How Larry Got His Job
The national union was an old AFL fiefdom. The real action had been in the CIO, but Green had appointed one of his boys to head up the operation in Akron and, for years,
the union operated in a typically AFL way: lots of autonomy for the locals, so some were great and some were pathetic, a posh retreat for staff in Canada, and a president who didn’t do much but left everybody alone.
On the national staff was Dr. P, the research director, Austrian with a JD which meant his Dr. was bullshit, nevertheless Dr P had a constituency – locals that trusted him, appreciated his help in negotiations, etc. Larry worked for Dr. P.
The membership had been worried about health – understandable in a union of chemical workers. But, the old national leadership was slow in responding. How to put something in place that would not be a potential political problem? So Larry was a godsend. He was a rep from Connecticut with a college degree in horticulture. He had a political base, came out of a Cyanamid local and he could be brought on to meet the members’ worries. He was put into Dr. P’s office. Then Walter was elected.
Walter, up from the ranks of the TVA white collar crowd, a hero to the black locals in the South for not being an asshole, the kind of guy who wouldn’t take an officer’s commission in the war because he thought it would be better to be a sergeant in an egalitarian post WWII world – Walter challenged the president and won. Forty-six years old, bright, a labor-lawyer wife who was even brighter, somebody who Reuther had his eyes on. So he beat the old guard.
The inevitable fight between Walter and Dr. P happened. The details are not important. What’s important is that no president could have a staffer undermine his political position. So: after finding a nice spot on the AFL-CIO education staff for him, Dr. P was kicked upstairs and out of the union; and Larry was made Research Director. That Larry was an idiot was not a problem. Walter was going to put his people – young people – in place. The political base was covered – after all, Larry had been a buddy of Dr. P. That’s where we came in. We would do the work.