Donald Wharton Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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RACHEL BERNSTEIN: I'm Rachel Bernstein. I'm a historian from NYU, and I'm delighted to be here with you today.

DONALD WHARTON: I'm Donald Wharton and ah retired and ah glad to be here also.

BERNSTEIN: So let's start with tell me where you were born and what your parents were up to when you were born.

WHARTON: I was born in Mansfield, Ohio, in July 17th of 1938. My mother never worked outside the home, ah, until probably when I was 17 or 18. Her brother was a regional manager for Kresge's, which was a five and ten cent store. And she -- they opened a store in our town and she went in to help him with their lunch 1:00counter, and she did that for about six, seven months. And other than that, she just stayed at home. We had seven children. I had three brothers and three sisters.

BERNSTEIN: Were you the middle?

WHARTON: I was next to the youngest. We ranged in age -- there's only three of us left, but -- ah I think my sister died about three years ago and she was 87. So you know, they ah - and I'm 73. My youngest brother is 70, so we range from 70 to -- she would now be close to 90. My mother and father -- my father was born in January of 1900 and my mother was born in July of 1901, and they ah, -- my mother died before my father. She died in around 1969 or '70, and my father 2:00died in '76, '77.

BERNSTEIN: And what did he do or what was he doing when you came along, do you know?

WHARTON: He was a -- he worked -- yes. He worked at the Ohio Brass Company, and he had for a great number of years. He worked in -- as a pattern maker for some time, and then he went into what they called bright dipping. The Mansfield Ohio Brass made large castings and valves for water systems, big city water systems, and ah he bright dipped these castings. After they're molded they have film and stuff on them and they'd dip them in acid, and he did that for a number of years 3:00and then he went into a department where he did grinding on those valves, they’d knock off the burrs and that type of thing. The shop was represented by the IUE ah, for a great number of years, and after the IUE was thrown out of the AFL-CIO for communist activities, the IAM organized that plant. They went from the IUE into the --

BERNSTEIN: Was he active in the IUE, did you know?

WHARTON: No, I take that back. It's not the IUE, it was the UE.

BERNSTEIN: Right, that makes more sense.

WHARTON: The UE, I'm sorry.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

WHARTON: All of that's the UE.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: And ah, no he went to meetings but he was not active. Never was active in the union and ah, but he would go to the meetings and was a member there. It was an open shop for a good number of years and he was a member all the time he worked there.

4:00

BERNSTEIN: Did you grow up learning about union --?

WHARTON: The town I -- yeah. The town I grew up in was totally --

BERNSTEIN: Did you learn never to cross a picket line?

WHARTON: Yeah, it was totally union.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Everything that was in my town. There was a Westinghouse there that was the IUE, you had Tappan Stove, which was unorganized for a long time, then the Steelworkers got it. We had a Mansfield Tire and Rubber, which was Rubberworkers union. We had a steel mill there that was with the United Steelworkers. We had -- later on, had in -- a stamping plant of General Motors. Every plant in our town, with the exception of some very small ones, were all organized, and it was just -- like in the fifties, when I started in to work, any job I would have gotten in there would have been an organized shop.

BERNSTEIN: Would have been --

5:00

WHARTON: Yes. The only place I ever worked without a union was when I was 12 or 13, I worked for a place called Ken's Handy Store, which was a soda fountain and an early-on 7-11. And I worked there for about five or six years, helping them out. Just a man and a woman run it, and I was their only employee for --

BERNSTEIN: So you did that while you were still in school.

WHARTON: Yes. I did that while I was in school. Summertime, I worked full -- almost full-time in there, and then during school, I would work after school hours in there. We closed at 11:00 and we opened at 7:00. I never was without a 6:00job from that day, until I retired.

BERNSTEIN: That's a long, long stretch.

WHARTON: Yeah, and it was a good -- ah good jobs, you know. I would get --

BERNSTEIN: So your attitude toward unions as a kid was always -- ?

WHARTON: Well, it was established until -- the first job I got, when I got out of school, was at the Independent Talent Supply Company, and they had a union that was the Washers and Dryers Union. And I hadn't been there very long, and they -- I worked in maintenance and just odd jobs there, and they asked me to go to the union meeting for them and give them the proposals for the contract that was coming up.

BERNSTEIN: So this is your very first union meeting.

WHARTON: Very first union meeting.

BERNSTEIN: Somebody says, will you go over there.

WHARTON: Right, and do this, and represent us, and I said okay. So I went there and there was a representative that came from Cleveland. We had no 7:00representatives at the Mansfield, Ohio plant. There was a Cleveland plant and a Mansfield plant, and the representative from the Washers and Dryers Union came down, and I give the list of proposals and one of the proposals was that it be a three-year contract with 25 cents an hour, 25 cents and hour and 25 cents an hour. And we knew we wouldn't make -- you know, get near that, because we were only making 85 cents an hour at the time. So the guy said well, we're not going to ask for that. He said, we're going to ask for three, three and three, and that's what we're going to get. So I -- there again, I owned the world, so I told him what we were going to ask for, in no uncertain terms.

BERNSTEIN: You stuck by your 25?

WHARTON: Pardon?

BERNSTEIN: You stuck by your 25?

WHARTON: Yeah, I stuck by the 25. It never got written down on his paper but I stuck by it. This was on Saturday. Monday morning, I went into work and I was 8:00fired. So I called my brother from the personnel office at that Independent Talent and Supply, and asked him if they were hiring at his plant, which was Dominion Electric. He said just a minute and he called the personnel woman and she said yeah, they needed somebody. And he put me on the phone and she asked me what I could do and I said whatever she had do, I could do. And she said well, they needed somebody in receiving, to be a receiving clerk, and I said okay. So, I said, "When do you want me to start?" This was 10:00 and I started the next day at 6:00 in the morning, so -- and I want from 85 cents an hour to $.60 -- $1.65 an hour. And they had the Machinist Union, but the personnel lady was giving me things to sign, and one of which was a dues deduction authorization and a union membership application. And I put those aside and I said I won't sign them, and she said, "Well you have to sign them to work here." And I said 9:00well, I said, “Well, the last time I got involved with the union I got fired.” And I said “Look, this is a good job, I don't want to get fired.” She said “Well, you have to join.” So she got my brother and my brother said “Hey, this is the same union dad belongs to, it's all right, it's a good union.” So I joined. She said, “Are you one of them kind of people that if you have a problem, you're going to run to the union?” And I said “Ma'am, I'm going to tell you, if I have a problem, I'm going to come to you.” She said “Okay.” Six months later, I was on the committee and come walking in the door and she said, "I knew you were one of them kind of people." And I said “This is not for me, it's for somebody else.” So I had a good experience and a bad experience with the union and after that, I would get laid off at Dominion in the summertime, for a couple of months the first few years, and I would work with the Roofers Union. I worked with them two summers and then I worked at the 10:00steel mill here in town, for one summer. I was summer help at the steel mill and that personnel manager told me, he said “You don't have to belong to the union when you work summer help.”

BERNSTEIN: Part-time, yeah.

WHARTON: And I said, well I might not have to belong to the union to work here, but if I want to live at home, I'm going to have to belong to the union. So he told me and I went down to the union hall and joined and paid dues for the three months that I worked there. And the president of that local Steel, the last time I was in town, still talks about that.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: That was not a common thing for summer?

WHARTON: No. Most people -- it was kind of just high school kids, except I should have been a high school kid myself, but I quit school and was working, so.

BERNSTEIN: You quit --

WHARTON: I knew unions was good then and I had no problem with that.

BERNSTEIN: When did you quit school? What led you to quit school and when did that happen?

11:00

WHARTON: I -- in -- going in the ninth grade in my freshman year back in Ohio, it was junior high and senior high. Junior high was 7th, 8th and 9th.

BERNSTEIN: That's what we had in California. Yeah.

WHARTON: Yeah. And then 10th, 11th and 12th was at senior. So in the junior high, I was able to play football and work at the Handy Store, and do it all right. But going to senior high, there was more practice in the football. They asked me to come out. The coach from the senior high came and asked me if I would play and my mom said I couldn't play because they needed the money. My dad was sick. He had sugar diabetes real bad and his eyes went bad so he couldn't work, and with all the kids we needed the money. (clears throat) Pardon me. I 12:00said “Okay, I'll get a job and go to work, but I said I'm not going to go to school and work both.” And she said well, she didn't think that was right but you know, in my house when you turned 16, you were considered an adult, and if that's what you wanted to do that's what you did. Until you were 16, you done exactly what you was told and nothing else, but when you're 16 it - you know, it was just that was the way it was. So I got a job there at the Independent Talent & Supply.

BERNSTEIN: Did your parents both finish high school?

WHARTON: Neither did.

BERNSTEIN: Neither did.

WHARTON: No. And in reality, in the town I lived in, almost everybody that worked in these plants worked there from the day they started to work until they 13:00retired. And if you had any mechanical ability at all, you could get a job and earn good money, and college wasn't a big list on working people's lives there. Now, some people --

BERNSTEIN: And finishing high school even wasn't necessary to get a good job.

WHARTON: No it wasn't.

BERNSTEIN: -- if you had the talent.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: It sounds like.

WHARTON: My sister that's just older than me, three years older than me, and my brother that's just three years younger than me, both graduated from high school. They were the first two in our family that did. But they all got jobs and worked and you know, and never left this little town except me.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Of all your brothers and sisters, you're the only one who --

WHARTON: Only one that ever left. In fact, for a great number of years, they all lived in the same little neighborhood, within three blocks of each other. So it was you know, I left and went to work in Cleveland in 1968 and they wondered if 14:00I'd ever get back, and it was an hour's drive. (chuckles) They just didn't travel.

BERNSTEIN: Well don't jump ahead too far. So you, so you went from your first job at the soda fountain, lunch counter.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: And then you did --

WHARTON: Independent Talent & Supply.

BERNSTEIN: And then summers at the steel mill.

WHARTON: But that was while I was working at Dominion Electric.

BERNSTEIN: Ah-huh.

WHARTON: So after 1955, I kept my seniority at Dominion Electric, but if I was on layoff, the place where we ate lunch and that, these -- all the workers come in there, it was right in the middle of the industrial section of this, of this town. And the guy that owned the roofing company, every time I'd go in there for lunch, he'd ask me when I was going to get laid off. As soon as I got laid off, 15:00he wanted me to go to work for him the next day. And it was a summer job, you know you can't do much roofing in the winter, but it was industrial roofs that they put on. Hot tar roofs and slate roofs mostly. So I did that, and then I was just a, ah, a flunky at the steel mill. You tore down furnaces that was going to be rebuilt. I worked in the ah, in the ah, blacksmith shop for one whole month, which was easy, because mainly my job was to take a cart and go to the different departments and pick up the hooks and stuff that needed fixing, and wheel them back to the blacksmith and then he did all the work. So, ah --

16:00

BERNSTEIN: And so when you were coming back to the personnel lady, what were you up to? You were already obviously in the union.

WHARTON: I was -- yeah. I got involved in the union.

BERNSTEIN: You were involved it sounds like.

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: How did that -- how was your first -- ?

WHARTON: All right. I got active in the Machinists Union by, ah -- Our contract in those years were one-year contracts. All contracts were one year and they expired July the 1st of each year at that shop. And we went to a union meeting and several of us got in an argument with the officers that was involved, and they all resigned right on the spot. So --

BERNSTEIN: That must have been some argument.

WHARTON: It was a very big argument. It was -- it was how we was going to conduct negotiations.

BERNSTEIN: But you're -- how old were you now?

WHARTON: Seventeen.

BERNSTEIN: You're 17 and you and your other 17 year-old friends go to a union meeting?

17:00

WHARTON: No, no, no. These were people that was fifties and you know. I was the only young one there.

BERNSTEIN: I see, okay.

WHARTON: These were all people that had been working there a long time.

BERNSTEIN: So you were a leader early on, or at least precocious or speaking your mind or something.

WHARTON: I was raised to speak your mind, yes I was. I -- if I had an issue with somebody, I felt I should tell them, and I never wanted to walk away from anybody, having them wondering what I thought of them. And that's the way I was brought up. I seen so many people that was afraid to talk if they had a problem, and that's really why I wanted to get involved in the union, because somebody needed to talk to them, for them. And I know the people that I worked with in the receiving and shipping department, they had problems but they would never take them to nobody. So I'm the young kid on the block so they said you do it.

BERNSTEIN: Okay.

WHARTON: So anyways, we took the offices over. I became the conductor and -- of 18:00the lodge. One of the guys, Elmer Eric, who was in the maintenance department and had been there quite a long time, because the president of the local. Their secretary-treasurer of the local, which was a woman, Lucille Critchfield, she stayed on. She was on our side. The recording secretary, which was a woman, Ethel Olle, she stayed on, but all the rest of them resigned. And the two women that stayed on, the woman - there was a woman that was the president at the time too, but they were in -- on our side when we had this argument.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: That's the way it started, and it then just kept going from there.

BERNSTEIN: So they -- you didn't have to have a big campaign, they just resigned?

WHARTON: They resigned right then and we just -- we talked about it right there.

BERNSTEIN: It seems like a smooth --

WHARTON: Yeah.

19:00

BERNSTEIN: Smoother than you would expect, I have to say.

WHARTON: Yes. It -- well, we didn't know anything about the constitution or bylaws or none of that stuff you know. We just, we had a problem, was going to throw it out.

BERNSTEIN: You just went in there and started.

WHARTON: So, when they resigned, everybody was at that meeting, and this was everybody because this was contract negotiations time, not -- you know, there's a thousand people that worked at that plant, and there probably was 800 people at this meeting.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yeah. So it wasn't like a little group of people took this over. So a couple of guys got up and women. There was a thousand people who worked there, about 800 or 700 women and three or four hundred men. So it was a manufacturing plant that made small appliances -- hair dryers, toasters, ovens, and stuff like that. So somebody got up and said -- Elmer Eric said, “Why don't you take over as the president and we can start running this thing, and you appoint some 20:00officers and we'll agree right now, whether or not we'll accept them.” So we did. He just picked these people out and they said “Okay, we agree to that.” So that was it and we just became the officers. It certainly wasn't proper or anything but it worked. And then -- we had to run for office by the way, at that time every year also. So it was from July to the end of the year that we had to start running for office. But I have never, for any office I held until I become a vice president, has ever give out a sheet of paper or an envelope or anything to -- for my candidacy. Never. I've never campaigned other than by word of mouth through people that I know.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Really. When we run for vice president in the organization, we'd get 21:00together and our local sponsors a letter that goes out (clears throat) and recommends us for the job, but other than that, I've never put out a flyer or anything. It just, it wasn't -- that's not unique to me. Nobody in my district did that. We had a district of –- twenty -- 22 local lodges, and it ranged anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 members, and there was two business reps there. So we -- everybody knew one another, so it was a delegate vote, it wasn't a membership vote.

BERNSTEIN: So you've got a - you've got union office basically from when you first started working, in your local lodge, and then how long did it take before you were a district?

WHARTON: Full-time?

BERNSTEIN: Oh, or full-time.

22:00

WHARTON: I was president of the district but that isn't a full-time job in 1961 or '60. And I became a full-time representative, a business representative of the district, in April of 1962. And then from '62 until '68, 1968, I became a -- they called them special reps back then. You're a special rep for five years or two and a half, depends on how long you were a business rep, and then I become a grand lodge rep; there's no change there other than the salary is different. I worked out of our Cleveland office and handled problems, ah, before the National Labor Relations Board and special assignments.

BERNSTEIN: So when you were first -- when you first got to be full-time, when you were the district lodge and the business rep for the whole district.

WHARTON: Yes.

23:00

BERNSTEIN: Did you travel all the time?

WHARTON: We had -

BERNSTEIN: How did that work?

WHARTON: It was -- our district was pretty spread out but it was, ah, from Ashland, Ohio to Marysville, Ohio, from Shelby, Ohio to Mount Vernon, Ohio, which is about 90 miles north and south and about 300 miles east and west. So that area was our district. And, ah, I traveled a lot there but not overnight a lot. We had Ohio state meetings that required overnight stay and some AFL-CIO conventions and things, staff conferences overnight, but most of my job was in that area and home at night.

24:00

BERNSTEIN: And how much organizing of people who had never been in unions? Is that something that you did while you were the -- ?

WHARTON: Yeah, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Or were you mostly taking up grievances that people had, who had already been members?

WHARTON: No. Our job was to -- within our district, we did all the organizing. There was two business reps, me and another rep, Dwayne Randolph. We did all of our own organizing. We organized a machine shop. Carter Machine Shop had about 600 people. We organized a power equipment company in Galion, which had about a thousand people.

BERNSTEIN: And was there a lot of resistance in either of those places?

WHARTON: Yes, both places. Both places was quite a bit. The thing that we had going for us in Galion, Ohio, we had the largest manufacturers in that city already organized.

BERNSTEIN: Already organized.

25:00

WHARTON: So, like the power equipment company was part of Ericsson Phone Systems, and these women did -- back then they had wiring harnesses they called them -- and they just took these boards and wrapped these wires in different places, and they'd take that harness out and put it in a factory someplace and hook the wiring to it, so it was already laid out. And now they do that all by printed circuit boards.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: They don't do that anymore. And a lot of their husbands worked at Machinist shops. Galion, Ohio was a town of about 25,000 people, and we represented Galion Ironworks, which makes the big road graders and rollers that you see on the highway.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: They had about five or six hundred people. We represented, ah, 26:00Gledhill, which makes large snow plows for counties and states. We represented Hercules, which made truck -- dump truck bodies.

BERNSTEIN: And these were all organized before you got there.

WHARTON: Yes, yeah, but not power equipment, and we organized Carter Machine Shop after that, that I got there. And we organized, ah, a placed called Jolly Time, which made Jolly Time popcorn and stuff like that.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: It was the warehouse for that, and we organized those people. Ah --

BERNSTEIN: So tell me one of your, ah, best victories as an organizer in that time. I mean do you have a -

WHARTON: Carter Machine Shop, has to be. That was a family owned machi -- in fact a lot of the shops that I represented were family owned. The shop I come out of, Dominion Electric, was owned -- family owned. It wasn't a conglomerate 27:00or anything.

BERNSTEIN: It wasn't a corporation.

WHARTON: Yeah, it was just privately owned. And Mr. Carter was -- and it was typical of machine shops. A machinist makes some money and he decides he's going to open a machine shop. So he does and he keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and Mr. Carter did. And their -- machinists are, as a whole, are pretty snooty and they think they're above most production workers, and if they own a shop they're even worse. When we had the election there, it was scheduled, the National Labor Relations Board agent come in, and he went to the door and 28:00introduced himself, and the owner told him to get off his property, that he wasn't going to let him come in there and have that election.

BERNSTEIN: This is Carter?

WHARTON: Carter.

BERNSTEIN: Who told him that, okay.

WHARTON: Yeah. And he had his attorney there and the attorney was just a regular attorney. He wasn't no union buster or nothing, back then they didn't do that. And the attorney said “You have to let him,” and he says, "I'm not letting him in here." And I'm standing there and I said “That's no problem,” I said “I'll call them and get some buses and we'll bus them down to the union hall and they can vote at the union hall.” And Mr. Carter said “No, no, no, we're not doing that, they're going to vote,” and I said “Well they going to do it here.” So it ended up he let them vote there. But this started out like 7:00 in the morning and we finally voted about 3:30 in the afternoon.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yeah. And we won like 85 percent to 15 percent. And so we go into 29:00negotiations and he had that same attorney in there. So I give him a list of proposals and he said, “You can have all this.” He said, “I don't care about none of it.” It was a grievance procedure and all that stuff, holidays. And he said “What about the money?” So I said “Well, here's what they want,” and he said “Well, I can't give them that.” One thing led to another and we finally agreed to a contract, a three-year contract. So at the end of the three years, I got back into negotiations and he said, "We're going to make some changes." And I said, "What do you mean?" He said “Well, first of all he said there's too much scrap. The guys aren't being careful of how they make their parts,” and he said, “I'm getting us some returns,” and he said, “I can only pay based upon my profits.” I said “Well, I can understand that, and I said I think the committee can understand that.” I said ah, “Well do you want to base their salary on your profits?” He said “I 30:00might want to.” He said “Let me think about that.”So the next meeting we go back and he says, “I'll tell you what I'll do.” He said, “You can hire an accountant to check it and I'll split the profits with them 50/50, and we'll take their half and divide by the number of hours each person worked and they'll get that as a bonus at the end of the year.” The next contract negotiations we go into he said, “I want to talk to all the men at one time.” He said, “The attorney said I shouldn’t do this, but,” he said “I want to talk to them all at one time.” I said “Shut the shop down and talk to them,” I said “I don't care.” He said “I want you with me,” and I said “Okay.” So we go out there and the attorney is shaking his head, and he starts getting these guys, he said “I want to tell you something.” He said, “I like to make profit and everything,” he said, “But when a file gets to 31:00where it doesn't file anything, throw it away.” He said, “It just takes you too long to do it.” And he said, “When the saw blade is bad, throw it away, get a new one, you know?” He said “We can't - you know, it doesn't save us any money by trying to operate with bad tools.” And I thought I'd die, but that's the relationship we had with him. He was always rough and gruff, but he treats his men great, we never had a problem there. I think -– I, I was there five years after we organized it and I only had but one grievance in that whole time out of that shop. And it was an overtime grievance, and really the company didn’t have nothing -- they had something to do with it but Mr. Carter didn't. The supervisor picked the wrong person for an overtime assignment. And we went in and they said well, “You can either work next Saturday or we'll pay you,” and the guy said “I'll work next Saturday.” It was that kind of a shop, so. 32:00So that's the only grievance I had during the whole time.

BERNSTEIN: That's impressive.

WHARTON: Organizing was fun but hard. I found if I could talk to the people personally, I normally could convince them that the union would be a good thing.

BERNSTEIN: Did you have social events as part of the - like family picnics and movie nights?

WHARTON: No. We had --

BERNSTEIN: There are moments in our labor history where there's this whole culture of union activity that includes the whole family and the whole town. Is that a piece of your story at this time or not so much?

WHARTON: We had Labor Day celebrations, big ones, in each of the towns. I, ah -- we represented Marysville, Shelby, Canton, Mount Vernon, Ashland, Mansfield, 33:00Galion, Crestline, and probably some other towns in there that I'm forgetting, but they all had their big Labor Day celebrations. And we would put on a very -- we put on the fireworks and everything, I'm talking about big, big events.

BERNSTEIN: We meaning the local --

WHARTON: All the unions.

BERNSTEIN: Ah-huh.

WHARTON: The AFL-CIO, city central bodies.

BERNSTEIN: But the Machinists were always right in there.

WHARTON: Right in there.

BERNSTEIN: Doing their share.

WHARTON: They -- every -- yeah. We had enough members that we had pretty good influence in all the county and city, AF of L meetings, yes. And we were very active. They knew that if the machinists come in, we would have people. If they were going to have a phone bank, we had a bunch of people there for the phones. We just didn't bring a check. One of the biggest things we had going for us I think, was that we had a lot of women in my district, a lot of them, and they're more willing to do stuff like that than men, or at least they was then. And it 34:00-- I don't think there's really any difference than it is now, but almost without exception, the women that I represented didn't want to talk about any pension. They wanted to talk about wages, because they was just working long enough to pay for the TV or the refrigerator or the car. They didn't have any plans on staying there until retire, and almost 99 percent of them did. So if you could show that to them, they would start talking about putting money in the pension.

BERNSTEIN: Ninety-nine percent of them stayed?

WHARTON: Oh yeah, it was --

BERNSTEIN: Even though none of them intended to.

WHARTON: Right. They'd all say that.

BERNSTEIN: That's what you --

WHARTON: They all say that but once they get there and they make that money, they start making good money.

BERNSTEIN: They don't want to give it up to go home.

WHARTON: They're not going to give it up you know, they're not going back to one 35:00salary. Some of them might quit after their kids get grown, but at least until they get out of college, if any of them went to college, they're not quitting you know. But they just didn't think they was. In fact, the shop I come out of, it took me two negotiations after we got active, and this is one of the arguments that we had at the meeting that we took over in 1955 or '56, was about a pension. And they didn't have a pension plan there.

BERNSTEIN: Nothing?

WHARTON: Nothing, nothing, which was not really unusual in 1955, '56.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: But it took me -- after I had become a business representative -- it took me from 1962 until '65, before they agreed to put a pension plan in. And it was five cents an hour, then ten cents and fifteen cents, over a three-year 36:00contract. And it was not only women but the young kids, guys said “No, I'm not going to be here.”

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: I'm going to get a better job than this.

BERNSTEIN: It's last on their list.

WHARTON: Yeah, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: What about healthcare?

WHARTON: We always had healthcare. It was -- the IAM started an IAM National Benefit Trust years ago, and it was designed because we represented so many smaller shops. And ah, in a lot of cities, they would have tool and die, ah, shops that would get together and negotiate as a group, and auto mechanics and truck mechanics would do the same thing. They would all get together, the dealers --

37:00

BERNSTEIN: So small shops, yeah.

WHARTON: Even the bigger mechanic shops, you know that's what we represented, the automobile mechanics and the truck mechanics. Most of them weren't big enough to have a good pension plan or healthcare, so we started that for our membership. And it was lucky, it was a time when healthcare costs was not, not really --

BERNSTEIN: Not huge.

WHARTON: We had a plan called Plan 80, in the IAM National Benefit Trust, that was underwritten by Pacific Mutual, that when we put it into my shop, it was $18.50 a month, and that included life insurance, weekly, sick and accident benefit and hospitalization and doctor bills. And when I left, it was like $23 38:00or $24, and that was over a seven-year period. But you know now, you couldn't buy, you know, medications -- medical insurance or prescription insurance for that.

BERNSTEIN: Right, no, not even close. So ah more women than men in your district throughout?

WHARTON: Yes. We represented --

BERNSTEIN: And what about women as officers? Did they tend to hold those jobs or not so much?

WHARTON: Yes. Yes, they did hold those jobs. The financial secretary and the recording secretary in my lodge, from the time I joined until it -- the company moved out in the late sixties, were always women. The chairman of the shop 39:00committee, other than when I was there, was always a woman. And they, they held most of the offices. It was hard to get them to be president or vice president, and I think the reason was they didn't -- those two jobs required more time after work than the other jobs.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: And it was, was harder for them to get away. I always said it was tougher for a woman to work, because they didn't have a wife to go home to. And that's you know, that's just the way we operated. But it was never --

BERNSTEIN: So you don't think there were issues where the women felt underrepresented, or that they couldn't get certain jobs that would pay better in that -- in your district, were still in that era of your experience.

40:00

WHARTON: In my experience, and I worked a lot with them, there were jobs they wanted and there were jobs they didn't want. You had some that might want them, but the shop I come out of, if a woman put three screws in a thermostat in an iron, a steam iron, and they didn't need three screws and a thermostat in there, she went home. She didn't want to go -- she wasn't going to go down there and put two screws and a wire on something else. That was her job, that was her chair, and I'm telling you that's the way it was. They wanted it that way. And they had assembly lines, and there would be anywhere from 12 to 25 people on an assembly line, and when that assembly line went down and they had to shut down and they're going to switch from making toasters to making corn poppers, them women said “All right, we're shutting down at 11:00,” said “Now we need 41:00people to go down here and work in the wire goods,” and they said “Well, get somebody. It's not us, we're going home.” And that's just the way it was. We had a men's seniority list and a women's seniority list, and it flatly said that right straight out.

BERNSTEIN: And you -- and your impression is that that was by choice, not by --

WHARTON: I know it was by choice because we voted, it must have been 15 times, to merge them seniority lists.

BERNSTEIN: Oh really?

WHARTON: Yes. And if a woman wanted on the men's seniority list, she could get on it. We had women that worked in our press room and most -- 90 percent of them were men. And these are some big presses that they operated, and if a woman wanted to work out there she could. If she wanted to work in maintenance and she could do the job, she could do it, she could get on that list. But they just didn't want it, it was just that simple.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

42:00

WHARTON: And we had people that would -- we had some women who were pretty raw bone, and they said, “I want to work in the press room.” I said “Okay, you can go out there, you'll get on the men's seniority list.” And so even though it was called men's and women's, it was whichever one you wanted on, you could be one.

BERNSTEIN: Different jobs, yeah. Huh.

WHARTON: One -- mainly what it was, was one was a production list of people that done production and one was a list that was plant maintenance, the press room, stocking from the warehouse, receiving and shipping, which was heavy jobs.

BERNSTEIN: More physical.

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: More physically demanding.

WHARTON: Right. In Ohio at the time, you couldn't assign a woman to a job driving a forklift, it was against the rules. You couldn't assign them to a job that had a spinning wheel that their hair could get caught in. You couldn't 43:00assign them to a job that they had to lift more than, I think, 70 pounds. So that was state law and you know, we had more women that complained about that than we had about anything else. I had some really good friends of mine who said “Ah shit, I can pick up a hundred pounds,” but the law said they couldn't do it. And we argued with the state. We can put them -- they can wear hair nets, they can do --

BERNSTEIN: The thing about the wheel and the hair seems fairly unfair.

WHARTON: Yeah, it don't make sense and it didn't make sense for a tow motor operator. I don't know why.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: They thought that was, you know-- I thought that was one of the easiest jobs I ever had doing the shop, sit on there and drive it around, but that was just funny.

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BERNSTEIN: And were there any minority people in this district, any Hispanic, African American?

WHARTON: Ah, no.

BERNSTEIN: Residents? Nobody lived there who --

WHARTON: Yes, there are a lot of people that lived there now.

BERNSTEIN: But they didn't get these jobs?

WHARTON: There was no -- when I took over as a business representative, there was not a single black person in my district. There was black people that belonged to the Machinist Union, like in my dad's shop. In the Ohio Brass, there were black people who worked there, but they wasn't in my district. They were serviced by the International Union, which was an agreement that was made when they come from the UE into the IAM, that they would be serviced by the International --

BERNSTEIN: International.

WHARTON: --and not the district. And in reality, they serviced themselves. The 45:00UE was good about training their officers to do their own stuff; doing their own negotiations, their own arbitrations and everything. And then the Machinists, we –- we, held hands and babysitted most of them, we really did.

BERNSTEIN: Uh-huh.

WHARTON: I don't know why it was that way but we did the work rather than teach them how to do it. I don't know why we did that but we did it, and it took some doing to try and get people to agree to start doing it, you know. I think sometimes, people was worried if I train this guy how to do this, then he'll run for my job.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And I said well let me tell you something, if I teach somebody how to do something, they're less apt to run against me than they will be if I keep it a secret what I'm doing, and they think I'm doing nothing. They figure they can do it, you know. I says “But you know, when I leave, somebody's going to have to do this job.” And I firmly believed that and it wasn't just me in that 46:00district. There was quite a few of us that got together and said “Hey, we're going to start training people,” and we did. We had stewards’ programs, we had localized officers training, and we'd teach people how to conduct a union meeting.

BERNSTEIN: Do you use Robert's Rules of Order?

WHARTON: Yes, yes, we did.

BERNSTEIN: Did you ever teach union history?

WHARTON: No, no.

BERNSTEIN: Either informally or formally?

WHARTON: A little here when I was the director here but --

BERNSTEIN: Still back in that era, when you're the district lodge business agent.

WHARTON: The only thing we had in my district that was something like that, we had some local lodges and some of them were -- the history of the IAM is that they were founded by Masons, and our ritual and our constitution is patterned 47:00mostly after the Masonic Order. And at one time, all of our officers were Masons and most of our representatives was Masons. Ah, Red Smith was the first non-Mason on the executive council.

BERNSTEIN: Really? And when was he?

WHARTON: He became the International president in 1969. And the reason for that was, most of them come off the railroad and the railroaders were Masons because they were what they called boomers. They would get on a train and go from Mansfield to Crestline, to work on a train, and they -- when they get off at Crestline, they might have to stay there two days, and they would go to the Masonic Lodge and they'd stay there, and they would put them up for the time. And that's how they become mostly Masons. But the 19 people that founded the IAM 48:00in Atlanta, in the railroad pit, were all Masons. Our lodges, some of the old lodges, still conduct the business that the officer set at a certain spot at the meeting, the president sits at the front, the conductor sat beside him, the inside sentinel sits inside, the outside sentinel sits outside. The trustees sit to the right of the president, the secretary and the treasurer sit to the left of the president, the vice president sits in the back of the hall to upkeep order. And that's their chairs.

BERNSTEIN: And that's a Masonic pattern?

WHARTON: Yes. I understand that.

BERNSTEIN: Structure of a meeting?

WHARTON: I'm not a Mason, I never was.

BERNSTEIN: Okay. And is the term conductor a Masonic?

WHARTON: I think so.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: Yeah. And what the president -- what he did is he helped the president conduct the meeting. In order to get into the hall, you had to show your union 49:00book to the sentinel, and if you wanted to leave, you went to the center of the hall and put your hand here, and if the president authorized you to leave, he would put his hand there. Nothing was said and then you could leave. When you came back in, you had to show your union book again and come back in and acknowledge the president and go sit down. My local, 1151, was -- that I ended up in -- was one that operated that way. The local that I first joined, 1405, did not operate that way. It was -- we were taught a lot of -- if I become president of my local lodge and I had to read the ritual to conduct my meeting, I would be laughed at. It's just -- it just wasn't done in my district. And today, I can quote you what it says to open a meeting.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

50:00

WHARTON: It says, "Officers and members, I expect to have the assistance of each one present in preserving order. Let your remarks be confined to the question before the lodge, and entirely free from personal attack, in order that harmony may prevail. The lodge is now open for any business lawfully brought before it."

BERNSTEIN: That's a decent introduction.

WHARTON: It is.

BERNSTEIN: It says what needs to be said.

WHARTON: It says -- yes.

BERNSTEIN: But you didn't - that wasn't your tradition in your lodge.

WHARTON: Oh yeah, we would read that.

BERNSTEIN: It was.

WHARTON: But what I mean is the officers didn't sit at the right places and all that stuff.

BERNSTEIN: Oh I see, got it.

WHARTON: They didn't do that. But no.

BERNSTEIN: But you did read that.

WHARTON: Oh yeah.

BERNSTEIN: At every --

WHARTON: And we had the sentinel and you had to check the books. Every place you had to check your book in my district, but the local lodge that I ended up going to after my lodge closed, was that one in Galion, Ohio, which was one of the oldest lodges, and it was -- and you moved up through the chairs at that lodge too. You didn't go from conductor to president. You might go from conductor to 51:00vice president and then up to president. I mean, there was nothing that said that but that's just, you didn't do it you know, it's just the way it was, and nobody argued or challenged it.

BERNSTEIN: And so this is, ah, which local, I'm sorry.

WHARTON: Local 1151.

BERNSTEIN: Is the oldest one?

WHARTON: It's, it's --

BERNSTEIN: One of the older ones.

WHARTON: It's one of them.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: We had some real old lodges in my district.

BERNSTEIN: Right. So do people in that lodge know about their history, do you think?

WHARTON: Oh yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. They were really big on it. When you asked about social functions, that was one lodge that ah, they would meet on Friday nights, the first Friday of every month, and they would sell tickets for a dollar, all during the month, and then on Friday night at the meeting, they 52:00would draw a name of somebody that bought a ticket. If you was at the meeting or working second shift, you got half of whatever money was raised.

BERNSTEIN: Wow.

WHARTON: If you was not at the meeting nor working, you got $25. So, and then after the meeting, they used that money and they would have fish fries and, ah, they'd have beer and cold drinks and cold cuts, and we'd sit around and play pinnacle and different card games.

BERNSTEIN: So after the meeting there's a social.

WHARTON: After the meetings, they had the socials, and we had several locals that would do that, that would have a function after the local lodge meeting. Every Friday of every month was taken, unless it was a five Friday month, in my district. There was a meeting every Friday.

BERNSTEIN: Of a different –- of a lodge, the Fridays were all taken.

53:00

WHARTON: Yeah, different lodges, right. And I had a couple that would meet Sunday at 2:00 and the reason it was set at Sunday at 2:00 -- I said, why are you meeting at Sunday at 2:00? They said well, the bars don't open in Ohio until then and we don't want a bunch of drunks coming. So I don't know if that was true or not, but they had a lot of people come on Sundays. I said, I didn't think that was right to have it then but they did it.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah. That's interesting. So how, so where -- you moved from business rep of the district and then what did you -- ?

WHARTON: I went to work for the International Union as a special rep, in Cleveland, Ohio.

BERNSTEIN: And that was a much larger territory?

WHARTON: Yeah. Then I serviced -- I worked for then general vice president Red Smith, who had the Great Lakes territory, and at that time, it included from 54:00Cleveland, from Ohio, to Florida, and from the east coast, south of Pennsylvania, to, ah, the Tennessee line and down into Mississippi and Arkansas. It was during a time when a vice president by the name of George Watkins was suspended by the International president and put on as a deputy of a local lodge. This was in the late sixties.

BERNSTEIN: What was he suspended for?

WHARTON: It was during the organizing campaign of the business –- of the Grand 55:00Lodge Representatives and President Siemiller -- I can only tell you what I've heard because Siemiller didn't tell me this, but he thought that it was one of the problems of the Grand Lodge Representative organizing, was George Watkins. And – any, the end of it was, he -- and they took Chicago, which was the Midwest, and run them all the way from Chicago down to Texas, and Cleveland from Cleveland, all the way down to the -- Florida and including Puerto Rico. And it wasn't until after Siemiller left office that that was changed, and George Watkins was put back as a vice president, and Siemiller was defeated. Siemiller 56:00wanted to run another term and he wanted to change the constitution. The constitution says that if you can't fulfill at least half of your term, four-year term, before turning 65, you can't run for reelection, and the day that you turn 65, you must retire at the end of that month. And he wanted to change it so he could run another term. Well, the end result was just a huge, huge no, at the '68 convention. They had a closed session to -- for George Watkins to argue with Siemiller about what went on, and then the convention voted who was right and George Watkins won hands down.

57:00

BERNSTEIN: And this had nothing to do with the politics of 1968? It only had to do with -- ?

WHARTON: Well, the federal government politics? No, no, no, it didn't have nothing to do with that.

BERNSTEIN: Okay.

WHARTON: No, no. Union politics yes but not federal.

BERNSTEIN: Not national.

WHARTON: No, not national politics, no, no. But we did follow the '68 convention of the Democrats into that same hotel. And the tear gas, you could still smell it in there when we went in there.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Oh yeah, it was terrible.

BERNSTEIN: Well now, there must have been Machinists somehow involved in the convention, in the Democratic Convention, right?

WHARTON: Oh yeah there's been – Yeah, we’ve had some --

BERNSTEIN: So you were not entirely removed from national politics.

WHARTON: Oh no, no. We've had somebody on the National Democratic Party for years, and -- Red Smith was on, Winpisinger was on. I had been at every 58:00convention, Democratic Convention since -- 1968. After I became a GLR, I went to every convention. And then, when I become Wimpy's assistant, I went -- I was always at the convention, did the work at the convention. Ah, I never wanted to be a delegate, because I had too much work to do and you know, then to be a delegate. It’s -- that's a thing that some people like to be, but it didn't make no difference to me, a title didn't mean nothing. Getting the work done meant something. And, uh --

BERNSTEIN: The work of organizing?

WHARTON: The people, getting them together, yeah, right, down on the floor and you know, getting them to be -- just like working our own conventions. It's you've got to -- you've got to make sure all the delegates that's there understand what's going on and the importance of different things, so you have to talk to everybody.

59:00

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: And that's what my job was as a Grand Lodge Representative, all the way on up from the rest of it. I went to my first convention, I went to Florida in 1964 as a delegate, and then in 1968 I went as a Grand Lodge Representative, and I've attended every one since. Now you can't be a delegate if you work for a grand lodge. As a business rep, I could be a delegate, but I couldn't be a delegate as a grand lodge rep.

BERNSTEIN: Why is that?

WHARTON: The constitution says if I work for a grand lodge, I can't be a delegate.

BERNSTEIN: Ah. Okay.

WHARTON: It -- It's a carryover from some – Something beeped -- (beeping)

60:00

BERNSTEIN: Something beeped. Hello? It seems to still be recording.

WHARTON: Okay, maybe it's something else.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. It's still -

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: It's still recording.

WHARTON: But ah, the theory is that how can I represent my local lodge if I work for the executive council that's proposing these things.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And that's one of the biggest problems we had with the other unions. The Steelworkers and the UAW they both have a right to go as delegates no matter what their job is. Especially the Steelworkers, they can go around and get ten or fifteen locals to send this one person as their delegate, then they can cast all their votes, and you can't do that in our union. Now when I was a business 61:00rep, you could go as a delegate because you worked for the district, not the grand lodge.

BERNSTEIN: Got it, okay. So how did you become a grand lodge -- rep?

WHARTON: I was appointed. I was asked by Red Smith, Floyd Smith, Floyd E. Smith, they call him Red. He called me and asked if I'd come in his office, and I went in his office and he asked me if I would like to be a Grand Lodge Representative and I told him no. I said “My district is good and we're solid, we're financially sound, and I would have to take a $2,500 a year cut for the first five years of being a Grand Lodge Representative.” I said, “I make what a GLR makes now,” and I said -- it was during the period of time when after my 62:00first wife had died, so I wasn't married at the time but I had two kids. And I said, “I don't see anything in it really, not for me, but I just don't see any reason that I would want to do that, and there's other people out there.” And he said, “Well you don't even know what I want you to do yet,” and I said “Well, I know, as a Grand Lodge Representative, you can assign me to do anything you want me to do, and that's the way it is.” He said “No, but I want you to come into the Cleveland office and take over.” A GLR that worked in his office had died, a guy by the name of Dick Noble, who was the business rep in my district, that I took his place when he went on as a Grand Lodge Representative.

BERNSTEIN: Hm. So you were following him up.

WHARTON: Yeah. And, and he knew that that would mean something to me. So I said, 63:00"Can I think about this?" And he said “Yeah.” And this was in May, because it was a day after primary election day, because he wanted me to come up on election day and I told him I worked the polls on primary election day and he said “Well that's all right,” but he said “Come tomorrow, it's okay.” So I went up and we had that conversation and I called him back some time in June and he was out of the office, and I talked to Tom Ducey, who is -- was his administrative assistant, and jokingly he said, "Well, we've already filled that position." I said, "Well that's all right, I was calling to tell you I didn't want it." And we laughed and he said “No I'm serious,” he said “Are you going to take it,” and I said “Yeah.” He said, “Well I'll let him know.” Vice President Smith called me that evening and thanked me and told me to come to work July the 1st of 1968. So I did that and what happens when you 64:00become a Grand Lodge Representative, you start, as I said, as a special rep back then, and you had -- there was a five-year process until you get up to the same level as a Grand Lodge Representative in pay. Same work, same everything, but it's just like a training period you know.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And, but if you've been a business rep for five years or longer, they could cut that in half, so it was only two and a half years, and I had to wait. But I took a $2,500 a year cut for two and a half years and then I -- and I was making just what the business rep made in my district. And then I had to travel a lot more.

BERNSTEIN: And you -- at this time, your family was --?

WHARTON: In Ohio.

BERNSTEIN: How old are your kids by then?

65:00

WHARTON: In '68 they would have been - the one who was born in '59 would be nine, and one was born in '62, would have been six.

BERNSTEIN: So when your kids were born, you didn't really change what you were -- need to change what you were doing at work. It didn't transform your work life.

WHARTON: No. Really, when the kids was babies, I worked in the shop, but once they got old enough to know anything, I worked for the union, they knew that, yeah. And then they lived with my deceased wife's parents for some time after the death, and then I hired a woman to live in, an older woman, and she lived in and took care of them and cooked and did everything. And I, I had an apartment in Cleveland and I still had the house in Mansfield, and I could come back and 66:00forth to either one, it didn't make any difference. And then I got married in January of 1969, I got remarried, and then we still lived in Mansfield and I drove back and forth every day when I was in town. The nice part about that, most of our work, my work that I had to handle, was in Indiana, Cincinnati, Kentucky and Tennessee, which means I was already 85 miles towards my assignment that day, when I left the house. So it really wasn't a problem and I didn't mind getting up. I was a very early riser and would quite often be the first person 67:00in the office in Cleveland. Got really close -- and I was close with Dick Noble that had died, and Tom Ducy, who was the administrative assistant in Cleveland to Floyd Smith, was really close to Dick Noble and we both took it pretty hard when he died, and him and I become really, really good friends, Tom Ducy and I, and remained friends until he died. It was the best decision I ever made to take the job. I've held more positions probably, than anybody in the union. I've been director of the control room and the organizing department. I've been the executive assistant to the international president. I've been the director of 68:00Placid Harbor. I've been a Grand Lodge Representative. I've been a general secretary-treasurer. I've been a general vice president, in almost all the local lodge offices except financial secretary and secretary-treasurer. So it's you know, it's -- a person with my background it--

BERNSTEIN: So that step into the larger organization was the right thing for you in every way?

WHARTON: Yeah, it was -- I could not buy the experience that I got from doing the job that I had. I met so many people that became really, really good friends of mine, and it's just amazing it’s -- I had an English teacher that probably was the most influential person in education in my life. Her name was Nelly Gates and she taught English. I had her in the ninth grade and she moved to the 69:00senior high the year I did, and I had her in senior high. And when I didn't go to school during the 10th grade, and I didn't go to school a lot, I still would go to English class and I would go to shop class. She told me one time she said “Don, as you go through life, if you make one or two really, really good friends,” she said “That's amazing.” She said “It's -- not everybody makes really, really good friends.” I keep thinking about that and all the people that I think are really, really good friends of mine, and the people that I would do anything for, I said “It's -- I'm really, really fortunate.” The other thing she said, “If you go through life and you're in a crowd of a thousand people, you stand there and listen, nobody's going to remember that you was even there. But if you say something and wave your arms or talk and make a 70:00deliberate attempt to involve yourself in that meeting, they'll remember you was there.” I never forgot that either. I told her I was quitting school and she cried.

BERNSTEIN: Did she try to change your mind?

WHARTON: Oh, gosh yes.

BERNSTEIN: So you quit at the end of 10th grade?

WHARTON: Well I had -- I couldn't quit until I was 16.

BERNSTEIN: Oh right, of course, right. You told me it was age and I didn't liken it to --

WHARTON: You had to get a work permit.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: So I had to go to school. I had to be in school till 10th grade, and there -- I took shop class all through junior high and I took shop class in senior high; electrical shop, welding, ah, woodworking and all those things, I took those -- tool and die -- and I wanted to be an engineer. That's what I 71:00wanted to be but I couldn't. If I'd have been an engineer, I'd messed up my whole life, but it turned out all right.

BERNSTEIN: It sounds like it. So, are you doing okay? Do you need a break?

WHARTON: No.

BERNSTEIN: Okay. So let's go -- you just started -- you got the job as the Grand Lodge Rep.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: Which takes you into a much broader level of interaction in the union. What ah -- did you feel like you were prepared for that, I mean -- ?

WHARTON: Oh yeah, yeah. The only thing that I was concerned about is handling cases before the National Labor Relations Board.

BERNSTEIN: That was part of that job.

WHARTON: Yeah, that was my job, my main job. I had been through several hearings as a business rep. Like when we organized these plants, I would go with the 72:00person that handled them from the Grand Lodge, like Dick Noble would be there, or a guy by the name of Lou Schmidt, he handled them out of that office. So they would come down and present the case, but I'd bring the witnesses and sit with them. So I knew about what went. I assumed they were similar to arbitration cases, and I had a lot -- not a lot but quite a few arbitration cases. And we did -- in my district we did everything ourselves. Until I become a Grand Lodge Representative, I didn't realize that grand lodge assigned representatives in to help in districts and stuff.

BERNSTEIN: You were just taking care of it.

WHARTON: We just took care of it but we were taught that. I didn't start it and Dwayne Randolph didn't start it. We were taught that as -- when we come -- as we was coming up as officers. They would say look, if you call me in for every 73:00problem, they're going to think you don't know anything, and if you handle these problems then they're going to have confidence in you. And that's the way we were taught. So we did that. We did all of our own arbitration cases, we did all of our own negotiations. In Ohio, you were permitted to represent and not be an attorney, employees that were injured on the job, and we did all of those.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Unless they went to court, we did it, and we handled all of the unemployment benefit cases. And all they had to do is sign an authorization that we would there to represent them. When I become a business representative in 1962, the salary was fifteen -- $500 a month, and I was making at least that in the shop, if not a little more. But I worked some overtime, but I worked a lot of overtime as a business rep too. So the district asked -- I was on for a 74:00couple of years and they said “You know, we don't think we're paying you enough,” and I said “I agree with that,” because these people all made good money, you know. So I said let me -- so I took for -- went back for about 18 months and just added up all the workman compensation cases that I had won for people, and the amount of money they had got, and the attorneys were charging a third of those cases, and what that third would amount to, and it had come to thousands of dollars.

BERNSTEIN: I'm sure.

WHARTON: And we went from $500 a month to $15,000 a year, and never looked back. Nobody ever said a word about it, they didn't complain.

BERNSTEIN: Really? What do you mean we?

WHARTON: Pardon?

BERNSTEIN: You said we.

WHARTON: Dwayne Randolph and I.

BERNSTEIN: The both of you did.

WHARTON: Yeah.

75:00

BERNSTEIN: Got it. Because you were doing the same work.

WHARTON: Yeah, we were the two -- yeah. It was he just -- we just divided it up. He had so many locals and I had so many locals, and if he had something that he couldn't handle, I'd run over and handle it, he would come over to mine, but we pretty much just divided the district up and handled it. And then we'd make reports at our monthly meeting of the district lodge. That's just what we did. If, if we had an alcoholic in one of the local lodges -- I've had companies call me and say “Hey, so and so is out again,” and I'd get in the car and go to that town and go to the bars until I found him, and get him, take -- get a fifth of whisky and take it home, most of the time get chewed out by their spouse, but they'd let him in. They had to have that bottle to keep them there or they would leave. And, then I would go back -- not the next day but the day after that -- 76:00and see how he was doing. Never had a woman that I had to do that with. And if he was doing all right, I'd say okay, come get in the car and I'd take him into the plant, get the committee and we'd go in there and let the plant chew him out good, maybe give him two or three days off. But they hated to do that and I hated for them to do it, because that gives me a chance to go and start -- you know, have nothing to do.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: So we tried to straighten him up, I tried to work with him, and we would do that. You know that was just -- we didn't think there was anything wrong with that, that's just what we did.

BERNSTEIN: Did you try to get him to go to AA, because they were around by then, right?

WHARTON: Yeah, yeah, they was, yeah. Several of them were in AA, and I would try and find out who their sponsor was, and --

BERNSTEIN: That makes sense.

WHARTON: That way I could know who to call if I got him.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: Yeah. We did that a lot and we would handle --

77:00

BERNSTEIN: So you were really your own department of ah --

WHARTON: Yeah, and we handled all -- you know, if they had anything they needed in the county or agencies or anything that they needed, we would know who handled that particular agency.

BERNSTEIN: Sort of negotiating social services and everything.

WHARTON: And we would guide them to that, yes. Right. And we were very active in the central bodies. I tried to attend -- I represented five counties. And I tried to attend at least one of the county fed meetings every -- twice a year, so that I'd know what's going on in them counties.

BERNSTEIN: In each county.

WHARTON: And the county where Galion was in, Morrow County, and Richland County was Mansfield, where I was at. I attended those almost constantly, because those 78:00were my biggest two locations.

BERNSTEIN: That's where you had the most people, so you were more involved in those.

WHARTON: Right, right.

BERNSTEIN: And so what was the vehicle by which you got involved in national politics as your union?

WHARTON: From the union, well it started in 1958 in Ohio, they tried to pass a right to work law.

BERNSTEIN: Ohio has been a troublemaker for a long time, eh?

WHARTON: And the person that handled that for Ohio mainly was a guy by the name of Matt DeMore, who was the president of the Machinist district in Cleveland. So as a Machinist, we all jumped on that bandwagon and worked that night and day. And I worked campaigns for people long before I was old enough to vote. When I was -- I couldn't vote until I was 21. I said “The things have changed.” 79:00When I was 18, I could drink beer in Ohio but I couldn't vote. Now I can vote at 18 but I can't drink beer until I'm 21.”

BERNSTEIN: Then you can't drink, right.

WHARTON: I said “Things, things change.” But yeah, I worked political campaigns because my local did that and we realized that, that you know. I was the president of our Ohio State Council of Machinists, and that's really what education, organizing and political action, that's what they did, you know that's their main job. We did a lot of lobbying at the State House, we did caravans, we'd do door drops, we did phone banks. Election day, we would work the polls. We would get a list of eligible voters in that precinct and then the person we had at the polls would check off when they came in. And then about 80:00every two hours, I or somebody would go in and pick that list up and give them another list, and we could take that back and call the people that hadn't came yet.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right. A reminder.

WHARTON: And if they needed rides, we provided rides, if they needed a babysitter we provided a babysitter. We did all of those things and after 1958 it kind of died down for a while because there was no more issues, they didn't think there was.

BERNSTEIN: So 1958 was the election when the Right to Work law was at the front and center in terms of the debates.

WHARTON: Right. That's when they tried to put it in.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, okay.

WHARTON: And now they just -- they just defeated Proposition 2 in Ohio, which would have taken away the bargaining rights of the public employees. And they beat it pretty soundly. My daughter works for the library there and my granddaughter works as a social worker for the school system in one of the 81:00counties. So they were very active in that.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: And my daughter in North Carolina is a schoolteacher, so. They ah -- They're all Democrats and I think most of their spouses are, except my youngest daughter, and I know her husband is a Republican because his dad is and he was mayor of the city there for a great number of years, and I don't think I've convinced him to switch yet.

BERNSTEIN: I assume you're still working on it.

WHARTON: I keep showing him how much work he had under Clinton and how much he had under Bush, but -- and it was a huge difference. They almost went belly-up. He's in a construction company, and it was tough.

BERNSTEIN: So during that period when you're the Grand Lodge Representative and you're running a lot of these political --

82:00

WHARTON: I didn't run a lot as a Grand Lodge Representative. I ran them as a business rep.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, I see.

WHARTON: Once I became a Grand Lodge Representative, then I would attend the state council meetings and talk to them about political problems and get them to be active, but my job wasn't to do it, because we had nine states. I couldn't do it. All we could do is go in and try and get them active and get them to do it. I personally couldn't do it all. I would work in my town. I'd go back to Mansfield every election day and primary election day and work the polls, and -- but my job as a Grand Lodge Representative, I was assigned to do board work, and if there wasn't any board work to do, the general vice president would assign me the special task; if there was a lodge that wasn't operating properly, I'd have to go in and put it under supervision and operate the lodge for a while, until 83:00it got on its feet. The first shop that the UAW tried to raid us from, when they dropped out of the AFL-CIO, was a place called Mercury Clutch in Canton, Ohio. And they had 800 members and we had 175, which were the skill trades and maintenance people. So they tried to get our group to come in with them, and the company was behind it. So I was assigned into that and I (laughs) -- I guess I brag a little bit, but I asked Red Smith, I said “Red, what do you want me to do?” And he said, “Whatever you're big enough,” and I said “Okay.” So I go in there and I lived with our people and they told them they would have an 84:00election within 30 days of the day they filed the petition and I said, “They're lying to you.” I said, “They can't have an election in 30 days.” I knew enough about board work that I could have the other guy -- there was two of us in that office of board work. I could have him have the regional director put that on hold for a while. So sure enough, 60 days come around, no election, couldn't get anything agreed to, and the people started coming my way, then they're starting to believe me. Well anyways, I got enough of them on my side that I struck them, put them on strike.

BERNSTEIN: This is the 150?

WHARTON: Hundred and seventy-five people.

BERNSTEIN: Hundred and seventy-five people, okay.

WHARTON: And we struck and I was on the picket line and the regional director of the UAW come down and ordered his people across the picket line, and they told 85:00him to go jump in the barrel, that they wasn't crossing no picket line. So I get a call from Red and he said, "I got a call that said you've got these people on strike", and I said, "You told me to do whatever is big enough." He said “Well, what are you going to do?" I said, "As soon as the company gets ready, we'll sign a contract." So the company knew we had it. Once the UAW refused to cross the picket line, we had the company. So they called me and we went in and he said, "What do you want?" I said, "Whatever the UAW got, I want, plus four cents." And he said, "Four cents, why?" I said, "Well we were out four days and it's just symbolic. I want four cents." So we went in and took the committee in and we went out and celebrated. And then the committee come in to the bar where we was going to have our drinks and handed me a bunch of union authorization cards. I said “What is that?” And he said, "This is all UAW members who want 86:00to come into Machinist." I said “Okay.” I said, “I'll let you know tomorrow.” So I go in the office the next day and I throw them cards on Vice President Schmidt's desk and he says “What's them?” I said “Them the authorization cards for the other part of Mercury Clutch. UAW, they want to come into the Machinist,” and I said “We're going to file the petition today because if we file it today, they're going to sign their contract today and it will be a good petition. If you file it the same day the contract is signed it's a valid petition.”

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

WHARTON: So he said, “I don't think we better do that,” and we didn't do it. He wouldn't let me do it. And I found out later, it was Siemiller that said no, we're not going to do that. We really was trying to get things straightened out between us and the UAW. And I said “Well you know, you wet in my backyard, I'm going to wet in your backyard.” That's just the way I was brought up so. But 87:00we didn't do it, but that's the UAW regional director. He treated me very nice from then on. He really come and apologized and we got along great.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: He managed to get over that experience?

WHARTON: Oh yes, very quickly. Forrest Reed was his name.

BERNSTEIN: That's impressive.

WHARTON: Yeah. In fact, he ended up being the president of their reps association, grand lodge reps. Their international reps has a union like our international reps have a union.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: Well he was the president of that union, a pretty nice guy really just you know, he was going to pick up 150 members and it would be no problem doing it, because it would be coming under the same contract as them.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right, right, it wouldn't be any more work, just broader. So you were a Grand Lodge Rep for 1968 to 1972.

88:00

WHARTON: Four years. Yeah. Nineteen seventy-two, the gereral, or vice -- Tom Ducey, who was the administrative assistant -- Red Smith left in 1969 and they brought a new vice president in by the name of Fred Purcell, and he was the vice president in Cleveland and Tom Ducey was his administrative assistant. He kept Tom Ducey. So in -- two years later -- no, in 1972, three years later, an opening come on the executive council and they appointed Tom Ducey as a vice president and put him in Chicago. Gene Glover went to Washington as the general secretary-treasurer and he filled in for Gene Glover as the vice president and Fred Purcell made, made me his administrative assistant. So then I was his assistant until he left and a vice president by the name of Merle Pryor came in. 89:00He kept me. I'm a firm believe that if you're somebody's assistant, they should have a right to say whether you are or not. I handed Fred Purcell and Merle Pryor both a letter of resignation if they wanted to accept it, and he agreed to keep me and in 1981, international president Winpisinger asked me if I'd come to grand lodge headquarters. I asked him, "What would I do?" And he said he wanted me to be the director of the control -- organizing department control room, and I said “What the H is that?” He said “Well, it's keeping track of all our organiz-- ” -- he assigned a director of the organizing department and he was going to keep track of all these elections and follow them up, see what's happened; did they get a contract and when and all that. And I was supposed to head that up. I said “Okay.”

90:00

BERNSTEIN: So that's -- you're supposed to keep track of the nationwide --

WHARTON: Yeah, everything.

BERNSTEIN: -- organizing drives and elections.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: And try to be --

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: Organize the information more than anything else.

WHARTON: Right. And contract all the districts. They were all supposed to send me reports of what happened and copies of everything they did. And I was in the same office complex with Charlie Bradford, who was the organizing director. We got along good but I, I didn't -- I was doing this job and I didn't feel that I was doing anything, I'll be real honest with you. I had two secretaries and if I missed three days, they wouldn't have known it, because they did it all. It wasn't until about six, seven months later, they brought me down to Placid 91:00Harbor and said they wanted me to be the director here. The first thing we did before we built any dormitories or anything, we had --

BERNSTEIN: Well wait -- so this is when Placid Harbor first gets bought. So were you involved in the planning of buying it and saying we need this?

WHARTON: Not buying it. Not buying it, no.

BERNSTEIN: Or planning what to do.

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Planning what it was going to be from the beginning.

WHARTON: Well, let me tell you.

BERNSTEIN: Tell me what you know about the beginnings of this endeavor.

WHARTON: All right. The Retail Clerks had it, and a guy by the name of Norman Heard run it in the ground, because he would run over to Solomon's Island and get a bunch of women and say “Come on over, we're going to have a party at the mansion,” and they would come over and they had a bar and they would you know, do whatever thing. He'd call the cooks in and they'd cook and everything, and just it was a mess. And the local leadership is very conservative, very anti any 92:00of that, you know. So when we bought it --

BERNSTEIN: You mean the county, the local county people.

WHARTON: The county people, yeah, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Not the union local, the county local people.

WHARTON: The county, yeah. We had very few members down here. And, ah, so -- and they told me all this and they said, we're going to buy it and -- Wimpy told me, when I was up and organizing, they're going to buy this and we're going to have every staff person, business rep and Grand Lodge Representative, including the executive council, is going to take a two-week course down there in organizing.

BERNSTEIN: That was Wimpy's idea.

WHARTON: Wimpy's idea.

BERNSTEIN: And that's why he wanted to have this place.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: Let me just ask you this. What do you think he most wanted them to learn?

93:00

WHARTON: How to organize. And he wanted to start training union staff. You know, he felt, like all of us, we got a job and got a card that said I'm a grand lodge rep, that was it. Nobody come down and said here's what you do as a GLR. You got a box about 15-by-12, and it had some reports that you had to make out every week, with a letter telling you that you worked seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, and that's about it. You didn’t -- and no other explanation. When I first became active in the local and the district, I had to sign a non-communist affidavit every election, when I got elected as a lodge officer.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yes. And take it down, have it certified, and when I became --

BERNSTEIN: Did that bother you?

WHARTON: No, it didn't bother me a bit. I just wondered why I had to do it and 94:00the personnel manager didn’t, but you know.

BERNSTEIN: A fair question.

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: Then, I got a letter when I became the business rep, that I had to agree that I would never take the 5th Amendment if it involved a question dealing with my union activity.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Really. And that was, that was the rules under Siemiller.

BERNSTEIN: That's very interesting, yeah.

WHARTON: It was you know, he was one of these guys that really wanted, you know -- it was during the Jimmy Hoffa days and you know, it looked bad, and we had to agree that we would never do that if it involved our work, you know.

BERNSTEIN: Okay.

WHARTON: I didn't see anything wrong with that either, I signed it. But it was -- it goes back to the old ways you know, and that's just the way it was. Wimpy changed almost all of that. It's not that anybody could take the 5th Amendment if you wanted to. That didn’t -- nobody ever officially changed that, so I 95:00guess I'm still bound by that or would be. The law has changed now, to where they would get you anyways for lying or something. So it -- I forget where I was at now.

BERNSTEIN: We were talking about his vision for Placid Harbor at the very start.

WHARTON: Oh okay, all right.

BERNSTEIN: And you were telling me about the guys who had it, who had run it into the ground and it got a really bad rep.

WHARTON: All right. So I come down and I work with Charlie Bradford, and we had -- in every vice president's territory we had territorial organizing leaders, TOLs they called them, and it was their responsibility to go out and work with the district business reps and Grand Lodge Representative, to set up organizing the campaigns, to follow them, to make sure what they was doing and tell the vice president if he needed more help in there or not. So they got all of those 96:00people together and Charlie Bradford and myself came down here, and they hired a guy by the name of Bill Young. Bill Young's note to fame was he was hired, I think by the PTA, to have people review television programs and analyze what our kids are watching.

BERNSTEIN: Like a media watch kind of a project.

WHARTON: And report back. Yes. So then Wimpy after that, hired him to do the same thing for labor. To ah -- and we had classes all over the United States, in different regions, where he would come in and give out sheets, what TV programs 97:00we're supposed to watch, and record what is said about labor or anything, and whether or not there was any union mentioned in it at all. And we did that it wasn't a surprise to anybody, Archie Bunker was the only one you know, that, that involved that. So then when we started this, he has all kinds of doctorates, this Bill Young. He was a college dean someplace. He went to some foreign country and set up schools and just did everything. So Wimpy hired him and the executive council hired him to establish a organizing program, along with our territorial organizing leaders, and Charlie Bradford and myself. And so he come down and spent lots of time here, and we went over what an organizing campaign is, how they do it, what they should do. And it took probably almost a 98:00year before they got that finally analyzed and set up to where they could put this program on.

BERNSTEIN: So you planned the program before you planned what to build or renovate.

WHARTON: Oh yes, yes.

BERNSTEIN: Is that what you're telling me?

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Which is very unusual, you have to admit.

WHARTON: Right. Well, we had --

BERNSTEIN: That's very impressive.

WHARTON: But we had the facilities to do what we wanted to do.

BERNSTEIN: Okay.

WHARTON: In the mansion, down in the basement there's classrooms.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, I've never been there. Okay, I didn't know that.

WHARTON: And they're used for storage now, but they would -- we cut a deal with the Belvedere Motel on Lexington Park, and they stayed there and we fed them here, and the classroom was downstairs. And we had a room where you can go in and you could be on videotape, show you how to handle an interview or a strike or whatever.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

99:00

WHARTON: And teach you how to write handbills and all that types of things, and we could do all that right there, so we didn't need any more room -- for that. So every staff person come through there and after we got that all done, the first class to come through was the executive council. So they come through and we all knew what it was for, to say yes or no.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: So I'll never forget, we had -- he had brought this man and woman in that was magicians, and ah, (laughs) Charlie Bradford and I both said “Bill, I don't know if our executive council is going to go –- “ he said “This is a great thing.” He said, “This is how you can get people's attention at a meeting and when you want to talk to them.” So they had the red balls and they'd disappear and you cut the rope and all that stuff, so he taught us all 100:00that stuff, how to do that. And so the executive council come through and Charlie Bradford was someplace, up in the dining room or something. So I went and got him, I said “Come on, come on.” I said, “They're going to do the magic act,” and he said “Oh, yeah.” So we go down there and we sit there and watch them, and I can just see Wimpy's face getting redder and redder, and worse than Wimpy was Tom Ducey. He's from the old school, he's like Red Smith. He didn't believe in none of that frilly stuff. You just did your job and that's it. But as soon as that was over, boom, they come back here to Charlie and I and said “That's out, that's gone.” They said “We don't need no red balls disappearing, we need members to appear, that's what we want.” So that was gone. But every one of them territory organized leaders was taught how to put on 101:00a specific part of that segment of that organizing campaign. We brought one the attorneys down to deal with the National Labor Relations Board and how you go through the process of filing charges and all that types of things. We brought our communications department down and they were taught how to write handbills, how to call in to radio spots and talk to people. We taught them how to handle and interview if you've got a strike and somebody sticks a mike in your face, how to talk. Wimpy's first thing he said after becoming a national president was, "There's not going to be any more no comments in the Machinist Union." We're going to be out there.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And so they taught them all how to do these programs, and then we had 102:00his wife, Bill Young's wife, taught some interpersonal skills. And then we had a priest by the name of Father Mario from Chicago, who taught interpersonal skills, and ah -- do you know about the Johari Window and the Myers-Briggs test and things like that?

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

WHARTON: Yes. He come in and we never called them tests.

BERNSTEIN: Well I know the Myers-Briggs. I don't know the Johari.

WHARTON: Johari Window, it's about the same thing. It's how to pick out what type of person you are and you're in different sections. And you're either a turtle or, a you know, a beaver or something. And I said test. We called them all instruments, because no vice president was to ever see their score of those tests.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: Because if it did, it's going to kill the whole program. And ah, I 103:00religiously kept that. When they left here, they left with every instrument that they put their name on, so we didn't keep none of them.

BERNSTEIN: That's good.

WHARTON: We had the interviews they did, but we never kept them for anything. We just worked over them you know. We only had two cases where we had a problem and the rep was called and this union steward was called and was brought in, when the vice president and President Winpisinger went over his tape. And it was -- it wasn't that he did a bad job, it was just how arrogant and belittling of the executive council and the union for thinking that they could teach him anything. And ah -- so, we only had a couple of those, we had a few. And it's tough. You 104:00know, you've got guys that's been around forever and you bring them in here.

BERNSTEIN: Bring them in to school, right?

WHARTON: Yeah. And some kid is going to teach them something. It -- we had bumps, but I'm going to tell you what, by the most part, after the second or third day, they were really into it, they really enjoyed it and wanted to come back. The thing we found out was that two weeks is too long to keep anybody going.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: But every single staff person in this union came in here while I was here and went through that program.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding?

WHARTON: And once we started that, then we decided hey, this is not going to just be for staff; we need to do this for our local lodges. That's when Wimpy and Gene Glover started coming down with me and talking about how we could build this facility. And it was during the time when the interest rates were 105:00outrageous. So --

BERNSTEIN: This is in 1982 or '83.

WHARTON: Two or three, something in there.

BERNSTEIN: Okay, yeah.

WHARTON: And we had a problem when we tried to get a permit. The guy that authorizes septic systems works part for the state and part for the county. So I talked to both of them and he said it wouldn't perk. Two of our maintenance people here were -- they knew, I mean they were really good. They said they had perks. They said you had a perk anyplace on this property. And this one, Carol Morgan, was a typical guy that you thought he just fell of the turnip truck yesterday. He tells me he says you know, what it takes. So I go to the county 106:00commissioner and I said, “Why is this guy doing this?” He said “I can tell him but he won't listen to me.” He said, “You can talk to Louis Goldstein from the state, or the governor, and he'll tell him and he won't listen to him.” So I said “What the heck.” So the guy that owned the Lincoln Mercury place here, a guy by the name of Louis Aldridge, was very influential. He came over right after we bought it, and I think just to see what we were doing, and, ah, invited me out to lunch. So I went out to lunch with him and he introduced himself. He asked if I wanted a drink and I said “No, not during the day.” And then some time later we went out at night and had a dinner and he said, “Do you want a drink?” and I said “Maybe after dinner,” and I had a drink after dinner. He said, "Don't you drink?" And I said “Yeah, I drink.” 107:00Then I said “You know,” I said “I'm down here meeting with you,” And I said “If you wanted to listen to some drunk talk, come on over to our bar and you can listen to me when I'm drunk and then you can leave.” But I said “No, I said I'm here talking to you.” So we got to be kind of friends and he said -- he's from North Carolina now, and he had been here for a long time and he said “Don, I've been here for a long time and I'm really, really well liked, but I'm not one of them.” And he said “I don't care how long you're here, you'll never be one of them.” I said “Okay. I understand that.” He said, “But they'll treat you good and everything,” he said, “But you've got to treat them good.” I said “Okay.” So I would go to - the big thing down here was horseshoes. I sponsored a horseshoe team at this one bar. All the bars had a horseshoe team. And then softball in the summertime, I sponsored a softball team. And then we'd get ready to have a perk and I go to talk to Louis 108:00Aldridge, and I said Louis, I'm in a bind here. I said, “I talked to the chairman of the county commissioners, George Ogg, and I've talked to Louis Goldstein, who is the secretary of the state, and I talked to the governor, and they say they can't do nothing about this guy.” He said “Okay, let me check it out.” So he called me and he said, “You have President Winpisinger get hold of Louis Goldstein, and tell him that you would like to have a delegation down here,” on whatever day it was. And he says, “And have your legislative guy get a hold of Congressman, ah –- “ I forget his name. He'd been in a long time. And said, “You would like to have some representative down here.” 109:00So I get hold of Wimpy and Glover calls me and he said “What's going on?” And I said “Well, we're going to have a perk test.” He said “What's everybody going to -– “ I said, “I don't know,” I said “But I was told to do this, and the guy agreed he would come out and take a perk test.” So we had a guy with the backhoe, he dug the hole and set it all up. This guy walked in there and I'm not kidding you, the governor was there, the Secretary of State was there, the state representative was there, the state senator was there, the Congressman was there.

BERNSTEIN: All for the perk test?

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: That's kind of outrageous.

WHARTON: All of the county council and Louie Aldridge, and several of the businesspeople in the community --

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: -- were standing around this hole. The guy looked around, took a five gallon can, filled it with water, walked down there and poured it out, walked back up, signed the thing and left. To this day -- well Gene is dead now -- he swore that I paid somebody to get that done, and he said “Don, how much did it 110:00cost?” I said, “I didn't pay nobody nothing.” I said “They just felt that we were a good neighbor and they did it.” Wimpy knew that I would tell him the truth about it.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, yeah.

WHARTON: And I said, “I'm going to tell you what I did. I said George Ogg had a fundraiser for his reelection to a county commissioner, chairman of the county commissioners,” and I said “I bought a table at his dinner.” He said, "Well how much did that cost you?" I said “$150. It was ten seats for $15 apiece.” And he said, “Well did you ever turn the bill in?” I said, “No, it was a personal donation.” I said, “I can't turn it in, I wouldn't turn it in.” And, ah, I said, “That's all I done,” and that was really all I done, but then that was the end of it and we started to build on that. Good -- they set it up, tried to figure out what kind of classes to have for the union 111:00represent -- the local lodge officers, and what classes we needed for full-time staff. Full-time staff negotiations, arbitrations, strategic planning, ah, interpersonal skills, ah, how to write handbills, how to, ah, make a speech, how to work on a call-in show, all of those types of things; Arbitration 1, Arbitration 2. And all of the classes that we gave them, when they left here they had a notebook with everything that was from that class, and when they'd go back home, they could just look in there and find it. And we -- they built a, ah, negotiating program in the -- in fact Indiana University set it up, and we 112:00had to -- and we bought it. And anything I bought -- anything I had anybody do, I bought, I owned it, like I'm going to sign off.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: Yeah. So I said, “I don't care what you do with this,” but I said, “I can do anything I want with it because I own it,” and he said “Okay, that's right.” So we made some modifications of it. I could take in the average hourly earnings in a shop and the number of people and the raise that the company is going to offer, and this program would figure out exactly what it cost the company with roll-up and everything.

BERNSTEIN: Huh.

WHARTON: And that's still given to them. They still take that home in a CD. And ah, then local lodges, it's how to run a meeting.

BERNSTEIN: That's extremely useful.

WHARTON: Pardon?

BERNSTEIN: Extremely useful.

WHARTON: Oh, you can't beat it, and we have real arbitrators come in and handle the arbitration classes. We have sides picked out, you know and they present different cases, and then the arbitrator makes an actual decision and then goes 113:00over why he made it to the people.

BERNSTEIN: Right, yeah, that's the best way to learn.

WHARTON: For local lodges we have how to run a meeting, how to be a good shop steward, how to -- the history, IAM history. Actually, I can't think of all of the local lodges up there now but it's a lot. They have Leadership 1, Leadership 2 and Leadership 3.

BERNSTEIN: So how long were you the director here?

WHARTON: I was the director here for about, ah, two and a half years. And I became the International president's executive assistant when I left doing this, so I was really over it anyway. But it, ah -- the building wasn't officially open when I left, this building, but the program and the timeline was set up for everything. Working with Bill Young, we had a timeline and a schedule that -- 114:00what each item was, and it's going to take us six months to do this and a year to do this and two years to do that, and that was all laid out for all the programs that we had, was going to have. And then, like his wife -- Bill taught a class too, and Father Mario, the priest, they taught an individual in our organization how to teach their class. We had a diversity class and -- I can't think of all of them now, but I took over from --

BERNSTEIN: It's a very impressive program.

WHARTON: Pardon?

BERNSTEIN: It's an impressive program.

WHARTON: It, it -- we went to the Steelworkers, we went to UAW, which neither one of them had real programs.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

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WHARTON: It's their convention sites. They -- if a regional director wants to do something in the Steelworkers, he'll call and say he wants to use the hall and the campus there, and he can go in there. He has to create his own program, bring his own teachers, everything. They don't do anything.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: Class -- I mean at Black Lake, the UAW is a gift to local lodge officers that do a good job. They get to come up there for a week and bring their family, and they have training about unions for kids, you know and teaches them that. But the staff -- let me say, they teach them about unionism but they don't get into negotiations, none of that stuff, they don't do anything. Because really, in those unions, those local lodges, if they're in that industry -- 116:00automobile industry or in the steel industry, they don't do negotiations or arbitrations. That's all done by the International Union.

BERNSTEIN: It's much more national, yeah.

WHARTON: And we had to do it all, all of ours. We went into an NLRB case with any other union they brought an attorney in and we handled our own. And it's, it's not that hard to do. It's just getting to know what the law is.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And knowing the, the board reps is the main -- the first thing I was told when I come GLR, to handle NLRB cases, I was told to buy a ticket to Atlanta, to Nashville, to Memphis, to Cincinnati and Indianapolis; that's where the regional offices are.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: I was told the regional director's name and who his assistant was and 117:00who the regional attorney was, and I was to go in there and meet them and introduce myself. And then I was told what bar that the professional staff drink in and what bar the nonprofessional staff drink in, and I was assigned to go into those bars several times while I was there and meet with those representatives. In Indiana, the regional director demanded that his representatives that were in town -- his agents that were in town -- whenever we had a state meeting in Indianapolis, had to attend our banquet, our cocktail hour you know.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right.

WHARTON: And they all came and they enjoyed it, but that was one of their demands, that was one of his demands, Bill Little -- and they came. But I, you know, the only reason I ever had any problems with Memphis, which was really 118:00anti -- John J.A. Reynolds was really an anti, anti-union regional director, but the rest of them were good guys.

BERNSTEIN: Really? Huh, very interesting. I think we should stop here.

WHARTON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: And ah --

BERNSTEIN: So, the recorder is on and I think it's working perfectly, and you'll just remind me about the battery. It should last for hours. Ah, we left off, I think right when, ah -- in the eighties, and we were talking about the beginnings of Placid Harbor.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: And ah, I met somebody last night that, who I've known since the first time I came here, Mike Dale, who tell me you talked to him about Placid Harbor before it started.

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WHARTON: Yes. I hired him, yeah. It -- he was hired when -- before we had any of the dormitories built or anything. So we have a three-hole -- par three, nine-hold golf course. And he was a groundskeeper at another golf course, so one of the reasons we hired him to maintain the property, and he's been here ever since. A good employee, he’s worked his way up to supervisor and ah -- supervisor of maintenance.

BERNSTEIN: It seems like a very well kept place.

WHARTON: It is. We had -- the first person we had that took care of the grounds was a man that had worked for Fulton Lewis, Jr. as a -- back in the forties -- as a gardener, and then when Fulton Lewis, Jr. had a special function in the 120:00evening, he provided him with a tux and he would be the door greeter.

BERNSTEIN: He was the person who owned the mansion?

WHARTON: Fulton Lewis, Jr. was.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: He was the commentator, a very conservative radio commentator, and he broadcast his radio, ah, sessions from here.

BERNSTEIN: Oh no kidding?

WHARTON: Yes. The man's name, we called him Pop Shaw. He was an African American and he maintained the grounds until he was in his late eighties, maybe 90, and then a woman who took it over and did a great, great job, raised most of her plants from seed during the winter, and then would plant them out. She maintained all the plants and stuff. She didn't have to do any of the mowing or 121:00anything, but she maintained the plants and shrubbery and that type of thing. And her name was Mae, and she retired and then -- I don't know the woman's name now that takes care of it, but they've all done very, very well to keep it maintained. We've tried to make it look really presentable at all times. But ah, Pop Shaw was here. It burnt down in 1943 and he was working here then, and it was rebuilt. And then -- and I think we went over this, but the Retail Clerks bought it, and they put about a $1.5 million in redecorating. It was going to be their educational center and a retired president of theirs was going to live 122:00here, by the name of Housewright. It got run down pretty bad before they was able to do anything with it, and the county really wasn't happy with them being here, so they sold it to us and we bought the property for $1.2 million, and the interest rates was horrendous. By the time we were ready to start building the dormitories, we had had enough friends in the county and had proven ourselves to be good neighbors, they passed $6 million worth of government bonds for us to build this, and then we paid them back.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yes. We paid them back $1 million a year over six years.

BERNSTEIN: That's a real vote of confidence.

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WHARTON: Yes. And the interest rates was like 12, 13 percent, and we got bonds for 8, 8 percent, and we paid them back in six years. And then we built this addition on. And -- just about the time I was leaving, we built it on, in 2003.

BERNSTEIN: So you -- you told me about the trip to Sweden, to Scandinavia, really inspiring the shape that this took. Were there any other -- ?

WHARTON: We went to the UAW's Black Lake, we went to the Steelworkers Linden Hall, and we went to the Seafarers have an educational center over on the Potomac River. We're on the Patuxent River.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

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WHARTON: And ah, they have an educational center that trains porters and housekeepers and things for ships, and the employers put in X cents per hour for all the people that work for them, and they want to bring a person from an assistant chef up to a chef, they can send that person to this educational center and they train him how to be the chef or a baker. And ah, it's a pretty huge facility. I haven't been over there for years, but when we came here, they were raising their own vegetables, had their own processing plants to can the food.

BERNSTEIN: Wow.

WHARTON: And they raised -- they raised hogs for their meat, and had just gotten 125:00into raising cattle. It takes a lot longer to raise cattle, to get a herd of cattle going, than it does pigs. So they was just into -- I think the time I went over there, they were up to 500 head of cattle.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding?

WHARTON: No. And they had their own slaughterhouse and everything.

BERNSTEIN: I had no idea.

WHARTON: And they, they had the Sequoia, the presidential yacht that Kennedy used.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: They brought that down there as a show, showplace and they maintained it. And it was a really - it was so large, we really couldn't use much of what they were doing, because what they were training was skills, and we were training, ah, educational programs that taught people how to be a representative. The thing that helped them, the housekeepers and people they 126:00were training for the ships, took care of their hotel there, and the chef cooked the food and the pastry chef cooked the pastry.

BERNSTEIN: Because it was the perfect training ground.

WHARTON: Right, absolutely. And they were a good neighbor too. Everybody got along with them very well. And ah, so I come back and I didn't find anything there we could use. We were never going to be large enough to do that. In view of the fact that we had to finance our own school, not from employer contributions but from our membership dues.

BERNSTEIN: Did you ever consider looking for employer contributions?

WHARTON: No. What we done was, ah, we analyzed the, our strike fund, would run 127:00anywhere from 40 to 110, 120 million dollars. So after we bought the place and we went to our grand lodge convention, we have a convention every four years.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: And we presented to the convention that what cost -- it would cost to maintain Placid Harbor, would be paid for out of the interest that was drawn on the strike fund. And to my knowledge, to this day, it's still sufficient to maintain Placid Harbor, off the interest of that strike fund. So in -- and you know, the last ten, twelve years, nobody was on strike anyway. So you know it ah, it built up X amount of cents of per capita tax that's paid to grand lodge, goes into the strike fund. So it's constantly growing and very little used now. 128:00So ah, last -- when I left in 2003, it was up to about $115 million and growing. And -- but we were having some strikes back then. We haven't had any for quite some time. And ah --

BERNSTEIN: So you became general vice president in 1988?

WHARTON: Yes. In 1993, I went to grand lodge headquarters. I left being the director here and went to our international headquarters in Washington, D.C., and became the executive assistant to the international president. I worked there for him, for five years, and then January 1st of 1988, I became a general 129:00vice president and was assigned to the Great Lakes territory as the general vice president.

BERNSTEIN: Okay. Did we miss anything about your term as director here, before we move on?

WHARTON: Well, I supervised the -- along with the staff that we had here, the maintenance people -- the building of the first facilities that we built, ah, the dormitories. I hired a staff of three educat -- educational reps that were -- all but one was International Association of Machinists members that had educational backgrounds. We had one come from the airlines and he had went to 130:00college and got a teaching certificate, but he could make more as an auto mechanic or an airline mechanic than he could teaching, so he became an airline mechanic. And the other one we hired, Mark Sullivan, who come from University of Connecticut, and he worked for us for some time and then he went back and became the director of labor -- the director of the labor department of the University of Connecticut and is still there, Mark Sullivan. And Jim Leslie, who was a business representative in Detroit, he decided he wanted to go back and get an education. He had a drinking problem and to take his mind off of and to fill his 131:00time up, he started taking classes and got his masters degree, and then went to -- we had a layoff, and he went to the University of Arkansas and was a professor there for about a year and a half. And then, when we were able to call back people, we brought him in to Placid Harbor as an instructor. And eventually he became the director, and during that period of time he got his doctorate degree and in fact taught here in southern Maryland, for I think three years after he retired, courses that would give the students doctorate degrees, doctoral degrees. So, and he just stopped doing that. Then I left and went back 132:00-- when I become a vice president in 1988, I went back to Cleveland and the Great Lakes territory, and I was there until 1993, and in 1993, I was put on as the general secretary-treasurer and come back to Washington.

BERNSTEIN: So when you first go to Washington in 1983, what was, ah, the biggest ah, what was your biggest challenge?

WHARTON: Well it's --

BERNSTEIN: Were you excited to move to the center of things?

WHARTON: Yeah it's, it's hard to explain, but when you're down here, even though you're meeting with members constantly that's coming through here, you're 133:00removed from the actual day-to-day functions of the union. And when I went back in ninety -- '83, I went back into the functions of the union. And although I enjoyed being down here and meeting -- every staff person had to go through here for two weeks, and so I got to meet every person that was on our staff and live with them for two weeks. I was much more comfortable when I went back up in '83 at headquarters.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: And it was exciting in that our international president at the time was William W. Winpisinger, who was a very outgoing, forward-thinking individual, and to work with him was a great honor. Yet for so many years in our 134:00organization, we steered clear of any type of publicity or news items. If any reporter ever asked us anything, we were told to say no comment, and when President Winpisinger took over, he decided that we were going to be known. And we started a racecar program and we raced.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, that was his idea?

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: The IndyCar? No kidding?

WHARTON: Yes, yes.

BERNSTEIN: I should have known that.

WHARTON: Yeah. And he was an auto mechanic from Cleveland, and he felt that that would give us some recognition, because we represented a lot of auto mechanics. And it did, it created a pretty good following. The problem was the cost to be really competitive was prohibitive. Stroh's Brewery sponsored us. We represented 135:00a lot of the members at Stroh's Brewery, from the tasters to the -- everybody but the bottlers. We represented all the mechanics and the maintenance people. And they come out with a Schaefer Beer, so they put Schaefer Beer on the car. But the cost to run that was so high that we really bought Roger Penske's last year's car, and that's what we raced. So we were always a year behind the rest of the circuit. We came in second one time, it was the highest we ever finished. But you know, it -- we drew a lot of people at the races, of our members, but we never got the publicity out of it that he anticipated, except we were known. The thing that surprised me the most after he become the international president, he 136:00came to an Indiana State Council of Machinists one time and as Wimpy liked to do, he liked to just sit down with the group and talk. And he asked them what they would like to see of their union and one of the representatives, a business representative, said well, he said “The problem is, we're not big enough to do anything.” He said “We're not - you know, the IUE and the Rubber Workers and the Steelworkers and the Autoworkers, they're big and we can -- they can get more publicity than we did.” And Wimpy proceeds to tell him that of all the unions they named, we were the second largest. We were bigger than the Rubber Workers, the IUE and the Steelworkers in the United States. And -- but we didn't represent -- if the Rubber Workers went on strike, they struck the big three 137:00rubber workers plants; Firestone, Goodyear and Goodrich, and everybody knew it.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: If UAW goes on strike, they struck a plant. The only real strikes that we had were on the airlines, that got any public recognition, and Boeing was large enough that we got recognition about that, but mainly only on the West Coast we got a lot of publicity.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: But the Eastern strike gave us a lot of publicity and had it ended different, I think the publicity would have been better. But when the company decides they're just going to go out of business it's -- and I think it was Frank Lorenzo's design, when he -- the contract that he offered -- knew that we 138:00would accept, was to run the company out of business. And he made money by -- he owned very little of Eastern Airline. He owned Texas Air, which was a lot smaller airline but had a lot more money. So he got to write off the loss of Eastern through Texas Air, and in reality made money off of it, but, ah, it was a bad thing. But the thing I got to do a lot with President Winpisinger was travel with him. Ah, we have our own plane, it's a Lockheed plane, a Leer jet that our members make, and we bought it. And the reason we bought it, it was the only way we could reach our membership, because there's so many small local and district lodges in out of the way places, that it's hard to fly from one town to 139:00the other. So with that plane, we could visit locals that never had a visit from an International president. And I can remember leaving with him on Thursday night and getting back 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning on Monday, and we've hit six different towns in that weekend.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right.

WHARTON: And, ah, our members at first were kind of upset about the plane. And once we got to traveling around, I think one of the hardest things you would have to convince our members of now is to get rid of the plane, because they really enjoy having their officers come to meet them. And they get to talk personally to their president and to the general secretary-treasurer and their vice president. And ah, so I think that's been a good thing. I certainly gained 140:00a great experience by being able to travel with him.

BERNSTEIN: So you started that travel when you first came to Washington, and then you must have kept it up.

WHARTON: Yes. I started traveling when -- in 1968, when I went into the Cleveland office, because I had to cover nine states. It wasn't the traveling that I did when I went with President Winpisinger, but then that was all over the United States and Canada.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

WHARTON: And then when I become -- went back to -- I went back to Cleveland as a vice president and I traveled again, those nine states and did some other traveling as a vice president, to some foreign meetings and conferences. And then when I come back as general secretary-treasurer, I attended a lot of, and served on a lot of panels in foreign countries, dealing with the future of the 141:00labor organization, the feeding of the world, the global economy and those types of programs. And I served on a great, great number of panels in Japan and Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland and Italy, Australia, and it provided, I think, a big incentive for our union to be able to be part of those programs, cause we could bring anything that we learned back and apply it to our union. And we invited a lot of foreign labor unions to our convention, and we were 142:00invited to a lot of theirs. And I was the first American to speak at a Scottish labor convention.

BERNSTEIN: No kidding?

WHARTON: And I didn't realize why, until they were just making some changes in their representation at their convention level. And the lady that was the president of the union, which in most foreign countries the president runs the meeting as a figurehead, and the secretary is the person that really operates the union. And it was a young lady and she was giving her best wishes, she's leaving office, to the convention, and she said, I'll probably be the last young, communist person to hold this office. And they had so many communists, so 143:00many Christians and so many different sectors that all are represented on their executive board, and that vote at this convention was going to eliminate that, and they could -- anybody could run for any office and it would be a makeup based upon the people that won the election. But I talked to the president of their union after that meeting and he said he had invited Lane Kirkland and, ah, John Sweeney to come over and speak at their conference and they would not because they had communist --

BERNSTEIN: No kidding?

WHARTON: -- officers, yes.

BERNSTEIN: And they knew that and you didn't -- or did you know it?

WHARTON: I didn't know they had a communist president, but it wouldn't have made any difference.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

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WHARTON: Winpisinger was probably the only labor leader to ever go to Moscow and meet -- and then went to Cuba and met with Castro, and went to China and met with the people in China and labor unions in China, and went to the Vatican and met with the Pope. And he was chastised by, I think it was after George Sweeney, it must have been Lane Kirkland, that he should not be socializing and fraternizing with the communist dictators of the country. And Wimpy's answer was, “I know when I get done meeting with them people, they will not convince me to be a communist, so I'm not afraid to meet with them.” And so that lent itself to the rub that we had in the AFL-CIO for some time. We weren't the best 145:00thought of union in the AFL-CIO.

BERNSTEIN: But you would say most of the members supported him in that?

WHARTON: Oh, I know they did, yeah.

BERNSTEIN: He somehow managed -- I mean it had a long tradition as a fairly conservative union and yet somehow he managed --

WHARTON: Well we, we were a conservative union in the thirties, and reading it -- we were one of the unions that opposed Social Security. And you know, it was ingrained in our tradition that we were very conservative, but it was -- we were kind of the upper class of the labor movement being machinists. We made better than most, we worked on the railroads. And -- you get into the fifties and going into the sixties, we started to become a lot more liberal, and we started 146:00thinking about pensions and health and welfare and those types of things. In 1946, we took out of our constitution, ah, the ah, when you took the obligation as a member in our organization, you had to take an oath, a part of which that I will never propose for membership in this association any other than a competent white candidate. And that was taken out in 1946, but there were black members many, many years before that. But they finally took it out thankfully. We became a little more liberal under Al Hayes, a little more liberal under Roy Siemiller, 147:00a lot more lib -- liberal under Red Smith, Floyd Smith, and way, way liberal after International President Winpisinger, and then from then on we've been very liberal.

BERNSTEIN: Did you have much to do with changing the -- with civil rights? I mean did that -- I know other people have mentioned that they flew down south and they would find two meetings, they would find segregated locals. Obviously it's a process, that the phrase comes out in '46 but it's another long process before there's a sense of equality.

WHARTON: I forget what year it was, that I was assigned into, ah, Georgetown, South Carolina, to merge the black and the white local together.

BERNSTEIN: That would have been a job that you would have been assigned to when 148:00you were -- ?

WHARTON: Ah, it had to be as the administrative assistant.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, that makes sense.

WHARTON: The problem was that neither wanted to do it. They had a picnic every year, and both the locals went together on the picnic, so it wasn't that they didn't associate with one another or anything, they just wanted their own locals. And I think a lot of it -- I'm not sure they really wanted it, but a lot of it was just that's what they're used to.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: You know, they didn't want change. And when I went down and met with them and sat down, they talked against it, not belligerent or nothing, and when I told them it just had to be done they did it. They integrated the offices of the people that was in the office at the time and from then on, we never heard another problem from them. So that was the end of that, and that was the last 149:00black and white local we had -- and it was in a paper mill, so it was an old, old local.

BERNSTEIN: And so Winpisinger sent you down there?

WHARTON: I was sent down there -- I'm not sure. I'm not sure whether I was sent down there -- I had to be sent down by my vice president out of the Great Lakes territory, but it was through President Winpisinger or President Smith, that I was assigned to go do that.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: They would tell the vice president in that territory it had to be done and he would assign somebody to do it. So that's the way I got the assignment.

BERNSTEIN: It's so interesting that it wasn't that difficult, huh?

WHARTON: It really wasn't, because they were very good friends.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah.

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WHARTON: You know? They worked together, they were happy, and they just liked having their own locals you know. Ah, their contract was one contract -- but it was just odd. And it was the skill trades was white and the production workers were black, so it was -- that was the difference in the crafts.

BERNSTEIN: And do you think after the merger of the two, that there were more opportunities for African Americans to get the -- to move into the skill trade jobs?

WHARTON: There were, I'm sure, without being able to guarantee it, but I think there were some African Americans in the skill trades already, but they got to remain in their local, because it was the same contract.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right, right.

WHARTON: That's interesting. I never followed that up to find out how much that changed.

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BERNSTEIN: Yeah. Because I mean that's -- you know, one issue is about whether people are working together and the other is about opportunities.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: And that division you described, where the black workers get the production jobs and not the skill – not the chance to move into the skill jobs, is such a longstanding problem in the labor movement.

WHARTON: Exactly right. One of the things that probably helped the Machinists more than anything are while we were machinists, our biggest membership were production workers. So there was no divide in the production workers, between the black and the whites. So you know, a black could be the supervisor or the group leader who was in the union and the supervisor wasn't, and -- or he could be the sweeper and a white person could be the sweeper and a black person could 152:00be the supervisor. There's areas where I know they were treated different and we had trouble with them. I was in Louisville, Kentucky with President Winpisinger when they had the democratic issues convention there, and it was during the period of time when school busing was an issue.

BERNSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

WHARTON: And our members, along with other AFL-CIO members, picketed the democratic issues convention. And President Winpisinger and I went out and met, because a lot of them were machinists, and they were anti-black, there's just no doubt about it, that was their issue on busing. And we met with them and we got 153:00the picketing stopped. I handled -- I had to go into Kentucky for their Kentucky State Council of Machinists, and they were going to pass a resolution on the floor of the Machinists, the state council, to oppose busing. That's the first time in my life where I ever got up and made a speech and sat down and nobody booed, nobody clapped, nobody did nothing.

BERNSTEIN: Silence.

WHARTON: Silence. But they didn't pass the resolution. And two staff people was there, and I was the administrative assistant to then Vice President Purcell. And they said “Man, nobody clapped or nothing,” and I said “You guys were sitting in the audience.” They said, “We wasn't going to start it,” and I said “Okay.” But it’s a – So those types of jobs I've had. In fact, I 154:00taught the diversity course here while I was the director and an instructor, one of the classes that I taught during my tenure here was the diversity class, of how to -- to watch how you talk, what you say. We didn't call it political correctness back then but that's what they call it now. And I said the thing that bothered me the most is I can remember in my own circumstances, I went to school with a good number of black representatives -- students, played football with them, basketball with them, and I'd say “They're so good friends of mine, I can tell black jokes in front of them and they don't say nothing.” And then I said, “Then when you stop to think about it, they might not have said nothing but I probably wouldn't have said nothing if they told some joke about my nationality but it certainly wouldn't have pleased me.” And I said, “I 155:00had to apologize to a whole bunch of people, including people that's on the grand lodge staff that they'd been with me when I would tell a black joke you know, about black people.” And I says, “The other thing we do is if we're in a group of Italians and we tell a joke that we don’t normally tell on Italians, we say Polish.” And I said “Nobody's dumb enough to not realize that if they wasn't there, it would be an Italian joke; because they're there it's a Polish joke.” I said “So we just can't do that type of thing.” I said “The only thing you can do is if you're going to tell a joke, tell it on yourself and let it go at that.” But -- being here was a real eye-opening experience for me, to see the need that we had in our organization for diversity 156:00training. It was horrendous. And, ah, I think we've come a long way. After I was here and when I was the executive assistant to the president, when I was the vice president, and as the general secretary-treasurer, as I traveled the local and district lodges, I could pick out the ones just from the way they operated, who had attended Placid Harbor and who hadn't.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yes. There was that much difference in the manner in which they conducted their business. It was amazing.

BERNSTEIN: That's impressive. And was the diversity training here from the get go?

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. It was part of the vision.

WHARTON: Part of the organizing training, yes.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, from the beginning.

WHARTON: Right.

BERNSTEIN: Which is so important.

WHARTON: It's I guess, I can't forget what year. I forget what year it was but it was, I think in the eighties, we established a human rights department. We 157:00first called it a civil rights department. And ah --

BERNSTEIN: This is when Winpisinger is president.

WHARTON: Yes, Winpisinger was president and the convention did not put it in the constitution, but at our convention, they had binding resolutions and there was a binding resolution to establish a human rights department or a civil rights department. And he brought in a black member, Clark Johnson from Ohio, who was a business rep, and he come in and was the first director of the civil rights department, and we eventually changed the name to the human rights department. But he followed all of the EEOC cases in local and district lodges, and he would go out and help represent them, and go into the various states and conduct diversity training in those states, and that helped us a lot. Then we ah -- 158:00later on we established a woman's department, and I think that was under President Buffenbarger, yeah. And it was a binding resolution at the convention that we establish a women's department. President Buffenbarger assigned a woman who had been a member a long time, but had been a secretary in our building and not a staff person. Well, her position as a secretary she'd be called a staff person, but she wasn't a field representative. And ah, she did a very good job. Women have always held positions as field staff, since I have been a member, and there have been black representatives, staff representatives, international 159:00representatives, that were, were ah, black, Hispanic and different nationalities, ever since I've been active in it. So -- I'm not sure they equaled their representation, you know the number of members we had in that particular race, but as the years went on it certainly became that way. And I think right now, we would be more than -- all the minorities, if you call -- you can't call women a minority -- but certainly if they were included in the minorities, with the blacks and the Hispanics and everybody, they would have 160:00representation on our staff equal to their membership in our union. So it's pretty open and available to anybody that, ah, gets there. The thing about our union, all of our members have a right to become international president, and all of our executive board comes up through the shops. There’s -- you know, we don't have any professionals that we've hired that end up being on our executive council. It comes from the rank and file and you move up through the local and district lodges, and then the International Union, and then the executive council. So it's always been an internal union and where possible all of our department heads are IAM members who have had training. Quite a few have a good 161:00educational background, college experience, and can handle the jobs that we need done. And then Jim Leslie started here, a, ah, degree program where you could take your experiences as -- with the labor studies centers and all the things that you had, and they would evaluate them and give you credit for so many credit hours for it, and then they would teach the classes for you to get your degree. And we've had a great number of our members have gotten degrees through that program. And it's really, really, a well received program.

BERNSTEIN: That's connected with the labor college, right?

WHARTON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. No, that's an impressive program. So, you don't hire organizers 162:00from without for the most part, or you do but they don't move up?

WHARTON: No. We, we hire some organizers from without but I can't think of an instance where it was for more than one campaign. Ah, when we pick up organizers, if we net extra ones, we go into our local lodges and get a leave of absence for them and they come out and help us organize. And we take the, our -- we look at the local lodge officers that have been through Placid Harbor. And one of the requirements, we have Leadership 1, 2 and 3 here -- and in order to go from Leadership 1, to come back the next year for Leadership 2, you have had to participate in your local lodge, and the officers sign off that you have, or you can't come back for 2, and the same goes to 3. We picked up a lot of members 163:00out of the shop, to help us organize, and one of the reasons we found that we're better off doing that -- we had a campaign on U.S. Air against the Steelworkers for the ticket agents.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And the Steelworkers decided to hire a bunch of college kids and give them an internship, and go out and organize against us for these people. And we won the thing hands down, and it was during the time when we was discussing whether or not to have a unification between the Steelworkers and the Autoworkers and the IAM. And I talked to Leo Gerard, who was the 164:00secretary-treasurer of the Steelworkers, who became a good friend of mine, and without a doubt he said what cost them the election was the young kids, because they were in talking to people about a union they knew nothing about. And our members were in talking about a union that they knew something about.

BERNSTEIN: That was part of their lives.

WHARTON: Right, right. And so we've never done that. We've always used our own members. When I was in the shop, as the president of the local lodge, it would be not uncommon for the business rep to call me and say I need you to come out and help me handbill at 5:00 tomorrow morning at this one plant. And I would get up and we would go out there and handbill. Maybe they'd buy you a coffee and a donut, but we didn't get paid anything for it, and then we'd go to work. We 165:00would do that in the evenings. We would go with them in the evenings to make house calls, talk to people about joining the union. And -- we just figured that was part of our job as an officer of the lodge you know, and that's where you really got your experience.

BERNSTEIN: To know people.

WHARTON: And to know how to be a representative.

BERNSTEIN: Is there one particular organizing drive that stands out in your mind as a personal victory?

WHARTON: Well, I think I mentioned it yesterday, a power equipment company was an old company. It was in Galion, Ohio. Most of the plants there were organized, but this was an old company, they made wiring harnesses for electrical and mainly telephone lines. And they were owned by Ericsson Phones back then, and it 166:00was called Power Equipment. Unions had tried a great number of times to get in there, and Dwayne Randolph and I were able to -- it took us about a year, of slowly building that campaign up to where we wanted it, and we won it by about 70 percent. And I think that probably was our major victory in that -- in my time as an organizer, because once I come on the grand lodge staff, my dealings with organizing mainly dealt with handling the board work. I didn't go out on many campaigns after that, because I was assigned to different functions. So most of my organizing was done as a business representative. And after that, it was mainly special assignments, where we had a problem with the local lodge and 167:00I'd have to go in -- be assigned to go in and help straighten it out. Or a lodge that their business rep or somebody wasn't handling them right and I would have to go in and take it over and run it for a while, until we got it set up and running. Ah, just putting out fires and handling problems that needed to be handled.

BERNSTEIN: Were you involved in any significant way, when the talks about the -- it's not called a merger, between the three --

WHARTON: Unifications.

BERNSTEIN: The unification, when those talks were going on?

WHARTON: I attended all of those as the general secretary-treasurer. I was involved in all of those.

BERNSTEIN: What did you -- were you hopeful throughout most of them and did you think it was going to work? Tell me a little bit.

WHARTON: I hoped it would work. It was something that was needed. But in the back of my mind, I knew we would never get the UAW to agree to it. Ah, it was 168:00hard enough for the Steelworkers, but I think if they had left Leo Gerard and I in a room -- and Leo, I've heard him tell this to a hundred people -- and left the UAW totally out of it, we could have gotten a unification package.

BERNSTEIN: Really?

WHARTON: Yeah. But the UAW, they didn't want to give up voting for their officers at their convention. And we could never have gotten away with taking that away from our members, that they have a right to vote individually, on the executive council of your union. So that was a bar. The other thing is the UAW, the way they operated, their staff could be delegates to their convention and 169:00they could accumulate local lodges. In other words, they could get ten local lodges with 2,000 members and they could take 20,000 votes into a convention -- one staff person. In our union, the only way you can combine locals is if they both have less than a hundred. You can combine those two locals if they're within a hundred miles of each other, and one person can represent them two locals. Other than that, that person -- a person from that local has to be at our convention to vote, and we pay the transportation for one local, for one representative from every local, to come to our convention, so the cost of coming is not an issue. And ah, they operate on a totally different system, 170:00neither of which were operating within their means -- Steelworkers nor the UAW. The UAW was able to operate on a financial basis, based on the fact that the big three auto industry were paying staff -- UAW staff -- under the training program to train skill trade people in the union. And I don't know of any skill trades people that were ever taught. And I'm talking about in the hundreds of representatives. But that was a thing they negotiated with their company and they were doing that. And the Steelworkers, they provided an office for all 171:00their staff persons out in the field and they didn't have districts like we have and where -- when I was the vice president of the Great Lakes territory I had nine states. I took nine grand lodge representatives and I assigned one of them to each state, and in that state we have districts that represent the various locals that's in that state. And it's up to them business representatives to handle the day-to-day problems in that district.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: Go in to each local. And if they had a problem, any one of them in that state, they called that grand lodge rep that was assigned to that state. Now he worked out of his home or he worked out of one of the district offices. And ah, so we didn't have any offices out -- that we owned, out around through the United States. The Steelworkers had hundreds of offices that they owned or had 172:00long-term leases on. And ah they were operating just by the skin of their teeth. They had to cut into their strike fund -- and of course they weren't like us, they wouldn't have many strikes -- but we were the only union that was operating in the black. We were the only union that had a national pension plan that we sold to our members. Ah, ours started because we represented a lot of tool and die shops and automotive shops, where they weren't large enough to really have their own pension plan. So the auto and truck mechanics formed one and that's 173:00about all that was in it, was auto mechanics and truck mechanics. And it was on a nationwide basis. And then in the Great Lakes territory, we started our own, which was mostly for tool and die shops and small manufacturing shops. And we had our own trustees, we run our own plan, and then some districts, large districts, had their own pension plans. Well, eventually the truck and auto mechanics plan got merged with the Great Lakes territory plan, and they were different enough that we had to have Plan A and Plan B for a great number of years, until they finally merged and everything was the same. And then we had a large pension plan in San Diego, er, San Francisco, and they were brought in, 174:00merged in. We merged in District 15's pension plan out of New York.

BERNSTEIN: Now is this something that you -- that happened when you were -- ?

WHARTON: I was the general secretary-treasurer.

BERNSTEIN: General secretary-treasurer. So you were kind of supervising --

WHARTON: I was -- as General Secretary-Treasurer, I served as the co-chairman of the pension plan and as co-chairman of the IAM National Benefit Trust, which was our health insurance. And when I was a vice president, I served as a trustee on our pension and health and welfare program.

BERNSTEIN: So you were involved for a long time.

WHARTON: For a long time. And when I was just in the Cleveland office as an administrative assistant or a grand lodge representative, I went with the vice president to most all of the pension and the health and welfare trustees meetings as -- for field advice if they needed it, you know. And we would get in 175:00and tell them what we thought the members was looking for in a plan, in case they -- now we didn't vote on anything, they took care of all the votes, but they would ask us what our members thought. And we always had to try and maintain our plan, equal to or better than the Teamsters, because we competed with them for a lot of membership. But ah, Teamsters had a plan which was never funded. Our plan, IAM National Pension Plan, was fully funded and in several years while I was the co-chairman, we had to grant additional benefits, because you're not allowed to have more than X amount percent over funding. So we would have to give benefits back. A couple years, we granted two or three dollars a month to every pensioner and then sometimes we would grant an extra dollar or 176:00two for the future benefits. District 15 in New York was going to receive a letter from the national benefit program. And they said if they didn't change their funding and reserves, the National Pension Guarantee Board was going to take them over. And if they did, under the pension board, you only got a certain percentage of your benefits, you weren’t guaranteed them all. And we were able to -- the IAM National Pension Fund, was able, through our attorneys, ah, to meet with the Department of Labor and the National Benefit Trust, and negotiate 177:00them merging into our plan. And we had an outside actuary come in and analyze the cost it would be to the National Benefit -- National Pension Guarantee Board to take them over, because it's a cost to them.

BERNSTEIN: Right.

WHARTON: And they -- we come up with a number and the exact numbers is wrong, but it was like $110 million that it was going to cost them. And they ended up, we had negotiated that they paid us $87 million, into the National Pension Fund, and we took that plan over.

BERNSTEIN: And you took it over.

WHARTON: And we had to show them separately for five years, to make sure that they were getting their benefits, and at the end of five years that was the end. And so it was a win-win for everybody. The Pension Guarantee Board saved money, our members --

178:00

BERNSTEIN: Now how did the New York plan get into such desperate straits in the first place?

WHARTON: Granting benefits without adding --

BERNSTEIN: Per capita.

WHARTON: Yeah. And that's the way the Teamsters get in trouble. The trustees would sit down and decide they was going to pay these benefits, and then they would have to try and negotiate that amount of money per hour to the employers. Well, in the Machinist plan, you have to negotiate that money before you get the benefits. So that's why we don't get into a problem of giving more benefits than you -- that you paid for.

BERNSTEIN: But the New York plan did.

WHARTON: They didn't because there again, they operated the way the Teamsters did. Their members was crying for more benefits, so they granted more benefits then tried to get the employers to pay for them.

BERNSTEIN: But their Machinists, why weren't they following the Machinists rules?

WHARTON: Well the Machinists, we didn't rule their pension plan. That was their 179:00own pension plan. Every -- they all had -- a lot of districts, like Boeing has their own pension plan. We don't get involved with that.

BERNSTEIN: Oh I see what you mean, okay.

WHARTON: You know, and it was the -- in District 15 it was the auto mechanics and truck mechanics pension plan, that's who started it. So we didn't -- we don't go in and run them.

BERNSTEIN: Got it, okay. Yep.

WHARTON: And ah, now we, we try and help them and we give them guidance, but if they want to do it, there's nothing we can do.

BERNSTEIN: Right, right. Very interesting. What have I forgotten to ask you?

WHARTON: I don't think much.

BERNSTEIN: I really appreciate you doing this. I feel like there's probably something we've left out, but I'm not sure what it is.

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WHARTON: I don't know, we've -- we went over pretty much all of it. You allowed me to ramble enough, that I got to sort it out, but it's mostly in there.