yes, uh, well put, yes. It was -- it was a wakeup call to organized labor. On the surface, it didn’t look like they were getting, and they didn’t get at the initial -- at the outset, uh, the full brunt force of 85:00AFL-CIO, and perhaps never did. I -- think the -- I think the IAM -- I can’t call -- name for other unions, uh, or speak for other unions -- but I think the IAM uh, did its best, in its own way, to assist wherever possible, including uh, walking the picket lines -- uh, example at National Airport uh -- with the PATCO members.

DRUMMOND: OK, so there was some support, picketing and striking.

WALDNER: Uh, yeah, is -- isolated incidences. I can only speak for -- uh, I can only speak for uh, the uh, -- Washington Area.

DRUMMOND: So it wasn’t a union-wide effort. It wasn’t like a top down order to go out and support, but in certain areas.

WALDNER: It was -- it was understood, though. It was understood and accepted. If 86:00uh, you -- if uh, you uh, were a uh -- if you had a PATCO unit uh, near your Local that was out on the picket line on strike and so forth, that you would help to the extent possible, without making -- without it being a formal --

DRUMMOND: Walkout or strike.

WALDNER: Yes, yes, and we weren’t on strike.

DRUMMOND: And it wasn’t even a wildcat. The machinists never struck.


DRUMMOND: There was just sort of shows of support by going out and walking the lines.

WALDNER: Uh, in uh -- I can -- again, in -- in certain areas that I’m aware of, yes. Uh, now one -- one of the problems that PATCO also had is uh, in my view, is that uhm, they -- uh, and I -- I got to know Bob Poli, the president of the union at that time. Uhm, some -- somewhat like the skilled aircraft 87:00mechanics, I suppose, they felt that they were woefully underpaid for uhm, the great responsibility of their position. And it’s there. There’s no question that the planes in the air, and avoiding collisions and all, you wanted that kind of a person at the -- at the uh, controls on the ground. Uh, they went into negotiations, and they were demanding uh, considerable -- uh, considerable increases across the board for all their members, and uh, of course the government uh, rejected id -- that idea. It came to uh, a clash of wills. So PATCO says well, we’re just going to walk off, and -- because you cannot operate these airlines without us. Uh, unfortunately, they did, not to the 88:00extent that they might have otherwise, but by bringing in uh, scab labor, by bringing in military personnel uh, they were able to pretty well gradually get the system working again. At that juncture, PATCO -- uh, the PATCO line to the general public became not one of we were only seeking what everyone else wants, uh, better wages and benefits. We were seeking better working conditions, because we were being worn down on the job with these long hours, irregular shifts and all, and we were putting the public at great danger. And our chief concern when we went out was to protect the -- the public. Money was secondary, 89:00but that’s not how it started out, just a little bit of side issue.

DRUMMOND: But then you referred to the strike as a clash of wills, PATCO, but I think that if you want to use the term clash of wills, if you fast forward nine years to Eastern Airlines and to that strike, perhaps that might also be a way to describe Frank Lorenzo versus the union.


DRUMMOND: And you were administrative assistant to transportation.

WALDNER: Still were, in a -- in a rut. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: And so this must have been a huge, huge responsibility for you that it must have taken up so much energy for the entire union at that time, especially your department.

WALDNER: Oh, yes, yes, uh, without question. For virtually a full year, Eastern 90:00Airlines -- the Eastern Airlines strike dominated everything. Uh, maybe I’m overstating it, but certainly from my viewpoint, from what I observed throughout our union, Eastern Airlines was -- uhm, that was a spearhead of any advancements we cared to make for the entire union in the future. And if that was blunted, or broken, everybody was in trouble. Uh, Eastern became the rallying cry that uh -- for those of us in transportation, as well as the IAM, and eventually, for the AFL-CIO that we cannot let Frank Lorenzo win this battle. Whatever it takes, how long it takes, we can’t let him prevail, because uh, labor -- uh, organized 91:00labor would be set back for decades, and uh, it would encourage uh, every manager, every supervisor, every company executive across the board to get tough, to demand more. And uh, so there was much at stake. Probably in my career, I’d say that -- uh, that I can’t think of any other uhm, battle, if you will, that had so much at stake for all of organized labor, including PATCO, than the Eastern Airline strike.

DRUMMOND: So how did your department mobilize to combat Frank Lorenzo and his agenda?

WALDNER: The uh -- the primary responsible ability laid with District 100, Charlie Bryan and his staff to coordinate and conduct the strike activities with 92:00all of its affiliates to may be -- who may have Eastern Airline employees with -- uh, members within them. Uh, we were -- at that point, early on at least, we would have been, as uh, in any strike, uh, the backup support, uh, when -- when needed. And uh, they were able to sustain -- sustain themselves for a few months, until it became obvious that uh, they were up against perhaps more than they could handle alone. So that’s when I think I -- I would say our department and our entire union uh, became directly involved, and then indirectly, the entire AFL-CIO body. Uh, I may have mentioned yesterday that I 93:00had occasion to go over to the AFL-CIO building and uh, give a briefing to the AFL-CIO executive council on behalf of uh, Vice-President uh, Peterpaul and our international President Winpisinger on uh, the conditions, the situation at Eastern, what the stakes were for us. And I reminded them, hopefully very subtly, that there may be also some high stakes for them to consider. And uh, out of that meeting came uh, very visible uh, sup -- uh, and meaningful support from the AFL-CIO. I began to work uhm, hand-in-hand with my counterpart, in a 94:00way. Uh, Tom Don -- Donahue was uh, Secretary of Treasury of AFL-CIO. I worked with his, in effect, AA uh, on the phone every other day, giving him update on the situation at Eastern, so he could pass it along to Tom. He could pass it along to the -- to his boss, and to keep them informed on what was going on. Uh, we uhm -- among other things -- uh, I don’t know where the idea originated, but it was a good one. Uh, we got ourselves a bus, much like you have out here, and uh, I did come up with a slogan, a nice, large uh, bus that uh, would tour all the major cities, Journey For Justice painted on the side of the bus. And uh, strikers, primarily from 702 in Miami, the main maintenance base, uh, were 95:00the crew for that bus. They would go around uh, Washington, uh, New York, Chicago, Cleveland. And when they would pull into those towns, the AFL-CIO affiliates, along with the airline Local that might be there, were out supporting them with demonstrations at the terminal buildings, taking up collections, uh, donations, and so forth, so it was something that was visible going on out in the country uh, not just something happening in Miami at the maintenance base, or at Washington at -- at the headquarters, but out -- out in the countryside, in something in momentum every day.

DRUMMOND: With that increased visibility, and that increased momentum, what sort of feedback, and what sort of -- how did the general public sort of look at the 96:00-- was it something so internal that maybe it didn’t affect, like the way the packers strike clearly affected, and it shut everything down. What was the sort of general public? Did they support the union? Did they really have an understanding of what was happening?

WALDNER: Well, I wasn’t -- I wasn’t on the journey, but I -- I was aware that the ridership on Eastern Airlines took a uh, tremendous tumble, because remember, he attempted to continue running the airline. Just because we went out the door, he didn’t -- he didn’t close his doors. Uh, he uh, tried as best he could to uh, continue his operation, at a greatly reduced level, of course, brought in scab labor sufficient to almost uh, do what was necessary to maintenance base, to keep a sizeable operation going for a while, although 97:00greatly reduced. And uh, as far as the general public mood is concerned, tough question. Uh, somebody goes out today on strike, you say what’s the general public think about it, it’s a tough question. It’s depends on, I suppose, some pastor showing up disgruntled because Eastern doesn’t have a flight available for them. Uh, it’s a -- that’s a tough one --

DRUMMOND: Well um, When did the machinists -- oh, I’m sorry.

WALDNER: -- because -- because uh, from my perspective then and now, I have the tunnel vision of looking at what was happening internally, within the union, and the unions, not what the public was -- was doing.

DRUMMOND: Right, your focus was somewhere else.

WALDNER: We -- our focus was on Frank Lorenzo, and making damn sure that he didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. We didn’t set out to destroy Eastern Airlines. We didn’t set out to get him booted out of his job. We set 98:00out to get uhm, a decent collective bargaining agreement. He set out to destroy this union. So those -- that was the starting point. So where it wound up unfortunately was eventually, the destruction of the airline.

DRUMMOND: And when did the Machinists? Do you remember having a moment where you saw that despite your efforts -- well the union’s efforts, and despite the hard work, did you have that moment where you realized oh no, this isn’t going to end well? Do you remember that? Do you remember having that?

WALDNER: Well, we had a -- the inside question. We had a uhm -- the Miami Local, 99:00which was the largest uh -- and Charlie Bryan’s District is right down the road from there -- they set up a food bank for the strikers, and uh, they went around town and did a magnificent job of getting vendors uh, to donate uh, essentially leftovers, if you will, not spoiled food, but palatable. And uh, they maintained, in union hall, in the back of the union hall, uh, a -- uh, a place where they would store uh, dry uh, foods uh, for strikers who would come in and ask for assistance. Uhm, I would go down. Uh, we had donations coming into headquarters from -- uh, not only from within our union, but from AFL-CIO unions, as well. And periodically, I would fly down to Miami uh, with a check which I would present to uh, Charlie Bryan to uh, cash, and then distribute 100:00those funds uh, to -- uh, primarily to the Local there, to maintain that food bank, but also uh, to disperse uh, as best he could, to uh, other Locals that might need some extra assistance to survive, because when you’re out for months and months, your manpower, your army, if you will, dwindles to where you’re down to the real hardcore folks that are willing to hang in there to the bitter end.

DRUMMOND: So some folks were finding other jobs and trying to get back to the --

WALDNER: Finding jobs, transferring out of the area. Uh, we had suicides. Uh, we had divorces. I mean we knew what was happening. It was a terrible, terrible 101:00ordeal for people to go through, all because of one guy’s greed. And uh, so to answer your question, uh, because I was going down there regularly, and I could see the falling away, if you will, of members hanging around the hall, picking up dry goods to sustain their families, seeing some of the executive officers of the Local peel away, move out of the area, uh --

DRUMMOND: Like every couple of weeks, you’d go down, and there would be diminished activity.

WALDNER: I’d go, yeah. On average, I’d go down about once a month, and I could see -- uhm, I could see uh, less and less activity, fewer and fewer members around their battle stations, uh, morale sinking a little bit each time. 102:00It’s -- it’s tough. It’s tough. It -- it broke my heart to go down there, because I knew what they were going through. You have to go through a strike yourself to really appreciate, be affected by, to really appreciate what it means. It helped me immensely, in a way, to have gone on strike as a striking member on Capital Airlines for those 41 days, because I suffered. My family was hurting. I had to borrow money from family, relatives, friends, and barely get by, and just enough gas to put in the car, and hard -- missed -- missed house payments, that type of thing. So I could -- to quote Bill Clinton, “I could feel their pain.” And it really meant something to me, so I empathized greatly with those folks, and it -- it really tore me up to see uh, what appeared to be 103:00our army retreating somewhat, and Lorenzo still hanging in.

DRUMMOND: How many people lost their jobs, once the airline filed for bankruptcy? How many machinists lost their jobs?

WALDNER: Thousands.

DRUMMOND: Thousands.

WALDNER: I -- I can’t quote a figure. Charlie Bryan would know.

DRUMMOND: OK, and perhaps we’ll get to interview him at some point. What did shutting down Eastern do to the morale of machinists? As a whole, as an entire union, like across the country, was there -- did it make people more wary, more frightened for what might happen to them, or do you think it was such a unique case?

WALDNER: Uh, I think -- I think the latter. I think it was unique. It -- it might have had a -- in the airline industry, it might have had just a bit of 104:00chilling effect, but it -- it wasn’t long-lasting. Uh, but in general, I think life went on in -- in other industries. And uh, it was -- it was just a unique situation to Eastern which hopefully, will never be repeated. And of course, as you know, uh, they eventually had to file for bankruptcy, and uh, Martin Shugrue came in and took over, and ran the airline effectively. They voted Lorenzo out, and he ran -- ran away with sacks full of cash, no doubt, uh, which further aggravated me to know that uh, he broke our backs in that strike, destroyed thousands of people’s lives, and left with a payoff, and for him, life went on as usual.


DRUMMOND: For you, what has been the most satisfying part, or what was the most satisfying part of being a member of the machinists, and working with them? When you look back, what is --

WALDNER: Being able to know that -- being able to know that from the time I became shop steward, to the time I retired in 1970, that I did my best, and as a result of my efforts, that I helped uh, so many people in so many ways uh, have a better life. The best example I could give you, I think my greatest satisfaction is when I was uhm, local grievance committee chairman, or when I was uhm, district general chairman, uh, going into uhm, a grievance hearing, or 106:00perhaps an arbitration case, and salvaging someone’s job, having someone return to work, and knowing that -- I didn’t think of it then, but as the years go on, I think back how I might have played an important part in that person’s life, being able to go back to full employment, good wages, good benefits, and things worked out for him or her. That’s -- I have great satisfaction. That -- that’s my joy.

DRUMMOND: Well, before we wrap this up, are there any other work experiences that you would like to share, or any final words you might have for the interview?

WALDNER: In terms of?

DRUMMOND: Just anything that we didn’t cover that really stands out to you as 107:00being important, or affecting you.

WALDNER: Uh, our international uh, relationships we developed with uh, our uh, brothers and sisters overseas in foreign countries. We -- uh, we became uhm -- I forget the year, but uh, the IAM -- I don’t know if they still are, but they became affiliated with the ITF, International Transport Workers Federation housed in London, England. And uh, we became uh -- we became affiliated with them as a result. Uh, we were able to uh, coordinate and cooperate, to the extent possible, with our colleagues in Japan, in Germany, in England, all around the free world where they have trade unions. I had the great pleasure of 108:00traveling to uh, England several times, to Switzerland. Uh, in fact, I flew to Switzerland with Bob Poli, and uh, this is how I got inside, and uh, Africa, uh, Ireland. It was -- it was just -- it was a great personal pleasure for me, but also, it was important for me to understand that we were -- as we -- as proven to be the case, we were facing, and slow but sure coming to a global economy. The airlines, in particular, we are global. And uh, every airline today that flies international has a partnership with some other international carrier. 109:00Well, we want partnerships with their workers so that uh, our work can’t be farmed out. Think about how fairly easy it is uh, to fly a plane uh, transcon -- across the ocean on a regular -- uh, using United Airline as an example. We fly from New York to London, and London -- uh, and they have workers in London who are willing to work on that airplane over there in conformance with FAA regulations back here, do all the right things, but make five bucks less an hour. They -- so we have to -- we have to not only help them, but we needed -- we needed to protect and preserve our -- our ability to keep our work at home. 110:00Unfortunately, uh, airline companies operate uh, factories with wings. Uh, you can -- you -- you can fly it somewhere else. Of course, now they do move factories wholesale to other countries, but uh, you can do the same thing with an airline. So uh, the ITF uh, became very important. Uh, also, I played a very -- I shouldn’t say important, but I played a very active role on behalf of the vice-president in dealing with our international colleagues.

DRUMMOND: So you were sort of the face. While he was home running things, you would go and do a lot of the face-to-face stuff.

WALDNER: Uh, yes. They’d hold -- they’d hold the ITF convention in London, or wherever it might be, and I would fly over as a uh, spokesman for the IAM, our positions, where we are in collective bargaining, the kind of benefits that 111:00mean something to our folks. And by the same token, they’d exchange that information with me, and I’d carry that back with me. And we’d uh, developed some very close relationships. I -- I still have -- I still get greeting cards at Christmastime faithfully from good friends in England, and Africa, and Japan, so uh, evidently, it made some impact.

DRUMMOND: I clearly -- I think you had a wonderful career with the machinists.

WALDNER: Not only wonderful. I’ve got to be one of the luckiest guys in the world. (laugh)

DRUMMOND: Yeah, you think so?

WALDNER: I know so.

DRUMMOND: Charmed life?

WALDNER: I know so.

DRUMMOND: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for talking to us.

WALDNER: Well, thank you ever so much, Traci.

DRUMMOND: I appreciate your efforts, and I thank you. These are always very enlightening for me. I always learn a lot when I can sit down and talk to a member, and learn a lot of things about the machinists you just can’t learn 112:00from reading the documents that we get at the archives. So with that, I’ll end the interview.