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
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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.
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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?
PC: The war would have ended in the summer of ‘45,
AB: Winter of ‘46.
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
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
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.
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?
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
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?
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
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
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
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,
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?
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?
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.
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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?
AB: AAUP, CTA.
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?
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?
PC: Which is the California Teachers Association?
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
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.
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
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
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?
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?
PC: Okay, Willie Brown and George Moscone you said?
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
PC: And did this manifest itself in which faculty organizations did they themselves
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
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.
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.
PC: The HUAC protest here was May 1960.
AB: Yeah, this was the year before.
PC: Just before that.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
PC: As a statewide institution, you mean? Okay.
AB: And on local campuses.
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
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
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.
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,
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?
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
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: 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?
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.
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?
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?
PC: Somewhere between one-fourth and one-fifth?
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: 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: 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
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.
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. 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:
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 -
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.
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
PC: So that the union consisted entirely of regular faculty?
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
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?
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.
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 -
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?
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?
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?
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 -
PC: Zwillinger and Kay Boyle, who were not in the AFT?
AB: And Stan Ofsevit.
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 -
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!
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
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?
AB: That was at the Methodist church, and I’m trying to remember what the order of those
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.
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.
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
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,
PC: And they informed Alioto of this?
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?
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?
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?
AB: You know where U.C. Hospital is?
PC: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
AB: You know that forest in back of there?
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.
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?
PC: Okay. That’s what you remember thinking?
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
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
AB: Well, we put people in charge of various committees. Stan Ofsevit was in charge of the
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
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 -
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.
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?
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?
PC: There was an Epstein.
AB: Not Epstein.
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]
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.
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]
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
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
PC: - some black students came up in great anger that the faculty was considering this
way of undermining the strike.
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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
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.
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.
PC: There was the decision to strike -
AB: They would have asked to go out after we got the sanction.
AB: Yeah, that’s right. You’re right. Yeah, so I would say this was probably the first or
second week in January.
AB: Yeah, I would say it was just a day or two before we actually were out on the picket line.
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.
PC: Frank Jordan.
AB: Fra nk ?
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?
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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]
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.
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
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]
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
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
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.
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]
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
Robert A. Corrigan
Leslie E. Wong
1945 - 1957
1961 - 1962
1962 - 1965
1965 - 1966
1966 -May 1968
June 1968 - November 1968
November 1968 - 1973
1973 - 1983
1983 - 1988
2012 - present
Bibliography of SFSU Strike -related Materials
MATERIALS AT LARC
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.”
BOOKS AVAILABLE AT LARC
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.
MATERIALS AT OTHER INSTITUTIONS
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.
OTHER NOTABLE BOOKS
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:
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.