Me and the Machinists

by: Mike Lux

Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 16:44

I have always been proud of my affiliation with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, otherwise known as the Machinists. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood, a few blocks from the big Goodyear tire factory in northeast Lincoln, NE, and not far from the railroad yard where members of the Machinists union worked on the railroad. When I moved to Iowa, my number one mentor was a hard-drinking, hard-living political genius who had built the Machinists union into, at that time, the most politically potent union in the state. I will never forget what he did for me, and what he taught me about organizing and politics. The President of the Machinists union at the time was the legendary William Wipinsinger, one of the most fiery speakers I have ever heard. I was proud to help organize a new Machinists local, and to be a dues-paying member for many years.

As a result of this history, the current President of the Machinists, Tom Buffenberger, and I are old friends. Tom is an old-style working-class progressive, and I like him a lot. But I was very disturbed by the report Chris mentioned from the campaign trail in Ohio.

Tom, and my friends in the Clinton campaign, I don't think this kind of rhetoric helps your cause. God knows there is nothing wrong with a little old-fashioned working-class populism, as I have advocated many times in my day. But I don't see how it adds any working-class voters to the Clinton cause, and it has great potential to drive your numbers down among what some of us call creative-class voters (those who work in universities, the arts, media, high-tech and in small businesses like architecture, engineering and law firms), many of whom are still wavering as to whom to vote for.

Here's the other thing: to cause such divisiveness now between creative-class liberals and blue-collar workers really, really screws us come the general election: we need both kinds of folks to win this election.

Update: And we have video of the blasting.

Mike Lux :: Me and the Machinists

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I agree whole-heartedly (0.00 / 0)
Being someone who grew up "blue collar" (a construction worker in the plasterers union) and now "creative-class" (software engineer).  Weird thing is, I still feel like the same person, I just don't get laid off in the winter because of weather, I get outsourced instead.

jackass (0.00 / 0)
Mr. Buffenberger may be a friend of yours, but he is a jackass. He now shares the award for biggest prick in the universe with the asshole who made the Club For Growth anti-Dean ad. What a jerk-off!

Re: Me and the Machinists (4.00 / 2)
Oddly, I have a similar story. My grandfather was a machinist, active with the union. One of my favorite articles of clothing is a well-worn navy blue IAMAW t-shirt that I proudly wear every chance I get.

When I heard Buffenbarger's comments this morning, I hung my head. This is a hotly contested political race in which rough things are going to be said and feeling are going to get hurt. I get it. But I just can't support anyone who openly admits having such little respect for those in their own party.

I've been to two Obama rallies over the past few months, both times hanging out on the press riser snapping photos. It's given me a good vantage point from which to check out the crowds. I saw a lot of guys I could see drinking lattes and a lot of women I'd have no trouble imagining behind the wheel of a Prius. Though I didn't check their wallets, I saw nothing to indicate that I was in a room full of trust fund babies. But they were stunningly diverse and mixed along ethic, class, age, and cultural lines, no self-segregation witnessed.

If that's a view of a political party that bothers Buffenbarger, I'd suggest he check out what McCain & Company are selling.

The two worlds can mix (0.00 / 0)
The two worlds can connect quite well at times. For example, as a union organizer, I mainly worked on campaigns that organized graduate students who were TAs, GAs, and RAs. And the campaigns were great, with overwhelmingly receptive workers ready to unionize.

20% of the UAW's membership are now actually graduate students. These two worlds can mix, and work well together.

Buffenberger, and Clinton supporters in general, are not the only ones trying to pit these groups against one another. It is important for everyone to realize and / or remember that we have many of the same goals, and we work best when we don't stereotype or throw each other under the bus.  

two worlds can mix (0.00 / 0)
Does that even need to be said? If two people with different backgrounds, jobs, education levels, whatever can't get along, it's because one or both are assholes.

I don't drink lattes, drive a prius (although I would consider one if I could afford it,) wear birkenstocks, or have a trust fund. But I do have a college degree and work in a creative profession. Anyone who wants to stereotype me or dismiss me can fuck off. I suspect there are millions of others who feel the same way about Mr. Buffenberger's hateful nonsense. I don't know the statistics about latte drinkers etc., but I suspect that genius just pissed off about half the Democratic Party.

Buffenberger, and Clinton supporters in general, are not the only ones trying to pit these groups against one another.

Like Club for Growth for instance? Conservatives? Republicans? Hillary and her supporters are in real good company. Pitting working people against each other. Why doesn't she team up with that Lipinski dude?

[ Parent ]
Déjà vu all over again (4.00 / 1)
Ezra Klein posted a link to this book review by Rick Perlstein that looks back at the Dems and power-brokers who undermined McGovern in '72, including George Meaney. Watching this neo-Archie Bunker rant and rave put me in mind of this again.


I was too young for McGovern, but I'm not drawing any parallels between him and Obama, as some are.

And you are wise not to draw any parallels (0.00 / 0)
between McGovern and Obama.  People who do don't know what the hell they're talking about.  

[ Parent ]
Party Insiders (4.00 / 1)
I'll confess that I drive a Prius and enjoy an occasional latte.  But I am also a former teamster and lived poor for most of my life.  I have also knocked on thousands of doors in many campaigns and have phone-banked alongside union members many, many times.  

This guy represents what is fundamentally wrong with the insiders of the Democratic Party.  They would rather attack and destroy other Democrats than to have the Democrat they oppose win in November.  They use sick (and tired) right wing talking points to tear down other Democrats.  They act like -- dare I say it -- Joe Lieberman.  He leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.  

Come now, Mike (0.00 / 0)
Intellectual dishonesty doesn't become you.  

Instead of a lame-ass YouTube clip, here's the whole video so everyone can see for themselves.  I believe Buffenbarger has a few words about the Crown family of Chicago, owners of Maytag who shipped those workers' jobs out of the country....

labor solidarity (0.00 / 0)
what about wal-mart?  this selective argument doesn't fly, since every candidate has taken money fron union-busters(ahem, mark penn).  so the anger is coming from someplace else... (fidelity to the clintons, hatred of lattes, etc.)

[ Parent ]
Thanks. (0.00 / 0)
I was looking for a clip of the whole speech, and couldn't find one (I'm not so good with the whole technology thing), so I'm glad you did because in fairness to Tom I wanted his whole argument represented there. In the earlier part of the speech he does say some good things.
But i have no idea why you are accusing me of intellectual dishonesty. Why do I deserve that?

[ Parent ]

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