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Arthur Bier man Oral History Transcript 

Interview conducted by Peter Carroll 
January 14, 1992 

Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University 

1992, revised 2015 
Copyright © 2015 

This oral history was conducted as part of the Labor Archives and Research Center Oral History 
Project. The audio recording has been transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and 
reviewed by the interviewee. Where necessary, editorial remarks have been added in square 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between the Labor Archives and 
Research Center and the interviewee. The transcript and the audio recording are made available 
to the public for research purposes under fair use provisions of copyright law. All literary rights 
in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved by the Labor Archives and 
Research Center, San Francisco State University. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for 
publication without the written permission of the Director of Labor Archives and Research 

All requests for permission may be directed to: 

Labor Archives and Research Center 
San Francisco State University 
J. Paul Leonard Library 
1630 Holloway Ave 
San Francisco, CA 94132 
Phone: (415) 405-5571 

Arthur K. Bierman Oral History 
Labor Archives and Research Center, SFSU 

Interviewer: Peter Carroll [PC] 

Interviewee: Arthur K. Bierman [AB] 

Date: January 14, 1992 

Subject: “San Francisco State Strike, 1969-1970” 

[Begin Tape 1 - Side 1 (A)] 

PC: Today is January 14th, 1992, and my name is Peter Carroll. I am doing this 

interview with Arthur Bierman for the Labor Archives of San Francisco with the 
intention of providing an oral history of Arthur Bierman and focusing eventually on 
his relationship to the San Francisco State Faculty Strike and the union and things 
that have transpired since that time. 

What we’ll do today is to deal mainly with your background, the situation at San 
Francisco State. If we’re lucky today, we’ll come to the outbreak of the strikes in 
‘67 and ‘68. 

So first of all, why don’t you tell me where you were born, when you were born, and 
the kind of family you were born into? 

AB: I was born on the 15th of November, 1923, in my grandmother’s house in Madison, 

Nebraska. The house of my grandfather, who was first a fanner and then a carpenter, 
built it himself. Delivered by Dr. Long, a sawbones. And my father was a farmer until 
he was forty-five years of age, then started selling seed corn and animal feeds and retired 
to the city. My mother had been a school teacher for a short time and had gone to Wayne 
State Teacher’s College for a short period, I think, just for a summer session. People got 
their teaching credential by going to summer school for teaching in a one -room school. 
And she was a good piano player. She tried to teach me, but to very little avail. 

I grew up on a farm, first in a house that later became our chicken coop, and then in a 
larger house that my grandfather built for them. He bought them a fann and they lived 
there and I lived there. And I was one of two surviving children, the other one dying at 
seven days of age. And as an only child on the fann, I was early treated as pretty much 
of an adult and my parents were quite competitive against me. I had sufficient 
intelligence to compete with them at an early age, and, of course, at this time, there were 
no televisions and very little radio, and we were isolated and we played cards a lot and so 


I at five or six years of age was taught to memorize every card played. And my most 
vivid memories of those days is playing by myself and imagining things, since there were 
no other children in the family; and you’re on a fann and you’re small, so you can’t get 
anyplace else to see the other children. The only time I would see them was on Saturday 
night when we’d go in to do the shopping, and on Sunday when we went to church, at the 
Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. 

I remember vividly praying for a sibling as I was lonely and none came. And finally I 
gave God a deadline. If the child wasn’t bom on that day, I no longer believed in Him. I 
think I was seven at the time. And the day came and passed and there was no sibling, and 
that’s the day, I guess, when I became really emotionally an atheist, though I kept 
continuing trying to believe until I was twenty-two, when I was at the University of 
Michigan. This was after World War II, and I was having a class in philosophy of 
religion with Professor Roy Witt Sellars. I was a green, aspiring philosopher who had 
been reading Spinoza. And I came out and it was an April day and the sun was shining, 
the trees were leafy. It’s hard to come by a nice day in Michigan in April. And I walked 
out and all of a sudden I realized that I didn’t have to believe anymore. I saw that my 
mind and my feelings were in accord for the first time since I was seven years old. 

PC: When you were on the farm growing, were your parents at all politically interested? 

AB: No, they weren’t very politically interested, though they did vote. But I remember 

persuading them, after long arguments in 1932 - 1 was nine then - to vote for Roosevelt 
instead of the Republican candidate, which I guess was Hoover at the time. 

PC: Where would you have gotten the idea that they should vote for Roosevelt? 

AB: I don’t know for sure. It seems curious to me since all of my relatives were Republicans 

and that’s all I ever heard. And they did talk politics. My grandfather talked politics. 

And subsequently none of them, at the beginning, involved themselves in the farm 
programs that were instituted by Roosevelt. They preferred to lose their farms rather than 
their independence they said. They didn’t want money from the government. So I guess 
my first political and moral principle I later discovered was Kantian. It shouldn’t surprise 
us since they were coming from Gennany for independence. I don’t know whether you 
remember Immanuel Kant or not. 

PC: I did never meet him. 

AB: Nor I. But I did hear tell that when he was rector of the University at Koenigsberg, which 

he was several times, it was a tradition there that the new rector, at the beginning of the 
school year, and the professors would all go into the church and they would have their 
pledges for duty renewed and come up. Kant would lead the parade up to the church. 


And then at the door of the church he would step aside and not go in while the rest of 
them filed in because he thought that no human should give up their independence to any 
being, even to God. And at that time, Roosevelt was playing somewhat the role of 
political god of the United States to which my relatives refused to bow. 

I remember their talking about that, but I think that the explanation for my interest in 
their voting for Roosevelt could have come from a magazine that I remember subscribing 
to, and I’m trying to remember the name of it - it was a magazine printed in Washington 
D.C. It was kind of like a newsletter that came out. I think it was a biweekly, and I had 
seen an ad for that and subscribed to it because there were no newspapers in our house 
except the local newspaper which was mainly who visited whom and what the rainfall 
and what the crop prospects were. There was no national or local news things in it at all. 

I mean the state news. 

PC: Would you call your family liberals or conservatives, or is that inappropriate even 

in that context? 

AB: I would call them conservatives, but independent. You see, I think that probably the term 

that fits them best was the 19th century term “liberals.” 

PC: Um-hum. Well, I guess why I’m asking you is because you obviously diverged from 

this in suggesting they vote for Roosevelt as a kid. 

AB: Yes. 

PC: Did you see yourself, then, as someone who was defying their conventional 


AB: I don’t know that I saw myself as defying them. I think I saw myself as knowing more 

than they did because they never read the magazine that I ordered and that’s where I had 
gotten my infonnation. And so I thought I was in the position of being the best informed 
person. You must remember that this was at the time of the drought and the Depression, 
so city people experienced only the Depression. We experienced a drought and a 
depression. We had a 160-acre farm, and one year I remember during the drought, my 
father and I went through the slough where it was the only place where there’s green 
com, and ears had developed, and we got a half a wagon load of com. Our only cash 
income was eggs and milk, and our income was about five hundred dollars a year at that 

PC: Were you aware of the relative poverty that you were living under? 

AB: I was aware that we didn’t have any money. I did not consider myself in poverty. I think 


that that’s - the word “poverty” is an urban word, not a rural word. You were poor, but 
we weren’t in poverty. I only had one pair of shoes, and we only had one pair of pants 
for the winter and one pair of pants in the summer to go to church or to go to town. And 
I got a nickel a week and my job was to raise the garden. So all of our food was gathered 
from the garden, fresh in the spring and summer, and canned for the autumn and the 

PC: Now you mentioned that you went on to the University of Michigan. Was that for 

an undergraduate? 

AB: No, I went to Midland College first. 

PC: Where is that? 

AB: In Fremont, Nebraska. It was a Lutheran school. I had planned to be an attorney. There 

was an attorney in town who graduated from the University of Nebraska and as most 
young attorneys didn’t have much business, and the teachers in high school had to recruit 
somebody for the oratorical contests that were always held. And she wanted me to go to 
the oratorical contests, which I hadn’t really considered much before, but she was a 
recruiter. Though I had participated in plays and had written scripts, original scripts for a 
school to be performed and that sort of thing. And so she said, “you should go down to 
this lawyer and have him train you for the oratorical contests.” So I went down there and 
it was wonderful being in the office and out of the hot fields. In summertime in Nebraska 
after the oats and the barley was cut, it used to get up to 120 degrees. When you would 
sit on the straw, it would reflect and be very hot. So I said, “well, geez, that looks like a 
pretty good thing.” So I decided to go into pre-law. 

And I didn’t have any - my parents had no money to send me anyplace, so the Lutheran 
school offered me my tuition if I agreed to sweep the halls and clean some toilets, so I did 
that. And during that summer I had earned a little money for myself, thirteen cents an 
hour working in a grocery store from eight in the morning until midnight. And then I 
also got a job in a grocery store in Fremont for three dollars a Saturday, which was pretty 
good pay for me. At that time, that would pay for my room, which was two dollars, and 
leave a dollar over for entertainment. But I had to sleep in a double bed with another 
student and share the room and the desk and everything. 

PC: You were in college then, you began about what year? 

AB: 1941. 

PC: Just around as the war was beginning. 


AB: Yeah, the war began - let’s see, in ‘41 of December is when the Pearl Harbor attack 

occurred. So I went to Midland College and it was a Lutheran college. And my parents 
drove me down and they gave me ten dollars, and that was all the money they could give 
me. And I guess that’s the only money I ever got from them for going to school. 

PC: Did you have a problem with the draft when you were in college? 

AB: No. December 7th they attacked, and I remember sitting in the college. We had a 

chapel. And we were all shocked. And everybody looked around and then they realized 
their lives were changed suddenly at that moment. Changed. Utterly changed. 

PC: Did you think you were going to go into the service? The military service? 

AB: Everyone was going to go into the service at my age. There was no question about it. I 

never thought about being a conscientious objector, though I did not want to go to war. 
My grandfather (on my father’s side) didn’t want to go to war. He escaped from 
Gennany in service from Kaiser’s army by having himself put into a barrel, took food 
and water in with him and had a hole cut in it, and paid the sailor, or sailors, I don’t know 
how many, to open up the barrel to let him out after the ship passed the point of no return, 
and that’s how he came to America. 

And my father was drafted, but the war ended before active duty. I wanted to continue the 
tradition of being a [pacifist]. I didn’t really want to shoot anybody and I didn’t want to 
get killed, to die, and I felt I loved life so much, that it seemed kind of a stupid thing to 
do. I was pretty patriotic, I think, but I don’t think I was patriotic in the hip-ho sense. 

PC: Did you seek deferment? 

AB: No, I didn’t seek deferment. I found another way. 

PC: How was your way? 

AB: My way was to join the Naval Aviation B-5 program. First of all, because they were so 

full, they couldn’t take me for a year, so I had a whole year of going back to school 
before I was activated. I also knew that they had the longest training program of any - 

PC: You had figured this out in advance? 

AB: Yeah. And then it turned out to be even longer because they were getting more and more 

specialized, so I would volunteer for every specialization. So I became probably one of 
the most highly trained naval aviators up to that time as a night fighter pilot. We were 
the first radar units to catch the Kamikaze. They used to fly up to 500 feet at night. And 


they were pretty effective, so we were trying to do that. So I was still in night fighter 
training when the war ended. 

PC: When the war ended. So you managed to avoid the whole thing? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Oh, very interesting. 

AB: Yeah, although I did make a mistake finally in the night fighter training because that was 

more dangerous than combat at that point because the Japanese pilots had only about 
forty hours flying. By that time, I had 550 hours and their planes were paper compared to 
ours. So nobody was dying out there, and everybody was dying in night fighter training. 
One every night somebody died. 

PC: Were you able to continue your education while you were in this training? Your 

college education? 

AB: The training. It did turn out, in fact, that I did because of the training I received when I 

transferred to the University of Michigan, they gave me something like fifty-five hours 
credit. We had a lot of physics and meteorology. It was a little generous, I thought, for 
what we learned, but - 

PC: You didn’t give it back? 

AB: I didn’t give it back. 

PC: Why did you choose the University of Michigan? 

AB: Well, I went back to Midland after the war, my wife was pregnant and very unwell. I 

went back to Fremont, Nebraska, and we lived with her parents. 

PC: Excuse me, when were you married then? I missed this. 

AB: I was married after I was commissioned as an Ensign and after I received my Naval 

Aviator’s wings. It was 1945, February of ‘45, 1 guess, or January. I don’t remember. 

PC: Well, okay. So she was pregnant, and you went back to where, you said? 

AB: Fremont. 

PC: Fremont, okay. 


AB: I went back to Fremont, Nebraska, to Midland College for one semester. And there I 

resumed my pre-law because this oratorical lawyer/teacher seemed like an enviable sort 
of life, and I wanted to be around books. I wanted to read. We only had two books in my 
home, the Bible and a picture book about World War I that my father had bought, and 
there were some, in the attic, some novels, girls’ novels that my mother had had, which I 
didn’t read. Those were books that were easily put away, so I was pretty starved for 
reading. And I loved Shakespeare a great deal. In high school we had a good 
Shakespearean teacher. 

And so I thought that I saw the lawyer’s life, especially since he didn’t have much 
business, as a kind of a scholarly professional life. And everyone advised me at the time 
that the best law school was University of Michigan. So that’s why I decided to go to 
Michigan. And I hitchhiked there during the winter from Nebraska. 

PC: We’re talking about the winter of ‘46, then? Or ‘45? 

AB: ‘46. 

PC: The war would have ended in the summer of ‘45, 

AB: Winter of ‘46. 

PC: Okay, 

AB: That’s right. I was decommissioned. I don’t know what we called it - demobbed. I don’t 

know what we called it in the United States where you go out of the service. I don’t 

Anyway, I had the G.I. bill. And I went back to Midland College on that. And I had 
been a very desultory high school student, but I was a pretty good college student. 

Mostly A’s, that sort of thing. 

PC: Would you have gone to college without the G.I. bill? 

AB: I went to college before without the G.I. bill. 

PC: I mean, would you have been able to go back with a wife and a child and all that? 

AB: I probably would have gone back and worked part-time to graduate, but I certainly 

wouldn’t have gone on to get a Ph.D. I wouldn’t have had that much money. But it 
turned out that the child died. It was stillborn with the cord around its neck. Incompetent 


doctor. So I might have gone on, but I don’t know. I didn’t graduate from Midland. See, 
I went there and I would have continued because my wife without a child could have 
worked, and she did subsequently because the G.I. bill really didn’t support me that 

PC: You said you were a good student at Michigan? 

AB: I was a good student. I only had two and a half years at this point when I hitchhiked to 

Michigan. And what happened there wouldn’t happen today with the greater 
bureaucracy: there was an admissions officer, a fellow named Smith (I think his name 
was Homer, can’t remember for sure) and I hitchhiked and I carried with me a copy of 
Paradise Lost and other poems of Milton along the way. And I asked if I could see 
Smith. And I went to see him, I was cold, it was nice to get inside. In Ann Arbor, I met 
an old buddy of mine from the Navy who suggested going to student housing in surplus 
wartime housing near Ypsilanti. I met Fred Somkin, who let me into his room. He 
teaches history now at Cornell; I shared his room. He was a philosophy student at the 
time with whom I subsequently became good friends because I transferred from law 
school. He always asks me, “what have they decided about Gassendi now?” 

I asked whether I could get into the law school - 1 only had two-and-a-half years - and 
they don’t allow people into the law school unless you’ve graduated. So I brought my 
transcript with me and he saw my copy of Paradise Lost, which was a poem he liked too, 
so we started talking about Milton. He saw my grades and he said, “well,” he said, 

“you’ll do all right. We’ll admit you. You can start the next term.” So I hitchhiked back 
to Fremont and in the summer I went to Michigan to go to their law school, which I 
subsequently hated. It wasn’t going to be the scholarly life, it was a trade school, even 
the University of Michigan, which was a much more theoretical place. Most people just 
train you for the bar. Michigan, like Yale and Harvard, had an international, as well as a 
national audience of students. You know, it was one of those places where you learned a 
great deal more than just how to pass the bar. 

PC: Just to jump ahead, you know, a little, was this law training ever to come in handy 

later on when you became a union leader at San Francisco State? 

AB: I suppose that it did, especially torts from Laidy who was the number one tort man in the 

United States. 

PC: Laidy? Is that a person’s name? 

AB: Professor Laidy. He had the standard tort test. 

PC: I see. 


AB: And he was kind of like the man in The Paper Chase. Do you remember The Paper 

Chase movie? 

PC: Yes, I do. 

AB: Relentless and everybody - he would go around and pick people at random and make sure 

everybody talked. You would have to be responsible for giving your analysis of a case 
and what the facts were and what law you think applied and what arguments you would 
give. So, you know, it was a real classical package. 

PC: Well, getting back to my question, was this the kind of thing that was literally 

helpful, or just in the same way all your education was helpful? 

AB: I think it was more like a general education in critical thinking. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: I wouldn’t say it was specifically helpful. I suppose I learned a few law terms that you 

bandied around to fake things. [Laughing] 

PC: In any case, you did shift back to philosophy? 

AB: Well, I never was in philosophy. I never took a philosophy course. At this time, you 

remember, I was still struggling with my faith in my head. I had no faith, but believed 
that I should continue to believe. And continued to attend Lutheran services at times. 

And so I thought that philosophy would probably really address what I was interested in 
and what was troubling me at the time, and that had troubled me for many years. And at 
that time, I started reading psychosomatic medicine - 

[End of Tape 1- Side 1(A)] 
[Begin Tape 1 - Side 2 (B)] 

PC: Why did you become interested in studying philosophy at the University of 


AB: Yeah, yeah. I wanted to resolve the conflict, and I was getting strep throat a lot and I 

started reading psychosomatic medicine, realizing I was probably getting ill a lot because 
I was feeling guilty about a lot of things. After my April morning that I described to you, 
I never had strep throat again or other illnesses I’d had, so I cured myself. Gave myself 



PC: Interesting. What kind of philosophy did you want to study? 

AB: Well, I was interested in political philosophy a lot. When I was on the farm, I still 

worked with horses. We had a tractor also, but my father took the tractor and I took the 
horses. And it’s a long day, you know, you’re out there at seven o’clock in the morning, 
or six -thirty, take time off, the horses rest, and you might end at sundown. And you’re 
going up and you’re seeing one com after the other in the same row and turning around 
and so those are really boring hours, which I used to spend pretending I was a senator or 
congressman giving endless speeches. Extemporaneous speeches. So I would be out in 
the fields orating away. 

PC: Did you identify with a particular senator or congressman in your imagination? 

AB: Norris was a big hero. A senator from Nebraska. 

PC: He was an independent, wasn’t he? 

AB: Early independent. Remember he was one of two to vote against World War I entry. 

And he was the author of TVA legislation and a lot of social legislation though he was a 
Republican. And Nebraskans have always been a little strange in that regard. They 
generally vote Republican, but they don’t always have the same kind that other people 
have. And you remember William Jennings Bryan was a great orator and I didn’t like his 
position on the Scopes trial, otherwise I could have been an admirer of his. 

And then, too, of course, when you grow up in the Lutheran church as I did, a great store 
was laid on sermons. Rhetoric was still alive, as alive as in medieval times in that 
church. And we still had Fourth of July speeches, and there was a Quaker congressman, 
Mr. Howard, who still wore a string tie and his big black hat. He was like those cartoon 
characters you see in today’s newspapers, you know, the country congressman with a 
string tie and his white shirt and his flowing coat, and the long hair. 

So I was interested in political philosophy ever since the great Roosevelt debates in the 
farm house. The Roosevelt-Hoover debate. I had taken an interest in that and, of course, 
being poor I was interested in Roosevelt because he wanted to help the poor, and I didn’t 
think Hoover did. It wasn’t a very hard choice to make, I didn’t think. I thought my 
parents were voting against their own interest. As I think most people do. Because they 
don’t know their own interests. And I was interested in political philosophy in part in 
order to understand why people vote against their own interests. Interest voting. Interest 
is not an explanation. This is where utilitarianism goes deadly wrong. They don’t know 
shit about politics. When people vote, the theory is totally useless. 


PC: Did you get involved in any political activity while you were studying political 


AB: Well, at the University of Michigan, I was very politically active after the war. It was a 

radical place. There were a lot of people from New York who came out to the University 
of Michigan. Of the number of grads who graduate from Michigan, I think New York is 
about fourth or fifth as the number of admission and grads. And most of them were Jews. 
They came out to the University of Michigan and it was a good school. And I would say 
three-fourths of my friends at the University of Michigan were Jews from New York. 

And they thought I was, I guess, at first because of my name and my wife worked with a 
lot of them and they thought she was Jewish. 

I was going into a party that we were invited to, and as I walked in, there was a kind of a 
hush in the room. I all of a sudden felt a little alien when I heard one of them whisper, 
“he’s not Jewish.” It was almost as if it were a mistake that I was invited to the party. 

But then they and I got over it and we had fun, so - 

PC: What year did you get your BA degree in? 

AB: 1947. 

PC: And then did you go to get your graduate degree? 

AB: Then I got into the M.A. [program]. 

PC: At Michigan? 

AB: At Michigan. And I got that in the following year, in ‘48. 

PC: And then you went for your Ph.D. in Michigan also? 

AB: And then I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. 

PC: I guess one of the things I wanted to ask you was whether you in any way 

participated in the Wallace-Truman-Dewey election in ‘48? 

AB: I didn’t participate in the sense in which I did later as going out and getting the vote out 

and working in the headquarters. I was a student at Berkeley the year that Truman won 
against Dewey. 

PC: Did you vote that year? 


AB: Yeah, I did. It was an extraordinary morning after the election. We had student housing 

out in Richmond - 1 think Richmond - and the University of California had a bus that 
bused us in. Usually everybody had their nose in a book, quietly reading avoiding other 
people’s eyes. This morning everything was totally different. We were talking and 
laughing. Suddenly we found themselves a community as most of us realized that we 
probably all voted for Truman, didn’t we? It was really a joyous time. 

And at Michigan, it was very radical there. I used to go to student groups and we’d make 
protests and so forth. 

PC: Protests about what? 

AB: Well, when did the Korean War start? 

PC: 1950. 

AB: 1950. There was something leading up to that as I recall. Let me see if I can get into my 

chronology here. I got my M.A. in ‘48. Michigan was a little too positivistic-analytically 
oriented. Stephen Pepper had written a very interesting book on metaphysics and I 
wanted to study with him, so I persuaded a couple of my friends to come out with me and 
we came out to Berkeley and I stayed here one year. They required us to have an M.A. in 
some other field, and I didn’t want to stay around for that. And it probably wouldn’t 
have been healthy anyway because I raised such a stink about it, pounding on the 
chairman’s desk. He was afraid I was going to slug him, I guess. I probably wouldn’t 
have ever gotten my degree there anyway. [Laughing] 

PC: [Laughing] Who knows? 

AB: Yeah. So I went back to Michigan and took my exams that spring and failed some of 

them, which I thought was unfair which we protested to no avail. We wanted to see other 
students who passed exams. So then I got a job with Ford Motor Company. I worked at 
the Dearborn plant in the assembly. After I’d sold things from door-to-door for a while 
and tried to make a living. 

PC: When you worked in the motor industry, did you join the United Auto Workers’ 


AB: No, I was on the management wage list; they didn’t have a union. I worked in the 

industrial relations office. I realized anything I might get a job at was as a secretary and 
I’d had secretarial classes in high school. I don’t know why, I had taken shorthand. Isn’t 
that wild? 


PC: As a fallback. 

AB: I guess so. You know, everybody looks to have a trade, right? So I went to the second- 

hand bookstore and found some old Gregg Shorthand books and retaught myself 
shorthand, so I took the shorthand and the typing exams at Ford Motor Company and 
some neighbors were in the personnel department there and they told me about these 
jobs, so I passed those and I got a job in the industrial relations as a secretary, which I 
subsequently threw over because I wrote better letters than they did. I said, “why are you 
dictating letters to me? We’re wasting our time. I’ll write these letters for you.” “Oh, 
tha nk God,” you know. I was too literate. And this was a really interesting plant. This 
was the assembly plant where the UAW was highly organized and they still are the most 
radical elements in that particular plant. 

PC: Did that rub off on you? 

AB: Oh, yeah. I was very sympathetic to that, and I worked in a very interesting section of 

industrial relations. I worked in the suggestion system. The suggestion system was the 
most immediate and direct contact, supposedly a mediator between the employer and the 
employee. The employee could make a suggestion and if it had merit it would be 
investigated by our office. We had an engineer in our office, and if he could find that it 
made some monetary savings, then it was adopted. The employee would get 20 percent 
of the savings per year. There was one guy who had about thirteen different things and 
he was making something like fifty thousand dollars a year. He was working in the 
painting department. He was a real smart guy and a real tough fellow. 

Well, management, of course, never wants to accept workers’ ideas. All the engineers 
and the plant managers there would be the guys to go over it, and there was no union rep. 
And our office, in effect, was the one that was supposed to represent the interests of the 
worker, which we did, particularly the engineering investigator. He was a good guy, a 
very smart guy. And he was an advocate and I played a very minor role of getting the 
minutes of the meeting and making sure that all of the details were down and the 
arguments and that sort of stuff. And I could influence things by letters and so forth, 
because I was writing letters at this time. And so we were the advocates for the 
employees, and it was obviously designed to not only save money, the workers got the 
view that in some sense the workers had a role to play and they didn’t have to shut their 
minds off. 

Give you an example, a very simple one. One design that these engineers made was that 
the floor of the automobile was made in two parts so there was a seam in the middle. 

And the seam is such that the front part was on top and the rear part was on the bottom. 
Well, that’s pretty stupid because the snow and the ice and the rain is going through the 


open cracks, and gravel and stuff will get inside. This is going to open up and you’ll 
have all kinds of problems... rusting out. The guy said, “put the front part on the bottom 
and the back part on the top.” [Laughing] And, of course, the engineers were furious. 
“We know how to design cars.” And so to get them to argue for this, you might have to 
go up and make appeals. 

PC: So you were actually seeing yourself in part in a group working with a group of 

people who were representing you might say the blue collar unions against white 
collar management? 

AB: Absolutely. And we were about the only people who walked through the factory in 

safety. A lot of white collar people wouldn’t walk through there because they considered 
it dangerous. Something might fall over or somebody might bump into you and you 
might fall into something. I mean it was real hostility out there at that time. This was 
1949. And the UAW, you remember that Reuther was still around, so the - he was 
pushing an idea for profit sharing and for having also management representation. 

PC: Did you extend your interests on behalf of the workers to your social life? I mean, 

were you friendly with regular union employees? 

AB: I was living in Willow Run at the time and I commuted in with these other guys who 

worked in personnel who helped me get my job at the Ford Motor Company. And we 
lived in housing for poor people. I remember waking up in the winter and my daughter’s 
bed - her head was covered with a snowdrift. The snow was coming in the windows. I 
mean we had one little coal-buming fire in this place, and you had to be at least two feet 
up to the stove and the wind was blowing through there. They were made for wartime 
people near Willow Run where Kaiser has his plant, where they made B-54 bombers and 
so it was strictly temporary and they were supposed to be tom down. They had no bases. 
Nothing underneath the floor. They were just put up on cement posts and most of the 
people in our neighborhood were poor people as well as students. 

For example, across the street from us were Kentuckians and they had two chairs and one 
table and no beds. And I bought a car from them. We knew them and they’d go down to 
Kentucky every once in a while to visit their kinfolk. I had bought their car and they 
said, “we need to go down and see them. Can we bring it back afterwards and we’ll fix it 
all up for you.” So I said, “well, that’s okay. I don’t need it until then.” And they 
always brought back sorghum. We’d make a sorghum bread. And they fixed the car up. 

Another person we knew was an auto mechanic. He was a high school graduate from 
Ann Arbor and we saw them, I guess, more than we did anybody. We used to play cards 
with them and their friends. I guess we knew about half and half, the academics and the 


PC: When did you stop working at the Ford Company then? 

AB: I worked - let’s see, I transferred after that. I got a better paying job. I got a job as a 

technical writer then in Ypsilanti where they made generators and starters. And I got my 
friend, Jim Gould, a job, with whom I subsequently did a book. A job for him there 
where I really learned to write more than at college. And this was during the year that I 
was supposed to be studying after I had failed some of my exams. I didn’t know whether 
I was going to take ‘em again or not. I felt quite betrayed because I thought that I had 
written some good exams and other people hadn’t, but they wouldn’t show us the exams. 
This guy who helped the technical writers was a high school graduate and I really learned 
to write there. We were supposed to write letters for the engineers to give to 
management, and the managers would have to decide on the basis of our letters where 
they wanted to spend money. It was a hundred thousand dollars a half a page, two 
hundred thousand dollars we got a page. A million dollars you got two pages, five 
million dollars you got three pages. You know, they’d come with a pile of this stuff to 
you and you’d have to condense it down. And that was good, that was about the best 
training I ever had. 

And then I took my exams again that spring. Some of my friends persuaded me to do it 
and I read one philosophy book the entire time. I didn’t read any other philosophy at all. 
It was probably a good thing actually, and they congratulated me for what a wonderful 
exam I’d written and how much I had improved. I must have really been working hard 
last year, they said. I think it was all because I learned to write. 

PC: You learned to write? Oh, yeah, I see. 

AB: Yeah. And also they were going to not read the exams and there was a visiting professor 

out there from Johns Hopkins. I can’t remember his name now. He was quite outraged 
and volunteered to go to the administration. He said he was going to go to the dean if 
they didn’t read the papers. And he insisted on reading the papers. So I was quite 
grateful, and independent as I was, I was not an easy student for a professor. Probably 
the crowning blow was a long explanation by a guy about Spinoza, and I questioned it 
and he went on and said something else. I said, “oh, that’s what you mean. Well, that’s 
obvious. Why didn’t you say that?” And the class then, at this point, was dismissed and 
I don’t know, I guess maybe there was a lot of political activity they didn’t like, either, 
you know. 

PC: Like what political activity? 

AB: Well, I forget what the issues were. 


PC: Well, I was thinking about the Berlin Blockade and the Cold War was coming 


AB: That was Truman’s first term, I guess, wasn’t it, when that happened? 

PC: Right. 

AB: I don’t remember. Well, I was fairly active in the Socialist Party. I joined the Socialist 

Party when I was at Berkeley. 

PC: This was when? 

AB: 1948. I was out here in the fall semester of ‘48 and the spring semester ‘49. 

PC: And you joined the Socialist Party in that period. You did not vote for Wallace? 

AB: No, I didn’t vote for Wallace. I voted for Truman. I saw Wallace as a losing event, and 

Dewey was a disaster, so that we had to collect all the votes we could for Truman - that 
was the big argument, are you going to vote the principle or are you going to vote the 

PC: You chose the practical? 

AB: I chose the practical because you’re throwing your votes away in effect. And Truman 

wasn’t that great, you know. I mean, he wasn’t speaking out against McCarthyism and 
that sort of anti-Americanism. He wasn’t making any moves at all. 

PC: While you were a student at this time and as the Cold War is beginning to get a little 

hot, were you involved in any issues involving student freedom to join political 
groups? Were you persecuted? Did you know people who were being harassed for 
Red kinds of activities? 

AB: I don’t remember if any students were ever thrown out. It might have been some issues 

of admission, but I don’t remember if that was or not. Nothing comes to my mind about 
that. Philosophy students were very active at that time, and a fellow named Terrell was 
particularly active and he was never - 

PC: Burnham Terrell? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: I knew him. 


AB: Did you know Burnham? 

PC: Yes. He became very involved in the anti-war protests at the University of 

Minnesota in the 1960s. 

AB: That’s right. He went to teach with the University of Minnesota. That’s where he went, 

yeah. I had forgotten that he’d gone there, yeah. 

PC: It was a single-minded sit-down protest he led every single day for years by himself. 

AB: Is that right? My God. 

PC: And who would join him. 

AB: Right. 

PC: And it wasn’t until the late 1960s that he found supporters. But you knew Burnham 

Terrell in his undergraduate days? 

AB: Yeah, we were graduate students together, you see. We were all part of the same group. 

PC: Interesting. You shared his position, would you say? 

AB: Oh, yeah. 

PC: And did you get to act on it at all? 

AB: Most of us, I would say, were of Socialist mentality, the students. You see, you’ve got to 

remember that we haven’t quite tamed down; after the war, all these G.I.s, all of us had 
been through a lot of training. We weren’t your usual students. People were much more 
independent. They’d been out in the world a bit, you know. So it was a really pretty 
mature bunch of people in their own minds, and I think that war experiences or being in 
training make people more communal minded and less independent minded. I think 
whenever you put people into disciplined groups, that has an effect on them and much 
better at organizing. You learn a few things, you know. Yeah, Burnham. 

PC: When did you get your Ph.D. then? You went right continuously through at the 

University of Michigan. And what was your doctoral dissertation? 

AB: In aesthetics. David Prall. I’m losing my chronology here. It was in 1950, the spring of 

1950. I passed my exams and then I decided that I wanted to live in California, I had 


been here for a year. I detested Michigan weather and dirty industrialization. I 
remember going to work at Ford Motor Company. [Unintelligible] the thing, I hated it so 
much. I couldn’t see a need to find a job. I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I 
loaded up my family in our trailer and left my wife in Nebraska while I came out and 
looked for a job. 

And I got a job as a Heinz salesman to mom and pop grocery stores in San Francisco. I 
was selling groceries. Which was good because you don’t have to appear at eight o’clock 
in the morning. You can go at your time and quit at your time and go on your speed. I 
did okay at that. It was pretty boring, but at least you get to know the city and drive 
around in your car and listen to the nice classical music station here and take a long lunch 
and read. 

PC: What were you reading in those days? 

AB: Well, I was reading a lot of novels at that time. I was reading a lot of Dostoevsky and 

Tolstoy. I had had a course in history, you know, Russia, and having been a Socialist, I 
was very interested in the history of the Russian Revolution, and I was very sympathetic 
to what was going on in Russia, but I never joined the Communist Party and was never 
ever tempted to because of the trials. 

PC: The purge trials you mean? 

AB: Yeah, the purge trials. And the killing of the Kulaks, I realized that my grandfather and 

my father would have been killed by Stalin. Or at least my grandfather would have been 
considered a Kulak. That he would have been didn’t strike me as horrible, so I could 
never join. 

PC: Let’s see, this is the period of the Korean War approximately, right? 

AB: Yeah, sure. 

PC: Was there any anti-war demonstrations you were aware of? 

AB: No, I don’t think so. I wasn’t active in any. There may have been some, but I don’t 


PC: Were you supportive of the war? 

AB: No, I wasn’t supportive of the war. It was stupid. What’s Korea up there, you know. I 

went to have my ears examined because I knew that my hearing wasn’t good. I was 
flying fighter planes and you’re very close to the 2,500 horse power engine, and my ears 


were damaged. So I went to have them checked because I didn’t want to be called back 
in. I was still in the reserve. Not very long after that I was demobbed. Oh, I went to 
have my ears tested to make sure that I was not going to be fit, and I made it even worse 
in the test, you know, they can’t really tell perfect. He wrote down that I didn’t fail, and I 
came to California and didn’t give any forwarding addresses. 

PC: So you had this long tradition of being an anti-war warrior. 

AB: Right. Well-put. Yeah. I don’t remember any rallies. 

PC: What about the Joe McCarthy business, which was also beginning to heat up ‘51, 

‘52, ‘53. Did you sign petitions? Did you attend meetings? Were there campus 
organizations that you felt - 

AB: Well, I wasn’t on campus at this time. I was working in the city. 


[End of Tape 1 - Side 1 (B)] 
[Begin Tape 2 - Side 2 (A)] 

PC: I was asking if you were involved in any campus organizations. 

AB: Yeah. I don’t remember that I was. I don’t recall it. 

PC: When did you get your first academic job? 

AB: Ah, I started in the autumn of ‘52. I was on my route selling groceries near the San 

Francisco State campus. It was noon and I decided to go in and I hadn’t really even 
thought much about it. I hadn’t pursued an academic job very actively and just decided, 
“Oh, there’s a school. Why don’t I go in and see what they got?” And I would say at this 
point that 90 percent of my fellow graduate students never did get jobs in Philosophy. 
Terrell was one of the few that did and another guy was Doug Garner, who got a job at 
Princeton. And we all found out later that the head of the department at Michigan was 
his uncle. [Laughing] Yeah, he got a job. And Manny Bilsky got a job. I don’t know 
whether you ever knew Manny Bilsky. He got a job at Eastern Michigan. And that was 
it as far as I know. 

PC: You did not get one? 

AB: No, none of us did. There were no jobs. You see, the academic market was really 

absolutely awful at this time. Nothing. There were all these people that got the G.I. bill, 
but there were no students. Enrollment was very low. And it didn’t start until later, you 
know, and then in another ten years it expanded. You remember in California. 

So I went into the department office and the guy was just about to call up Berkeley to ask 
to send somebody over because Alfred Fisk was going on leave and Ralph Barton Perry 
was to come and take his job for one semester. 

PC: Who was going on leave now? 

AB: Fisk. The chair of the Philosophy Department at San Francisco State, which consisted of 

two persons. 

PC: And Ralph Barton Perry was coming from Berkeley to replace him for a semester? 

Or was he at Harvard? 

AB: He was Harvard. But he’d retired from Harvard. 


PC: Oh, I see. Okay. 

AB: And Fisk was taking a Fulbright speaking tour of India, and he wanted Ralph Barton 

Perry to come and Ralph said he would. And he was pretty old by this time and finally 
he declined. The day I walked in they had just gotten a telegram from him that said he 
had to decline, he couldn’t take it. His health wasn’t good enough. So there I was for 
this job. He was about to call up, and it turns out that I had had a course from Ralph 
Barton Perry in the Theory of Value, which, of course, they weren’t able to teach. And 
Fisk, quite aghast, thought things lit well. Well, that’s wonderful. Fisk took me into the 
Dean of the Humanities, and I reminded him of his son, and then I think it was that 
afternoon they took me in to see the president. J. Paul Leonard, who was still the 
President. It was still down at the old campus, and it was mainly a teacher’s education 
school still. It was liberal arts, but - he took me in and he said, “what do you do now?” I 
said, “I’m a salesman for Heinz, H. J. Heinz.” “Well, that’s what we need here, we need 
somebody who’s been out in the world, not these academics that come here and don’t 
know anything. Our students are all employed. This is a streetcar college. They’re all 
working students. The rest of ‘em go to Berkeley and the other students come here.” “I 
was a shoe salesman.” “That’s great,” he said, “hire him.” And it was about four hours 
later, a long lunch, and I had a job. For one semester, half time. 

PC: One semester, half time. What was the salary? 

AB: Seventeen hundred dollars. 

PC: Wow. Half time was how many courses? 

AB: Two courses. Well, during the semester one guy, Hugh Baker, got sick, so I had to take 

his course. That gave me three. And I gave up my job as a salesman. They didn’t have 
many professors, but student enrollment was starting to expand there. 

PC: What was the date? You didn’t give me a date that this all happened. 

AB: That was the spring of 1952, and I started teaching at San Francisco State in the fall of 

1952. At that time, there were I think maybe 140 faculty [members], and the campus was 
small, very vibrant, a wonderful campus, really. It was where U.C. Extension is down 
Market Street, you know. And everybody was crowded and we had temporary buildings, 
but there was that rush and push and a lot of activity. It was really very exciting. 

So I suggested that they institute a philosophy major. I had to figure out some way to get 
myself a job. 

PC: This was something you did in the very first term you were here? 


AB: Yeah. So I said, “you should have a philosophy major here.” “Well,” they said, “draw 

one up.” So I drew up a philosophy major and set up courses and descriptions and had 
another guy that was teaching here, Jordon Churchill, who was a very good friend. He 
was from Columbia. A first-rate fellow. Good scholar, good philosopher. Fisk would 
have been a minister. That was kind of typical of the schools at that time, you know. 

He’s abreast of the surfaces of the philosophy. 

PC: Do you recall his first name? 

AB: Alfred. 

PC: Alfred Fisk. And the Dean of Humanities who hired you was who? 

AB: His last name was Arnesen. It was Elias. His wife’s name was Jean. 

PC: And the president was someone name Leonard. 

AB: J. Paul Leonard. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Yeah. The library is named for him. 

PC: Right. Okay. 

AB: And he was part Choctaw, I believe it was Indian. He ran the ship with an iron hand and, 

at this time, the state colleges were under the State Board of Education. They did not 
have their own board like they do now. And the State Board of Education was benign. It 
didn’t pay any attention to them, so the school lobbied independently of the legislature 
for their funding. 

PC: This school lobbied to the legislature for their money rather than through any 

central board of trustees or something like that? 

AB: Right. The board of education was mainly concerned with community colleges and 

elementary and high schools. 

PC: I see. 

AB: And Leonard was a Democrat and a very effective lobbyist politician. And he got money 

for San Francisco State. Did a good job. 


PC: Okay, I’ve taken you slightly away from your story. You proposed this major in the 

fall of 1952 in philosophy. 

AB: Right. 

PC: And what happened with that? 

AB: Oh, they liked that idea a lot. That was a good idea. And we were getting students. 

“We’ll see if we get the students, let’s try it out.” People were open to that. And we’ve 
always had wonderful students and a lot of students here from my first class, several of 
them went on to get Ph.D.’s. San Francisco State, it was a really good place to teach. I 
decided I never wanted to go teach any place else. I hate small town schools. I hate 
places like Ann Arbor, New Haven, or Princeton, awful. I mean, all you’re dealing with 
are academics that practically no one knows. I liked it out here because politically it was 
much more active. You knew people from all walks of life. It was an interesting city. I 
never did want to stick solely to the campus. So many people like the small place. They 
just stick on that campus and the commutes between there and the home. They didn’t go 
downtown as much. They don’t know any lawyers, they don’t know anybody downtown, 
they don’t know any businessmen. You know, they just were very constricted. It’s an 
awful life. Professors are a very narrow, uninteresting bunch of people generally, and I 
didn’t want to be confined to a society of their beings. 

PC: What about faculty organizations on the campus? 

AB: Lots of them. 

PC: Like what? 


PC: What’s CTA? The California Teachers Association? 

AB: Yeah. There was the ACSCP, Association of California State College Professors, and 

then there was kind of a CSEA group that called themselves — I forget what they called 
themselves, but that was the California State Employees Association, and they would join 
that for purposes of insurance, car insurance and things like that. So there were four 
organizations at least. 

PC: And of these four, was there one that was appealing to certain types of instructors, 

or was there political coloring? 


AB: The CSEA group was I think mostly an insurance group. 

PC: Which ones did you join? Do you remember? 

AB: That AAUP, you know what that one is? 

PC: Yeah. 

AB: That appealed to the more academic types. You have to remember now that we were at a 

college here. When I joined it in ‘52 -- 

PC: The AAUP? 

AB: No, I joined the college. 

PC: Right, sorry. 

AB: There were 140 faculty and now we have 1500. I knew everybody personally on a first- 

name basis, and they had a club, a group. I forget what they called it. 

PC: You mean, like the -- 

AB: They met as a group. A group of people that met once a month and people who read 

papers here and give talks. Somebody from biology, somebody from math, philosophy, 
would take turns giving papers and talks, and they would meet at people’s homes. And 
so you got to know people who were intellectually serious. 

PC: And these were interdepartmentals? 

AB: All interdepartmental. That’s what was good about it. That’s what I liked about the 

school. I used to sit in on classes. If I needed some math, for instance. I’d go over to the 
math department and sit in a class. This was somebody who was lecturing on something. 
In physics, I could go over and sit in physics. I tried, you know, to continue my 
education in things that one doesn’t have. 

So this group met regularly and this was kind of the intellectual group. Remember we 
were coming out of the teacher’s college phenomenon which had dominated the scene. J. 
Paul Leonard wasn’t a teacher. He was hired for his special skills and knowledge about 
teacher training. And he did a good thing, though. He did institute a program of general 
education, which everybody had to take, and we all talked about running the course in 
Humanities. It’s very amusing now when you think about all the arguments about 
political correctness, about expanding the general education. These courses always 


included things from Indian, African, Chinese and so forth. It was totally — San 
Francisco’s the international city, but — I don’t know why people are arguing about this 
now. In 1950 at San Francisco State, they were doing what they started doing at Stanford 
five years ago. That shows you how narrow-minded the other places are. You can see 
why we were interested in teaching at San Francisco State. 

PC: Sure. Oh, yeah. 

AB: Yeah. And then here you have all these guys coming in who had been in the Army, with 

totally much more wide-open views and academically rated and they were excited. They 
would never have gone to Ph.D. if it weren’t for the G.I. bill. And there’s hoards of us 
hired, all, you know, twenty-seven to thirty-two years old. Twenty-five, no, twenty- 
seven. In other words, the older group had been there for some time. The humanities and 
social sciences had been their service people basically. They were reasonably educated 
people, and they were good teachers, but they weren’t interested in publication, they were 
interested in their field. We all came in, we wanted to continue like our professors did at 
the university in the academic subjects. 

That’s what we were emerging from. Now the CTA was there and they represented a 
very conservative group of the old people who had been hired for teacher training, you 
see. And the CTA dominated the California schools, elementary and high schools, with 
their organization. And I suppose, when I came here, that the Department of Education 
was almost half of the faculty, or at least a third. Now with other students coming in, and 
the liberal arts starting to take a dominate role, there is the ACSCP, which I did join. 

That seemed to be the group that was more politically active, and I’d say that most of 
them. I’ll call them intellectuals. I don’t mean that in any approving sense versus the 
others, but we tend to think of intellectuals as too narrow of a class. Europeans include a 
much wider range of professions as intellectual. 

PC: Arthur, let me just step back for a second and try to get some clarity for what 

you’re saying. First you’re saying that the faculty itself and its composition reflects 
two maybe more types; there is the older conservative teacher-oriented people, and 
you have another younger generation, G.I. bill type young Ph.Ds. like yourself, who 
are growing in numbers, but are still a minority in the ‘50s. Is that a fair summary? 

AB: Yeah, I think at the end of the ‘50s it was probably the majority. 

PC: By the end of the ‘50s this smaller group has now become the larger group. But it’s 

a younger group and it’s more academic in orientation? Or more scholarly in 

AB: More scholarly and academic, yeah. 


PC: Now, you’re also saying, if I understand this correctly, that these divisions are also 

manifested by the types of organizations you were inclined to participate with or 
join? In other words, do I understand that the teacher’s groups, this older more 
conservative Department of Education type, tended to be in the CTA? 

AB: Right. 

PC: Which is the California Teachers Association? 

AB: Right. 

PC: What kinds of issues would the CTA be inclined to be involved with? 

AB: Well, they were interested in protecting their turf of credentialing that people who wanted 

to teach would take, a degree in credentialing, in effect. Say they had to go out and teach 
English and mathematics and history, they were courses in how to teach these things, and 
they used up — I don’t remember what it was — but for their major, they’d take up to 
forty, fifty, sixty hours. I don’t remember. It would be interesting to look at this. They 
took a lot of units. They didn’t have time. After their general education, they had very 
few electives left. And the more academically minded people came in. One of the first 
debates that went on at the school while I was there, was that the academics believed that 
these students should be better educated when they go out to teach. If you’re going to 
teach math, you should be a math major. If you’re going to teach history, you should 
have a history major, if you’re going to teach English — But, you know, the schools 
wanted people who they could slot ‘em in any place. I mean, it didn’t make any 
difference to them whether you knew much about history or knew a great deal of math. 

And we thought that the students were getting a bad education because the teachers 
weren’t very educated. And there was a general contempt, and I think that it was felt by 
the students, of getting credentials. And the academic people looked down on the 
teacher-training teachers as uneducated. And they were protecting their turf, you see. 

The CTA was protecting their turf, so... that was their interest, you see? And they wanted 
to keep the laws on the books. We, on the other hand, felt that they ought to be changed. 
But it was a disorganized kind of thing to begin with. There was some that will say, 
“well, this is really a ridiculous way of doing it.” It was an argument that had no focus. 
Subsequently, it did acquire a focus because after we organized the union because the 
AFT - 

One of the big differences between the AFT and the CTA was that the AFT believed that 
the curriculum of credentialing laws should be changed. They were advocating more 
academically inclined courses. Not teaching you how to teach English, teach ‘em 


English. Don’t teach ‘em how to teach math, teach them math. And that in the schools, 
people would be respected for their knowledge rather than say somebody that got a math 
degree who’s sent off to teach history. Principals like to be able to shove people around, 
you see, and there wasn’t any democracy out there. The principal was a padrone. 

And that division continued right down the line up to the elections and the bargaining. 

PC: In the ‘70s, you mean? Oh, yes. Right. 

AB: Right down the line. 

PC: Interesting. 

AB: There were exceptions, of course, but it ultimately defined the sides in the strike. The 

business people were all on the side of the CTA. They would tend to join the CTA. No, 
they were much more conservative. 

PC: With a faculty of 140 in 1952, can you talk about how much the faculty had grown, 

let’s say, by 1960 approximately? I mean, is it doubled? 

AB: Oh, at least. Probably more than that. 

PC: Are you at the same time personally able to maintain relationships with most of the 


AB: Oh, yes. Always did. I never had anybody that I didn’t get along with. It was a very 

personable place. For me, arguments were arguments against issues, not against persons. 

PC: Were the serious issues expressed in public ways rather than just complaints? 

AB: Sure, we had faculty meetings. Yeah. And we ate in the cafeteria and everybody came to 

eat there at that time so that it was - the old cafeteria was a good place. You could 
organize down there and see everybody and get signatures. We used to get a lot of 
petitions and so forth going, you know. And, so, everybody met down there, and I would 
also deliberately sit down to - people would pick out their own kind, but I often 
deliberately sat down at tables where business people were eating or sat down with 
people from education, and you know, try to find out what their arguments were. “What 
are your views?” I mean, I took ‘em seriously. I mean, I never felt contemptuous of any 
of ‘em. They were intelligent people. I guess my philosophy training made me curious; 
you know, there’s always the rationality, and it was one of the things that was interesting 
at the college. This is a prelude now to what I was talking about and about organizing the 
union and the strike and ah that sort of stuff. And I guess it goes back to the things that I 


started talking about when you were asking me about at the beginning of our talk here. 
They had faculty meetings and there were 140 people, and I went to my first one in the 
autumn of ‘52, and this was my first meeting and I was struck by the fact that the only 
person to talk was the president; J. Paul Leonard would report on what he was doing in 
the legislature and what the year was going to be like, and people sat there in the meeting. 
When he was finished, the meeting was over. And that stunned me, you know, because 
having, you know, attended Socialist meetings where everybody’s arguing all the time 
and everybody gets up and my idea of giving oratorical speeches in front of the U.S. 
Senate while working on the farm and so forth. I’m a shy person, but I do like to talk and 
round off an argument. 

PC: Were you still in the Socialist Party at this point? 

AB: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t rejoin the party. I came up to Berkeley and I attended meetings out 

here, too. And I also attended the Socialist convention in Nebraska. There were about 
eighty of us. It was held in a pig barn at the fairgrounds. 

PC: Appropriately you think? 

AB: [Laughing] I don’t know. The great orator, Socialist leader Nonnan Thomas, this was his 

last hurrah. I think it was 1947. That’s got to be in preparation for the ‘48 election. 

PC: But in this period that we’re talking about now and San Francisco State, you were 

no longer actively involved in the Socialist Party? 

AB: No. No. 

PC: And that was just an institutional accident rather than a change of mind? 

AB: No, I still subscribed and belonged. I don’t think there was any group here at the time. I 

remember I got this Socialist newspaper for many years. I might still have belonged. I 
could be wrong about that. I just didn’t attend meetings. I don’t think there were any 
meetings here. I think there weren’t any active groups. I didn’t start one. 

PC: Now one other group you’re not talking about in this period that I’m curious about 

is your relationship with the student organizations, individual students, student 
politics, student issues. 

AB: Yeah. When I started teaching here, I was twenty- nine, and young in appearance. And 

students met at my house for years. I had started a philosophy club and a humanities 
club, and students read papers and we had philosophers come. And it was quite exciting. 
As students became seniors, I kept telling them, “now you’re going to have to write a 


paper, so start thinking seriously about writing something really good and not your usual 
term paper. You have to defend yourself.” And I had really good students and it was 
really a wonderful free-for-all. I loved it. And I used to party with them a lot. And I got 
into some knee-deep trouble because of it. Accused of publicly having intercourse with a 
woman, and my accuser was a Communist. 

PC: A faculty person? 

AB: No. A student. 

PC: A student. 

AB: They went to the dean and informed him - Elias Arnesen. 

PC: Say that again. 

AB: E-l-i-a-s. Elias Arnesen. And he called me up and he said, “somebody has told me that 

you were, you know, having intercourse with this young woman in front of people.” I 
said, “well, no, that’s not true.” And he told me who told him. The informer also called 
one of my other students who was a tackle on the football team, and he said, “is that 
true?” He said, “if it is, it’s disgusting. I’m really disappointed.” And I said, “no, it’s 
not true at all,” and he said, “I would like to meet you and talk about it.” I said, “fine.” 

So I went down to a bar and we met and talked, and he said, “well, I believe you.” And 
he said, “I know where this guy hangs out. It’s down on Castro Street in a bar. Let’s go 
down there.” So we went down there. 

PC: You and the dean went down to confront this student? 

AB: With the football player. 

PC: The football player. Oh, the football player. 

AB: Yeah. First the dean called me and then the football player called me. The informer had 

also told the football player, see, which was his mistake. So we went down there and he 
was in the bar, and he was drunk. And this guy was very big. He’s a tackle and a fairly 
good tackle. He played for the University of Pacific and when he got out he played 
professional type football. So he came down and he grabbed this guy and he said, “we 
have to talk seriously to you. It was what you told me,” and he said, “I think you’re 
lying. And I want you to call up this dean and tell him you were lying. And if you don’t, 
you’ll never be in one piece again.” And he was shaking him furiously. So the guy 
turned pale and he knew that he’d have to. The tackle was an incredibly intense man. I 
never saw anybody so intense. He subsequently became the head of the juvenile hall up 



So the guy called the dean up and said that it was all a he, it’s not true. He had it in for 
me, of course, because I was not willing to go along with his program. He was a rather 
insidious fellow, manipulator sort of type and a blackmailer, you know. No one ever saw 
him again. So that was some of my relations with students. 

PC: You’re raising an interesting issue about due process, however. I mean, where the 

dean has the right to bring you in and ask you this question privately and then make 
a decision. 

AB: There was no due process. There were no procedures. I told you how the professor, how 

Leonard hired me. Basically, he was the one who hired everybody. 

[End of Tape 2 -Side 2(B)] 

[Begin Tape 3 - Side 3 (A)] 

AB: I was telling you about the first faculty meeting. 

PC: Yes. This was in the fall of ‘52, when you were first hired? 

AB: Yeah. And I couldn’t believe that nobody was seeing these things, and I was 

remembering my background and so forth, about independence and not being dictated to 
really makes me very, deeply angry, so I couldn’t understand why these people would be 
sitting there like that. There were a lot of questions I had, but I didn’t say anything my 
first meeting. The second meeting we had, I asked a question or challenged [something], 
I forget what the detail was, and people were absolutely stunned. Everybody looked 
around. I looked like I was about twenty- two. I was really younger looking than I am. 
People couldn’t believe that somebody was saying something. Leonard couldn’t quite 
comprehend it either. He was silent for a long time that somebody was challenging 

PC: Was it a challenge or a question? 

AB: It was a challenge, as I recall, because he was talking about doing so and so. And I said, 

“well, why don’t you do so and so. Are you doing that? Is there some reason for doing 
that?” It wasn’t just a question, “well, could you tell me more about that?” It was a little 
bit like that, and people were quite surprised. And so that was the first time, I guess, that 


anybody had spoken up in the faculty for a long time, with a challenge. 

PC: How often did the faculty meet? That’s what I was going to ask you. Was this a 

monthly meeting? 

AB: Pretty often, yeah. I’d say about once a month. Yeah. And, well, this was fairly 

important, because all of the things that happened at the college in terms of the struggle 
between faculty and administration and the politicization of the college, the direction of 
the strike, was because of the faculty meetings, this made an instrument of discourse and 
persuasion. And more and more the administration had to act less willfully or less 
arbitrarily. People could not - they had to be expressing their opinions and taking votes, 
you see. No votes occurred for quite a while. There were no such thing as votes in 
faculty meetings. No such thing as motions or making decisions. That all had to be 
invented, you see? 

PC: Fascinating. So in other words, long before there’s anything like a strike, the 

faculty meeting had to have some sense of procedure, parliamentary procedure or 
parliamentary tradition. Fascinating. 

AB: Yeah. And, first of all, it didn’t need procedure, it needed speakers. [Laughing] You’re 

painting the participants other than auditors. 

PC: Could you tell me something about how this process evolved? 

AB: I think it evolved because I started challenging and started talking and making arguments. 

And I used to be warned by my dean, Amesen. He was a Norwegian, interesting guy, a 
near Olympic swimmer. A guy who made his way over, had been a sailor, and he said, 
“Art,” he said, “you’re very brilliant and you give wonderful arguments, but you don’t 
treat these people with respect as elders.” And he said, “I don’t mean to say, now, that 
you shouldn’t say what you think, but you should change how you do this.” And he was, 
of course, warning me that, you know, they’d be out for me. 

PC: How did you feel about that advice? 

AB: Well, I saw the reasonableness of it, and so I tried to, you know, to cover my disdain. 

Remember, I was teaching logic at this point all the time. A couple times a semester, and 
so it was a great delight to me to listen to these people’s talk and to see if they had an 
argument. Usually they didn’t. “Well, maybe there’s one argument here which I could 
phrase more completely as follows: your premises are this, and your conclusion is this. 
We all can see that’s clearly not valid because you need some additional premises which 
I don’t think you’d be willing to embrace.” You know. So it was kind of like they were 
being treated as students. When the dean told me that, I realized what I was doing was 


getting my students in trouble by instructing them in the proper way in rhetoric and in 
argument. So in other words, I did change the demeanor somewhat, but not the 

And subconsciously the body had to be brought into as it delivered to the body. That’s 
what I was trying to do was to create a deliberative body. 

PC: Was this a self-conscious decision, or is it just something that happened? 

AB: Oh, sure. I mean, to me it was just - the thing that bothered me tremendously, and this is 

why I told you the story about Immanuel Kant to begin with that for Kant, human dignity 
depends upon being able to make up your own mind, to use your own reason in order to 
come to a conclusion, otherwise you’re a domesticated animal. And to see these people 
sitting there like this, being demeaned, to me, was a very shameful thing. And you don’t 
change it by just defeating the powers. You just get new powers. You do it by getting 
them to be a free voice and have some confidence and speak up and not be afraid. 

So here I was a part-time instructor. I started at the instructor level, very little, and it was 
just very perilous to do that, but I didn’t want it on any other conditions. To me it would 
be - why would I be there, you know. It didn’t seem right to me. But I must say it was 
more for them than it was for myself. I always was ashamed for them. I don’t remember 
when it first came, but then came the idea of having motions and votes. 

PC: Did you have allies among the faculty, or was this a one-man crusade? 

AB: Well, eventually people spoke up. My colleague, Churchill, was a very good ally. 

PC: What was his first name again? 

AB: Jordon. 

PC: Jordon Churchill? 

AB: Jordon Churchill. 

PC: He was in the Philosophy Department? 

AB: Yeah. He was a very important and influential and friendly in the strike, and one of the 

people who was on a committee. Hayakawa authorized to bargain with the students to 
end their strike. And as I said earlier, he was a very good philosopher and he was older 
than I and he was a New Englander and he was less feisty and had more probity in his 
style, which is a rhetorical factor also, of course. 


So when he’d see that somebody might not support me, people would be hanging by, 
then he would kind of get up so there ’d be another voice so then maybe somebody else 
would stand up. And there were some people in international relations that were good in 
arguing. Marshall Windmiller for example, was always good, and DeVere Pentony. 

PC: Who’s the last name? 

AB: DeVere Pentony. 

PC: Right, okay, 

AB: The people I’m talking about are all people who are charter AFT members, you see? 

PC: Um-hum, um-hum. Oh, I see. 

AB: And academic types. 

PC: Right. So this group was sort of forming within the faculty meeting over this period 

of time. What kinds of issues? Do you remember any of them? Were they 
curriculum issues or faculty rights issues? 

AB: Well, there wasn’t much of a fight for the faculty issues except over teacher training. 

PC: I was thinking about hiring, retention, promotion, salaries, those kind of things? 

AB: Those kind of things were not really debated, ah, specifically. There were struggles over 

whether departments should have the right to recommend and basically hire people. That 
was a fight. Not over particular persons. And tenure review in creating committees and 
these sorts of things, so we had to build up a committee structure. 

PC: Can you recall the first time you heard someone in the faculty meeting make a 


AB: I was trying to, and I don’t remember. I was hoping that I could, but I don’t remember. 

PC: Do you remember any particular example that comes to mind in this period? I’m 

thinking before 1966. Well, it may come to you at another time and we can certainly 
make room for it. 

AB: Yeah, I can’t think of anything. 


PC: Did these kind of alliances — I’m using them in the loosest term — coalitions or 

whatever, divisions, did they spill over into one’s social life? 

AB: Not into my social life, no. Most of my social life was outside of school. I had a social 

life with members of the Philosophy Department. Every Friday afternoon we would go 
to the Kezar Club where they had good German beer on tap, and talk anywhere from two 
o’clock in the afternoon, then in the Buena Vista Cafe to two o’clock in the morning for 
twelve hours. And people would pass us by and want to join in and argue and talk. And 
we’d invite visiting philosophers who came to Berkeley or Stanford to come up, but that 
was more like philosophy life. Most of my social, I think, was through political 
activities. I was active in the first defeat for Willie Brown. 

PC: What did you call it? 

AB: The defeat of Willie Brown when he ran for the assembly. Then there was the defeat for 

George Moscone, and then, of course, their subsequent winning. 

PC: You supported them as underdogs? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Okay, Willie Brown and George Moscone you said? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Uh-huh. These were local campaigns, local political campaigns? 

AB: Yeah, they were assembly and supervisors, and, you know, we’d go to headquarters and 

do lowly things like putting stamps on, phoning up people, raising funds, getting out the 

PC: This is something you did personally, though, as a kind of interest or hobby or 

something like that? 

AB: Right. You know, the first time that we got - 

PC: When you say “we,” I don’t follow... 

AB: My ex-wife, Susan Bierman, was on the planning commission here for several years. 

The first political contact was Dianne Feinstein, who was then married to Jack Bennan 
and she lived in our neighborhood on Stanyan Street. And Rudy Nothenberg, who is now 
the administrative officer for the City of San Francisco, and Franklyn Brann, who was an 


attorney, committed suicide some years ago, terrific man, he was the lawyer for the BSU. 

PC: Uh-huh, oh, I see. So these were people you had known earlier because of your 

political work in the city? 

AB: Yeah. We were at a meeting for Frank who was going to run for assembly, and I forget 

how we met Dianne. She invited us up to her and Jack’s house for a meeting with Frank. 
This must have been 1953, ‘54, somewhere around there, I guess. 

PC: Now what about some of the national political issues that spilled onto some 

campuses in the late ‘50s. I’m thinking about, oh, the SANE nuclear policy, nuclear 
disarmament issues in the late ‘50s, the fall-out shelters and that stuff. 

AB: Oh, yeah, of course. They had all kinds of petitions. The guy who was most active in 

that, of course, was Marshall Windmiller. Marshall Windmiller almost single-handedly - 
even Kennedy was going balls out for that sort of stuff, you know. They were building 
shelters here in the city of San Francisco. New buildings were being built with shelters 
underneath them, and Marshall Windmiller was terrific in that. He had a program on 
KPFA at the time if you remember. 

PC: Did these kinds of issues become campus issues is what I’m saying? I was thinking 

about, like, Little Rock in ‘57. 

AB: Oh, we always had faculty petitions on these sorts of things, sign ‘em up, you know. 

That’s what I’m saying about the cafeteria, what a good place it was. And then we also 
established free speech centers, and there were always speeches at noon out there. 

Always very active and I used to go out and talk. And I remember Art - 1 can’t think of 
Art’s last name. A black guy. He worked for station KAPU for a long time. Arthur 
Sheridan. At the time Meredith was trying to get into the University of Mississippi, he 
said, “We’re going to have a little rally. We want a professor to talk down there. Would 
you come down and talk about Meredith?” And they were going to have a speech there 
at the same time. In front of the cafeteria, there are benches, we used to stand up on the 
benches. So, yeah, I said I’d come down and be supportive. You know, things like that. 

And we always gathered people around and students and all these things were discussed 

PC: Were there the same kinds of splits in the faculty that you were describing to me 


AB: Sure, there were people you could count on to sign, and people you could count on not to 

sign, yeah. 


PC: And did this manifest itself in which faculty organizations did they themselves 

belonged to? 

AB: Sure, the CTA, you see. 

PC: And what was the alternative to the CTA? 

AB: We had the AAUP, which really didn’t take much part in the politics. It was never a very 

active chapter. It was pretty staid. 

PC: And that was on the campus when you were first hired? 

AB: That’s right. And the ACSCP when I was first hired. Those four you have written down 

here. A-C-S-C-P. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Association of State College Professors. And the group with the CSEA. They had 

another name. I don’t remember what they were called. That was mainly the insurance 
group to get automobile insurance and stuff from. 

PC: So in other words, what you might call “progressives” - I don’t want to put the word 

in your mouth. 

AB: Well, I would say the ACSCP was more progressive, though a lot of them later became 

virulent anti-strike people, anti-AFT people. They liked certain ends and hated certain 
means, and there was a politeness. Had the right ends, but they were polite. They didn’t 
believe in stamping on toes. I think you don’t get people’s attention unless you do 
something, so I was more aggressive, although I believed in the rational process and 
while I was telling you earlier about the faculty meeting, I thought it was very important 
to get people to speak up and form their opinions, after that the next thing is you’re going 
to do something about it. You don’t just sit there. That’s why I started the AFT because 
I kept telling these other organizations, “you don’t do anything. You don’t threaten 
anything. We should do something, you know, at least petition or go up there and have a 
march. Something.” You have to show people you do something, and they see you out 

And I remember, I found it the other day. When I was an instructor with the college, I 
made up a budget of how much money I got and what I spent my money on. And I didn’t 
have any money left over for music lessons for my children or I couldn’t even go to the 
theater, I had to work at labor jobs during the summer. I sent the budget to the Chronicle 


and the Chronicle printed up the whole of this. They said, “There really is something 
disgraceful about this.” But, you know, if I had been in some other field, I would have all 
these things. And, you know, I said, “You’re going to have to get publicity, you have to 
do something.” And they were polite. 

PC: Right. When was the AFT started? I mean, do you remember? Is there a date for 

that if it comes to your mind? 

AB: I believe it was 1959. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: It’s the same year that we forced the House Un-American Activities Committee to cancel 

their hearings in San Francisco. 

PC: The same academic year. Only that was in Vegas. 

AB: Yes, it was the same academic year. 

PC: The HUAC hearing was May of 1960, if that helps you date it. 

AB: Huh? 

PC: The HUAC protest here was May 1960. 

AB: Yeah, this was the year before. 

PC: Just before that. 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: They came out again now. They realized that they had made a grievance error in calling 

off the hearings, so they came up. In the meantime, all of us, everybody got organized. 

PC: I see. 

AB: And then that’s when they marched ‘em down to City Hall. 

PC: Let me back up one more time and ask you about the relationship between the 

faculty and the administration. It’s obvious from what you’ve said to me that this 


was a very hierarchical, paternal system - authoritarian maybe. Were there allies 
within the administration, personal people who were sympathetic to the faculty or 
service conduits for informal negotiations or anything like that? 

AB: Well, it was all pretty collegiate. When push came to shove, they had to form their 

phalanx. I don’t remember anybody resigning out of principle. The president didn’t 
accept what the faculty might have wanted. 

PC: I was wondering whether it was possible for faculty to have access through informal, 

non-meeting channels to administration people? 

AB: Oh, all the time. Oh, sure. I mean we ate together and you go over and talk to them, you 

make appointments and you go over and talk, sure. There was no problem. There was 
never a closed law in that regard. It wasn’t warfare. It was a continual pushing of 
powers. Leonard left, [Glenn S.] Dumke came in. I think it was probably during 
Dumke’s period that we had votes and votes started. I can’t remember for sure whether 
we had that before Leonard left. [See Appendix 1 for a list of San Francisco College 
presidents and their dates of tenure.] 

PC: I’m afraid I don’t have the date for that myself. 

AB: Yes. Well, and then after Dumke left, [Paul A.] Dodd came in. And, you see, one of the 

things that happened - this was perhaps important. I had talked about how the faculty had 
to be made into a deliberative body, and how people had to learn to speak up and motions 
made and put parliamentary procedures instituted here as a formal recognition that here 
was a body whose opinion was important and should be, if not finally determinative, at 
least heavily influential. And one of the things that happened was this. We’re leaving 
out some things. I’m leaving out some things here, and I’ll have to go back to it in order 
to complete the picture. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: After we fonned the union at San Francisco State, I organized six other locals in the state. 

I would drive around in my car and stay at people’s houses. We did a lot of organizing 
through the watts lines. They had the state colleges connected throughout the state 
system. And I think I organized the colleges through their philosophy departments 
except for one down in San Jose. Dick Tansey, in the art department. He was a good 
rebel down there. A good Irish rebel: “for God’s sake, Art, if we don’t stop these 
bastards here, they’ll smash us until nothing would even appear on a canvas. We’ve got 
to stop that. Thank God you’ve come.” 

PC: Let me, just again, try to summarize some of this stuff here, through the ‘50s 


anyway. The AFT is started in 1959. We won’t need to talk about that. 

AB: You’re okay. You want me to do that before we go on to the next topic? 

PC: Well, wait. Before that, my other question is: you’ve just described yourself in some 

way as a kind of rebel, or someone at least accused you of being a rebel. I mean, 
how did this come about as a philosophy instructor, you know, emerging with this 
identity — which certainly over the next decade, becomes even more clear and 
clarified, right? 

AB: Yeah. Well, I think it was a challenge to authority. Just like the second faculty meeting, 

nobody had spoken up, and some kid’s starting to say something here and this thing 
continued and the arguments went on in the faculty meetings all the time and I had 
petitions all the time, you know. And I guess I was the only faculty member to speak up 
for Meredith at that time, you know. That sort of thing. So that’s what comes to my 

PC: Did you welcome that role? 

AB: I enjoyed it, yeah. I did. I also did more than enjoy it, I took it as a mission. Like I was 

telling you that it was a very Kantian, very Kantian motivation. This goes back a long 
way, I guess. So, yeah, I was good. I was performing an important function. 

PC: Were there other colleagues of yours who could have or would have or did, in fact, 

share that responsibility? 

AB: There’s never been anyone there like me. There’s never been anyone in the state system 

like me. There would never have been a union and collective bargaining if it weren’t for 
me. There’s one person who I think was my equal, and he had flaws that I had to finally 
rescue him from. That was John Sperling at San Jose State. He was too aggressive. He 
played hardball and he offended the feeling of appropriateness of faculty. 

PC: Uh-huh. 

AB: He was like I was once. He’s now the owner of the only private university in the United 

States. He owns it. Phoenix University. He’s on the Forbes 400 list. 

PC: He owns the University? This is John Sperling? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: I think what I’d like to turn to is the formation of the AFT union in 1959 as a 


background to the larger discussion, but we’re really running on time now and I 
think maybe we ought to postpone that for our next meeting. 

AB: Whatever you want. 

PC: I think what I would like to do is to talk about -- at that time, the founding of the 

union in ‘59, and then begin to connect and plug into the particular issues of the 

AB: Make a note there also to ask me about the creation of the Senate. 

PC: The Academic Senate? This comes when? 

AB: This was after the AFT is organized and I, in effect, created the Academic Senate in the 

state system. 

PC: As a statewide institution, you mean? Okay. 

AB: And on local campuses. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: By lobbying in Sacramento. 

PC: Okay. Now what I’d like to do the next time is we’ll talk about those kind of 

institutional things, and I’d like to begin to move toward the particular San 
Francisco strike. 

AB: There is a theme that I’m going to merge in my talk to you from the first to the second 

faculty meeting to the strike, and that is that a continued buildup of self-confidence in 
militancy in the faculty, and the Senate is one of the steps in this regard. And then I’ll 
tell you some secret things of how you really start a strike. 

PC: Okay. I’d like very much to hear that. One question comes to mind: is it possible to 

talk about faculty in terms of age? Were younger faculty more likely to be militant 
or conservative? 

AB: They certainly were. 

PC: They were what? 

AB: They were more likely to be militant. Absolutely. These are all - right now what you’re 


seeing is the passing of that generation of post-war people. 

PC: One more question about that, and that is, were teaching assistants, graduate 

student teaching assistants - 

AB: We didn’t have any. 

PC: You didn’t have any at all at that point? 

AB: There were practically no graduate programs - it was an education department. 

PC: I see. And when did T.A.s, then, become a phenomenon - 

AB: There were no T.A.s. 

PC: Ever? 

AB: We don’t have a system - 

PC: I see, yeah. 

AB: I did organize the T.A.s on the U.C. Berkeley campus. 

[End of Tape 2 -Side 2(B)] 

[End of Interview of January 14, 1992] 


Labor Archives and Research Center, SFSU 
Arthur K. Bierman 

Interviewer: Peter Carroll [PC] 

Interviewee: Arthur K. Bierman [AB] 

Date: January 17, 1992 

Subject: “San Francisco State Strike, 1969-1970” 

[Begin Tape 3 - Side 3 (A)] 

PC: This is January 17th, 1992. I am Peter Carroll and I am interviewing Arthur 

Bierman about the San Francisco State Teacher’s Union and the teacher’s strike of 
’68. This is the third tape that we’ve done. We did two on January 14th. 

Okay. As you remember, we got as far as the creation of the union in 1959 when we 
were talking last time, and I think that’s where we should begin with the formation 
of the AFT and the background of issues on the campus in the early ’60s and take it 
up through ’64 when you’re doing organizing, collective bargaining drives, ’66 with 
the election of Reagan and bring us through the national events of ’67 and ’68 to the 
point of the strike. I think that might be a nice agenda for today. Maybe we can 
further, depending upon how much you have to say. 

AB: Yeah. As I recall, what I was talking about last time was the nature of the faculty and 

how it had changed after the G.I. Bill teachers came in, and how the faculty, I thought, 
was a little supine in the face of the president. It was being run like a teacher’s school. 
The president was like the principal and the professors were pretty silent. And that it was 
a process of developing the faculty into a deliberative body without which, of course, 
there would never have been either organizing or a strike. So those were necessary 

And I think that we had indicated somewhat briefly the different kinds of faculty 
organizations that existed. You asked me about that. And the fact that, as far as I was 
concerned, they weren’t militant enough. They didn’t make demands, they were a typical 
professors’ organizations in that they talked, but didn’t do anything about past 
resolutions, nobody believes there’s anything to pay any attention to unless there’s some 
threat to the conventional way of doing business. 

And it was during this period — It was 1959 as I recall that the House Un-American 
Activities Committee had subpoenaed 140 teachers in the state of California. Now this is 
a prelude to the organization of the union. 


PC: Uh-huh. Okay. 

AB: And there was a tremendous amount of fear in the country about political opinion and 

people were not saying much. And the committee, of course, was trying to root out any 
residual elements of resistance. And the schools were, of course, an important target 
because having independent thinkers in the schools is like throwing seed into fertile 
ground. So they went after teachers all over the state. And all of the people that were 
subpoenaed were people who had been active in leftist causes, and they may or may not 
have been members of the Communist Party. Most of them were not. 

And the committee, by its rules, were not to make the names known of who it was that 
was subpoenaed. But they consistently broke that rule. They would inform the 
employer, for example, that a certain teacher was going to be subpoenaed and they 
always leaked the names to the press, which they did again this time. And the teachers 
called a meeting at the Friends Service Committee Building on Lake Avenue to see what 
they might do to resist this. 

PC: Were these teachers who were subpoenaed only college teachers? 

AB: There were no college teachers amongst those called. There might have been a few 

community college people, but I think most of them are elementary and high school 

PC: I see. Okay. 

AB: That’s my recollection. We - Herb Williams and I, who taught in anthropology at San 

Francisco State and was a good friend of mine - went to that meeting. 

PC: Why did you go to that meeting? 

AB: Well, because we knew some of the people who had been subpoenaed, two or three of 

‘em, and I was very angry in general at this committee. I felt that they were stifling free 
speech in America, and from what I’ve told you so far about my attitudes and sense of 
independence, they were cowing people and taking away their dignities. And Herb and I 
were the only unsubpoenaed people that came. Now there had been a call for more 
people to come out and Herb said, “these people can’t defend themselves. They’re the 
ones that are accused. We’re going to have to do it.” I said, “I guess you’re right.” By 
this time it was late spring. I don’t think the semester was completely over. It might 
have been. It could have been either early summer or late spring. And, of course, that 
was well timed by them because these people wouldn’t be rehired again in the autumn, 
you see. 


So I said, “well, that’s right.” So I spent the whole summer... I started an organization 
called SAFE, S-A-F-E, San Franciscans [for Academic Freedom and Education]. God, I 
can’t remember what the acronym stood for. 

PC: Something about fair employment maybe? 

AB: No, it wasn’t that. It was something else. 

PC: Free education? 

AB: I don’t remember. 

PC: Okay, [Laughing] 

AB: I’ve got some stationery someplace, I suppose. So I went down and got some fancy 

stationery printed to look quite important, and one of the chaps who was a neighbor of 
mine was Marshall Axelrod, he lived just around the comer, and he was quite active in 
the teacher’s union. So that was kind of an important prelude contact. I believe he was, 
well, he subsequently became president of the statewide organization. He was also 
president of the San Francisco teachers. He’s now sculpting in his bearded solitude of 
Mendocino or someplace. [Laughing] 

And so I spent the entire summer, I suppose ten, twelve hours a day on the phone talking 
to people and trying to organize things against them. 

PC: Organize against the HUAC investigation? 

AB: Yes, right. My aim was to make them call off the hearings. They had never called off a 

hearing before. And I thought it was very important because people were so frightened. 
Something has to be done, the revolt has to start somewhere, and we have to show that 
you can beat city hall. 

It was ’59. I think I had tenure at the time, but I was still an assistant professor. I started 
as a part-time instructor, and I thought if I was going to do this, I would need some 
protection. Phil Burton was an assemblyman at that time. I told you earlier that I had 
become involved in politics in the city, and he was the one who had talked Willie Brown 
into running for the assembly; he was Phil’s protege. 

PC: Phil Burton had talked Willie Brown into running for what? 

AB: Assemblyman. 


PC: Assemblyman. Okay. 

AB: The first time he lost. And Phil was quite powerful; he had major influence in 

Sacramento at the time, so I called him and said what I was planning to do without the 
president of the college. Dumke was a very conservative Republican, and there were a 
lot of people who didn’t — I had made some enemies. People thought of me as a radical. 
But I was not a radical in the sense of the rich, I was a potential target for the HUAC, for 
the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was another reason why Herb and I 
thought we might do something because neither of us were easy targets; in fact, I was in 
the Socialist party and didn’t amount to very much because that was the respectable 
party. Nonnan Thomas was a revolutionary. 

The upshot of my call to Phil Burton was I said, “I think it would be good if you could 
call Dumke. I’ve told him what I’m going to do and I — ” and he said, “okay.” He didn’t 
say okay, fine, wonderful, go. Jump on their balls or anything like that. But so I asked 
Phil to call him and he said that he would. And he indicated that they’d have a hard time 
getting money for the college if they [unintelligible]. 

PC: That was very reassuring, I’m sure. 

AB: That was very reassuring. It put them on notice, you see, that I wasn’t an unconnected 

assistant professor out there. And so my strategy was this, that I would start with the 
labor movement to try to get them to call off the hearings. And I would proceed upward 
in terms of conservative groups to, like, the Junior Chamber of Commerce and so forth, 
and finally I was going to end with Bishop [James] Pike. I wanted him to come out in 
opposition to it. And there was also a mayoral race going on at the time and I was going 
to get those guys to come out against it. 

I had a very simple argument, which I used and which proved to be quite successful. 

[Pause in the interview.] 

PC: Okay, there’s a mayoral election. 

AB: Yeah. So the first thing I did was to go after labor movement. And I went down to see 

George Johns who was the secretary/treasurer of the [San Francisco] Labor Council here 
in the city. And George was receptive. He disliked them also, but you have to 
remember, though, that the AFL/CIO had kicked out a lot of what they believed were 
communists or left-labor unions, so it was a conservative body there. I mean, basically 
the ILWU had been kicked out, the electricians from the Maritime Electricians and so 
forth. And they had tried to deport Bridges, so there were a lot of conservatives. And he 


agreed, he said, “it’s about time those people got some opposition all right, but,” he said, 
“I can’t make it too strong because I can’t get that through the council. The Labor 
Council is a very strong thing. But I can give you something, I think.” 

And my argument, which he thought was a reasonable one, was that they see this as an 
interference in local affairs. I said, “we got these circuit writers coming from 
Washington D.C. coming out here to tell us how we’re supposed to lead our political 
lives, and there are plenty of laws in the state of California.” There was. The loyalty 
oath still was there and there were laws - 1 forget the name of the law on the books that 
teachers couldn’t be hired and if they belonged to a group under certain conditions that 
they could be fired if they did. This is, if there’s somebody guilty here, then let 
California take care of it. So that was the argument that I used throughout, and that was, 

I assumed, reasonable to everybody ‘cause everybody was looking for a way out. 

PC: By this time, were you getting any cooperation from other of your colleagues at San 

Francisco State? 

AB: Well, Herb Williams, yeah. And Mark Linenthal. I went to see him. There were several 

people on the SAFE committee. Other people, sure. So by this time, with, you know, the 
rising independence of the college, I had people pretty well spotted by this time who I 
thought were courageous and would be willing to stick their necks out and contribute 
money. We didn’t collect a lot of money, but we didn’t need a lot of money. We mostly 
used the phone lines at San Francisco State, and I paid for stationery out of my pocket. 
We got state money and everybody contributed. 

Then a motion was presented to the Labor Council by George Johns and it did pass 
indicating that they didn’t want them to come out. It was not a strong statement, nothing 
asking for the dismissal of the HUAC or anything like that, or the disillusionment of the 
committee. And it made big headlines and everybody was very interested in that. 

And then George Christopher was running for mayor for another tenn against Russ 
Wolden, and Russ had been an assessor. He was the assessor for the city, as a matter of 
fact, at that time. An interesting fellow. They accused him of being an alcoholic and 
incompetent. But I don’t think he was incompetent. He might have been an alcoholic, I 
don’t know about that. But he had a very interesting way of assessing. He would assess 
businesses more and homes lesser so that he was pretty popular with homeowners in the 
city. People might say, “oh, that’s a Socialist way of assessing,” but he was okay. 

But he had a campaign manager. I believe his name was Whitaker, as I recall. You 
know, that famous Whitaker who runs Republican conservative campaigns like Reagan’s. 
Had a funny little office there, a cigar-smoking operative who kind of reminded me of a 
frog. He didn’t move much from his chair. [Laughing] He hesitated, and so I wrote a 
letter to each of the candidates and said that, you know, they would point out the Labor 


Council had come out against this, and I had some other names of people, lawyers and 
businessmen that I knew, and they said, “well, what’s the other guy going to do?” I went 
down to see Whitaker. “What’s Christopher going to say?” “What was it Christopher 
said?” “Oh, I’ll give you a letter after we found out what Christopher said.” “No,” I said, 
“I can’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair. I just want to know what you’re saying to the people. 
The electorates want to know what position you’re taking,” and they could see it was 
going to be a pretty big issue. And the argument was local control, could they stand up to 
the House Committee — can you take on the feds. 

And then the pollster for Christopher was this guy I was telling you about the other day. 
His name almost came to me just now: Hal Dunleavy. He’d been a pollster for Phil 
Burton. He hated the committee, and he talked Christopher into saying, “Yeah, you’ve 
got to come out against these guys.” And they sent me a letter and I called up Whitaker 
and said, “I got a letter from Christopher and I haven’t opened it yet.” But he sent me a 
letter. Of course, I’m sure you know what the letter is. And I said, “I got to have that 
pretty soon because if not, I’m going to release this letter.” And if he’s against it, then 
you’re going to be, too, you know.” Okay. I got a letter from both of them, they both 
came out against it. So, I released ‘em and that was big news, of course. It made the 

PC: This was still working under the auspices of the umbrella of SAFE? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Okay, 

AB: That was my group. 

PC: You were considered, what? The president of SAFE or the king? 

AB: I don’t know what I was. I don’t remember what our titles were. I think I gave 

somebody else the president’s title who was better known than I was. I can’t remember 
who that was. I’ve got some stationery someplace. I don’t know where it is. 

And then I had been working in the meantime on Bishop Pike. Bishop Pike was very 
influential. An outspoken man, very articulate. And I figured he was a pretty good 
chance. You know what, I think I got some rabbis to come out and some Protestants. So 
I was, you know, of course, he’s not going to be standing out there by himself, right? 

And there was a man who was his aide, one of his many aides who I had subsequently 
discovered was in the job of checking me out, and he actually told me later that he 


checked with the FBI to see if I was on the list. Pike was taking no chances. So Herb’s 
original point that these guys can’t do it themselves, take somebody that can’t be 
fingered, and went through all kinds of checks. And they were talking with - you know, 
that Grace Cathedral has moved its parishioners, some of the richest, most influential 
people in California. And he had checked with a lot of those guys to make sure that it 
was okay. And he had wanted me to come see him in his office, which I did. And we got 
on quite well together. And I kind of glanced through a couple of his books to see 
whether I could - [laughing] - if he wanted to chat about his famous thoughts. He wasn’t 
a deep thinker, but he was a good polemicist. 

So he said, “you’ll find out in the newspaper if I come out against it. I’m not going to say 
anything until then, but it will only be two or three days.” I was awakened about six- 
thirty in the morning by Fra nk Brann calling me and he said, “you did it.” 

PC: Frank who? 

AB: Brann. 

PC: And who was he? 

AB: Brann was an attorney, a friend of mine, and I had mentioned him before that he became 

the attorney for the BSU. 

PC: Right. 

AB: And he was the one who was running for an assembly seat. That first got us into politics 

when we were invited to Dianne and Jack Berman, later Dianne Feinstein’s, house. 

PC: Good. Okay. 

AB: For a fundraiser. 

PC: We’ve sewed this up together. So this same Frank Brann who represents the BSU 

eventually is linked up to you from his political work in the ’50s and now calls you 
on the telephone in 1959 - 

AB: And he said, “did you see the paper?” I said, “no, I haven’t even awakened yet.” And 

then he said, “well, Pike came out against their coming back.” And even the Junior 
Chamber of Commerce. I don’t know what made me think about those guys, but I called 
them up and asked. Well, I called up everybody conservative that I could think of, and 
they said, “well, yeah, we don’t like the idea of their coming out. Would you write an 
article for us for our magazine?” I said, “I’d be glad to.” So, you know, I outlined all the 


laws in California and so forth, and they liked the argument about not having local 
control in the thing. So I even got those guys. [Laughing] It was snowballing by this 
time, you see. Nobody wanted ‘em. 

What I specifically asked the mayoral candidates to do is not to provide city hall or any 
other public place under the jurisdiction of the city as a hearing place. So they said no 
they couldn’t have it, the Committee would have to look for something else. Oh, and 
then it was a just a day or two later, I think, Frank Brann called me up again, looked me 
up again and said, “You did it.” He said, “The committee’s called off its hearings.” 

That’s the first time that ever happened before. And this was all a prelude, you see, to the 
student activism in ’68, you see, and the free speech movement in ’64. Something like 
that. And they headlined this one book, An End to Silence, that came out of the student 
activities of San Francisco State and the experimental college. [William Barlow and 
Peter Shapiro. An End to Silence: The San Francisco State Student Movement in the 60s. 
New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.] They were running their own college. The kind of 
demands that students are making to have a voice in their education. 

I believe that the committee being forced to call off its hearings here was the event that 
changed the course of politics in the country because people were now no longer afraid to 
speak up and they say, “well, you can beat those guys.” And what they did was call off 
the hearings. Teachers weren’t fired. So that was a pretty crucial political move and 
made the Bay Area into a kind of fulcrum for the rest of the country. You know, 

Berkeley and San Francisco and San Francisco State were really the most radical and 
preceded all those things at Columbia and so forth. 

And that, of course, and the fact that I was not nailed by the college also gave people 
courage, and I was pretty visibly out there, gave a certain confidence to other faculty 

PC: Now how does this particular episode link up to the founding of the AFT? 

AB: After this had happened, it was toward the end of the summer, and I had spent the entire 

time doing this. My salary wasn’t very big and I needed money, so I painted. I was 
painting the inside of a house and earning money, and Herb Williams came over and 
stopped by and he said, “what we ought to do is start a union.” He said, “those are the 
guys that came out first and these other organizations, you know, don’t do shit and we’re 
not getting anything out of the legislature.” I said, “that’s a good idea.” While I was 
painting I said, “let’s make a list of people to call.” So I made a list of about forty- five 
people and I said, “let’s go get a sandwich and go to my place and start phoning.” So I 
started phoning and in about an hour and a half, I had forty members. 

PC: Herb Williams you’re giving the credit for being the person who first suggested it? 


AB: Yeah. Now dead. 

PC: Now dead. 

AB: They killed him at Stanford. He was going to have a heart bypass operation and they left 

blood in the blood pump, a pint of somebody else’s blood. His spleen exploded, 
everything. All of his systems shut down and in a month and-a-half he was dead. And he 
knew it. He couldn’t talk or anything and you’d come see him and he’d kick the bottom 
of the bed with fury knowing that he was going to die and he couldn’t do anything about 
it, and that it was useless. The operation was a success, but they killed him. And his 
widow - one of his best friends was an MD and he was Dean of Students for a while 
down at Stanford, and he’d been at the hospital so they had the goods on them. So she 
got a settlement, but - 

PC: How old was he in ’59 approximately? 

AB: He was a couple of years older than I was, and what was I in ’59? I was forty-six or 


PC: Forty-six? No, thirty-six, right. 

AB: I was born in ’23. 

PC: Yeah, so it was thirty-six. 

AB: Yeah, you’re right. 

PC: Was this considered young Turks, or are you now middle -- 

AB: Oh, you mean when we started the union? 

PC: Yeah. 

AB: Yeah. Yeah, well, that was - we were part of the G.I. Bill group, you know, the new 

young wave. And practically everybody that joined - 1 tried to get some older guys to 
join, and they were sympathetic, but, well, they didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t their thing, 
but they were, “go ahead if you want. But I don’t want to join.” Nobody was hostile. 

PC: That’s an interesting point. You’re saying nobody was hostile at all. 


[End of Tape 3 -Side 3 (A)] 

[Begin Tape 3 - Side 3 (B)] 

PC: Okay. When you said no one was hostile in the faculty, but the administration let 

you know this that - I mean, did someone in administration come over to you and 
say, hey, we don’t like the idea of there being a union? 

AB: Well, I don’t think anybody came over to me, but it still was a fairly small school. We’d 

moved from downtown out of the other campus by this time, but they didn’t like the idea 
and I believe that the general collection was - Dumke referred to it in the faculty meetings 
and we - at the opening of the semester, I wanted to redistribute literature at the faculty 
meeting where everybody comes and said that we wanted to make an announcement and 
we wanted to talk about what we were going to do. Nobody in organizations had done 
this before. And they didn’t really want to do it. No, that’s up to the faculty 
organization, not up to you. This is not official college business. 

PC: So they wouldn’t let you speak there. Interesting. On these leaflets and so forth or 

in your telephone calls to these forty colleagues who responded so quickly, what 
were the kinds of issues that you would address? 

AB: Well, our salaries were low, our workloads were too high. We didn’t have individual 

offices. The library funds were insufficient. The number of sabbaticals that we got were 
extremely small. My first sabbatical came after fourteen years of work. Some people 
waited longer than that. And there were no student assistants. I mean, all the things that 
should have belonged in a college were not there. So there were plenty of grievances and 
they were well known. And I said, “it’s time we got, you know, some organization that 
could put - we should join with a larger group that has power outside. All of our groups 
are all college groups except for the CSEA group and the CTA group. But they’re too 
conservative, they don’t push for anything for us. They’re more interested in elementary 
schools. The CSEA is more interested in the other state employees. We’re just a little 
tiny branch, a few hundred people in state colleges, whereas they got, you know, forty, 
fifty thousand people working on the highway, secretaries in Sacramento, they couldn’t 
care less about us.” We don’t have the boost there and they’re organized differently. 
They’re organized as a whole, they aren’t organized into groups. If we went into the 
labor movement, we’d be in the AFT, whose only interest is teachers. And they want us, 
as they want to organize, they know they’ve got to go after public employees and so 

And the CTA, they care only about elementary and high school teachers, they don’t care 


about the colleges. They haven’t done anything for us yet. If they cared about us, why 
wouldn’t they have pushed more? Well, that’s right. Let’s get something... we need 
something more militant, and as I said, almost instantly the moment I mentioned it, they 
said, “yeah, that’s a good idea.” 

PC: So you would see the issues? I mean, as you’re describing them to me in union 

terms would be things like working conditions, wages, things like that? 

AB: Absolutely. Plus, you know, necessary perks like sabbaticals, which I considered 

working conditions, and offices. People, you know, didn’t have any research facilities on 
the campus, we didn’t even have any offices. The science people were complaining 
because their equipment was inadequate and they didn’t feel that they could keep up with 
the advancing technology that would be required in order to give our students a good 
background because we weren’t just preparing teachers any longer, we were now 
preparing professionals for graduate schools. 

PC: Now you said forty people responded very quickly. Let’s say if we arbitrarily took a 

date, 1961, a year later, about how many members of the faculty were in the union 
would you guess? 

AB: Oh, we had 120. 

PC: You got 120. 

AB: Yeah, it was pretty good sized. 

PC: Uh-huh. Out of how many, do you recall approximately? 

AB: Oh, probably at this time there must have been about four or five hundred faculty. 

PC: So you got about one-fifth maybe? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Somewhere between one-fourth and one-fifth? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: And they cut across departments? 

AB: We didn’t get anybody in the business [department]. 


PC: No one in business. 

AB: I think in the entire history of the union we had two from business, and one of ‘em was an 

arbitrator. I don’t think it was good for his business, right? [Laughing] And the other 
one was essentially fired as of the strike - Pinney. 

PC: Oh, dear. 

AB: And we certainly didn’t have many in education. Very few. The mass of them came 

from humanities, English, philosophy, I guess. Philosophy was always 100 percent. And 
English had a lot, a lot in psychology, a lot of them in international relations and 
sociology a few. Library. 

PC: What about the sciences? 

AB: A few scientists. None in physics. And just one or two in mathematics. That changed 

later when the younger people came in. 

PC: Art, now you’re a smart guy. Would you attribute those divisions to personalities 

or, you know, the temperament of the individuals, or do you think there’s any 
connection between the disciplines and these choices? 

AB: I wouldn’t say there’s any connection with disciplines. I think it had to do with the kind 

of people that had been hired. In mathematics, for example, there was a chap named 
Lakness, a mathematician. And we always got on well together. But he was very 
conservative and I think that it showed me that even if people don’t directly ask questions 
about politics, there are signals which are known. And at this time, the departments were 
still pretty small and they knew one another, and collegiality was important. And I think 
that also they kind of fonned viewpoints together. And some of them weren’t always that 
tolerant. So younger people might be sympathetic, but they think it would be too 
dangerous to join the union. 

PC: Uh-huh, oh, sure. I can see that. Now, okay, you’ve got a union now of say 120 

people by ’61 or so. Do you recall the first agenda or the first efforts to get 
something for the union membership? 

AB: Well, the first thing, of course, was to organize a meeting and writing a constitution. The 

AFT left a lot of latitude. There were only a couple of demands they had that you 
belonged to the Labor Council, something like that, so you could make your affiliations. 
And the rest of the constitution you can pretty much write yourself. So we did that. And 
one of my original aims was that it should be pretty democratic, and that we never put 
this in the constitution, but I didn’t think that a person should serve more than a year as 


president. And I served one year, the first year, and then - 

PC: You were the first president of the AFT? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Okay, 

AB: And then no more. The problem was that not many people are suited to that to do it, so 

one of my main tasks every spring was to search out somebody and Herb and I or the past 
president would talk the guy into it, and they usually didn’t have too many ideas about it, 
so I found myself as kind of in the background. That worked okay. People took it quite 
well. They were happy to have somebody else do a lot of work for them. And I 
remember recruiting Gary Hawkins, and he was the president during the strike, and there 
was a lot of student activity, and he said, “oh, God, I don’t want to do that. I’ve got other 
things I want to do and I want to have fun. I’m too young to be like this.” And Herb and 
I and Henry McGuckin took him - we always went to lunch at the Red Chimney in 
Stonestown. This is where all our presidential recruitments went on, and he didn’t agree 
the first time, but finally he agreed and he wasn’t actually charged. [Unintelligible] very 
young, very straight. 

PC: What you’re saying to me - I mean, you describe your decision not to be president as 

a democratic idea, that this should be a rotating position. And at the same time 
you’re talking about maybe what sounds to me like a clique of people who are really 
running the union. 

AB: Well, it was pretty open. It wasn’t really a clique. Everything was pretty much out in the 

open. It was not a manipulative group, and with that caught very good attendance at 
meetings. And there were some people always interested in serving [as a representative 
to] the Labor Council, for example. Herb and Mario D’Angeli were, you know, 
pennanent members and they went very faithfully to that Labor Council. They were 
interested in that. 

PC: Was the AFT - 

AB: Herbert said, “you can be president, I just want to be a Labor Council representative.” So 

we agreed on that. One of our first tasks was to go to Sacramento. This was during the 
spring, the budget session. 

PC: This would be the spring of 1960? 

AB: Uh-huh. 


PC: Okay. 

AB: Herb and I asked George Johns - or he might have suggested that we go up there, I forget 

- but we went up to Sacramento and George had once been a lobbyist up there, and he 
had helped J. Paul Leonard, the guy who went to Sacramento to lobby. All the colleges 
had to lobby for themselves because there was no organization to do it for the group as a 
whole, that George was very helpful to Leonard, and Leonard had appointed to him to the 
Board of Advisors for San Francisco State trying to enroll San Franciscans for lifetime 

And George was an experienced lobbyist up there, so we went up and spent a day up 
there. And he was very helpful, and I never forgot how nervous the legislators were, 
some of their hands were shaking. When we would go around, they were being lobbied 
for state coverage. They were coming here with labor union guys. All of a sudden they 
recognized that something they never paid any attention to was going to get some interest 
paid to it by other groups. It was quite fascinating. Bureaucrats coming in and getting 
information out of [unintelligible]. This was a pretty good idea. These guys are scared. 

And at that time the faculty always had a retreat in the spring down at the Asilomar, and 
Herb and I were still up in Sacramento while this was going on. And we went down to 
the Asilomar. Took a bus down, we didn’t have a car. We walked out there from 
downtown [Pacifica] up to Asilomar, and when we got there, there was a meeting of the 
whole faculty with Dumke chairing it, and people were talking about our conditions. So I 
made a very dramatic entrance. Hearing what they were talking about, I said, “Fve just 
come from Sacramento and I’d like to give you the latest.” And Dumke didn’t really 
have much of a chance to say no, so I just walked up to the front and explained to them, 
you know, what the union was doing up there and that you had to be in Sacramento to get 
anything done. And who we’d talked to and what we still had to do and so forth, and that 
was pretty dramatic. 

So I talked for about fifteen minutes and there was loud applause at the end. We took a 
break and after the break people gathered around. They thought it was wonderful. So we 
got a lot more members in that year at that time. They had always thought you were hot 
air, but you got something done. And so we signed up people down there. And we 
bought whiskey, of course, for the room afterward. People would come in and - 

PC: Dumke was then the president of San Francisco State. Did you have any occasion as 

union leaders to negotiate with him about issues? 

AB: No, we didn’t have any chance to do that because he didn’t have the power to change 

anything that we were interested in at that time. See, everything that people wanted like 


sabbaticals and so forth, he was in favor of, too. And lighter working load, it was not that 
he didn’t want to press these things, but it required money and he didn’t have any. 

PC: What about the ability of the AFT to meet on the campus? 

AB: There weren’t any meet and confirms. 

PC: There weren’t what? 

AB: There were no meet and confirm rules. 

PC: So in other words, you did meet on the campus? 

AB: Well, we talked about things, but there was no official law sanctioning anything. And he 

wouldn’t have to meet with us. He met with us out of courtesy at times, but there was 
nothing that he could do. The big point about our organizing a union was getting 
connected to another power external to the university, to the college. We needed pressure 
on the legislature to get funds. He couldn’t give us anything. You know, he could be 
sympathetic to what we wanted. He thought the teaching load was too high also and he 
wanted to get more sabbaticals. 

But he didn’t want to stick his neck out, and our point was that everybody’s, you know, 
angry at administration. You’re angry at the wrong people. They can’t do anything. Get 
mad at the guys in Sacramento. That’s who we have to deal with. And that’s why the 
union’s important because... a lot of people are always pro-administration, so my point 
was that don’t get mad at the local administration. And they said, “yeah, that’s right. 

You see, they aren’t so bad after all. They’re just not trying to kick everybody’s ass.” 
Let’s be realistic and analyze where the power is and who has it, that’s all. 

PC: Notwithstanding this analysis of the power relationships, which sounds to me to be 

plausible, did you find the administration cooperative or hostile to the fact that 
there was a union on the campus then? 

AB: Well, I wouldn’t say they were friendly to it. Like I told you, he didn’t want us to speak, 

but he finally did allow us to make our announcements and to make our statements. But 
the thing that finally broke the ice, I started at the beginning wanting collective 
bargaining for the faculty. And one of the great legislators in Sacramento was George 
Miller, the father of George Miller, Jr., whom you know I’m sure. A great congressman. 

I got to know him when he was an aide to George Moscone, and George was a senator 
and he was in Sacramento. Well, George Miller was an insurance agent in Martinez and 
the longtime president of the state AFT, California Federation of Teachers, in Richmond 
- 1 can’t remember his name right now. Very bright guy. Wrote a book about teaching. 


And the lawyer for the AFT was also a Richmond lawyer. I can’t remember his name. 

He was a member of the Baker Street Regulars, the Sherlock Holmes group - nice guys. 
And they were in George Miller’s district and they had good relations with George. 
George was very pro-teacher and very anti-administration. He was one of those rural 
oriented senators. Remember, Martinez was a pretty small place at this time, not like it is 

There were still no apportionment of senate seats on the basis of population, but by 
district only. Rural districts held the balance of power. At this time, Los Angeles had 
one senator and San Francisco had one senator. And Martinez had one senator, and 
George felt that was his only retrograde thing. But George was a very powerful, very 
outspoken guy. Gruff and molt furbo, clever, and he could take anybody on head-on, but 
sometimes he’d like to fool ‘em by going around them. 

He was on the education committee and there was a chap from San Luis Obispo district 
who was a very pro-CTA, and was in the pocket of CTA and fought everything. And 
George said, “there’s no way we’re going to get any collective bargaining bill through 
here, but we’ll pretend we want that. And you can pretend you want that, but I’m not 
going to carry that.” But he said, “I think the first thing for you guys to do is to get 
yourself an academic senate and you can have some input on the campus.” We were 
asking do you have any rights on campus, and we didn’t have any rights on campus. I 
said, “well, I don’t think that’s going to do much.” “Well,” he said, “that’s strictly 
interim, but I’m your best bet up here, and I’m telling you what I can do. And if you 
don’t want that, that’s okay, but take it or leave it,” you know. 

So to show you what kind of a gruff guy he was, I came into his office and a couple of 
guys from San Jose, and I was carrying a black umbrella which wasn’t something that 
you saw very often in Sacramento. And he looks at it: “What the hell are you doing 
walking around with a thing like that!” I said, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and I started putting it to 
my mouth and swallowing it. [Laughing] He started laughing. And so after that, we got 
on very well together. So then he said, “I tell you what. We’re going to fool this guy. 
Have somebody put this bill in and I’m going to thunder against it. Really be angry. No, 
we don’t want this at all.” 

PC: This bill would have provided for collective bargaining you’re saying now? 

AB: We didn’t have a bill. We couldn’t find anybody to put in a bill for collective bargaining. 

I forget who it was, we had put in a bill for an academic senate. 

PC: Oh, okay. 

AB: This was for statewide and local. And I didn’t like the idea because I thought it would 


delay things and make people too satisfied for too long. You’d have to go through a 
whole period of disillusionment ‘cause the academic senate, it had no power to deal with 
Sacramento still. But then we could still lobby and we did quite well with that as a 
matter of fact. 

So he said, “we’re going to fool this guy.” He came up and he said, “don’t get frightened 
because I’m going to get really angry.” And he said, “what are you bringing us crap like 
this for? We don’t want these senates. We got the administration that can do these 
things. We’ve been represented very well up here.” And he said, “this guy will think 
because I’m against it, he’s going to be for it and he’s going to talk all of his CTA 
conservatives into it.” And that worked exactly like he said. He was about the only vote 
against it. And he said, “all right, I’ll change my vote if that’s the way it’s going to be.” 
So we got the academic senates. 

PC: So the academic senate was a concept that was politically inspired? 

AB: Yeah. He and I put together the thing. He was the one that suggested it, and I said well, 

all right, I’ll go along with it. And I forget who we found for an author. I can’t 
remember. But since he was going to be against it, he couldn’t be the author of it. 

PC: And the - 

AB: It might have been Phil Burton, I don’t know. You know, one of our guys. 

PC: Now the academic senate was a local organization? 

AB: And statewide. 

PC: As well as on the other campuses? 

AB: Yep. All campuses could have an academic senate. It was not required, but they could 

have it. 

PC: Right. 

AB: And then - well, I believe it was mandated as a statewide academic senate. 

PC: Do you have any idea what year that was that this academic senate came in? 

AB: Well, I would suspect that was probably ‘63, ‘64, somewhere around there. ‘62. 

PC: Now how did the union respond to the - the union has helped create the academic 


senate whether they wanted it or not. How did the union work within the academic 
senate to further the union’s agenda? 

AB: You couldn’t really, but the point was that practically the most articulate and the most 

advanced members were often on the Senate, so the greatest number of votes often came, 
you see, from them, and they were much more active and they were thinking. The rest of 
the people were less than active, so the more active people were, the better it is. 

All right, for example, when we got that, you can date the academic senate by the fact 
that [Paul A.] Dodd was the president now. He succeeded Dumke, who became the 
statewide chancellor. And we put up a big fight against him in Sacramento. 

PC: When you say “we,” you mean the union? 

AB: The union. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Yeah. And I got some other faculty also to be against that. And I think there were some 

other people ‘cause Dumke was too conservative for our view, and we were never 
sympathetic to him. He was a straight line, very conservative Republican. 

PC: So the union actually did register objections to him? 

AB: Oh, very strongly. It was all over the newspapers and they had to hold special sessions. 

Governor Brown came to finally settle the matter. They went into extended sessions for 
another day or two. It was a scandal. 

PC: Something he would have remembered a couple of years later, certainly. 

AB: Forever. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Forever. The last time I saw him it was about two years before he died. And we were 

always cordial, we always got together, and he was a very pragmatic man. He was not 
ideologically rigid. He was a pragmatic person. He was a political person - he was a fish 
in water - whenever he could get his conservative views through he would. And when he 
couldn’t, he was relatively graceful. He’d get a little red in the face and a little pink, 
white in the nose, but that was about it. But we always got on, you know, in a personal 


And then during this time, of course, after I started the local here - as I said the other day, 
I started six other locals throughout the state. 

PC: These were AFT locals you’re talking about? I did want to talk about that. How 

did you go about doing that? 

AB: I called up people I knew in other state colleges. Like [in] Fresno I called Jack Pitt and 

he set up a meeting, and they announced a meeting and they would come down and talk. 
And usually they sent the CTA representative to talk against us. Which was always 
wonderful because people really got mad at them, and I didn’t have to do much 
organizing, you know. They’d start and pretty soon I’d make an argument and pretty 
soon they’d get madder at ‘em than I was, you see. So all the local combativeness came 

And Dick Tansey at San Jose, I think I told you about him, you know: “thank God you’ve 
come. We’ve got to get the bastards.” And I remember being down at a kind of an 
emergency meeting down in Los Angeles and Heilbron was chair of the Board of 
Trustees. And remember now at this time that this new Board of Trustees came in. They 
had to write up whole new rules and the guy from New York, his name was in some of 
these books here. He came from the New York system to head up the system and he left 
six months later - [Buell] Gallagher. They were writing all the new rules for the system, 
and I would go to all of those meetings as a union representative, and sit down and type 
up alternative rules for every rule that they had, which was quite a voluminous job. And 
one of the guys that went with me never did join the union. There’s a guy who wrote 
most of this, By Any Means Necessary, a fellow named Dick Axen, he was from the 
education department. [Robert Smith, Richard Axen, and DeVere Pentony. By Any 
Means Necessary: The Revolutionary Struggle at San Francisco State. San Francisco: 
Jossey-Bass, 1970.] 

But he was good. He was always there and supportive, and he was more cautious than I 
was, and he didn’t like to speak up in public. It was pretty intimidating, all these guys 
and their incredible staff that they had here, you know, and they don’t want you to talk. 
You have to get up and just start talking because they didn’t want to recognize you. You 
don’t exist as far as they’re concerned. And I would come down with a hundred pages of 
alternative rules and they would say, “we can’t talk alone,” or “we’ve got our staffing 
buried in all this stuff.” And I would, you know, talk to them afterward, but I would 
insist on talking - 

PC: You would be there as a representative of the San Francisco State University AFT? 

AB: Well, I’d organized a council of AFT of those people I organized, too, you see. 


PC: On the various campuses? So you were not just speaking for the San Francisco 

State campus, but for the consortium? 

AB: Right. I was the president of the statewide council. 

PC: And how many campuses were covered in that council? 

AB: Well, there were at least seven. And I don’t know how many others started. Let’s see, 

we were about fourteen or fifteen campuses at that time. But things would happen kind 
of accidentally. Like I started telling you, Louis Heilbron was the chair of the state Board 
of Trustees where there had been some kind of a big protest. And I don’t remember what 
it was about. He was down there meeting with faculty representatives from all over the 
state and there was all kind of dancing and bullshit going on there. And my chief 
organizing referendum was always realistic analysis and always aimed toward action. 

And I would really say what the truth was and confront them and not say, “oh, gee, we 
don’t think [unintelligible].” [Instead:] “Well, this is what has to be done. This is what 
the people feel. We’re not doing this and we don’t understand why it’s not being done 
and we would like reasons. And if we don’t get the reasons, then we’ll have to do 
something else.” 

Then Heilbron was with a big law firm here. I forget the name of that law firm. One of 
these enclosed a list of it. He’s since dead. He was in that last part of the tenn during the 
strike when Reagan was governor. He was not going to be reappointed. And he was the 
man most responsible for a settlement with the faculty - 

[End of Tape 3 -Side 3(B)] 

[Begin Tape 4 - Side 4 (A)] 

AB: - played an honorable role and though conservative, he belonged to the group of Jews in 

the city who have always been very public spirited and very conservative, very open to 
people, and persons, he was an impressive man. And when challenged, he wouldn’t take 
it necessarily personal. This one day he had gotten a little testy with me, and I replied to 
him and everybody laughed. He said, “you can’t question me. Why don’t you just stick 
with your philosophy?” And I said, “well, I was, and if I do that, I’d have to be like 
Socrates, which I thought I was just doing.” Everybody laughed and I thought he was 
kind of embarrassed. I thought I had made an enemy. But then people came up to me 
afterwards with their thanks and said, “we’d like to start a union.” This is how the thing 
spread, you see. 


PC: Uh-huh, oh, I see. 

AB: Addressing issues was what was crucial. The issues weren’t any different than what 

we’d started with when I told you about my teaching load, salaries, sabbaticals, offices, 

PC: Were these things that the Academic Senate would also now be able to address, or 

was it just - 

AB: That was mostly confined to curriculum matters and not to these - see, that’s why I object 

to the Academic Senate. It wasn’t really able to bring pressure to bear on where it needed 
to be brought to bring you money. Our problem was money. The master plan is an 
important factor here. The University of California was one tier, the state colleges were a 
second tier, and the community colleges were a third tier. This didn’t sit at all well with 
the people who had just come out of these universities with Ph.D.’s and saw themselves 
as professional equivalents of people at the University of California or UCLA. In many 
cases, much better than a lot of those people were. 

So we felt ill-used. Where they were teaching three courses a year, we were teaching 
eight courses a year and they’ve got more money than we did. And we didn’t have any 
research capability, at the same time they were demanding that we publish in order to get 
tenure and in order to get promotions. And in the meantime, while all this work was 
going on, I still had to write so I got a book out in ‘64 which got me promoted, but you 
had to keep doing all this stuff. You know, it was fifty, sixty-hour weeks. And you can’t 
keep that up forever. That’s pretty exhausting. People were getting mad. Those were 
our issues. Including writing the rules for the system. I wanted grievance procedures, 
which is an important union issue. And they didn’t give us any grievance procedures in 
the rules. That was a big fear. And that became a major issue. That was a major issue 
during the strike. 

PC: Now when you’re talking about the rules, just go back again, please, so what rules 

were you referring to that - 

AB: I’m referring to the administrative rule. The normal procedure in legislation is you put 

out some legislation and there usually is some administrative body that’s in charge of 
enforcing this. And in order to do that, they have to write administrative law. Actually, 
most of the law in this country is administrative law. It gets written by bodies who aren’t 
elected. And the trustees were the administrative body and they were supposed to write 
their rules by which they were to govern the state college system. 

PC: So Heilbron, then, was chairing the committee on behalf of the trustees? 


AB: He was chair of the trustees. 

PC: And this is what the AFT was attempting to get influence on in terms of let’s say 

grievance procedures, which you’ve just mentioned? 

AB: That’s one of the things that we wanted to do, exactly. We wanted - another one of the 

factors which made us opponents to the administration was that we wanted a faculty 
selection of presidents, deans, chancellors, and that’s why we had this big to-do over 
Dumke, you see. We caused a big to-do because we said we don’t think that he’s the 
right man for the job. And we wanted more power for departments for hiring instead of 
having the president having all the power. So it was a power struggle that took place on 

And then we did have meet and confer rules by this time as a result of the senate thing 
there. I did some meet and confer rules, and we would meet with them. And it was about 
a year before the strike came on, Herb Williams and I went down to see George Johns, 
Secretary of the Labor Council, and I explained to him what was lacking in our situation 
in labor’s terms. And you remember that document [an unpublished chapter of a 
proposed book by George Johns, located in the Labor Archives] that you brought me 
from Lynn Bon Held? 

PC: Yes. 

AB: He, in the outline, gives a short statement about our meeting, and as he points out, they 

were straight-line labor issues: work load, grievance procedure, no recognition, salary, 
working conditions, which would include sabbatical, office supplies. And when he told 
this to some of the other labor council members, they couldn’t believe it. “God, that’s 
why - you’re like we were in 1910.” 

PC: He refers in that thing, doesn’t he, to health benefits, things like that? 

AB: Yes. And retirement. You see, we had to put in half our retirement and it wasn’t vested, 

yeah. So those were things that they all recognized. They said, “this is terrible. We’ve 
got to do something about this.” So we had meet and confer rules. So he said, “let’s just 
deal with San Francisco State. Let the rest of the things go. We can get started this way. 
You guys have to start someplace, and we have to lay the ground rules.” 

So we requested a meet and confer with Dumke, and he sent up — 

PC: Who is now the chancellor? 


AB: He’s the chancellor. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: And he sent up two guys. George mentions their names - Ron Epstein. One of ‘em was 

an attorney and the other one was a guy that [unintelligible], pretty slick guy. And we 
met with them at the airport several times going over demands. Finally they said, “you 
know, we’re not authorized to do anything. It takes a while to get out; what can you guys 
do?” You know, first you’re very patient and you explain what you want and you make 
your demands. And usually that’s the end of the first session and you go home and you 
can confer with the principals. Then they came back and argued over and over and they 
said, “we’re not getting anyplace.” George said, “you guys have any authority?” “No, 
we weren’t given any authority.” “Well, you’ve got to have some authority to change 

I say this is important because one of the accusations during the strike was that we were 
riding the coattails of the students and we were injecting labor issues to cover up that the 
- we were just giving support to the students. Now a year before this, we already had the 
demands, which we gave to them which resulted in the strike. 

PC: Uh-huh. Well, that’s a very important point, isn’t it? 

AB: Very important point, yeah. 

PC: Okay, because of its importance, is it possible for you to reconstruct the particulars 

in these airport conversations with representatives of the Chancellor? 

AB: Well, George mentions their names of those two fellows. 

PC: I was wondering about the issues that you brought to them. I mean, for example, 

was collective bargaining one of those issues? 

AB: Well, one of the big things was union recognition. Another one that we wanted was the 

grievance procedures changed. And on issues that required money, what we wanted was 
them to cooperate with us in lobbying. Dumke was always reluctant to ask for money for 
things because he didn’t want to call attention to himself as being - he thought he was the 
servant of them, and if they didn’t want to give us money, it was not his position to tell 
them they should give us money. He was quite different from the U.C. chancellors, they 
were all presidents who tended to, you know, speak out for the good of their institution. 
Dumke was never good at defending his institution and getting more for them. He was 
just perfectly happy to leave it sit there. And in part, I suppose, there was a deal he made 
because he was one of the authors of the Master Plan. He was the guy that was picked 


out to be on that committee to write the master plan. So he’d already written us into a 
secondary position. That’s one of the reasons we opposed him because he couldn’t come 
in now and demand more for us since he’d already made his deal with them, you see? He 
was a committed man. He was bought and sold. 

PC: Interesting. Somewhere around the spring of ‘68, still before the strike, the faculty 

begins to talk about reducing the course loads unilaterally. 

AB: We did. One of my colleagues in the Philosophy Department, Peter Radcliff, was acting 

chair for a while of the Philosophy Department. Peter is a brilliant fellow and he and I 
have done together, I guess, just about as much as anybody in the union. He was always 
really smart and I could always count on him. We’d driven all over the state into lots of 
things. He has a very good memory. You might be interested in talking to Peter. He’ll 
have a lot of memories of things and so forth. He’s really good. 

Peter, looking at the rules for staffing, detennined that the way that the rules were 
written, we could be teaching three courses instead of four courses. They had never 
counted correctly. This time we had a Master’s there and they never counted correctly 
the graduate classes and the supervision and so forth. And he figured out with what we 
had, we could reduce our working load. And so we did. And other people got wind of 
that. We rooted for it everywhere. Here’s what the union’s doing for you. We’re 
ferreting out these things, you see? 

And you have to remember at this time that Dodd was president, and at the institution of 
the Academic Senate, I was the chair of the Academic Senate Constitution Committee, 
and I virtually wrote the constitution for the San Francisco State campus and got 
agreement from Dodd that faculty members could pick their faculty and he would 
practically always approve them except for something egregious, and turned over and 
have committees to select presidents and so forth. He’d come from UCLA and he was 
much more used to an academic senate having some powers and the administration 
granting them some powers. So I had gotten the faculty some abilities through this 
constitution now to have more say about curriculum determination as well as about 
choosing other people, so that the Senate would approve curriculum and he would say, 
“yes, but there are some changes here,” or “run a Master’s program here,” and so that 
was what we negotiated with him. 

PC: These powers were brought, though, to the Academic Senate, or were they brought 

to the departments? 

AB: Both. 

PC: Both. Within this constitution of the Academic Senate, you had the ability to do - 


AB: Right. For example, the Academic Senate would approve curriculum changes where 

formally they had no say about it whatsoever. It certainly went to the deans - 

PC: Did it still require the president’s approval? 

AB: Legally it did, but he agreed that he would give them the final say so. My argument was, 

yes, the law says — I always had this argument with Dumke. He said, “I can’t give those 
powers because they’re delegated to me.” And I said, “but legally, you can delegate them 
to whomever you want. You already delegate a lot of things to your deans. You can do 
the same thing to the Academic Senate. You can delegate to who you want to delegate, 
to any responsible person or body.” And he would never do it because he didn’t really 
want to give up the power, you see. But Dodd didn’t care that much about it; it wasn’t an 
important thing to him. So I got him to agree. We wrote agreements. 

This was very important because, you see, this lifts the faculty as the deliberative body 
into another level. 

PC: Yes. Yes, yes. Dodd obviously knew what he was doing. 

AB: Oh, sure. He knew exactly what he was doing. 

PC: In the sense of what you were doing. 

AB: He had to stand up to Dumke and other people and take this one. He was a bit of an 

independent, you see. 

PC: I mean, he sounds like a very important figure in understanding the evolution of 

faculty power here. 

AB: Yeah. Yeah, well, having been in the system, you see, at UCLA where the academics 

that are in the California system have a lot of these powers, and, you know, that it didn’t 
destroy the University of California. 

So that’s a very important prelude, you see, to the faculty’s perception of themselves 
without - and a sense of confidence and rights without which you could never get people 
to strike. You have to remember that faculty are some of the most supine, frightened 
people in the world. And my continual threat through this whole story has been how do 
you bring those people along. You take quite a few years and a lot of moves. 

PC: Yes. And sometimes without success. 


AB: Yeah, failures all over the place. 

PC: Um, going back down to the Philosophy Department, instituting a - 

AB: Yeah, with Peter Radcliff figuring this out, you see, it was a three-course load. 

PC: Right. 

AB: Okay. This was one of the precipitating factors that made people angry because they 

were doing that and then it was spreading. And a decree came down - 

PC: Excuse me. You already implemented this change? 

AB: Oh, yeah. 

PC: There wasn’t talking about doing it, but you actually were doing it? 

AB: No, we were teaching it. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: And other departments were doing that. Everybody had heard about that. And so one of 

the union’s selling points was that, you know, our local president figured out that you 
didn’t have to be teaching four courses. We just used the rules of the system. And it was 
legitimate. You couldn’t do anything about it. But then a decree came down that 
anybody who was teaching nine units in the spring would get three-fourths pay, and that 
was an order that apparently came down from Reagan. Now, I’m sure they must have 
appealed to the Reagan - he really wasn’t paying that much attention to details. 

PC: Uh-huh. But it was a statewide rule, this decree? It wasn’t just a local - 

AB: Statewide. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Statewide. 

PC: How did non-union faculty feel about those kinds of issues? 

AB: Well, they liked that ‘cause nobody wanted to teach four courses a semester, you know. 

So, I mean, it got us a lot of good will and, you know, our membership was growing. 

And it was about this time that John Sperling, I think, was president of the AFT and he 


negotiated some good loans through a ha nk and got us backed by the AFT to expand 
organizing and we were starting to press toward collective bargaining. And we had gone 
down to a trustee’s meeting and requested collective bargaining. At the time, they had a 
meeting in Cal Poly, Pomona. Before this, we wanted to establish that we thought it was 
the only way to go. And it was a very interesting meeting. And I think I conferred with 
Victor Van Bourg and - what’s his name - Stuart Weinberg. Stuart Weinberg was the 
man that - taking care of teachers in Van Bourg’ s law firm that - the way the rules read, it 
would be possible for the trustees to give us collective bargaining rights. It didn’t require 
any legislation. That was our argument. And I had. ..Epstein was the lawyer’s name. 
That’s the guy who I also met and conferred with, Epstein. And Epstein was a very 
retiring person. He seemed almost frightened, but he got some positions and some - he 
was the head counsel for the trustees. And I got him to admit at this hearing that indeed it 
was legally possible for the trustees to give us collective bargaining. And that was quite 
a surprising development. But they said they weren’t going to, although some trustees 
made a motion in favor of it and two or three people were in favor of it. So, you see, they 
were starting to breech - 

PC: Right. I see. And this is still long before the student strike is coming. 

AB: Yeah. Yeah. 

PC: You couldn’t by any chance date that? When that actually happened. When 

Epstein made this concession. 

AB: I couldn’t. In the documents that I gave to Lynn, in there is a bound copy of the Board’s 

minutes, it’s got a white plastic binding around it, and the pages will be marked and they 
will be underlined where it is. 

PC: Okay, that’s pretty good. Whoever’s reading this thing hence will now know exactly 

where to look. 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: One other question I have about the union at this state, the AFT that is prior - and 

we’re still talking now ‘67, ‘68 - 

AB: That’s right. 

PC: Prior to the decision to strike, were there teaching assistants by this time on the 


AB: No. 


PC: So that the union consisted entirely of regular faculty? 

AB: Right. 

PC: What about the percentages of people who are now called “lecturers,” who were not 

AB: That’s a new development. 

PC: That was not the case? 

AB: There was practically nobody at that time. There were people in the music department, 

say, like piano teachers or trumpet teachers who had come out to teach part-time. People 
who worked in the symphony, you know, do an additional job. And that was just about 
it. This thing is something that’s occurred in the last fifteen years. A money-saving 
device. Before that, people were hired full-time. 

PC: I see. Now also in this time, I’m thinking since, let’s say, approximately the election 

of Ronald Reagan in the fall of ‘66, through the next academic year ending in the 
spring of ‘68, there were a number of what you might call national-political issues 
that come to visit San Francisco State. There’s a question of whether student grades 
get reported to selective service, the question of the black student programs - 

AB: ROTC on campus. 

PC: And ROTC on campus. All of these I know involve faculty people. Did they also 

involve the union as a union? 

AB: The union usually took a lot of political positions on almost everything. It was a very 

politically active group. And it was very anti-war, very anti- Vietnam War. And ROTC 
was, I think, a more divided issue, but I don’t know that we took the position on ROTC 
because it too closely split, I think, to deal with them. But I don’t remember for sure, that 
would require checking the data to find out about that. 

PC: Is this the kind of thing that kept the union separate from other faculty? Non-union 

faculty people? 

AB: There was always a question of whether we should be taking so many political positions 

or only stick to faculty issues. Because it would alienate some people from joining us. 
But practically everybody, I think, was for political positions. 


Another thing that we did at this point was I suggested that we start a magazine, a 
quarterly. And I got Daniel Knapp to edit that and we got some money from the CFT 
when they had so many - we had a one-issue magazine that [published] think pieces that 
we wanted to [serve] as an intellectual magazine for the whole labor movement. Who’s 
the guy that wrote On the Line? [Issues available at Archives and Special Collections, J. 
Paul Leonard Library, San Francisco State University.] Now I can’t think of his name. 
We got some national names, writers. We had a long, seven or eight-hour floor fight 
about that, about the CFT. And we had a nice magazine going. So, yeah, people wanted 
to be influential in the labor movement. It wasn’t, you see - they wanted to take part in it. 
And as intellectuals, they thought they had some part to play. And that was always 
appealing, and these other organizations were always just bread and butter. We wanted 
to be bigger than bread and butter, and we were appealing for people who had ideas and 
who wanted to change the laws. 

PC: Well, maybe we could run down some of the positions that you did take. Like, for 

example, did the union come out about reporting grades to the selective service, or 
about the Vietnam War? 

AB: I don’t remember. 

PC: What about the attack by certain black students on the editor of the Gater? 

AB: Well, we didn’t take a position on that as I recall. The advisor of the paper, Jerrold 

Werthimer, was a member of the union and he was very upset about that, I remember, 
because that was like an attack on the press, you see. He worried about freedom of the 
press, and what are you going to worry about when somebody comes in and beats up an 
editor. That sounds like ‘Frisco in 1856 or 1858, you know, get out the vigilantes. But I 
don’t believe that we took a position. 

PC: What about when blacks began asking for waivers in admissions requirements? 

AB: Oh, we were very supportive of this. 

PC: As a union? 

AB: Yeah, but not as much to begin as we subsequently were. When we come to that part of 

it, I’ll tell you about how people sympathetic to the union - to the students, I mean - came 
into the union in droves. 

PC: Okay, now, in June of ‘68, Robert R. Smith is appointed president of the San 

Francisco State campus. I think June 1. Was the faculty involved in this election in 
any way at all? 


AB: No. 

PC: Did the AFT have a position on Smith? 

AB: No. We didn’t really know what was happening. That was all going on so fast. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: But Smith was liked. He was an honest person. He was outspoken. And we knew that 

he wasn’t kowtowed. And the faculty held a convention, not the Continental 
Constitutional Convention, but another convention on campus. At this time, I was on 
released time and paid by the Academic Senate to rewrite for the campus - to take a 
survey and prepare a big meeting of faculty and students to reconstituting San Francisco 
State and the role that students would play in it and how we would make more connection 
with community and people there. And this was authorized by the Senate and I was the 
chair of that and I was given student assistants and so forth, so it was very interesting. 

And then, of course, when the strike came, that whole thing just blew up in the air. 

But the fact that they had done this, you see, shows you how far, not just the union, but 
the whole faculty, including the Senate represented all of the departments, some of which 
were not union members at all were moving. 

PC: Still, now, talking before, you know, the strike comes down, you come back to the 

campus in September of ‘68 in any way expecting things to fall apart? Can you talk 
about the mood on the campus? 

AB: No, I never thought of it as falling apart. I always thought this was a renovation - 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Whenever there’s change, there’s hope, you know. I mean, getting something better. 

Things can get worse. I mean it’s always a gamble. This was when I was given time off 
to reconstitute the whole school. This was an incredible opportunity. 

PC: I didn’t mean it to sound negative. I guess what I meant was whether you could 

speak about the mood on the campus? 

AB: Actually, I thought it was very upbeat. Yeah. I think there were definitely some people 

who were outraged and scared as hell. There’s no question about that. But I didn’t think 
it was a down mood at all. I thought it was a very up mood. 

PC: Do you recall, let’s say in September of ‘68, what the size of the union would have 


been by now? 

AB: It was probably around 135, 140. I had been statewide president of the council, and then 

I wasn’t - well, let me think. See, I became president again in ‘72. 

PC: One of the issues that begins to be talked about in the fall of ‘68 involves the rest of 

the layoffs in the next spring semester because of budgetary - 

AB: It wasn’t threats. They were laying them off. 

PC: They were laying them off. Okay. 

AB: I forget the number. It says in our strike demands someplace. I think there’s an appendix 

in this book. 

PC: Which book are you reading from there? 

AB : I am reading from By Any Means Necessary. 

[End of Tape 4 -Side 4 (A)] 

[Begin Tape 4 - Side 4 (B)] 

PC: - asked you about also besides the layoff issue with the AFT was opposed to, 


AB: I think there were 240 people to be laid off. 

PC: I see. And the union had made a clear decision to oppose this. 

AB: Yeah. I think I have to take back something I’ve probably said inaccurately when I said 

that there weren’t many part-time people. I believe that they were all part-time people 
that were to be laid off, so there were more, if I’m correct about the 240 figure. This is 
something that I can’t depend on my memory, so people will have to look into this. 

PC: Okay. That’s something that will be - 

AB: But that was a major factor. They were going to be laid off. And there was going to be a 

reduction of salary. Those were the most immediate causes. 


PC: Reduction of salary? Why? 

AB: Because they were going to go - I’m just pointing out here that they were going to go 

from teaching four courses to teaching three courses - 

PC: Yes, yes. So this is more bread and butter kind of grievances? 

AB: Absolutely. 

PC: It’s not - 

AB: It’s all straight labor issues. 

PC: Yeah. They’re not ideological or - 

AB: Nothing like that at all. 

PC: - connected to these other things. 

Now the issue which gets a little fuzzy about faculty rights versus ideology, or maybe 
parallel to ideology, involves the question of the black instructor in the English 
Department, George Murray, who was imperiled, should we say, for some of his - 

AB: Fired by Dumke. 

PC: For his political activities. 

AB: Without trial. 

PC: Well, did the union take a stand on his case? 

AB: I don’t remember whether first we took a stand or not. I guess it would be that we 

probably said that he has to be given a hearing. I’m sure we took a position on that. 

Most of the faculty were sympathetic to it, but this was pretty explosive. He was waving 
a gun. And, you know, you don’t take positions without a meeting of the membership 
along this course. I don’t have any memory of whether we actually took a position or 

PC: The student strike, that event, though, does directly lead into the student strike 

which begins in November? 


AB: Yeah. See, the union was sympathetic to the black students. The main reasoning along 

these lines was that the third-world people were not going to escape their lower position 
in the economic scale and acceptance into society unless they got themselves educated. 
They’re always going to be exploited down there as a lumpen proletariat. 

PC: Well, this is an example of, isn’t it, of ideology becoming more important than 

traditional faculty issues? 

AB: Well, I don’t think so because, you see, we were supposed to be - 1 don’t think it’s quite 

that sharply divisible because people who taught at San Francisco State very well knew 
that they were teaching at a streetcar college. And we had a lot of really first-rate faculty 
who could go other places, and they didn’t choose to go to other universities. And even 
despite their work load and a lot of grievances that they had, because they felt committed 
to it, the school. And the community. 

And the people who joined the AFT were idealistic - practical, but idealistic people, and 
these people had to be educated. And one of the points about the BSU is that students 
obviously were not prepared to take regular college courses. And unless you broke that 
pattern, they’re never going to get in. And the whole idea was that black students could 
go out and recruit them and they could give them preliminary courses that aren’t 
ordinarily taught at the college to bring ‘em up to speed. And this, we thought, was a 
good idea. This was an educational - obviously, the only sensible way you’re going to do 
it. Remember this was the time of Head Start, Head Start had a big program on San 
Francisco State campus and the education school, which ordinarily was more 
conservative than the union. 

Consequently, we’re talking about a policy of a streetcar college and faculty being very 
sympathetic to this. Now they might not be, they might be with the ends, but not with the 
tactics. This was always the, you know, the dividing point. But I would say that it 
wasn’t considered to be ideological. It was just part of our job as teachers to protect and 
to extend education. 

PC: When the strike was called, did the union take a position? When the student strike 

was called, I mean. Did the teacher’s union take a position endorsing the strike or 
opposing it or seeking to mediate it in some way? 

AB: I don’t remember. What I remember best is that the tac squad came on campus and 

standing between the students and the tac squad, the faculty formed lines between them 
to keep fights from breaking out. 

PC: This was the famous tac squad? Is that what they called it? 


AB: Tac? 

PC: Yeah, but the tac squad was the faculty? 

AB: Yeah, and it consisted mostly of union members. 

PC: Well, that’s what I was going to ask you. Mostly union members, but not 


AB: No. But pretty exclusively. I think I’m wrong about that. I think it was about half and 

half. I’m thinking about people who became union members, but were not yet union 
members. There was a group on campus who was very sympathetic to the students, and 
who considered themselves more left and more radical. And they were critical of the 
labor movement because the labor movement was too conservative for them. And it 
wasn’t until the strike started or shortly before the strike that they joined the union 
because they didn’t have any place to go. 

Now, I should back up and tell you about something else, that there was another 
organization independent of the union when all this was going on. And this consisted in 
great part of the people to whom I was referring. They considered themselves more left 
than the union members. And I’m trying to remember the name of this group, what we 
called ourselves the Committee for something. 

We had a big meeting in the Humanities building, and a lot of these people came there. 
And I could see that they really wanted to do something, but they weren’t members. And 
I realized that we had to eventually get them as members, so I had to figure out what to 
do here. And as they were talking about something — they didn’t know what they wanted 
to do and they weren’t organized at all, so as they were all talking, I was writing down on 
a piece of paper about seven or eight points of things to do. And then as it was going on, 
it was kind of turning around — I asked for the floor and I got up and I wrote on the 
blackboard all these points that they should have in the resolution and things we should 
do, including leafleting people at the campus car entrances - get out there at seven 
o’clock in the morning with our program and leaflet the faculty members as they drove 
into the parking lots and stopping them. 

PC: This was still prior to the strike, though? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: I see. 

AB: Yeah, and before most of these people had joined the union. Kaye Boyle was acting 


amongst them, for example, but none of them knew how to organize themselves, you see, 
and that’s eventually what they saw in the union. So I made myself the organizer by 
writing down the program. And then it went from there over to a meeting at Eugene 
Zwillinger’s house, who became a good striker, but wasn’t a member of the union at the 
time that he was in the education department, I believe, or psychology. We went over to 
his house and had a meeting, six or seven of us. And so we went over the program I had 
and then adopted it, and then we organized ourselves and I think we chipped in some 
money and then they agreed that, yes, we had to leaflet the people. At least something 
had to be done here. And this is probably about the time that Smith was being appointed 
- or the last days of [John Henry] Summerskill. I can’t remember for sure. 

PC: Now what you’re saying is that there was a leftist, left-wing group of whom the only 

names you’ve mentioned, I think, were Whirling and - 

AB: Zwillinger. 

PC: Zwillinger and Kay Boyle, who were not in the AFT? 

AB: And Stan Ofsevit. 

PC: Who? 

AB: Stan Ofsevit. 

PC: Who were not members of the AFT, but became members of the AFT? Or just 

simply worked in a parallel group? 

AB: They became members. 

PC: Became members. 

AB: Yeah. I remember the day we signed up eighty members at the Methodist Church. 

PC: Eighty members. 

AB: People didn’t know what to do. And I remember that meeting quite vividly. I was at the 

lectern and pounded the lectern and said, “never will I allow myself to be shamed. I 
agreed to teach under these conditions, and Hayakawa has erased them.” We signed up 
eighty members on the spot. They came up in files. 

But I want to go back to this committee - 


PC: Yes. 

AB: Maybe’s there a name back here. But this committee, it was very, very interesting 

because my idea that people didn’t really want the committee for an academic 
environment. There it is. That’s on page 327, reference here. The Committee on 
Academic Environment - no, no. That’s the Alperson group. Excuse me. That’s 
somebody else. That’s the Blue Ribbon group, I believe. That was Hayakawa’s group. 

But I wanted people to take an extra step to do something they hadn’t done before. Not 
simply to sign resolutions or - remember at this time some of us had - a lot of activities 
had gone on here like making ourselves a group of members and going up and 
demanding to see Summerskill, unlock the door and let us in and talk. And with Smith. 
So, you know, these kind of things were going on all the time and one of the activities 
was our taking - there was about 120 of us assembled one morning to go into the halls of 
the administration building and demand to, you know, talk about these things and try to 
apply a rule. So there was this boiling, this continuous boiling. 

But meeting people at the gate and handing this statement about what had to be done, and 
that the police should be off the campus and all that sort of stuff. Well, that was a 
shocker for people driving in. And for people who were handing them out, it just - bam! 
It just smacker! It was the first time there’d really been a first person-to-person 
confrontation that something different was happening and unusual, and lifted the stakes 
and made people realize that some place down the line everybody’s going to have to 
make a choice of which side they’re going to be on. 

PC: Now this is an interesting thing because, now you didn’t say this, so I’ll put it in a 

form of a question, but would it be fair to say that this left-wing group, then, pushed 
the union in a direction that it might not have moved so quickly to? 

AB: I can’t answer that question. I kind of doubt it. I kind of doubt it. I felt at the time like I 

was using them. They were naive. In some sense I guess that could very well be true 
because I was kind of using one against the other because they were more outspoken 
about the students, and nothing was going to be changed. See, when everybody - 1 think 
the uppermost belief that people had about now was that there would be slaughter on 
campus, there would be people killed unless the faculty did something. And I was never 
so frightened in my life as standing between the tac squad and the students. And some of 
these students didn’t seem to be students. And they were taunting one another and 
spitting and trying to reach through the lines, and the tac squad’s masculinity was being 
challenged continuously. There were both men and women there. We’d do that for 
several days and people began to realize we can’t keep doing this. This isn’t going to do 
anything. It’s not going to stop it. 


So once again, along the theme of how do you move towards strike, and confronting the 
people at the gate and making these demands and getting these people organized where 
they weren’t organized before did heighten someplace along the line a choice was going 
to have to be made. 

PC: Now this occurs after the student strike, but before the faculty strike? 

AB: Probably about right. Probably in October. I think the student strike started sometime in 

October, was it? 

PC: Yeah. My date is November 6, but that may be a technicality. 

AB: Okay. Well, yeah. 

PC: Yeah. Okay, so it’s around right then. 

AB: It could be. It could have been then. I don’t remember. 

PC: Okay, so people are now taking their first step out there with informational things 

to hand out to incoming faculty people. There’s also in my notes a description of a 
faculty meeting in which S. I. Hayakawa gives an impassioned speech about racism. 
Were you at that meeting? 

AB: Yeah, everybody kind of laughed at him, he was so foolish. He was ridiculous. The guy 

had never been around there. He made an asshole of himself and he was ranting and he 
didn’t even know where he was. I mean, he had no conception whatsoever of what was 
going on. It was embarrassing. And, of course, one of the major reasons - the immediate 
reason - for the strike was because Hayakawa was appointed president. 

I don’t know whether this should be kept secret or not, what I’m about to tell you. 

PC: Well, my instincts as a historian are that you don’t keep things secret. 

AB: [Laughing] Yeah, well, yeah. I know. But let me just hedge on it for a moment. And 

can we put it in and then - 

PC: Well, Lynn has authorized me to tell you, and so now this is on the tape also, is that 

if there were sections that you would like to keep private for a limited amount of 
time, she would honor that. 

AB: Well, this may be one of them. I don’t know. So let’s think for moment here. I’ll tell it 

to you. There was a meeting in the Humanities building in which it was quite full. It was 


a room that held - it was a union meeting. And the room was very full. At least there 
were, I don’t know, I think it holds 135, maybe more than that. I don’t remember. And 
there was a question of whether Smith would be fired. We were sitting there while the 
trustee’s meeting was going on simultaneously. And I had hired Jeff Fried, whose father 
was an organizer, I believe, and a long-time printer. And Jeff grew up in the labor group. 
I had hired Jeff Fried. Why did I hire Jeff? I was president of a statewide organization, I 
put on a big organizational meeting and borrowed a lot of money and hired some staff. I 
can’t remember when that was. 

Well, anyway, Jeff was there. And we were meeting, and I told Jeff to keep me informed 
about what was happening. He was listening to the news from the trustees’ meeting. So 
he was outside on the radio and on the telephone to reporters down in Los Angeles. And 
he came and gave me a signal. I went out and he said, “they just hired Hayakawa.” And 
I said, “okay, don’t say anything now. I will -’’ I forget how I was going to give ‘em a 
signal. I might have had somebody go out and get him. I don’t think I did. I think I 
might have gone out and then come back in and told ‘em to come in a couple of minutes 

And it was maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, and the meeting got hotter and hotter, and 
people were laughing. I think that we knew that and that Smith had been fired and that 
Hayakawa had gone down to L.A. and everybody was saying they couldn’t stand 
Hayakawa and they would never stay at the college if they’re going to make him 
president. They got the topic to come around to that. And we were all kind of sitting 
there and waiting. And then people after they started talking, expostulating. I had 
figured that was the right moment, so I had Jeff come in and [announce], “Hayakawa has 
just been appointed president!” And they were all, “what!” And I was sitting there and I 
starting pounding, “strike! Strike! Strike!” And people started taking it up, “strike! 
Strike! Strike! Strike!” And the whole room, they were shouting, “strike! Strike! 

Strike! Strike!” 

So at this point, then, it was clear that we said, “well, the union has to have a meeting, a 
strike committee hearing and take a strike vote.” Okay. And then I believe it was after 
that that we got the other eighty people to join. I’m not sure about that. Peter Radcliff 
might remember that. I can’t remember, there were too many things going on there. 

PC: Okay. I just want to get something clear. First of all, was this the first time that the 

union spoke explicitly about a strike upon news of the announcement of 
Hayakawa’s appointment? 

AB: Yes. 

PC: Had you personally thought of the strike before then? 


AB: A long time. 

PC: And this little anecdote that you just told me, it sounds like you almost created a 

political climate - 

AB: Exactly. That’s why I’m wondering about whether it should be [known], because people 

might feel that they were manipulated. You see, it’s very important that anybody - any 
faculty member that struck, I never knew a single one of them that wasn’t pleased no 
matter what other things happened, and that included people who were fired or people 
who were divorced or people who had financial difficulties after that. Not a single one of 
them would have given it up because they figured that that was the day that they could 
stand up for things that they believed, and they were glad that they did and they were 
grateful for the opportunity. But people don’t often know to what extent it is that they are 
subject to outside influences, you see. And remember that none of the friends that - 

It troubles me, as you can see, because one of things that has always - my motives, I’ve 
been talking about, about speaking in faculty meetings and getting some power for 
faculties, that they should be autonomous. Well, you see, I mean, you’re doing things 
like this, there’s some sense in that you are manipulating them and they aren’t fully 
autonomous. The final vote didn’t take place [in that meeting], but that was where they 
detennined they were going to do it, and that everybody knew at this point what the vote 
was going to be. 

PC: Okay. One other question related exactly to this matter. Now, again, you have not 

mentioned any collaborators who you were counting on to support you. I mean, did 
you discuss strike with, let’s say, Herb Williams or others before this specifically? 

AB: Maybe. I don’t remember that I did. 

PC: And the effect, though, of this call for a strike - you said you were pounding the 

table saying, “strike! Strike! Strike!” Something that you had sort of created a 
climate for, now saw a rise in new members? 

AB: No, I think that I mentioned that other meeting where we signed up eighty people? 

PC: Uh-huh. 

AB: That was at the Methodist church, and I’m trying to remember what the order of those 

events were. 

PC: Okay. 


AB: I believe that that was after this meeting that we signed up a lot of other people, and we 

got all the people that had been out of the union, but considered themselves more radical. 

PC: Right. In other words, this spontaneous episode, that is, the news of the Hayakawa 

appointment, did you, prior to that meeting, talk to other AFT locals to see how they 
would respond to such a thing as a strike vote? 

AB: I went to some of the locals and they wanted to meet. I did. The San Jose local was the 

only one that we knew was really capable of doing anything and we weren’t particularly 
anxious for them to do it either because they weren’t as well organized as we were, and 
they would be just another problem for us. 

PC: And what about your attempts to deal with non-AFT faculty groups? Were there 

attempts prior to this to build bridges to overcome - 

AB: There was no hope for that. No. It was a big enough job to get your own members to - 

PC: Yeah, okay. But I mean there was a sense that we - 

AB: But by this time the ACSCP and the AFT had joined together. I might be mistaken. 

PC: Right. 

AB: So there was only the CSEA and the CTA, both of which were very conservative and 

there was no point in talking to them. 

PC: Now that faculty vote that you’re talking about, which is the news of this 

announcement, which I think is when the faculty - 

AB: Which announcement? 

PC: Well, I was thinking about the news of the Hayakawa appointment. 

AB: That was a faculty meeting, I mean an AFT meeting, not a faculty meeting. 

PC: An AFT meeting, right. And that’s like the 26th of November. And by the 3rd of 

November, or December, now, which is like over a weekend, I suppose, is that 
maybe the Thanksgiving weekend that he’s appointed before? On December 3rd, 
the AFT comes in and votes eighty to twenty-two to request strike sanctions from 
the Labor Council in San Francisco, and they appoint an executive committee to 
develop a rationale for the strike. 


Well, could you explain the background of this vote, this eighty to twenty-two? I 
mean, the short term matter is the appointment of Hayakawa. Five days later the 
AFT again meets and basically - 

AB: It deliberates on the strike sanction. We have to have strike sanctions from the 

committee. Gary Hawkins was president, and that was the meeting I was elected as the 
chair of the negotiating committee and our committee was charged with writing the 
demands. And I am trying to remember. I and somebody else - Peter Radcliff, I believe 
it was - went over to Victor Van Bourg’s house to draw up the demands. Since he was a 
labor attorney, we wanted to make sure that we had these demands written so that they 
would be understandable to labor people. And, of course, we’d been going over these 
things with George Johns for a long time, and we’d been negotiating, meeting and 
conferring with the trustee’s representatives on this matter for some time. And figuring 
very importantly in this were the layoffs and the three-quarters pay, and they wanted 
union recognition and wanted a grievance procedure that would protect us and, of course, 
you wanted a no reprisal clause when you go out on strike. 

PC: This is obviously one of the issues that has come up - to what extent was the strike 

vote an effort to make the administration and the trustees negotiate with the 

AB: The twenty-two votes against were probably [cast by] people who thought that we 

shouldn’t be striking at the same time as the students. There were a group of people, 
formally AFT members. They say that by getting the left people in there was important 
because they’re going to be more militant. And the other people are more the bread-and- 
butter unionists, and they thought that that would corrupt us. 

And they were right in saying, they said, “well, with the student strike going on, 
nobody’s going to pay any attention to us, or they’re going to accuse us of riding the 
coattails of the students.” And the latter is certainly true to the extent to which we got the 
leftist group in who wanted to strike just to protect the students. They didn’t care so 
much about the labor issues. But the Labor Council was very specific - 

PC: Oh, I understand their role, but I’m trying to get you to maybe make a comment 

about where you stood on that particular issue. Did you hope that the - 

AB: My idea was we could do both. I knew we weren’t going to get the Labor Council to do 

anything about the students. I saw them - including black people who said that their 
granddaughter had stones thrown at her and he wanted her to have an education. He 
didn’t want those black students walking around wild. They were very angry at the 
students. And it was the hardest thing in the world to overcome and get strike sanction 


because they thought they wouldn’t support the students. 

I was walking a continual tightwire. My view was we had to do both things, and that we 
could do both things, but that it was a real tricky thing to do. 

[End of Tape 4 -Side 4(B)] 

[Begin Tape 5 - Side 5 (A)] 

AB : - would justify a strike. 

PC: Both the students and the - 

AB: Right. And now I want to tell you something that probably hasn’t been said or written 

about before. One of the things that George Johns did - this was a very good move of his 
- was to have Alioto appoint a committee, which he actually drew up, of influential 
people in the city as kind of an advisory body. So it wasn’t just a union strike, but to 
recognize it as a political thing and that we were going to have a really tough time 
striking with Reagan against us and all the hate and Hayakawa being popular. It seemed 
like the most unpropitious time in the world to strike on union issues. I mean, that was 
about as tough - he said, “this is the toughest negotiating problem I’ve ever been in in my 
entire life, or probably ever will be.” 

So he appointed this group, and I’ll tell you later about the strike sanction vote at the 
Labor Council, and it’s I think a very clever thing I planned with George Moscone, so 
don’t let me forget it. 

PC: Okay, 

AB: Alioto then appointed a kind of a subgroup that was observing San Francisco State 

College, and hanging around and getting infonnation. And this group was the one that 
was headed by Bishop Mark Hurley. And a fellow named - 1 believe his name was Alan 
Becker. Becker taught at San Francisco State. He’d been a labor mediator for a long 
time. And then there was a representative from the ILWU, a big black guy - a real nice 
fellow, Bill Chester. 

PC: Well, I’m sure there’s a list of who these people were. 

AB: Yes, there is a list. And I remember Peter Radcliff and I met with this group at the Del 


Webb Hotel, and they told me and Peter that in their view, there was likely to be killings, 
and probably the police would shoot somebody with this continued escalation. And the 
most concerned man was Hurley, who had been in a Central American country at one 
point - 1 think it was Guatemala, but I’m not sure. And he had given last rites to 
seventeen young people who were marching in the streets who were shot down by 
soldiers. These young people were children of the well-to-do who were liberal and 
demanding something and they were shot by the poor soldiers who had been conscripted. 
It was a very vivid experience in his life to give last rites to seventeen young people shot. 
And he didn’t want to see that happen in San Francisco. And he had informed Alioto and 
the others agreed with him that it was likely to happen unless there were some way of 
stopping it. 

And they had come to the conclusion there was nobody left which the students had any 
confidence in any longer except the AFT. And that in their view, the only way to prevent 
deaths was for the AFT to go out on strike. 

PC: This was the citizen’s council? 

AB: This was five people invited by him, right. By Alioto. 

PC: Let’s get this on the - 

AB: This was before the strike vote, too. 

PC: Before the strike vote, 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: And they informed Alioto of this? 

AB: Yes. 

PC: They informed you of this? 

AB: They presented to - this is what they had told Alioto and this is what they were telling 

Peter and I at this time. And so they were proposing to us that we propose to the union to 

PC: To save lives? 

AB: Yes. 


PC: And did you do that? 

AB: No lives were lost. And we did strike. And I said to them, “we will try to do this on one 

condition, that we go on that picket line, you don’t arrest anybody. Otherwise we won’t 
do it. We’ve got to have your assurance that the police will honor the picket line. You 
know, if there are times it gets too thick, that’s okay. Thin ‘em out.” San Francisco had 
an ordinance at that time that picketers had to keep five feet apart. There was no way this 
was going to happen. “But we don’t want anybody arrested.” So they pledged that they 
would not, and if they didn’t arrest they could keep their pledge. The only way it was 
going to work was that our picket line be respected and be peaceful. If you want to save 
lives, we can’t have incidents. You will allow us to control the picket lines. Let us take 
care of the problems. 

PC: Did you ever tell other people? That is, did you and Peter Radcliff ever report to 

the union about what the Citizen’s Committee told you? 

AB: Never. 

PC: Why not? 

AB: That would compromise them. 

PC: The Citizen’s Committee? 

AB: Yeah. Alioto can’t be tagged as starting this light. This is the first time I’ve told 

anybody about this. 

PC: Did it change your opinion? I mean, in other words, were they merely suggesting 

what would have happened anyway? 

AB: They were and I believed the same thing independently of what they were saying and so 

did most of our union members. But I was glad to hear it because that allowed me, then, 
to negotiate an agreement about police behavior. 

PC: And you said that you negotiated this with Alioto or with the Citizen’s Committee or 

with the police? 

AB: The Citizen’s Committee who were authorized to speak for Alioto. 

PC: Did you ever have any conversations with the police department per se along these 



AB: I talked to the police a lot. You know, during the strike we had short wave radio contact, 

and we were listening to the police all the time. And they were listening to us and 
everybody knew it. So everybody knew where everybody was. This was part of what we 
had to do, you see. But nobody acknowledged that the other one knew what the other 
one was doing. But, I mean, we had a guy in there, a young philosophy student - Roger 
Levitt. He bought us all this equipment and we knew that he was a spy and that probably 
the police had bought it for us. 

PC: [Laughing] So they could monitor what you were doing. 

AB: Exactly. And, of course, we knew all the time, you know, what to say over the monitor 

when we were there. And, of course, we used it deliberately to say where our people 
were going to be on the picket line and we could hear where they were going to be and so 
forth. So that kind of an unspoken - there might have been some extremes directly 
between them, but I don’t remember since I wasn’t in the headquarters. But we had 
continual monitoring of this in our headquarters at that time on 19th Avenue. 

PC: The union never directly negotiated with the police department about protecting the 

picket lines and things like that? 

AB: That was through the Committee and through Alioto. 

PC: I see. Would it be fair to say from what you know that Alioto was therefore 

sympathetic to the teacher’s strike at that time? 

AB: Sure. Absolutely. He had gotten elected by labor. Yeah, absolutely. 

PC: Now, the first strike vote seeking sanction on December 3rd is eighty to twenty-two. 

What happened to the other twenty-two people? Do you have any idea? 

AB: They struck. I don’t think any of them quit along with the vote. It was pretty 

overwhelming, yeah. The procedure is as follows after you have a strike sanction vote: 
two things happen. We have to go down to the Labor Council and present our demands 
in case and they vote on it, and then usually what happens is that the second step is after 
the Executive Committee of the Labor Council holds the strike sanction. They don’t 
release it. You aren’t sanctioned to strike until they request of the employer to have 
negotiations to try to settle it without a strike and then to report back. And we, then, had 
also to report back what successes or failures we had. 

So our first step, now, is to organize ourselves to go down to present our view to the 
Labor Council and we did this. 


PC: Who was the “we”? 

AB: Well, John Sperling at that time was the head of the state organization. He went there, 

but he didn’t say anything. And Mario D’Angeli and Herb Williams and I. 

PC: Say those names again more slowly, 

AB: Herb Williams. And I think Mario D’Angeli. John Sperling. Our staff man at the time 

was Bud Hutchinson. I believe Henry McGuckin was there. I believe Eric Solomon was 
there. You can check with Eric when you talk to him. I believe that he was there. I’m 
not positive about that, though. Maybe Fred Thalheimer. I’m not sure about the latter. I 
believe so. Because, you see, the union was - when I talked about delicacy before, 
remember we’re talking now about some people who are more sympathetic to the 
students and some people are more sympathetic to the bread-and-butter and in the 
negotiations, these two had to be kept balanced and kept apart. And down at the Labor 
Council you couldn’t say anything about the other thing. 

But there was a little mistrust there on both sides. Nothing big, nothing harmful, but a 
little mistrust so that on all occasions when we met for strategy, both sides were 
represented when we went anyplace to negotiate so that everybody had first-person 
knowledge of what was going on so there was no shenanigans. And sometimes if the 
students at meetings - they were authorized to go because the students trusted them more 
and if we went to the Labor Council, they’d go. So it was all - we all knew about this, so 
there was nothing underhanded about it. It was just to make sure that everybody was on 
the up and up. 

Gary Hawkins was, I think, the president at the time. I think he was more sympathetic to 
the bread-and-butter, and he was very good at keeping us balanced also and people 
trusted him and his honesty and he was above suspicion. 

PC: Is it fair to say that when you approached the Labor Council, you were telling them 

the truth when you said your main priorities were traditional labor union issues? 

AB: We didn’t just say that. We told them we were concerned about the other, but we 

understood that they were only concerned with that. We didn’t dissemble about that. 

And many of our faculty members and our union members were concerned about that, 
and that we believed that it was important also because that was an educational issue. 

We didn’t see how these people were going to get educated and brought into school and 
brought into the mainstream of employment and professions without it. So it was not 
any... we never hedged that because if you do that, then you keep that down there and 
people don’t really believe that you’re saying what you’re saying. So you should just be 
up front with them. Gary was very much in agreement on this. He and I used to meet 


every morning and strategize and go over things and write all the press conferences 
together and so forth. So we would continually discuss these things. 

PC: This is the tightrope. This is between the time when you seek the strike sanction and 

you actually get it in January and go out on strike. Were you aware of any divisions 
within the leadership of the union? 

AB: No, there weren’t any divisions. We were all pretty much in agreement. Except for I am 

saying about the emphasis. 

PC: Right. Some people emphasized more than others, but you didn’t - were there any 

arguments that you recall about how to approach the Labor Council? Or how to 
approach the students? 

AB: No, not really. Everybody understood what had to be done. I mean, we all understood 

one another. And, as I’ve said, I believed that one was justified to strike on both grounds. 
There was never any problem for me. The only thing that ever bothered me was the fact 
that the perception that the press gave was that they didn’t recognize the history of our 
long negotiation. And some of our own faculty members didn’t either. 

PC: Uh-huh, interesting. 

AB: But it would have come anyway. Now, let me tell you about this meeting. They were 

firing I believe it was 240 people and they were going to cut our pay. And the Council 
always asked the employer’s representatives to be present, and Epstein and this other guy 
were present, indeed, at this meeting. And George Johns was very clever. He invited all 
the presidents of the radio stations and the T.V. stations and representatives from both 
newspapers were all there. And rabbis and ministers and representatives from the 
archdiocese. The Episcopal bishop and the Catholic Church were all there. It wasn’t just 
a Labor Council meeting, it was like the council of San Francisco. And all the 
assemblymen and senators were there. The room had about twenty people, and you 
know, all the power in the city was there. It was very interesting. And the Labor Council 
people have never had any, not like this in the strike sanction before. They were sitting 
and, you know, very stiff, and they were dressed in their best suits and ties - [laughing] - 
and it was very interesting. And Joe Belardi was the president. He was the head of cooks 
and a pretty relaxed guy. He’d been around. And so I knew immediately that the first 
response was going to be to the fact that we didn’t want those 240 people fired or 
whatever number it was or [have their] pay cut, because they said, “well, we don’t have 
the money.” They were going to say, “we don’t have the money.” 

So I called up George Moscone’s office and I said, “this is what they’re gonna say. 

Could you find out?” I know they turned money back to the general fund every year, 


unused funds. “Can you find out how much it is for me if you can?” They found out. It 
was a substantial sum like over two, three million dollars, what you need to not fire these 
people. So I said to George, “they’re going to say this and I won’t say anything. And 
what I want you to do is when they say this, you say to them, do you remember turning 
money back to the general fund at the end of the year?” And they’ll say, “well — ” 

They’ll probably hedge or say [something] like that, so you try to get off of it. 

So then you can ask them how much - George is very clever, so I knew he would figure 
out the right thing to say at the moment. But they had so much money to pay for them. 
And they said, “well, we don’t know how much it’s going to be this year.” And they’re 
checking it over the past several years. They’d always turned back that kind of money. 
And he said, “well, I’ve just made an inquiry of the Department of Finance. The 
Chairman of the Finance tells me that you turn back two or three million dollars every 
year. And you have the money. And you probably expect to turn it back this year,” he 
said. And Joe Belardi pounded the table. “Ha!” he laughed. I never saw money found 
so fast in my entire life in negotiations. These two guys sat there, boxed — here’s all this 
power in this public arena, you see. These guys aren’t sitting down in a little box and 
these faculty members contemptuously dealing with them. All of sudden they’re 
exposed. They were a little petrified, too, and then all of a sudden, man, they were just - 
everything exploded, everything exploded and there was no question after that, you see, 
which way the vote was going to go. 

PC: How come Moscone was so sympathetic to your union? 

AB: Well, George was a good guy. He was a good family friend, personal friend. And I had 

been involved in his campaigns for a long time and he was part of Burton’s group and 
that’s a very pro-labor group and he’d always gotten Labor Council’s support for his 
campaigns when he ran for office. And he was a supervisor for two terms, and then a 

PC: Let me ask you a digressive question because I think Eric may have mentioned it to 

me when I talked to him, or someone else, but you mentioned your family just now 
and it come to my mind that your wife, Susan, at that time, was involved in some of 
this stuff? Helping? She attended meetings, in any case. Because a couple of people 
have mentioned her name to me. 

AB: I don’t know if she attended any meetings, but we had meetings at our house. 

PC: Maybe that’s what it is. 

AB: We had to live in the back of the house during the strike because we had firebomb threats 

and people would say we’ll shoot through the windows and that sort of thing. So we 


lived in the back of the house. And we had black students, BSU and third- world 
students, meet at our house once in a while because they didn’t want to meet in any 
official places or public places, and they always came in with heaters, and we had a guy 
across the street follow me [unintelligible]. He was a crazy guy. He used to own a bar or 
the Lion’s Den or something like that up on Divisadero Street. And his parents lived 
across the street. He was kind of a weird guy. The grandparents raised his son. We were 
always good friends with him, but he was an odd guy. And he came in with a shotgun, 
trying to clear things out. “I want ‘em out of this neighborhood.” 

And everybody - you know, the heaters. He’d seen some of their heaters and - 
[Laughing] - And my wife said, “put your guns away. I’m going to get rid of him.” She 
once said, “you just go home right now. Your mother and father wouldn’t like this at all. 

I don’t want you in my house, now get out.” He left. 

PC: I was asking more about advice. Was she involved? I mean, she was on the City 

Planning Commission, you told me? 

AB: Well, that was later. A couple of things that we did, we’d been allied, you see, with 

Moscone and a lot of these guys and I told you we’d taken part in political campaigns. 
And two of the things that we had done previously, one of ‘em was to save Sutro Forest. 

I don’t know whether you know Sutro Forest? 

PC: Huh-uh. 

AB: You know where U.C. Hospital is? 

PC: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. 

AB: You know that forest in back of there? 

PC: Uh-huh. 

AB: Well, the Gellart brothers were going to cut the forest down and put housing in there, and 

we fought that along with [Thomas] Lynch’s wife. Remember Lynch was this attorney 
general for the state of California for a while, and city attorney here for a while. He and 
Pat Brown used to live side by side up here, so we got to know these people pretty well. 

And the other thing that we did was to stop the freeway from coming down the 
panhandle, the city park. We were the ones responsible for the first environmental 
impact report. We demanded an environmental impact. See, the city supervisors had to 
give up the land before the feds could come in, so we had to win the battle at the city - at 
the supervisors. And we did an impact report of how many houses for moderate and poor 


income would be lost along the corridor there. There were hundreds of them. And they 
voted against it. And then that was the beginning of the environmental impact reports in 
the United States. The U.S. Senate passed a bill on that after our fight. 

So we had pretty long involvement, you see, in all these kind of fronts involved with the 
city supervisors. So a lot of our activities were local activities. 

PC: Right. And these were sort of extra union, but the same personnel and the same 

players were involved in it, is that it? 

AB: The union didn’t have anything to do with this. This was just our own little thing. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: But, you see, that helped the union when I organized the union because I already knew all 

these political people so that we’d get a lot of legislation. I always found people to 
sponsor legislation for us. 

PC: That makes perfect sense. Moving along here, now, I have December 10th the AFT 

decides to establish an informational picket line the following day, and agrees to 
strike on December 16th with or without Labor Council support if the trustees 
won’t begin to negotiate seriously by a deadline date. 

AB: Yeah. And then after this vote in favor of a strike, then we had to sit down and George 

Johns called the employer to negotiate and we did that in that period of early January. 

And then we had to report back to the union what the successes there were. And my 
report went down the list one by one, and after each one said, “rejected - point, rejected.” 
And then the people were really getting angry at that point and they said, “well, there’s 
nothing left. We have to strike.” 

PC: Were there still, for this vote, a block of dissenters? What had happened to the 

twenty-two dissenters from two weeks before? Or a week before? 

AB: I don’t remember whether it was unanimous or not. And it might have been. A lot of 

members stopped coming, but didn’t necessarily drop their membership. 

PC: You didn’t take it to mean a rejection of the agenda? 

AB: It might be. I mean, you know, if they’re not going to be there, why, maybe they’re just 

keeping it because they’ve got an insurance policy, I don’t know. 

PC: Okay. What was the purpose, in your eyes, of this informational picketing? Was 


that a way of still dealing with the police-student confrontations on the campus? Or 
was this more of a bread-and-butter decision? 

AB: Practice. 

PC: Okay. That’s what you remember thinking? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: And also to show people that you can do it, you see. I mean, before you take your final 

vote, you want to get people used to the idea of what they’re going to do so they do it 
with their eyes wide open. Stuart Weinberg in Van Bourg’s office came and spoke very 
frankly with everybody, and one of the things that we informed everybody was that they 
could be fired. One of the consequences was they could be fired. And one of the things 
that Van Bourg always cautioned, he said, “if the photographers come around, don’t let 
‘em see your strike signs.” He said, “they 

See, the rule was, if you’ve been absent without an excuse for five days, I believe it is, or 
eight days - 1 think it’s five days - you could be fired. And sometimes people said, “well, 
use everything you can. Meet your students on the picket line. As you’re walking along, 
lecture.” So you can say, “well, I never did go a five-day period without teaching.” So 
we did that. So, you know, we’re using every device that we could. We weren’t just 
saying, “let’s go out there and get fired.” Let’s go out there and keep our jobs and keep 
people from being killed, you know. 

PC: About how many people were on the informational picket line? I mean, do you have 

any idea? 

AB: Oh, gosh, I don’t know about the students. There were hundreds. 

PC: Well, I was thinking about the faculty strikers primarily. 

AB: Oh, probably about a hundred. Something like that. 

PC: You have no idea, though. You’re just making up numbers. 

AB: Yeah, most of the members came out. I’m basing it on, you know, the active 


PC: Okay. And who took responsibility for organizing the faculty to know what to do, 


where to report, where to pick up the picket signs, who painted the signs, that sort 
of stuff? 

AB: Well, we put people in charge of various committees. Stan Ofsevit was in charge of the 

picket committee. 

PC: Stan who? 

AB: Stan Ofsevit. He had a big voice, energetic. He was in the social welfare, social work 

department. And all the art people came together. They painted signs - worked twenty- 
four hours to paint signs. Everybody was highly organized. And we had probably some 
of the most imaginative signs ever made. I went up to Grass Valley, Kathleen [Fraser, 
his wife] and I did this autumn, and there was a guy up there who was on that committee. 
He owns a hotel and they have a house up there now, and we stayed with them because 
they have an art studio that you can work in. And he had a full collection of signs. And 
it is really something... a beautiful set of signs. 

PC: Oh, really? Now that’s something the archive should know about? Don’t you 


AB: Absolutely. 

PC: What’s his name? 

AB: I don’t remember what his name is. 

PC: Someone in Grass Valley? Let me make a note and we’ll find it out later, okay? 

AB: I can get that later to you. 

PC: That would be very good to know about. 

AB: He has a full set, he says. It’s beautiful stuff. Stan Ofsevit is one, too. 

PC: Okay, both - 

AB: He’s up at Napa. He’s in Napa. I told him he should transfer. This stuff should be in the 


PC: Well, at least copies of them, if not the original slides that can be used for exhibitions 

and for, you know - 


AB: Absolutely. 

PC: - passing, you know. 

AB: They’re wonderful. Great art and wonderful writing. 

PC: While you were on that informational picket line - we’re still talking now before the 

strike formally was called - do you recall any incidents that occurred? Were 
students generally supportive? 

AB: I wonder if that’s the day that Hayakawa jumped onto the truck and started to - 

PC: That was before that. 

AB: Right before that. 

PC: Yes. 

AB: I saw that. I was standing right near Kay Boyle at the time. 

PC: He purportedly told her, “you’re fired,” or something like that? Did he do that? 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Famous incidents. 

AB: Yeah, she said that she wanted to have a disciplinary action against him. She came to me 

and said, “I’m going to have a disciplinary action against him.” I filed one and she had 
fded one. She said, “oh, I didn’t know you’d filed one, too.” I believe this is the way it 
happened. And I read hers and it was kind of disorganized. She was not politically 
organized. She was a courageous person, but not terribly organized in writing about 
these kinds of things. And I said, “well, why don’t we put ‘em together. I’ll write 
another one here for us.” “Oh, that’s good,” she said. So we had a disciplinary action 
against him. And we won it four-to-one. He was disciplined and he was supposed to be 
fired from his job. 

[End of Tape 5 -Side 1(a)] 

[End of Interview of January 14, 1992] 


Labor Archives and Research Center, SFSU 
Arthur K. Bierman 

Interviewer: Peter Carroll [PC] 

Interviewee: Arthur K. Bierman [AB] 

Date: January 28, 1992 

Subject: “San Francisco State Strike, 1969-1970” 

[Begin Tape 6 - Side 6(A)] 

PC: Today is January 28th, 1992. I am Peter Carroll. I am speaking with Arthur 

Bierman about the San Francisco State strike of 1968. This is our third session and 
we are going to begin with tape number six. 

Last time when we were talking, Arthur, we more or less got up to the point of the 
strike itself. The call for a vote. We’ve discussed the background of the strike, your 
negotiations with the San Francisco Labor Council, things of that sort. If you want 
to go back and clarify anything along the way, obviously, you may. 

But as I understand it, the strike vote was finally taken on January 5th, 1969, with 
the purpose of going out on the picket line the following day around the college. 

And I think we ought to maybe just go over that actual vote itself. There was one 
question that we didn’t touch on that I would like to at least hear you speak about 
and that was the question about whether or not people would teach off campus 
during the period of the strike. As I understand it, this was introduced as a motion 
during the strike vote, and resulted in contention. 

AB: My recollection is that we were advised - 1 think I mentioned this - by our attorney, 

Victor Van Bourg’s firm, that our immediate contact was strange. The name slips me 

PC: Whose name are you looking for? 

AB: I’m looking for the name of the attorney that was with the Van Bourg firm. I’ve 

mentioned his name before, so I know it’s recorded. 

PC: Epstein maybe? 

AB: No. 


PC: There was an Epstein. 

AB: Not Epstein. 

PC: No? 

AB: No. Epstein was the one that worked for the Chancellor’s office. If I can remember his 

first name. Very bright guy. I might not have mentioned the incident. I’ll tell you about 
this incident and maybe his name will come back to me. [Stuart Weinberg] 

PC: Fine. 

AB: When I was president of the union - this was after the strike, Nixon had ordered that all 

wages were to be frozen, that labor contracts were to be negated. 

PC: You don’t mean Nixon? Don’t you mean Reagan? 

AB: No, Nixon. 

PC: Nixon. President Nixon? 

AB: President Nixon. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Yeah. This was about ‘72, something like that. 

PC: Okay, yeah. 

AB: He had said that all wages were to be frozen. He had given a presidential order and it 

follows from this that all contracts that labor unions have are going to be negated. And 
so I called up Victor - 1 had read this in the paper about eight o’clock in the morning - 
and I said, “I think we ought to file a suit against Nixon because it’s abrogating all 
contracts.” He said, “that’s a hell of a good idea.” I said, “I’d like to have a press 
conference. Let’s hold it down at your office at eleven o’clock, eleven- thirty.” He said, 
“okay.” I said, “I’ll call the station and the newspapers.” And so I called them all up and 
said that we’re having a press conference here. We’re going to sue Nixon, “oh, that 
sounds interesting.” So they showed up down at Victor’s office. 

And Victor said, “what basis are we going to sue? What’s our argument?” He said, 
“what’s going to be our argument — because the newsmen are going to be there in ten 
minutes.” [Laughing] And he said, “well, if we start talking, there are five points we can 


make on this.” And he started enumerating, and Victor said, “that’s good. Okay, you 
talk to the newsmen.” So the newsmen came in. We had NBC and ABC. Everybody 
was there and the newspapers. There were about forty newsmen there. This was the first 
hot item, I think, that’s made national news, and you’re all ready to sue Nixon for 
abrogating. It was real hot. So they all popped out and they ran out to the telephones. 
Telephone news. They all showed up in the afternoon, the newspapers and so forth. 
“Nixon sued by AFT.” [Laughing] 

And it did scare ‘em, as a matter of fact, because they realized they had gone too far and 
they pulled back. I think the next day was the day following that, Weinberg - 

PC: Stuart Weinberg? 

AB: Ah-ha. Telling the story did bring it back. Yeah. Stuart Weinberg. We had a lot of fun. 

And they thought I was a little crazy always, but I always called ‘em up with these 
strange ideas and they said, “oh, that’s a good idea.” So Stuart had to figure out what 
was going on. And he had very plausible plan. He’s brilliant. He’s almost, I’d say, a 
legal genius. And Victor knows about it. Victor’s very bold and he’s always getting 
himself involved, and Stuart’s always pulling him out. 

Hayakawa won a restraining order against us. Remember I told you about that? We 
were coming against Judge George Brown. George Brown was a very good judge. He 
was probably the best Superior Court judge in the history of California. And we were 
walking from Victor’s office, which was at that time on Polk Street near Market, going 
up to City Hall to argue why they shouldn’t get a restraining order against us, and Victor 
said, “Stuart, what are we going to argue?” And Stuart said that there is no strike. Let’s 
make ‘em prove there is a strike. [Laughing] 

And Hayakawa was on the stand and Hayakawa said, “yes, they’re on strike,” and then he 
was cross-examined. He said, “well, how do you know they’re on strike?” He said, 
“they’re walking around outside there, and they say they’re on strike and I heard ‘em 
shouting these sorts of things.” And he said, “do you have any evidence for that?” And 
he said, “yes, we have all kinds of photos.” Brown said, “will you show us the photos?” 
We were told by Victor that when the photographers come up, take down your sign 
saying “no strike.” [Laughing] 

PC: Right. 

AB: He said, “denied.” Hayakawa was steaming: “What do you mean!” The judge said, 

“order in the court. Order in the court,” you know. And we all were aghast. Stuart was 
always brilliant in that way. So, okay. So we got that one down. So here we were now 
being advised, and I started telling you that we were talking about what we were told to 



How did we start off this? This has put me off on a trail here on these two other events 
that were going on. 

PC: Well, my question had to do with - at the time of the initial strike vote, certain 

people apparently became nervous about leaving their students. 

AB: That’s right. That’s the connection. Okay. And Stuart said, “do everything you can to 

prevent yourself from being fired,” because the rule was if you don’t teach for five 
consecutive days without any excuse, you’re subject to firing. But if you performed your 
duties within those five days, then you’re not subject to firing. Consequently, people 
held classes on the strike line. The students that were on strike would walk along and the 
teachers were teaching their classes. Their students - you know, it was kind of like the 
Peripatetics. Aristotle under the porch walking along and the students with him, and so 
they would be lecturing and the students would be talking. And it was a very exciting 
sort of event as you saw, at 19th and Holloway, these professors walking with their 
students surrounding them, lecturing them in their classes. 

PC: Did you actually teach like that yourself? 

AB: Yeah, sure. You know, people come up, this is what you did. And people taught ‘em in 

their homes. 

PC: Well, the question I put to you was not that. It was - 

AB: The question was that they were authorized to do that by the union. 

PC: By the union. 

AB: Yeah. Because some people said, “well, I don’t want to give up my classes. I owe 

something to my students.” And then because we were advised not to do anything that 
would get us fired, try to avoid the presumption was that if we stayed on strike long 
enough, they would fire us all. And after that firing, if you came to an agreement, then 
you’d have a - one of the clauses in the agreement would be a return without punishment. 
And it would be much easier for the trustees to do that if they had a face-saving clause. 
The evidence was nobody had gone five days without teaching. 

PC: I see. Now at that strike vote, however, according to this book By Any Means 

Necessary - 

AB: Okay. 


PC: - some black students came up in great anger that the faculty was considering this 

way of undermining the strike. 

AB: Yeah. 

PC: Do you recall that happening? 

AB: Oh, yeah, they were very intimidating to a lot of the faculty. Very scary ‘cause, well, you 

have to remember that at the time this meeting occurred, we were already gone for, what, 
two or three months now since November, and there was a lot of violence. And the black 
students were very much out there. A lot of these students had grown up in 
circumstances in which they were used to physical violence and a lot of the professors 
had come from more genteel and better income backgrounds. They were very repulsed 
as well as afraid of the use of violence. And the language that the black students used 
was something that they had not become accustomed to, were not - we’re talking now 
about the late and the end of the ‘60s. You hear “motherfucker” all the time. It doesn’t 
mean anything anymore, but at that time, that was a pretty strong word. 

You remember that we had a lot of union members who were deeply offended by this sort 
of talk. So the black students were really out there. You didn’t hear that kind of talk 
much from the Latinos and you didn’t hear it from the Asian students. They were much 
more restrained and their mode was to use a more reasoning mode rather than invective. 
But it was the black students who - this didn’t apply, of course, to all black students 
‘cause some of ‘em like from Jamaica were extremely courtly and had grown up under 
British condition. So it was a mixed sort of thing. 

PC: But the faculty in the union, in effect, granted faculty permission to teach off 

campus, encouraged them to teach off campus in spite of the opposition of the black 

AB: Sure. I don’t think the black students understood - some of the black students 

understood. There were all degrees of black students, and very sophisticated black 
students who a good many of them later became lawyers and are very respectable people 
now who understood exactly what you had to do because you want to keep ‘em out as 
long as possible. And you want to keep people together. You start dividing the union, 
and you don’t have any cover. You’ve got to remember that the faculty union was 
invoking the labor power in the city which was very influential with Alioto, meant that 
you were now countering police violence and the conservative element that Reagan 
represented who wanted to call out, you know, the police and the National Guard and so 


You’ve got to remember there were thousands of police from a hundred miles away. I 
mean, they were coming down from the Peninsula from the Valley. You found all kinds 
of uniforms out there. And they were held in reserve. I mean, there was a reserve army 
out there across the street and in the back of the buildings at Park Merced. We’re talking 
about over a thousand. It was like soldiers. I mean, this was an army and these people 
were ready to let go. They all got their visors and their clubs and their guns on ‘em, their 
mace. I mean, it’s a very serious thing. 

And faculty were standing in front between them and seeing the kind of violence that was 
going on here, and then you come into your own meeting and there were even debates 
about whether anybody who was not a union member should be allowed in. And the vote 
was that, yeah, allow them in. They can have a chance to speak, which was, of course, 
what the black students wanted ‘cause they wanted to intimidate the faculty and move 
‘em toward a vote. That was courageous on some people’s part to speak up to try to 
speak against the black students. But finally did prevail and we didn’t want to be 
dumped and get thrown out. Everybody understood that you have to have an effective 
force here. You have to play by certain kind of rules and try to fool them. Don’t put the 
gun in the hand of your enemy. 

PC: Can you recall your own position on that, about whether to teach or not? 

AB: Oh, absolutely. Sure, you should be able to do that. We don’t want to be thrown out. 

We have to use every kind of weapon we can possibly use. 

PC: I want to ask you a generic question now, and that is that you’ve presented these 

lists of grievances, some of which are in the nature of working conditions, salary 
schedules, things like that, offices, and you’ve also got a student strike going on that 
you’re trying to become intermediaries of, literally, in a sense. What did you 
actually expect to win from the strike? I mean, what did you honestly expect to 

AB: Three things. I wanted to keep the 250 people who were not going to be hired for the 

spring semester to be hired. I wanted to prevent them from cutting the salary to three- 
fourths for people who taught three courses rather than four courses. And I wanted a 
grievance procedure. Those were the three most important aims that we had in the strike. 
And then, of course, after you strike, you added to that a fourth thing that nobody gets 
fired for their activity. You come back on campus and everybody’s restored to their job. 

PC: Did you actually expect you would win these goals by strike? 

AB: I believed that if we didn’t win those goals, then we would be dead. We had to win them. 

There was no question about it. And I believed that we could win them. 


PC: Now let me ask another question of a generic nature perhaps, and that is: there’s a 

picket line now outside at State. Did you expect or desire - 1 know you desired - did 
you expect to get support from other AFT locals from other campuses? 

AB: Oh, absolutely. We were pledged support by the AFT local in San Francisco, and early 

in the strike they sent out every day picketers after school was out. 

PC: The AFT local of the public school teacher’s union? 

AB: That’s right. People came from as far as Sacramento and San Jose to come up and picket 

with us. AFT locals from all over gave us money. See, one of our problems was how we 
were going to - people’s money has stopped coming in, and they’ve got to feed their 
families, they have to pay their mortgage payments and so forth. And we formed 
committees to deal with all these things. We had people who specialized in calling up 
banks and telling them - S & L’s, call up, we’re on strike and the usual thing for you to 
do is to hold an advance. The usual demands that you make. So please, you know, put 
over as long as this strike, which is sanctioned - 

[Pause in the interview.] 

And we had to raise money. Scholarship money was cut off. And one of the things that 
we did was to talk to the ILWU and the ILWU, the Warehouseman’s union, gave lots of 
jobs to our people on weekends, for which they got paid double. And that money would 
flow into a common fund which would be divided among strikers. And Peter Radcliff, 
who was an old dweller on the coast, and he led people out to collect mussels and clams 
and so forth. And we knew how to go into fields where like brussel sprouts and broccoli 
and so forth that they always left something afterwards. And so people went out to 
collect the food. And so those were distributed. And wives came in and cooked meals 
and soup and so forth for on the picket line to get people food and distribute food to 

And we formed a speaking group that we sent all over the United States. We were 
funding them to go all over the United States and they would go to Harvard, Columbia, 
Princeton, University of Georgia, you know, wherever they came from. From their old 
schools they’d go there and, of course, it was national news. And they would go there 
and they would collect money. So we raised. ..and we had a big ad that was written for us 
[by Jerry Mander]. I went down and spent quite a bit of time with - what was the name 
of that chap? His then wife was teaching in the French Department. He was a partner in 
the PR firm. He was a very celebrated man who used to do the Rover ads and he was a 
man that said, “If you only have lemons, make lemonade.” 


PC: Oh, yeah. 

AB: He was a legend in the PR world. Jerry Mander. 

PC: Right. Mander. 

AB: Mander, yeah. 

PC: Yeah, Jerry Mander. 

AB: Jerry Mander. Yeah. His wife was teaching French out there at the time, and Jerry and I 

spent, I don’t know, four or five days together, thinking and defining and writing up a 
broad sheet. Do you remember, he was the first one to design those full-page ads and the 
little clip-outs at the bottom to send in money or to send in your opinions and so forth. 
And there was a chap who was one of the great designers of that who was working with 
us, and a woman named Laura. The man had a Scottish name or something like 
McCloud. That’s not right. Margo. They were in the office and they always worked 
together. Jerry Mander would remember their names. Had a beautiful ad which we were 
going to put in the Chronicle, which we never did, but which we used to send out, 
probably about twenty thousand pages of these we had printed up explaining what the 
strike was about, which was very effective. 

So we raised about - my recollection was about a quarter of a million dollars. And when 
people were arrested and - there were something like 437 people, 470 people arrested on 
campus, the faculty and students, and they all needed bail. We raised money for bail, 
getting them out and so forth, and to pay lawyers to represent them. Although there was 
a lot of pro bono stuff so that meant we didn’t have to pay a lot of money. But we also 
paid out money for students every week to survive during that time and to faculty 
members. So it was an incredibly ingenious effort and there was nobody who didn’t have 
some idea. And everything was like a wonderful - people were finally on the edge, you 
see, and everybody had ideas and was inventing and saying, “well, I know how to do so 
and so. I knew this so and so.” And people who were good speakers, we’d send in, or 
other people would call us, but I just raised $7,500.00 in this last meeting when they’d 
call in ten days of - when they’re calling in. The Smolensk group is here now too. 

PC: My question is actually having to do with the statement that Smith makes in his 

book By Any Means Necessary. 

AB: Who? Schmidt? 

PC: Robert Smith. 


AB: Oh, okay. 

PC: That study in which he makes much of the fact - 

AB: While he was president. 

PC: Well, yeah. This is subsequently, though. The study of the strike makes much of 

the fact that the AFT locals on the State University campus, State college campuses 
had failed in their boycott attempts, the sympathy strikes and things like that. 

AB: Only one tried it. That was San Jose. 

PC: Yeah. He has a comment in that book to the effect, though, that even the most 

liberal assessment would deem this stuff as a failure. 

AB: It was. Yeah, and we didn’t - Gary Hawkins was particularly unhappy with San Jose’s 

attempt to go out on a strike. They held a strike and they did have picket lines down 
there. And I wasn’t as opposed to their doing this as he was. But their strike was 
petering out very quickly and they made a deal and all went back. And he was very 
relieved at that at the time. 

PC: Why was that? 

AB: Oh, we were having money troubles on our campus. Why would we have to start dealing 

with getting San Jose back. It was petering out. They had, you know, like thirty, forty 
people out there. So they didn’t realize how long it takes to set up the atmosphere for 
having this. The theme that I had been emphasizing during our talks here is how long it 
took to go from the passive faculty to an active faculty. And San Jose had never gone 
through that. So, obviously, they’re not going to be ready to do any actions on their 
campus. They had student activists and others and so forth, but even the students weren’t 
ready. They didn’t have anything like the experimental college. There was no political 
awareness on the campus. The labor union down there wasn’t ready to support them to 
go all out. They didn’t understand what was going on, and the faulty members had a very 
difficult time. 

They used to go around to various executive committees of central labor councils where 
other locals were affiliated with, and they would go on and on and talk about all these 
things, and people didn’t understand them and I’d have to speak up and they’d say, “well, 
is there anything else you want to add to this,” and I’d say, “well, yes, it’s pretty simple. 
We don’t have a contract. We have no grievance procedure. They want to fire 250 
people, and they’re going to cut our salary by a fourth.” And the people would say, 


“well, Geez, why didn’t you say so?” And then, sure, you can have labor sanction by the 
courts. I usually found some don’t do it because you don’t have any people out there. 
You can’t do it. 

PC: So you - 

AB: You still can at least alert those labor councils to get money out of ‘em. 

PC: Right. You were not disappointed, then? 

AB: I was very happy that other people - we didn’t need other people to be striking. We had 

plenty to do on our own here. 

PC: Huh. That’s a very interesting observation about that. Now I also was wondering 

about the relationship between the strikers and the non-striking faculty of State. 

AB: I’d like to add something about the AFT before we leave that. 

PC: Sure. 

AB: And that is that we were betrayed by the national AFT. 

PC: Explain what you mean by that. 

AB: There was a guy who was the president of the AFT at that time. This was before [Albert] 

Shanker. And I generally supported him because I thought that Shanker was too rightist. 
He was kind of a professional anticommunist. He belonged to the American Socialist 
Party, which has always been very anticommunist. And I never had any sympathy with 
them. But they were kind of professional Red hunters. I didn’t like that. You know, 
they held old grudges from the past days and forget that as far as I was concerned. I 
mean, there’s too much to do in the future. And the left is in trouble, liberals are in 
trouble in the United States. I can’t think of his name. I supported him for president 
against Shanker, and he did hold out against Shanker and was eventually defeated by 
him. But he was never was as smart as Shanker. He was smart enough. 

And he came out and he put on a good face and met with us, and he said, “I don’t think 
you guys ought to go out on strike. I don’t think you can do it.” 

PC: Could you remember when that would have happened? 

AB: Yeah, this was shortly after we were on strike. He came out to the union headquarters. 

He thought we ought to go back and not keep on. I remember sitting - 1 told you about 


all the equipment that we had that we were using talking to the police back there. We 
were sitting in front of this little machine, and there were a few of us back there. And he 
wanted us to go back, you can’t hold out. But then we said, “well, we’re not going to go 
back. Would you continue to support us?” And he said, “yes.” And I later learned from 
George Johns that he came and talked to George and said, “I want you to pull the 
sanction back.” 

PC: What would be the motive of the national AFT opposing a strike? 

AB: Oh, I think that they thought that - two motives, I think. I’m guessing here now, I don’t 

really know. So what I’m doing is speculating, okay? 

PC: Yeah. 

AB: One was that it was unpopular. That the AFT would be targeted. They got student 

radicals here that they’re associated with. This was what the newspapers were targeting 
us with, so they would be tarred with the same brush. And secondly they believed, I 
think, that we were independent. We insisted on having independent locals in all the 
state colleges, and they really wanted us to have a single local. It’s easier to control from 
the central. And Shanker was trying to push that through, and we defeated him at a 
national convention here on that matter. ‘Cause I wanted a local control unit. I didn’t 
want a centralized union because I wanted a more democratic union, and I didn’t believe 
that you could really get people to do anything just from above. You have to work on it 
from below, and they have to feel some confidence in themselves. 

And a third possibility was that we might be asking them for money and they didn’t want 
to give us any money. But that’s something you can always expect, so it’s not a special 
reason. I was quite surprised, I didn’t know about this until after the strike was over, 
until George Johns revealed it to me. He said, “you know, that your national president, 
you know, tried to undercut your strike.” 

PC: Let me just pursue another line. The AFT at that time in New York was under a 

great deal of fire because of the black community controlled schools issue in 
Brooklyn and Manhattan. And that union was accused of racism throughout New 
York at that time - is there a possibility that that might have been a factor? 

AB: I think you probably put your finger on - 

[End of Tape 6 -Side 6 (A)] 


[Begin Tape 6 - Side 6 (B)] 

AB: I was going to tell you about something else with the national AFT that was extremely 

interesting. The then president dropped in on some of the negotiations and gave us rather 
useless advice. And we have to remember that one of the things that happened was that 
the national AFT reps had come out to advise us about things to do, and they were people 
used to dealing with elementary school teachers, and they would come in and give orders 
and organize everything and thinking these people had no ideas of their own. And they 
pushed things to the limit. 

I remember one fellow named Casella or Caselli. I liked him personally. He was hated 
almost universally by everybody else, but I liked Casella because he was down to earth 
and he wanted to get ready and right down to it, which I wanted to do. But he didn’t have 
any sense of timing. He had no sense of language, he had no sense of protocol. What 
you do with faculty members is completely different. And we finally had to say, “You 
have to go back. We don’t want you here.” And this could be another reason why the 
president was unhappy with us because we sent his people packing. I said, “you got to 
get out of here. You’re going to ruin the whole fucking thing, man. Go.” 

But I learned a lot from those guys, but it was not anything you could apply directly the 
way they were trying to do it. They were used to a more supine kind of, less confident or 
less independent group. A lot less jealous group, I guess. You know, because these guys 
talk funny. They didn’t talk like educated — “you’se guys got to do this, you know. You 
got to do that.” And they were basically relatively crude, you know. And they used a lot 
of crude language, their grammar was bad. And here are these college professors, you 
know. They acquired a status which most of them never expected to acquire in their life, 
and then all of a sudden you’re being told here what to do by these New Jersey guys. 

PC: Do you have any specifics about the kind of advice they would give that you chose 

not to take? 

AB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They say you got to stand up and interrupt the talk. Don’t let the 

president talk. You got to shout him down, you know, don’t let him talk. So it was direct 
action. It was like street action. That sort of thing. And, oh, no, you have to let people 
talk, you know. We’ve got to reason these things out. We’ve got to argue these things. 
And you have to sign up people. You’re going to resign from the senate was another 
thing, and you’re going to give a speech and everybody’s going to - so the senate has to 
be destroyed because it’s one of the last bastions of reasonableness these people are going 
to get and take that away from them. So I thought that was a good idea, and we did and I 
got fourteen or fifteen senators to pledge to resign at a faculty meeting, and only one of 


them did. One of my colleagues, Rudolph Weingartner, resigned. And his speech is 
quoted, as I recall, in By Any Means Necessary. And Eric Solomon was supposed to 
resign and Eric didn’t resign. You must ask Eric about this. Hey, why didn’t you resign 
that day, you know? 

Yeah. We had everybody lined up. I was calling all these guys. It was about midnight, 
between midnight and two o’clock or something like that. And we have a statement that 
you could subscribe to and so forth. That was something we came out after meeting with 
these guys, and they spoke - as I remember they held themselves and then they spoke at 
that meeting, and that kind of really fucked everything up, so we had to tell them to leave. 
And we didn’t want the national there at all. So the national looked on us as sports, you 
know, hogs on ice. Man, we can’t deal with those guys. They don’t take any advice. 

PC: Let me go back to this other question and please feel - 

AB: There was one other thing I’ve got to think about that - maybe you should turn the 

machine off while I try to recover here because there was something with this president 
that was important. 

[Pause in the interview.] 

Another AFT debacle - this was during the strike. Phil Burton was a congressman. He 
was on the labor committee. The congresswoman from Oregon was the chair of the 
committee. I can’t remember her name. Long-time congresswoman, she had a lot of 
power, and generally relatively liberal. She was a friend of labor, she was not a 
Republican type. 

PC: [Maureen] Newberger? 

AB: Nope. Newberger was a senator. She succeeded her husband. This was another woman. 

She’d been there for quite a while. Something like Post or something like that. I can’t 
remember who she was. And Phil was the chair of the subcommittee, but as you know 
the rules of these committees - if you ever attended a committee in Washington, the chair 
runs it with an iron hand and you don’t get to speak without their agreement. I mean, 

Phil was as aggressive a congressman as you’ve ever seen and real smart. He called me 
up and he said - Green was her name. Congresswoman Green. I can’t remember her first 
name. [Probably Edith Green] 

He said, “she’s invited Hayakawa to come before the Labor Committee to talk about 
labor troubles in San Francisco AFT.” He said, “would you like to come to Washington,” 
and he said, “I’ll ask you some questions and ask Green whether I can get you on to 
testify after he testifies, counter testimony.” I said, “sure, that’d be great.” But he said, 


“I can’t guarantee ‘cause she probably won’t let me put you on. But if we can’t do that, 
we can at least hold a press conference. I’ll give you a way to counter the PR.” I said, 
“that’s great.” So I flew to Washington and I was staying at their house and we were - 

PC: Whose house? Burton’s? 

AB: Burton’s house, yeah. Sara and Phil’s house. So we were plotting it, and I had meantime 

called the AFT office, told ‘em I was coming, and said I had a press release and I’d sent it 
on ahead. I want it printed so we could distribute it there. And I wanted to hold a press 
conference and I wanted the place to hold a press conference, and that Congressman 
Burton was going to sponsor me to try to give a talk in front of the committee and could 
you make the arrangements for these sorts of things. “Yeah, we’ll do that.” 

I get there and it was like amateur hour. They hadn’t printed any of these things. They 
hadn’t made any reservations, any of that sort of stuff. And so what I had to do was to - 1 
fortunately brought copies with me of my press release and, I don’t remember where I got 
‘em duplicated or made, I guess I told him to duplicate it at the office and bring it here. 
The hearing was at ten o’clock in the morning. And they finally got them there and they 
were supposed to have a, you know, a lobbyist is supposed to be dealing with these sorts 
of things. They didn’t do anything. So I had found myself with these handfuls of stuff 
and I was distributing to newsmen myself. Introducing myself. 

And Phil managed to get a big hall in the Congress Hotel there. So we did have a place 
to hold a press conference. And I told him, “well, this was all in the morning. I was 
doing this before the fucking hearing, man.” You know, scrambling around, talking to 
these newsmen. “Oh, that was very interesting. I love that idea. That’s great.” And 
then, you know, Phil asked a question. He said, “I’d like to hear from the other side. 
Chairman Green could Professor Biennan, who’s from San Francisco State, speak after 
Hayakawa spoke.” And he saw me there and his face turned sour and really mean as hell 
all of a sudden - he realized he wasn’t going to get away with, you know, just giving his 
side of the story. 

And, “no, we’re not going to hear from anybody else. This is the only person we’ve 
invited here. We thank Mr. Biennan for his trouble. We’re not going to listen to it now.” 
And, okay, that was the end of that. But in the meantime I had distributed - we had this 
thing run off over there. The AFT was doing shit. They weren’t doing anything. I had to 
do the whole thing myself, and Phil. We had about two hundred newsmen there, and this 
was the biggest news that the AFT had had in many years. But I don’t think they wanted 

PC: Well, that was my next question. Do you think it was because they didn’t want it, or 

was it just - 


AB: I don’t think they wanted it. I think they were, you know, trying to avoid having 

themselves connected with this wild group out here. I was a very reasonable guy. We 
had straight labor issues, I mean, I was not a hairy guy. I was dressed in a three-piece 
suit. I had my vest on, my regimental tie. [Laughing] 

So there we were. We got great stories out of the New York Times and the Post and so 
forth. We got almost as much space as Hayakawa got, and so we were countering him. 
And this was the kind of thing we had to fight against the AFT. They were against me, 
but all the locals were great. All the state locals were giving us money. They would 
come down and march with us. Almost every city local, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, all 
over the place used to come and march with us. They had organized - the California 
State Federation was great, just terrific. But the AFT, no. The AFT, you see, was out of 
it. They were just too far out of it. I mean, these guys were dead on their feet, man, the 
AFT in the East. 

PC: Well, let’s do this as a transition to my question and about the non-striking faculty. 

I mean, did you have any contact with them? 

AB: Yeah, all the time. They walked through the lines. People would shout at them and I 

remember the first day of the picketing, Stan Ofsevit was our picket captain and Stan was 
a great spirit. O-f-s-e-v-i-t. He was in social work. A great booming voice. A long 
labor history. Very, very left guy. Terrific guy. But even Stan was a little cowed, days 
that we’re out there at seven o’clock. We had all the picket signs and so forth. People 
were walking across there and people were walking and there was no sound. They were 
just walking. I said, “Stan, we have to shout at people. We have to tell ‘em to scare ‘em 
away. We have to let ‘em know what’s going on. Don’t cross our picket line.” So I was 
out there walking around, screaming my head off. “Don’t cross this picket line! This is 
an official sanctioned strike, stay off of this! You’re breaking the faculty strike! You’re 
harming the students! Stay off this thing!” [Pounding on table] “No! No! No! On 
strike! On strike! On strike!” 

So then finally people started picking it up, so there was no - it was kind of like a 
gentlemen’s little - like, you know - why don’t you blow your fucking cap and gown. 

This is no graduation ceremony. We have to shout. We have to make people scared. I 
mean, your life is on the line. We’ve got all kinds of people going to be fired. Students 
are going to be out of here. People are losing their jobs, their houses, everything. You 
got to make an effective strike. You can’t be shitting around. And finally people started 
doing that and, you know, and people would then fight - like I was talking to Jim Syfers 
today, a guy in the philosophy department. He remembers his wrestling with the 
policemen out there on this picket line. And a guy came up with his helmet on and his 
visor and his club and everything, and he said we had a wrestling match. I was onto his 


club and we were all over the place. And he said that after that, he became a pacifist. 

It was kind of a stand-off and people had to take on the garbage men coming in and some 
of the people that were in charge in one of the picket lines were gay people. You have to 
remember that gay was not an open thing at this particular time. But they were openly 
gay. People were so surprised because they took on these garbage men, these teamsters 
coming in. They said, “no, you can’t cross.” They stood in front of the trucks and so 
forth. I mean, there was a lot of courage shown by all kinds of people continuously. It 
was remarkable. 

PC: Did any of these non-union people not cross the line? 

AB: No, they finally all crossed the line, but it was sheepishly. They were ashamed and so 

forth. You never kn ow what the effects are, you know. You know, how many people? 
Maybe they cancel a lot of classes. There’s no way to keep track of it. So I would say 
the effects of that are unknown. 

But I finally said, and my view finally prevailed, although it was somewhat put down, I 
was arguing with Gary, I said, “Gary -” I was the more radical and Gary was the more 
centered kind of a guy. He was the one who, I think, held together the union from the 
right, and I was trying to hold the union on the left side. But we didn’t ever have any 
[fights] - 1 mean, everything was very reasonable. We never had any harsh arguments or 
any angers or anything. It was always just - we’ve got to win this thing. There’s no time 
for bullshit, you know. There’s no time for ego. I mean, just forget all that crap. 

And so I said, “we got to put out a statement. This has to be written, this has to be sent to 
all faculty, which side are you on? And outlined that when you cross that line, your 
colleagues are fired, they’re going to lose their homes, they’re going to lose their jobs, 
students are going to be thrown out of school, and you’re responsible. And you’re going 
to go across that line and you’re going to have to make up your mind. This was a matter 
of principle now, and you’re going to live with it for the rest of your life.” And I said, 
“you have to put it to them, this is going to be it. Shit or get off the pot.” 

My language was much stronger to begin with and he felt we should have a lesser 
statement, which was probably right to begin with. You can make it stronger when 
things get more desperate, but they had to face what they were doing and that, I believe, it 
was immoral to cross the picket line and, you know, we had legitimate issues. You want 
‘em to cut your salaries? You want to fire these people? I mean, that’s what’s at stake 
here. If you’re not going to fight for that, you’re never going to fight for anything. And 
then you’re going to be a slave, that’s basically what it’s about. 

PC: Now one of the tactics that also was debated and debatable was the question of 


withholding grades from the fall semester rather than as a way of putting some 
pressure on the administration. 

AB: That’s right. 

PC: Do you recall your position on that? 

AB: Oh, yeah. Withhold the grades. There was no question that we had to do that. But for 

people who were going to graduate that semester, let those grades go through so those 
students wouldn’t be hurt. So that students who weren’t graduating, if we won the strike, 
then we could always put the grades back later and it wasn’t going to damage anybody at 
this point. But the best thing that I think we did - this was a very interesting meeting that 
we had. There was quite a large group of people there as I recall. There was a group of 
people - 

Remember I was telling you beforehand that it was kind of divided between the pro- 
student and the pro-faculty group. And we usually met for all these kind of major 
decisions as the new semester came around and students were going to sign up. “What 
are we going to do about this new semester?” And the solution came up that we’re going 
to hold our own registration. And the union headquarters became the registration for half 
of the college. The students came up there and got registered for classes. You see, when 
we were talking earlier, you have to not be fired, but if you don’t have any classes, you 
can be fired. Okay, so, the solution is we’re going to have our own registration, we’re 
going to have classes and students are going to come up there and sign up and you’re 
going to be teaching those classes. So we had a bigger enrollment than the college did. I 
mean, people were coming up there like mad. And we boycotted people who - 

You asked what the relations were between the striking and the non- striking faculty, we 
told students not to sign up for faculty who weren’t striking. And so some of those 
classes were empty. They had no students. They shouldn’t have been teaching classes. 

A few of the guys, like John H. Bunzel, who became president of San Jose State, they 
crammed his classes, they crammed it with all radical striking students. So they had 
something seventy-five students, you know. They’d come into his class and he had to 
meet with these guys and face ‘em and say, “yeah, go on campus, take on this guy,” and 
he couldn’t teach his class and they were all challenging him for everything. That’s why 
he now works at the Hoover Institute. He came on originally as a liberal guy, and the guy 
turned into one of the most backward kind of a - he was rewarded, of course, for his work 
when the trustees gave him the presidency of San Jose State. So he knew the way to rise 
in the system very well. 

PC: Let’s talk a little bit about the negotiating process now while the strike was on and 

people were out there... 


AB: I want to tell you something about before the last event before the strike. 

PC: Yes? Oh, please. 

AB: That Bishop Hurley, as I told you, was the head of the mayor’s task force, which was a 

five-member committee and a chap named Becker - 1 believe it was Adam Becker, and 
Bill Chester from the ILWU and a couple of other people whose names I can’t remember, 
but I believe that they are listed in that By Any Means Necessary. And Bishop Hurley, I 
told you about giving Last Rites to these students. They invited a meeting, a very highly 
secretive meeting, at the Del Webb Hotel 

PC : The Del Webb Hotel? 

AB: Uh-huh. Which was a union meeting place, but the Del Webb was for all the unions 

‘cause this was a union house hotel. A hundred percent unionized down there, down on 
Market and 10th, you know, Market and 8th. Market and 8th, I guess. This was a 
committee fonned by Alioto at George Johns’ request, and my recollection is that Peter 
Radcliff and I were there, and Peter wondered whether Gary Hawkins was also there. 

But neither of us can remember whether he was or wasn’t there. That would have been 
the only other person. Neither of us can remember that he was, and Gary’s dead, so I 
don’t know how we can verify this. Mr. Hurley might remember. And they put the point 
to us that we had to strike otherwise people were going to be killed on campus. 

And the AFT was the only group that was trustworthy to the students, and I said we will 
do that providing Alioto will tell the police not to arrest us so we can police our own 
people and they won’t arrest the students because if you start doing that, you’re 
provoking animosity. We can’t control that. And they said they would guarantee that 
was so. But we couldn’t reveal that this had been done, and that became a real dilemma 
at one point when the students, in order to revive the flagging interest, decided to defy 
Hayakawa and hold a rally on campus down in the center of the campus. We told our 
faculty members they must not go, but we couldn’t tell ‘em why we must not go, that we 
had agreed that faculty members would follow the union rules and stay on the picket 

But if we told ‘em that, then we would have betrayed why it was that they weren’t getting 
arrested and then Alioto ’s whole thing and our deal would have been upset, you see, and 
then everything would have blown up. So this was a terrible dilemma. And many of our 
faculty members were down there and there were about 470 people arrested that day, and 
that’s what was a disaster for the union because it cost us so damn much money to bail 
out all these people. You know, that drained our treasury like mad, which we were using 
- like I was telling you before - for people so they could buy food for their families, and 


students’ families, and help them pay off, you know, debts they had, you know, they need 
money, and that cost us thousands and thousands of dollars. And we had a very good 
bailman, a great bail bondsman, right across from the Hall of Justice. Why can’t I think 
of their name? It was a second generation. His father had had it before, and this was a 
very radical young son who didn’t charge the usual ten percent. 

PC: Now these faculty who were arrested and then defied union rules - 

AB: That’s right. They were told not to go down. But we couldn’t tell ‘em why they weren’t 

supposed to go down. They thought they were doing a good thing and supporting the 
students, you see. So we couldn’t reveal to them that they were breaking the agreement 
that we had. 

PC: Did they represent part of what you described in an earlier session, this radical 


AB: Some of them. Most of them, I would say, yeah. I would think so. I would say ninety 

percent of them. I couldn’t tell you the number, but I’m giving you that impression. 

PC: Right, uh-huh. 

AB: They were the least disciplined of the group in terms of thinking that - you see, 

everybody recognized in some sense, vaguely, that because we had labor sanction, that’s 
why we weren’t getting popped. But nobody could say it explicitly, you see. That’s the 
argument why would we want labor sanctions was that I want to have a powerful force in 
back of us, but they didn’t know the agreement, you see, that we’d made at this meeting. 
And I believe Gary was there. I believe Gary was there. Now that I’m talking about this, 
I think so, because Peter and Gary and I, I think, were the ones that were there. 

But I talked to Bishop Hurley, as I told you, every night from midnight to two o’clock 
with some time in between there, and explained to him that we could not control them 
and this could not upset the agreement and so forth. And we couldn’t reveal it, and he 
understood that. So that’s how we still kept the agreement, you see. 

PC: I see. Okay. You were able to reveal to Hurley that you had no control over these, 

you know, mavericks in the union. 

AB: Yes. 

PC: I see. Very interesting point. Let’s talk about the negotiating process during this 

period of the strike itself. 


AB: I have to tell you about another meeting before that. 

PC: Please. 

AB: Okay. This was on the verge of the strike, and this is at Bishop Hurley’s request. St. 

Peter and Paul, which you see right down at those twin spires, see all those windows to 
the left there of those towers? [Pointing to the church from his window.] 

PC: Yeah. 

AB: It’s a labyrinth series of rooms and meeting halls, and Bishop Hurley lived there and 

some of the staff lived there. A very interesting place. And there were like rooms that 
you wouldn’t believe existed unless you went through another room to go - well, we went 
through a labyrinth little hall, Peter Radcliff and I, were to meet with Hayakawa and 
Frank Dollard, D-o-l-l-a-r-d, who just died about three months ago of cancer at St. 

Francis Hospital. 

Frank Dollard was the executive vice-president for Hayakawa. He was in the English 
Department. And Frank Dollard and I were fencing partners. We’d fenced together for 
four or five years. I liked Frank and I helped to save his job some years before because 
of some events, which I won’t talk about. But I knew something about him and how 
drink affected him - this is important to the story - and he was a great buttoned up fellow, 
but when he got drunk, another person emerged who you wouldn’t recognize at all, and a 
dangerous person. 

Always before a strike, mediators try to get the principals together to see whether they 
can’t work something out to prevent the awful. And we met there and Hurley brought us 
around a big table that would seat about thirty people and the four of us sitting there, and 
had on the table about twenty different bottles of brandy, whiskey, gin and vodka Hurley 
had provided for us. And then he said, “I’ll leave you to each other and I’ll come back, 
midnight or one or two o’clock, I don’t know.” 

PC: Can you date this for me approximately in terms of the narrative that we’re talking 


AB: In January, just before the strike. It was before the actual going out on strike. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: I would say - the strike was on the 5th, and we had to go before the Labor Council and 

get strike sanctioned, and that must have been later in January. 


PC: Well, you had gotten sanctioned - 

AB: The third week in January, I would guess. 

PC: No, you had gotten sanction earlier. There were two strike votes now. 

AB: Okay. 

PC: There was the decision to strike - 

AB: They would have asked to go out after we got the sanction. 

PC: Right. 

AB: Yeah, that’s right. You’re right. Yeah, so I would say this was probably the first or 

second week in January. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Yeah, I would say it was just a day or two before we actually were out on the picket line. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: Last minute deadline meeting and - 

PC: Did you know this was going to happen? I mean, did you know Hurley was going to 

set up this meeting or were you just surprised? 

AB: No, Johns had said to me that he was going to call you guys together, and that this is not - 

I had never been in a strike, this was my first union experience, you see. I never had been 
in a union before. And it’s a common sort of thing. And he told me this was going to 
happen. And he said, “pick out somebody that you trust and that’s smart.” And so I said, 
“Well, that’s Peter Radcliff, who’s the smartest guy in the group.” And totally 
trustworthy. And he said he’s going to try to get you together and this is going to be kind 
of the test. And I told Peter that I’m sure the place is bugged and what they’re doing is 
going to listen to the two sides and they’re going to find out who the reasonable side is 
and what’s on the line is whether we get continued labor support and whether the ILWU 
is going to support us and whether this committee is going to support us. So we don’t say 
anything except what we want them to hear, and we have to appear reasonable persons. 
But you have to appear to be the unreasonable kind of wild faculty member, and I’m 
going to be the reasonable man. And you will get drunk and I will pretend to get drunk, 
and I will drink very little, and we’ll get - 


[End of Tape 6 -Side 6(B)] 

[Begin Tape 7 - Side 7 (B)] 

PC: Bishop Hurley - 

AB: Introduced - 

PC: Introduces you to Hayakawa and to Frank - 

AB: - my old fencing buddy, and I was with Peter Radcliff, and I was telling you what our 

strategy was in terms of alcoholic consumption. I was to stay sober, okay. And I had 
known something of Frank and alcohol’s effect on him, and I didn’t know what it was on 
Hayakawa, but I knew that Hayakawa was intemperate in his solutions. And the idea was 
that Peter would provoke him while I would be the reasonable man. Since I was the 
official negotiator for the union that I would present the attempts reasonably and, of 
course, I was interested in - 1 really did want an agreement so I could prevent the strike 
‘cause if we could get our ends or reasonable enough agreement to our ends to present to 
the union to see whether they wanted to accept it or not, that was a good goal. 

And I had earned the enmity of Hayakawa earlier. I don’t know whether I told you about 
this before or not, a couple of occasions. So he and I were not simpatico at all, which he 
had inherited for [Alfred] Korzibski, the head of the Non-Aristotelian Society, and they 
had us this kind of a battle cry, and they rejected Aristotle’s principle of contradiction 
because they said that not everything is black and white. There are shades of gray. 

And I said, “well, you must understand that one of the things that in the first week or two 
I try to teach my beginning logic students is that there’s a difference between 
contradiction and contrariety. And contradiction is black and white, and contrariety is 
shades of gray.” Aristotle certainly recognized this. His was a principle of contrariety. 

So if something is not red, it can be green or blue or orange or anything else. And you 
simply - 1 don’t understand what every freshman that I teach understands, that there’s no 
principle underlying the Non- Aristotelian Society that’s anti-Aristotelian. And we used 
to argue about this and I was young and a little contemptuous of lesser minds, and he 
understood this, but he couldn’t give it up. He was kind of like a banty rooster. 

And the other thing was that he came in to fence with Frank and me one day, and he 
hadn’t fenced for a long time and imagined himself, I think, a good fencer. I told him 


that Frank, you know, was third nationally in the epee contest and this was really good 
fencing. And we’re talking about the whole United States. And I was better than Frank. 

I used to regularly beat him. But I didn’t have the time and didn’t have the obsession that 
he had so I didn’t go out. And I had started fencing at the University of Michigan. I used 
to go to Detroit meetings. There were a lot of good fencers in Detroit at the time. 

So Hayakawa was fencing with me and I got about twenty points against nothing of his, 
and I said, “you’re getting tired. You’re getting white and you’re going to have a heart 
attack. You’re not in condition. You should stop.” He said, “I’m not going to stop until 
I get a point against you.” So I stood and I opened up my arms and thrust my chest out at 
him and I said, “take your point.” And that was the maximum insult that one fencer can 
offer another fencer. And ever after that it was, you know, a blacho-blacho. [Laughing] 
So here these three fencers were in this room at San Francisco State, and Peter Radcliff - 
and so we proceeded to drink and I proceeded to pretend to drink. And I wanted to 
present the negotiating positions. And I could tell early on that Hayakawa was in no 
position to negotiate at all. He wanted the strike because this was his moment of glory 
and if he didn’t have the strike, he wouldn’t be a person standing up against the 

And Frank, on the other hand, was a reasonable, decent man. He was an obsessed 
person, but he was not - for him it wasn’t an ego thing like it was for Hayakawa. And I 
had known him for a long time. Even during the strike we got on well, we would talk to 
one another and figure out things. There were some things to work out, you know. 
There’s no problem at all. Hayakawa was the man in charge, so we got Hayakawa drunk 
and he started pounding on the table and shouting at us, “you guys are ruining the college 
and I’ve always been against you. Especially you with this. I can see that Radcliff is not 
at all ready to do this, but Biennan sounds like a reasonable man at least. But I can see 
that you represent the other side.” Which was just exactly, of course, what we were 

And then he said, “this is going no place,” and he stormed out. This was, of course, 
precisely what I was hoping was being recorded. I’m sure that they were not willing to 
negotiate. And Frank stayed on and Frank drank more. And then Frank turned into the 
person that I expected would happen, and if so much hadn’t been at stake, I wouldn’t 
have wanted to do this to him, but I had to let the people know that basically the other 
side was mad, absolutely mad, and that we were reasonable people. Which I believed. 

He said, “Gentlemen, I’m willing to sacrifice my life for this side. I’m on the ramparts.” 
He was a Shakespearean scholar, he wrote some wonderful articles on Hamlet. And we 
used to talk about it. We had wonderful discussions. “I’m on the ramparts and I’m 
willing to bear my trust and take the shots. I don’t know if it will kill me, but I will do it 
in order to do this.” 


And I said, “well, Frank, don’t get so dramatic. We’re not there. We’re just trying to 
negotiate here. He said, “no, I have to have confession. I have to ask Bishop Hurley for 
confession before I die because I know that they’re going to kill me. I’m the one that 
they’re going to destroy.” And Bishop Hurley came back, and he said, “I want a last 
confession from you. We’re just here, you know, trying to figure out something that’s 
going on at the college. I want you to take my confession now for my last confession.” 
And Bishop Hurley was quite taken back. He wasn’t expecting this sort of thing. I mean, 
Frank had really gotten a little over the edge at this point. He said, “well, no, Frank, 
we’re not going to do this.” “All right, you’re not going to do that, I’m going to go find a 
priest someplace in this city.” It was about, I don’t know, one o’clock, then, or two 
o’clock in the morning. And Frank left, going to go down to Church Street or down at 
the mission. He really did find a priest down there. 

And I got a call about three o’clock in the morning from Hurley and he said, “Frank 
Dollard called me and he said he found a priest to give him a last confession down in the 
mission someplace.” He said, “I don’t know what’s wrong. What are we going to do 
about Frank?” He was worried about him, that the man was suicidal or something like 
that. And then, of course, that meant that we were the reasonable side and the course we 
had set ourselves for the evening was. ..that the alcohol had done its worst with our two 
antagonists and that the course was set and that Hurley was the most trusted person and 
Alioto’s, and the Catholic community - they didn’t realize until the strike how powerful 
the Catholic community is in the city. It is one of the powerful forces and, of course, you 
see at our last election from this - 1 can’t even remember the guy’s name, it’s a new 
mayor that won - 

PC: Frank Jordan. 

AB: Huh? 

PC: Frank Jordan. 

AB: Fra nk ? 

PC: Jordan. 

AB: Frank Jordan. I really understood, then, how powerful they were. But Hurley could call 

any person in the city and get their support no matter what their political position was. 
And I knew then that we were on the way to winning and we had the cards to come out. 
And so after that I was never worried again. It was just a matter of remaining reasonable, 
keeping the strike on, and this was our ticket now to finally settling, probably getting the 
settlement here that would be reasonable and save people’s lives. 


PC: Contrary to some of the books I’ve read about the strike, you still viewed the strike, 

then, as an effort to settle faculty grievances - 

AB: Well, absolutely. 

PC: - primarily, and that the issue of students was quite secondary? 

AB: No, I would say it was secondary. Here’s our point as a union member. This is what we 

argued to the union people. The students’ strike was important to us because it’s a 
working condition grievance. As long as those students are out there and undealt with, 
we cannot have a normal teaching condition under which to work and you should not 
ignore the fact that this is not just barbarism at the gates against the ivory tower. These 
are working conditions. Students can’t go - they’re afraid. Our students are afraid to go 
out there. We have to settle this strike and you have to help us to do this. Now I know 
you’re not going to take a part in it, but you have to acknowledge that we’re trying our 
best to do this and don’t turn us down because of it. You can ignore that part of it 
officially, but you should understand that this is a working condition grievance. 

PC: Well, that’s not exactly what I meant in the sense that - I understand what you’re 

saying. The corollary, however, is that the essence of the student demands were not 
necessarily faculty concerns. That is, the content of their demands. 

AB: Yes, some of the content of their demands was - there was no question that we wanted - it 

was a union demand that they have an ethnic studies department and that they be 
involved in the community, be involved in hiring. You’ve got to remember that we’d 
been going through a lot of faculty independence here and we just don’t want the - this is 
an anti-administration move - they would have still been trying to throttle faculty. We 
had no grievance procedure. We had no way of selecting faculty members ourselves. It 
would always be shoved down our throats if they didn’t want somebody. This was 
perfectly consistent with a lot of things that we were fighting for. 

PC: But let’s say, for example, something like the Black Studies Department. How do 

you define that as a traditional labor issue then? I mean, how does that connect to 
the working conditions? 

AB: Because of the fact that we believed that we have an obligation to the community that 

these students - 1 talked about it earlier - that a Black Studies Department could bring in 
students into the college and bring them up to college level. And if we didn’t, they were 
just going to be left out and it’s a festering sore in America. They’re not getting an 
education if they’re not getting in high school. You have to do something else. It has to 
be short-circuited someplace. If you don’t do it, you’re going to leave ‘em down there in 
the ghetto and there’s going to be nothing but trouble from then on. 


PC: But isn’t that an ideological position as opposed to a traditional labor - 

AB: I think it’s an educational position. No, we all saw it as an educational position. We 

didn’t see it as ideological. No, we didn’t see anything radical about this. In fact, we 
thought - 1 personally thought - that the students were incredibly conservative. They 
were not asking for anything other than a stake at an institution. And the fact that they 
were having to stomp on people’s toes to get their attention was a totally different issue. 

I took them as totally conservative. I was much more radical than the students, I believe. 
But nobody understood those things in that way. You have to look back for many years 
to understand what they were asking for. They were asking for practically nothing. The 
only thing that was radical about it was a reinstatement of Murray. They had fired him 
because he was waving a gun around there, and that was, in my view, a very conservative 
position also because all they wanted was what every American’s supposed to get, 
namely a hearing. He wasn’t even given a hearing. He was fired summarily. You can’t 
fire somebody summarily. That’s illegal. I thought it was absolutely conservative, it 
wasn’t radical at all. And the newspapers and everybody else made it look as if it were a 
radical position because they were striking, and students were trying to take some power 
of their own. 

You see, nobody knows how much they’re submerged. This is why every faculty 
member didn’t realize how enslaved they were until you do something. When everybody 
comes down and the whole fucking city’s coming down, and Reagan’s coming down and 
the State’s coming down, the cops are there. Everybody’s there. The newspapers are 
against you. They believed for the first time in their lives, the faculty, that they all of a 
sudden realized we’ve just been doing the bidding of a lot of people and then sitting on 
our ass and haven’t been doing anything of our job. As professors, we’re supposed to be 
in favor of education for people. This is a state institution. We’re supposed to be trying 
to bring ‘em in, not keep ‘em out. 

Until you do something. You can talk all you want and they’ll let you talk forever. You 
do something about it - bam! There they are. That’s what everybody learned. That was 
a big lesson. Everybody learned. 

PC: Now tell me something, once the strike began, did you ever have those kind of secret 

negotiations, or was all your negotiating with the trustees - 

AB: No, no secret negotiations. No. 

PC: None after that? 

AB: No. 


PC: How did you feel about the negotiating process? 

AB: Exhausting. Frightening. And innervating. It’s discouraging. The pressure’s immense. 

And I found that a sense of community never came across to me as strongly when you’re 
there and four or five of you in a room and you’re arguing and everybody’s against you 
and you’re fired. The newspapers are against you, Reagan’s got his people out, 
everybody is down on you. Looks hopeless. Faculty members are scared shitless. You 
don’t know how you can raise enough money to pay people for food the next week. 

What are you doing here? My God! This is awful. And then you go back to a union 
meeting and you want to say, “Here’s what it is. We don’t know what to do.” I mean, 
they’re not giving us anything here, but we’re going to go on and what are we going to 
do. It wasn’t a matter of trying to con and keep a strike going, it was really asking for 
support. And if you don’t get that support, you collapse. If you get the support, you go 
right back and you look ‘em in the eye and you say, “this is not going to work.” 

PC: Well, using your example just now, how was the support you got from your fellow 


AB: It was the AFT meeting once a week, public meeting. Everybody was there. The wives 

were there. Kids came. Everybody. And so you’re facing everybody and you’re saying 
look, you know, we were in six weeks now, and you try to keep people’s spirits up, but 
what are we going to do? I mean, do you still want to stay out? We can’t promise 
anything. We don’t know what they’re going to do. And people have to stand up and 
they talk. It was all very open. It was a splendid lesson. It was old town meetings, you 
see. Everybody could speak and everybody felt they could speak frankly. 

PC: Did you detect a decline of strike support then? The natural attrition? 

AB: No, I didn’t. That was the interesting thing about it. It continued on. We finally got an 

agreement that they were not going to fire 250 [people]. It was a very successful strike. 

It was an incredibly successful strike. And most of the faculty members didn’t see it that 

PC: Why is that? 

AB: I do not know. I cannot explain that. 

PC: Well, when you say it was a successful strike, how do you define success then? 

AB: Because we got our demands. 


PC: And those demands were that - 

AB: They didn’t fire the 250 people. They were kept on. I told you about how George 

Moscone and I plotted to show how they had the money to keep from firing. 

PC: Yes. 

AB: They didn’t cut people’s salary because they were teaching three instead of four courses, 

you know, so they were going to cut their salary a quarter. We did get a superior 
grievance procedure, and we even got in the working condition grievances, which I used 
afterwards to get lots of settlements around the state. And everybody came back. Every 
person that was fired came back. Now that, on a first strike, for two months with these 
kinds of demands, with a governor like Reagan whose, you know, his ideology depends 
on incredibly conservative people appointed by Reagan. These were the trustees we’re 
talking about. That is an incredible victory. 

PC: Well, that book we’re talking about, By Any Means Necessary, talks about exactly 

what you’re saying, and then points to all of the things that were not achieved, such 
as the right to teach only three course as opposed to four courses - 

AB: That’s not true. That’s not true. It depended on departments. Our philosophy 

department has been teaching three courses continuously from that time. It depended on 
the department. Whether the department chairman - whether the department wanted to 
go out there. That’ s not true at all. That’s absolutely false. And we were getting full pay 
for it. And all over the state people were doing that. It depended. It varied. They could 
have done it if they wanted to. The rules made it possible. But some of the people didn’t 
do it. That’s their problem. 

PC: Was it hard to sell the agreement to the union? 

AB: No, it was not. The only thing that was hard to sell, as I’ve said, the students hadn’t 

settled their strike, and it was pointed out that these were long, agonizing debates. It 
really went on all day. Food was served. It went on and on. The BSU and the Asian 
students were divided themselves. The thing that every faculty member noticed, it was 
obvious, was that the only people walking the lines at the end were faculty. There were 
practically no students at all. They had disappeared. The faculty in ending the strike 
pointed out to the students, “you don’t have a strike. Why are you asking everybody to 
lose their jobs?” When you don’t have anybody out there, you don’t have any support 
anymore. Their strike failed. Ours hung on to the end. That’s how we got a settlement. 
They didn’t. 

And I said to them, “we will settle the student strike after our strike if the students want a 


settlement and negotiate.” And most of the faculty knew that the student strike was a 
phony strike now. It was a very close vote. There were a lot of recriminations and the 
black students came, and the Asian students came, and some of ‘em were - say you have 
to go on and some of ‘em said, “no, I think you should settle.” So the students were 
divided among themselves. 

PC: According to that book again, By Any Means Necessary, the vote to end the strike - 

the faculty strike now - was 112 to 104, which is very close. 

AB: Very close, uh-huh. 

PC: How do you explain it? Or what did you think about it, maybe, at the time? 

AB: Well, I was very relieved because it was not possible to go on. With that kind of a 

division, that close, even if it had been in reverse, the strike would have collapsed 
because those people wouldn’t have been out there anymore. You can’t have that kind of 
a vote. Before that, practically all of the votes were always unanimous with maybe just a 
few dissenters. That’s what made it such a strong strike. You know, maybe you might 
have six or seven people. Or it might turn out to be unanimous just as a way of 
supporting. But when you come down to the gut vote like this, after two months - this is 
a long strike by anybody’s standard. I mean, there are very few strikes that go on two 
months in any sector of the Unites States of America. This is the first faculty strike of 
any dimension since the 1930s whether it’s the few little sporadic things. You know, I 
mean, this was a major, major event. 

PC: Well, on the other hand, how do you explain the fact that a negotiating committee of 

six men came to the union and to the rank and file and said, “this is the best we can 
get. We think you ought to do it.” And nearly 50 percent of your rank and file said 
it’s not good enough. 

AB: Because there’s still the old division between the faculty strikers and the pro-student 

strikers, the student supporting strikers. Remember I told you that we signed up 
something like eighty people in one blow at a union meeting? Those were all people that 
had previously not been in the union, but decided to come in because that was the only 
place where they could go. It was the only place that was organized and they wanted to 
support the student strike. And those people were still holding out their strike. 

And after that particular strike was taken, some of us said we’re going to meet tomorrow 
morning and we’re going to continue to strike. So come. Other people can come. Well, 

I went to that meeting - 

PC: This was subsequent to this vote we’re talking about? 


AB: That’s right. 

PC: Okay, go on. 

AB: They said, “we’ll meet here the next morning.” 

PC: Do you recall who was leading that charge? 

AB: A person - Nancy McDermmid was the most fervent. And I knew that they were 

absolutely incapable of doing anything. They had no organizational skills. They had no 
place to go. It was idealism without brains, power, or organization. And nobody else 
came there from the side that had won, but I went there that morning. Practically nobody 
showed up. There were about twenty people and a couple of students. And they realized 
that it was over and I said to them, “don’t worry, we’re going to continue negotiating for 
the union.” And at this time, I knew that I could do that, but I didn’t want to reveal how 
it was going to be possible. 

PC: When you say, “negotiating for the union,” you mean the Black Student Union? 

AB: The Black Student Union, right. And the Third World - they didn’t know that because I 

was a good friend of Frank Brann, whom I told you about earlier, who was the attorney 
for the BSU. Frank was married to a black woman whose son had hijacked an airplane 
and flown to Cuba, so Frank had a lot of credentials with these people. And he was a 
terrific guy, a fabulous man. He committed suicide. One of the saddest things. I 
dedicate one of my books to him and George Moscone. And Frank was a very smart, 
honest man. And he did negotiate, we got in the Black Student Union - 1 mean, the black 
third-world people and got ‘em the right to hire people. It didn’t get Murray back, but 
Murray, after he saw what they got, said “go ahead, I don’t want to stand in the way of 
the settlement.” 

PC: What was the union’s role in that negotiation? In other words, after the faculty 

strike was more or less settled. 

AB: The union’s rule was that Frank would call me up and Victor Van Bourg was 

representing the union who represented us, and was representing the union’s position in 
there, so we I couldn’t be there because that would look like we were still settling the 
faculty strike. So we had to have some other people who were not obviously faculty to 
do this. And so Victor and Frank and some of the students who were still sticking in 
there basically settled it. Their striking got some of their bananas. So in the end they did 
get something and it was sufficient that George Murray would say, you know - he was 
still in jail - go ahead and settle. And, well, there were no students on strike anymore. 


You see, the striking faculty had gone back so that - and Victor and I were, you know, on 
the phone and with Frank, so that’s how that thing got settled. 

PC: Arthur, maybe we can begin to start summing up some of this thing. I mean, if 

along the way you remember something more you want to tell me, please feel free, 
but - 

AB: No, I - 

PC: What do you think the lessons of the strike were? 

AB: Well, I learned personally a few things. And I can’t say that anybody else learned this. 

That people will get out of their usual daily habits and do something extraordinary only 
after a long period of preparation, and the feeling that they are part of a larger, more 
powerful group, which was the whole point of getting labor sanctions and it should have 
been preceded by starting a union and before that, getting some voice. 

And the second thing that I learned is that to accomplish something, people have to be 
active in concert, that there are no individual heroes, that I couldn’t take any credit for 
successful negotiations. I was smart, I learned along the way, but I know that you can’t 
accomplish anything unless you have the people in back of you who are courageous. 
There’s no such thing as an individual action. I know that there are some things that you 
can be triggers for, but you can’t keep it up without that. And subsequent to that, I wrote 
a book called, Philosophy of Urban Existence, which led me to a new theory of 
personhood, which I realized linked the Hindu, Christian, Judaic concept of the soul as 
the independently existing being was totally wrong. It’s neither realistic nor is it morally 
viable, and there’s a rottenness at the core of morality in the West because of the 
inheritance of that and in there I wrote about it a new theory of person called “The 
Relation and Theory of Persons,” which I learned from that and from my earlier activities 
and starting the neighborhood arts program and trying to explain how the human 
community could gather unity and how that was related to a person’s own unity. There is 
no single person. We’re a series of shards unless there’s some unifying principle, and 
that unifying principle can only come from a unified social - 

[End of Tape 7 -Side 7 (A)] 

[Begin Tape 7 - Side 7 (B)] 

AB: So it was both a metaphysical and a moral and a political and sociological lesson to be 


learned. I remember, after the strike, maybe three or four weeks later, there was a kind of 
a public assembly down at the building that was the art gallery and also a place we could 
hold conferences. And the faculty and students had a meeting there. Now the panel, they 
were discussing the results of the strike, and the faculty members - 1 remember Kay 
Boyle saying that we lost the strike, it was a disaster for us. And I said it’s only because 
you don’t understand or you’ve forgotten what we were striking for, and reminded them 
of the gains of both the faculty and the students had made. And I said that we should 
prepare to strike again tomorrow if they want to take away from us. 

And there was a lot of pessimism and people were kind of joining in with Kay’s 
viewpoint. And I said, “one of the things that I can understand, you’re all apocalyptic 
thinkers. You’re all Utopians. You have an ideal and you think that you’re going to have 
some extraordinary action and Armageddon is going to be taking place and you’re going 
to win once and for all. And I think you have heroic views of yourself which are very 
childish. They’re images that come from a mythical literature. I think what you should 
think of yourself as garbage men, as janitors. Every day when they come in, there’s more 
dust and dirt and you have to clean it up every day. It’s a daily job and if you’re going to 
take on a moral task, you have to think of yourself as moral janitors. Every day you have 
to do the same thing. There’s going to be more shit in the morning again. And you think 
you’re going to win in one day. You think you’re not going to win because you’ve not 
won forever. There it is again, the dirt.” And that’s one of the lessons that I learned. 

PC: What was the effect of the strike, do you think, on the power of the faculty? 

AB: It weakened them. 

PC: Weakened them? 

AB: Yeah, because they thought they lost. That’s what this last meeting was about, you see. 

That’s why I’m bringing that up because I think that they didn’t realize how each person 
personally was empowered. This was a very interesting thing. You remember the old 
fallacies of division and that - or what’s the other fallacy? The fallacy of composition. 
You may have the best players in the world and not have the best team. 

PC: Um. 

AB: Or you might have the worst players in the world and the best team. And I think that 

what happened here was that you had all wonderful players who were very good, but 
collectively they weren’t and so they all kind of forgot their lesson. They didn’t 

PC: Well, let me hear you say something or explain something you’ve said. Why did the 


faculty view this strike as a failure? 

AB: They read the papers instead of reading the contract agreement. 

PC: Well, that explains how they felt it was a failure, but why would they have felt such 


AB: They thought they were defeated because the paper said they were defeated. People 

don’t believe anything is real until they read it in the newspaper. This is one of the things 
I learned early on in organizing people and so forth. I could stand up in a union meeting 
and tell ‘em things that happened. They don’t believe that - 1 have a press conference, 
and now they read it in the paper they say, “oh.” It’s really amazing. I don’t think people 
understand the effect that the media has. It’s official only when they hear it from the 
media, which somehow gives it credence, and you can tell ‘em the same fucking thing 
right to their face and they don’t believe it or they don’t understand it, or, you know, just 
you talking, you’re giving them a con sale. They have to have it - [laughing] - they have 
to have a confirmation, you know. It’s wild. It’s a discouraging thing. 

PC: Now, aside from what you’ve told me just now about the book you wrote, in viewing 

your analysis of personhood, how did the strike affect your own career? 

AB: Well, it didn’t make any difference to my professorship. And, you know, during all this 

time, all this union activity I was writing books and bringing out stuff. And one of the 
things I learned during that strike was that I wanted to change. It did have a big change 
on my career, I guess, and that was that as a result of this activity, I became more aware 
of student limitations. And as a result of that - 

I want to modify that. I want to add something. There were both limitations as well as 
needs that I was now older than when I started, and as you get older in the teaching 
profession, your experiences become more and more different from those of your 
students. When I was starting I was twenty-nine, and the average age of students at San 
Francisco State was twenty-three or twenty- five, you know. We all knew the same 
things. When you’re forty-five, they weren’t bom. You had your first mature 
experiences, they don’t remember anything of that. So you have to teach ‘em all of that, 
or you have to somehow connect, and as you get older the gap keeps growing. And I 
realized that they wanted to relate what they were learning in philosophy to contemporary 
themes that they themselves were reading or experiencing. 

So an old fellow student of mine from the University of Michigan, teaching at the 
University of Southern Florida, had made a contract with MacMillan to bring out an 
introductory textbook, and he didn’t know exactly what to do with it at the time. He was 
supposed to do something with it, so he called up and he said, “Art, would you like to 


collaborate on an introductory textbook?” And I said, “well, I don’t really want to spend 
my time on repeat stuff that was, but let me Unless they’re willing to accept something 
totally different that I want to incorporate, not just the old traditional text, but 
contemporary material in it. Like the Port Huron statement and people’s writing about 
race and so forth, contemporary things. And it has to be related to traditional philosophy 
so that they can go from contemporary material to the philosophical issue so they 
understand what’s going on here. “Well, let’s try that,” he said. So we had a good editor, 
Charlie Smith, who thought that was very exciting and our book came out. I suggested 
we call it “Philosophy for a New Generation.” And it was a very radical book compared 
with Plato, you know, everything that nobody had to pay any royalties for. [Laughing] 

PC: [Laughing] 

AB: So, I said, “well, we have to pay royalties, but let’s do it.” So we got a lot of new 

material here, so it came out. And as the book was coming out, Kent State occurred. 

And this book sold 50,000 copies two weeks after it came out, and subsequently sold 
over a quarter of a million copies. It changed the face of philosophy in the United States 
and everybody started publishing books like this after that, so almost every company 
changed. So I would say in tenns of my philosophical professional career, it altered it a 
great deal and subsequently altered the face of philosophy in the United States. Biennan 
and Gould became “the” book to compete with. 

PC: Can we talk about some personal things? I know we already have. 

AB: Uh-huh. 

PC: When I was reviewing some of the things that you said in the first two interviews, I 

guess I detected a self-image - or at least you project that to me - of someone who 
was extremely zealous. You almost describe yourself as a missionary trying to 
unionize your laggard colleagues along, trying to organize them. 

AB: I think that’s a fair description. I mean, I’ve always had a lot of fun. It’s not that I’m a 

buming-eyed fellow. It was enjoyable. 

PC: How do you respond to claims, for example, that most of the faculty was opposed to 

the strike? You dragged them kicking and screaming? “You” meaning you and the 
leadership that you shared. 

AB: Well, we didn’t drag most of them. [Laughing] Most of them were working in the picket 

lines, we weren’t that successful. I thought we did very well for the numbers we had, I 
suppose. The maximum we had - when you say there were 250 people fired and there 
were a lot more sympathizers and there were a lot of people who never did want to be 


identified who used to get anonymous checks from people. And I think that there was a 
hardcore blue-ribbon group that was totally opposed to it, and I think there was a large 
group of people who didn’t come out for either side, but I believe were sympathetic to us 
and I believe respected what was being done and for their own reasons didn’t do so, 
which I wouldn’t second-guess. I mean if a man has a crippled wife or a woman has 
children or need psychiatric help and so forth, they had personal reasons why they can’t 
do that, you know. That’s asking maybe too much for some people at the time. So I 
wouldn’t lay any personal blame except upon a few people who were ardent. 

PC: Is it fair to say that without Art Bierman, there would have been no strike? 

AB: That’s true. 

PC: What about there being a union in the first place? 

AB: That’s true. There wouldn’t be any collective bargaining in the state of California for 

professors if it weren’t for Art Bierman. 

PC: Now would you mind talking a little about some of your comrades? Maybe give me 

some kind of personal takes on some of these people, observations that might 
illuminate their strengths or their weaknesses during the strike? People who you 
were particularly close to or could observe in some way, people let’s say like Gary 

AB: Gary lived up to what I thought was his promise. He had a quiet confidence about 

himself I thought was very important for a lot of faculty members. And I thought that he 
was a good counterbalance to me, who I think they mistrusted someone as being, to use 
your word, “too zealous.” So I think he made a contribution. I think that together we 
kept some things together that neither of us could have managed by ourselves. And we’d 
meet almost every morning, early in the morning almost every day and talk over what 
needed to be done. And we always conceived together and made notes about press 
conferences because the press was after us continuously. 

And we agreed that he would generally be the main spokesman. We agreed that both of 
our points of view should be represented because I tended to be somewhat more dramatic 
than he was. He kind of downplayed things, which made the press always a little riled 
and, of course, trying to pull out something more. And we got on very well together. As 
I said earlier, never had any anger or sharp disagreements, and he fared very well during 
that, he said, with his groupies. [Laughing] 

PC: His groupies? 


AB: Yeah. He was highly desirable to young females. He was a real hero to them. He was 

wonderful. And the last time I saw him - you know, he quit teaching at the school and he 
became a freelance writer. He was writing about bicycle tours. He moved to Sacramento 
and I had gone to Sacramento also and saw him once in a while up there, and I think he 
wanted to get out of the hurly-burly. I think the strike was a powerful, overwhelming 
thing for him and he wanted more peace and quiet after that. The last time I saw him 
before he died was when Kathleen and I were in New York about to board an airplane 
and there was Gary in the Air France. He had his bicycle and he had his son with him. 
They would go off on a bicycle tour. And then I heard that he’d been drowned sailing 
along with a nephew, I believe it was, off the coast of Florida, which has always 
remained a mystery to them because he was a very good athlete and not a person to take 
chances. So I didn’t understand what went on. Peter Radcliff and I have often talked 
about that and wondered what could have happened. 

PC: What about Peter Radcliff? You’ve mentioned him many times. What kind of a 

person - 

AB: Peter Radcliff was one of the smartest men I have ever met in my life. He’s brilliant. 

He’s my officemate and he got interested in the union because of me, and he was the one 
who figured out how to do the three-unit, three-course load. And we figured out 
thousands of things together. We could always sit down and whatever jam the union was 
in, we could always figure out something. Always very positive. And he used to go to 
meetings driving in his Volkswagen bus. He didn’t like to fly in airplanes. Once in a 
while on a plane he’d open his palm and he’d show me what a sacrifice he was making. 
You’d see huge beads of perspiration in his palms, and he said, “I just want you to know 
what I’m giving to the union.” [Laughing] 

And, of course, the fact that he was at the two most secret meetings gives you some 
indication of the confidence and trust I had in him. We were just having lunch today 
talking about this. 

PC: What about George Murray? 

AB: I didn’t know George Murray very well. I only met him two or three times. My 

impression of him was that he was a very mild-mannered person who didn’t think he was 
doing anything outrageous. But basically I think a very sweet person and a very gentle 
person. And I think he was acting out of principle when he did what he did. He had a 
nice flair for the dramatic. I didn’t think it was so awful what he did. And I think he 
acted always very selflessly in the fact that while he was in jail, you know, he was the 
one that finally gave the okay for the students to settle their strike. I thought it was an act 
of magnanimity which shows an extraordinary human being. 


PC: Now there’s another extraordinary player that you’ve talked about, Sam 


AB: [Laughing] Oh, old Sam. Oh, God. Hayakawa’s unspeakable. 

PC: Well, if you were to suggest to someone how they might attempt to understand the 

man, where would you suggest they look? 

AB: Ah, well, it’s a man almost totally driven by vanity and a man, I believe, of great 

ambition. I was told by a man at San Francisco State who was at the University of 
Chicago when Hayakawa was around the university, that Hayakawa taught at Illinois 
Institute of Technology. 

PC: IIT, yeah. 

AB: Korzibsky was around there, that book that made Hayakawa’s reputation and all of his 

money, which was considerable, Language in Thought and Action, was Korzibsky’s book 
which he lifted after Korzibsky died and claimed it as his own. And I know that the 
subsequent editions, the latest editions, were all done by two other faculty members at 
San Francisco State and Hayakawa just kept putting his name on it. And if you read the 
book that he wrote, it’s a pitiful book. It has no academic value whatsoever. It’s to 
definitely pitch for, you know, the lowest sales meeting in high school. It has no 
academic value as linguistics at all. And the guys who rewrote know that. They’re much 
smarter than he is. 

And I would not speculate at all on any of the things that might have formed Hayakawa, 
but he was the laughingstock of the faculty and an embarrassment except for his right- 
winged friends. He didn’t know anything. And I believe that he took money under false 
pretenses from the state. He used to have a graduate and undergraduate class. He was 
paid for two classes, he taught them as one class. They were all graduates and 
undergraduate who were put together in the same room and taught by him, and he really 
was teaching one course and getting paid for two. I know also that he used to teach 
classes in bars, something which he said he would fire anybody for doing, or teaching off 
campus in their homes during the strike. So that shows he’s just a hypocrite. 

He has almost no redeeming qualities or any moral qualities as far as I’m concerned. As 
a senator, he was a joke. When he was president of the college, he would sit on the stage 
and he would fall asleep during other people’s presentations or talking. And, of course, 
he was known as “Sleeping Sam,” and as a senator he was a pitiful representative. Now, 
of course, he’s head of an organization that wants to make English the official language 
of the United States, and for a person who comes from another - his parents came from 
another culture, for him to turn his back on it and the kind of problems that people have 


in learning a language... since I reside in another country half of the year and having had 
to learn another language, I know how important it is to have some help when you start 
out. And for him not to understand this, I think, shows an arrogance and unfeelingness 
toward people that I thoroughly condemn. 

PC: That is about as clear an answer as you’ve given to anything today, [Laughing] 

AB: [Laughing] 

PC: What about the non-strikers, the other faculty people who did not go on strike? 

What was your relationship subsequent to the strike with them? Are there 
unhealing scars? 

AB: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Ah, there were certainly some people who I lost 

respect for, but I wouldn’t say there was anything in the way of animus toward them. I 
simply looked on them as lesser beings. And were not up to what I thought people could 
do where they were misguided. I thought the issues were very clear, presented clearly. 
And I think that a tremendous amount of the motivation for people who didn’t join the 
strike was racism. I think that they were racists because of the students, they wouldn’t 
join them, they thought they were destroying the students. And there was a lot of elitism. 
I think that a lot of the faculty people who struck - you asked me earlier about how did 
you handle the student strike in terms of union demands, and I said to you that in our 
view, it was a matter of working conditions as educators. That we owed something to all 
the people. 

You see, when I first came into the system in 1952, the top 75 percent of high school 
graduates were eligible to come to the college. And we had a lot of students from foreign 
countries. Their command of language was very low. The students that I used to teach 
Aristotle to - and these were humanities classes that were required, general education 
classes - it was practically impossible for them to read Aristotle or Lao-tzu. But I found 
them extremely stimulating and hungry, and I’d say 90 percent of our students for the 
first generation to go to college, like I was. I was the only person that ever went through 
college in my very extended family. And I went to school in Nebraska and they had a 
good school system, and still, compared with what I found when I went to Michigan, the 
students from New York and other places, I was ill-prepared, relatively speaking. But I 
was intelligent enough to catch up soon after. 

And these students were very low-level students, and I liked that. And I think that some 
people didn’t like that. They only wanted the top fourth, the students who can enter the 
state college system. And the demands are getting greater. What we’ve seen here is a 
change in the student democracy and some people were in favor of stiffer demands, and I 
wasn’t. And I think that was one of the reasons for the division in the faculty, racism and 



PC: Before we shut this down, is there anything you feel like we need to cover? It’s been 

a long interview, I know. We touched a lot of bases. But is there more that need to 
be touched upon? 

AB: One thing is: subsequent to the collective bargaining election, in which I had really 

prepared the ground by starting the union and the CTA was against, and the CSEA was 
against it, the AAUP was against, and ironically enough they won the final election. And 
I was president of the United Professors of California in ‘72, and I nearly doubled the 
number of members in that year. I was very good at organizing people. And I 
subsequently became president again in 1976 after having revealed that there were rather 
scandalous activities, felonious activities that took place in the union. Secret taping of 
conversations. There was absconding of money. And they’d made an agreement with the 
staff that was unconscionable that even if they were fired for malfeasance or stealing 
money, they would get a year’s severance pay. They raised their salaries. They were 
censorious, had passed rules that there couldn’t be any criticism of the leadership and so 
forth. It was basically a censorship thing and nothing would be published in the 
newspaper that would be critical. 

PC: This is the UPC you’re talking about, which succeeded the AFT? 

AB: The UPC was a result of the combination of the AFT and the ACSCP, which was one of 

the organizations that I mentioned earlier that was in existence when I came into the 

PC: Right. When did this happen about? 

AB: Oh, this occurred after the strike. 

PC: Okay. 

AB: I think the national organization was again at fault because the people who were leading 

the election weren’t terribly competent and the national sent out people and they were 
going to do things their way. They had no feeling for the electorate at all. They lost by 
like 112 votes, a very slim margin. And I told them that they would. And I could have 
won very easily. 

[End of Tape 7 -Side 7(B)] 

[End of Interview of January 28, 1992] 



Appendix 1 

San Francisco State College/University Presidents 

John Paul Leonard 
Glenn S. Dumke 
Frank L. Fenton 
Paul A. Dodd 
Stanley F. Paulson 
John Henry Summerskill 
Robert R. Smith 
Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa 
Paul F. Romberg 
Chia-Wei Woo 
Robert A. Corrigan 
Leslie E. Wong 

1945 - 1957 
1957- 1961 

1961 - 1962 

1962 - 1965 
1965 - 1966 
1966 -May 1968 

June 1968 - November 1968 

November 1968 - 1973 

1973 - 1983 

1983 - 1988 


2012 - present 


Appendix 2 

Bibliography of SFSU Strike -related Materials 


Alioto, Joseph. Speaker, LARC special program. “Labor and Politics: Who Influences Whom?” 
February 7, 1989. Tape collection, LARC. 

Biennan, Arthur K. Oral history. “San Francisco State Strike, 1969-1970.” Conducted by Peter 
Carroll, 1992. Oral histories, LARC. 

Johns, George. “Wheel House No. 2 — An Unpublished Manuscript Available at the Labor 
Archives.” Chapters 1968 and 1969. George Johns Papers, LARC. 

Solomon, Eric. Oral history. “San Francisco State Strike, 1969-1970.” Conducted by Peter 
Carroll, 1992. Oral histories, LARC. 

Whitson, Helene. “Strike!: A Chronology, Bibliography, and List of Archival Materials 
Concerning the 1968-1969 Strike at San Francisco State College.” Archival collections, “San 
Francisco State University, J. Paul Leonard Library,” LARC. 

Gary Hawkins Memorial Service transcription, April 14, 1986. Small manuscripts, LARC. 
Ephemera — “San Francisco State University — Strike, 1968.” 


Barlow, William, and Peter Shapiro. An End to Silence: The San Francisco State Student 
Movement in the 60s. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971. 

Orrick, William H. Shut It Down! — A College in Crisis: San Francisco State College, October 
1969 - April 1969. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969. 

Smith, Robert, Richard Axen, and DeVere Pentony. By Any Means Necessary: The 
Revolutionary Struggle at San Francisco State. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1970. 


Strike Materials Collection. Archives and Special Collections, J. Paul Leonard Library, San 


Francisco State University. 

Social Protest Collection. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 


Anderson, Terry H. The Movement and the Sixties. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. 

Boyle, Kay. The Long Walk at San Francisco State, and Other Essays. New York: Grove Press, 

Bunzel, John H. “Liberal in the Middle.” Political Passages: Journeys of Change through Two 
Decades, 1968-1988. Edited by John H. Bunzel. New York: The Free Press, 1988, p. 132-161. 

Daniels, Arlene Kaplan, Rachel Kahn-Hut, and Associates. Academics on the Line. San 
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1970. 

Finberg, Howard, ed. Crisis at S.F. State. San Francisco: 1969. 

Karagueuzian, Dikran. Blow It Up!: The Black Student Revolt at San Francisco State College 
and the Emergence of Dr. Hayakawa. Boston: Gambit Incorporated, 1971. 

Litwak, Leo, and Herbert Wilner. College Days in Earthquake Country: Ordeal at San 
Francisco State, a Personal Record. New York: Random House, 1972. 

McGill, William J. The Year of the Monkey: Revolt on Campus, 1968-1969. San Francisco: 
McGraw Hill, 1982. 

Pentony, DeVere, Robert Smith, and Richard Axen. Unfinished Rebellions. San Francisco: 
Jossey-Bass, 1971. 

Smith, Robert. The San Francisco State Experience: What Can Be Learned From It? 
Washington D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1969. 

Summerskill, John. President Seven. New York: World Publishing Company, 1971.