Rich Yeselson takes a trip down memory lane in The New Republic:
A MEMORY FROM my slothful days as a graduate student some 30 years ago: I’m sitting around my apartment watching day-time television, The Phil Donahue Show, on a day when the guest was the head of the machinist’s union, William Winpisinger. Already, labor was in decline, but the machinists were a million member union at the time and they patrolled key military and commercial companies like General Dynamics and Boeing. And Winpisinger was a piece of work: a blustery, belligerent, union militant.
As always, the conflict formula for talk shows eventually took hold, and Winpisinger received a barrage of hostile questions from Donahue’s audience. So, he stood up—a big, bald headed guy—and went to the front of the stage to take the attacks head on. It was great television, and “Wimpy,” as he was known in the movement, was anything but. One guy stood up and said something like, “Why should I care about your membership? They’re making more money than I am, they have better benefits than I do. Who needs you or them?”
Wimpy’s response was to turn on the guy—again, this is from memory, but it’s of a piece with his career—and bellow, “What are you yelling at me for, you jerk. Rather than attack workers who have organized themselves into a union and are doing better than you because of it, why don’t you organize a union yourself?! Then you can get better pay and benefits, too!”