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Southern Labor Archives: Archives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: IAM Oral Histories J-R

IAM Oral Histories J-R

K
Keil, Bob
Kourpias, George
 
L
Lux, Tom
 
M
Martinez, Regulo
McGaha, Ron
McReynolds, Willie
Melvin, Bud
 
N
Nauyalis, Roger
 
O
Ostro, Justin
 
P
Pearson, Lee
Peterpaul, John
Poulin, George
 
R
Rodriguez, Sam

Bob Keil

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: March 20, 2013
Accession number: B_L2013-06
 
Biography:
Bob Keil was born in Quincy, IL in 1932, where his parents made their living as farmers, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, and hogs. In 1951, he joined the Illinois National Guard and his division was activated to serve in the Korean War, where he worked as an auto mechanic. He married Harriet Jean, his wife of sixty years, in 1952.Keil began working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1958 as a machinist, joining the IAMAW in 1959. He became shop steward in 1962 and then was elected chief steward in 1965. He also served as job bid officer for the Atomic Trades and Labor Commission and vice president of the Local Lodge 480. Keil also served as trustee of the Oak Ridge Labor Council and after his retirement, vice president of the Coalition of Oak Ridge Retired Employees.  After his retirement, he has been active as vice president of the Oak Ridge Coalition of Retired Employees.
 
Abstract:
Keil begins by discussing growing up on a farm in Quincy, IL and the accidental drowning of his three brothers.  He recalls joining the Illinois National Guard and serving in Korea as an automotive mechanic. Keil discusses working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1958 as a machinist and talks about the various projects at Oak Ridge, including the Manhattan Project.  He discusses his positions of shop steward and chief steward as well as serving as bid officer for the Atomic Trades and Labor Commission. Keil talks about his position of the vice president of Local Lodge 480, handling grievances as vice president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council (ATLC) and the strikes that occurred while president of the ATLC. Keil talks about now union participation influenced his life and recounts the most satisfying part of his union involvement.

George Kourpias

Interviewer: Rachel Bernstein
Date: December 6, 2011
Accession number: L2012-09
   
Biography:
George Kourpias’s father was smuggled into the U.S. from Macedonia to escape conscription into the Turkish army. Eventually settling in Sioux City, Iowa, both parents worked in the packinghouses. Family life was difficult, with the loss of two siblings and his mother contracting the flu in the 1918 epidemic. That experience instilled a deep love for family and a commitment to unionism in George Kourpias. Kourpias has been a member of the IAMAW for 60 years. He joined the IAMAW in 1952 (his father was not happy he joined an AFL union instead of the CIO) and was soon elected financial secretary. He joined the International staff in 1966, became general vice president in 1984, and president of the IAMAW in 1989. During his term he was involved in the Eastern Air Lines strike, the election of John Sweeney to the AFL-CIO, and unification talks with the UAW and Steelworkers. He retired in 1997.
 
Abstract:
George Kourpias begins the interview discussing his parents, including his mother contracting the flu in the 1918 epidemic and how his father coming to the U.S. He talks about his first jobs selling newspapers and shining shoes before discussing leaving school to work in Chicago. Eventually he returned to Sioux city and began work in a plant organized by the IAMAW. Kourpias discusses being elected chair of the negotiating committee in 1957 and the following two-month-long strike. Discussion of the strike is emotional for Kourpias. He tells stories about picket duty, how the women prevented the police from making arrests, and an anonymous caller threatening his infant daughter if Kourpias did not quit. After the strike, Kourpias tells about personal conflicts with local president and the work involved in keeping the local together. He then moves on to his getting hired with the International and discusses his work on NLRB hearings, National Council of Senior Citizens, and becoming administrative assistant. He talks about filing suit against OPIC, the creation of the Energy Coalition, and president Winpisinger’s ideas on coalitions. He criticizes George Meany’s tenure at the AFL-CIO. He talks about the railroad and airline strike under President Johnson and discusses the backing of George McGovern. Kourpias compares the working styles of different IAMAW presidents, talks about the union’s record on civil rights, discrimination of women, as well as health and safety. He mentions the IAMAW’s educational program, the purchasing of the jet and the controversy around it, and discusses the Eastern strike at some length. He also addresses issues during his tenure as president including the changing national economy, NAFTA, and Bill Clinton. He talks at length about John Sweeney’s run for president of the AFL-CIO and the proposed, but failed, unification talks with the UAW and Steelworkers.

Tom Lux

Interviewed By: Traci Drummond
Date: November 20, 2013
Accession Number: L2013-20
 
Biography:
Tom Lux was born in Buffalo, NY in 1946. He started college at Niagara University, and then transferred to Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he was a philosophy major. While at Marquette, he became involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements. After graduation, he moved to Boston where he worked for an architectural firm before returning to Milwaukee to take a job with A.L. Smith as a welder. He relocated to Seattle to work for Ederer Cranes where he joined the IAMAW. Lux was hired at Boeing as an inspector and became involved with the local. He served on the District Council in 1997 and was involved in joint training and safety programs. Lux was on the Aerospace Joint Apprentice and Aerospace Machinists joint training committees. He retired in 2011 and remains active working in Ohio for the Obama campaign as well as the Puget Sound Retirement Association. In 2012, he was appointed to Board of Trustees for Shoreline Community College.
 
Abstract:
Lux starts by recalling growing up in suburbs of Buffalo, NY. His immediate family not involved in unions, however, his uncles were strong union members. Lux talks about starting college in Niagara Falls and transferring to Marquette University in Milwaukee. Lux recalls moving to Boston and then returning to Milwaukee, taking a job with A.L. Smith as a welder. Lux discusses attending Waukesha County Technical Institute, taking courses in safety and health. Lux recounts quitting his job and traveling around the country for three years before returning to Milwaukee. Lux talks about relocating to Seattle and working at Ederer Cranes where he joins the IAMAW. Lux discusses union politics at Ederer when local 79 was forced to join the district. Lux discusses his participation in Aerospace Joint Apprentice and Aerospace Machinists joint training committees. After he retired in 2011, he was worked on the Obama campaign in Ohio. He ends by talking about the importance of labor unions and recalls some of his mentors.

Regulo Martinez

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date:June 12, 2013
Accession Number:L2013-28
 
Biography:
Regulo Martinez was born in 1943 in Mexico, second of 10 children. His parents immigrated to the United States in the 1950’s and settled in Chicago. His father was a pantry worker for United Airlines. After serving in the military in Mexico, Martinez went to work for a cosmetic company before being hired by United Airlines working in the kitchen and as a truck driver. In 1975, he joined the IAMAW. He has held several union positions, including recording secretary, shop steward and strike captain.  Still active after his retirement, he is involved in compiling the history of the local and the IAMAW.
 
Abstract:
Martinez starts by discussing his family background, emigrating from Mexico and growing up in Chicago. He talks about serving in the military in Mexico, after which he returned to Chicago and goes to work in a cosmetics factory. He recalls going to work for United Airlines, where he went from the kitchen to the ramp and to a truck driver position. In 1975, he joined the IAMAW and he discusses his positions of shop steward, strike captain and recording secretary. He recalls the five strikes that occurred while he was at United and talks about his forced retirement. He discusses organizing the ticket agents in a system-wide campaign. He talks about working at local lodges 1487 in Chicago and 1932 in California. He ends by talking about his retirement activities, including the project to compile the history of the local and the IAMAW.

Ron McGaha

Interviewer: Rachel Bernstein
Date:November 20, 2013
Accession Number:L2013-19 
 
Biography:
Ron Mcgaha was born in Wenatchee, Washington in 1943. His parents worked as migrant workers in the orchards until his father eventually took a union job with the railroad. He joined the Navy where he worked as a pattern maker. After leaving the service, he took a job with Boeing as a template maker and joined the union. McGaha became active with the local, eventually serving as union steward. He became a full time union representative, serving as administrative assistant and working as an organizer for the district. After his retirement in 2005, he became active with union retirees, participating in political campaigns and becoming a member of the Rat Pack.
 
Abstract:
Mcgaha begins the interview by recalling growing up in rural Washington, where his parents worked in the orchards. He recalls working as a pattern maker in the Navy, then joining Boeing, where he worked as a template maker and joined the union. McGaha discusses how he got involved with local and became union steward. He talks about being promoted to supervisor at Boeing, getting fired and then being reinstated. He becomes a full time union representative and remembers how the company tried to implement Total Quality Management Systems (TQMS). McGaha talks about working as administrative assistant and working as an organizer for the district. McGaha talks about working for three district presidents and recalls the crises that occurred and how he handled them. He ends by discussing his post retirement activities, including working with political campaigns and as well being a member of the Rat Pack, working with Maria Cordone.

Willie McReynolds

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date:June 12, 2013
Accession Number:L2013-29 
 
Biography:
Willie McReynolds was born on September 24, 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama. His family relocated to Compton, California when he was five years old. He was one of seven children. His mother did day work, and then worked at a cannery. His father worked at GM, Douglas aircraft and eventually as a truck driver. His first job after leaving the Air Force was working the ramp at TWA, where he joined the IAMAW. He then worked as an avionics mechanic. McReynolds held several union positions, including shop steward, trustee, and serving on the grievance committee.  He also worked on the safety committee and as newsletter editor. He retired in 2002 due to medical reasons. He remains active with the union, working with retirees and on the local history project.
 
Abstract:
McReynolds begins by talking about his family background. His family relocated from Birmingham, Alabama to California. He recalls growing up in the Watts, California, one of seven kids. His father worked at GM, Douglas aircraft and as truck driver and his mother worked at the cannery. He talks about first job after leaving the Air Force, working ramp at TWA and joining the IAMAW.  He later recalls his shift to the position of avionics mechanic. He talks about the union positions he held, including shop steward, trustee, and serving on the grievance committee as well as working on the safety committee. He discusses the opportunities provided by the union. He recalls his involvement with the strike of five airlines in 1966 and the Eastern strike. He discusses the circumstances of his medical retirement. He talks about activities of the retirees club and about the importance of the history of the local project.

Bud Melvin

Interviewer: Rachel Bernstein
Date: June 27, 2012
Accession Number: L2012-35 
 
Biography:
Bud Melvin was born in Southgate, CA to Iva and Merl Emory Melvin on September 20, 1930. His father was a member of the IAMAW union and his mother operated a fur business. Bud joined the union in 1950 as an apprentice machinist for the Santa Fe Railroad.  He served as Local 214 Assistant Chairman, Assistant General Chairman, and General Chairman. He also served as Grand Lodge Representative and Director of the Guide Dogs of America. He retired in 1992.
 
Abstract:
Bud begins by recalling his first union position working for his father as an apprentice machinist at the Santa Fe Railroad in California. He discusses his father’s background with the union. After serving in the military, Bud recalls regaining his position at the railroad and how he was approached to run for union office.  He discusses his election as assistant local chairman.  He discusses the obligations of his various positions as well as fundraising strategies and race relations. He talks about working as the Director of the Guide Dogs of America. He comments on the current state of unions.

Roger Nauyalis

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: December 6, 2011
Accession Number: L2012-10 
 
Biography:
Roger Nauyalis was born into an Illinois farming family in 1946. After graduating high school, he worked at J.I. Case as a machine operator, where he joined the UAW. He apprenticed as a lineman and worked for Automatic Electric. He moved to Eagle Signal and joined the IAMAW and was elected to several positions including chief steward in the local (2045) and district (102) lodges. He was elected to the position of business representative in 1972 of the district lodge, a position he held until 1978. Nauyalis then became a Grand Lodge Representative in 1981 and then was appointed to administrative assistant in Washington DC. He then moved back to be a Grand Lodge Rep in the mid-west in 1990, working largely with the National Labor Relations Board. Finally, he was appointed to administrative assistant to the mid-west territory vice-president in 2007, a position Nauyalis held until his retirement in 2010.
 
Abstract:
Roger Nauyalis, born in 1946, spent his childhood working on the family farm of 200 acres. His first job was with T.I. Case in 1964 as a machine operator, which was organized by the UAW. Nauyalis then apprenticed as a lineman, joined the IBEW, and worked for several small electrical companies. He also discusses the role of a trade school in helping him in his career. Nauyalis discusses working for Eagle Signal, a small company organized by the IAMAW (local lodge 2045). He recalls the company employed many women. While there, he held his first elected positions within the union, including chief steward. Nauyalis helped organize a nine-week strike over contentious contract negotiations. He then reflects on his positions in the local and district lodges. In June of 1972, he left the shop floor and was elected as a full time business representative. Nauyalis describes his responsibilities and some specific events during his tenure as business representative. He discusses his appointment to Grand Lodge Representative and the work he did organizing. He mentions the change in attitudes after the events of the PATCO strike in 1981. He then recalls his time working as an administrative assistant until 1990 in Washington DC. Nauyalis moved back to the mid-west to work as a Grand Lodge Representative, where he focused issues related to the National Labor Relations Board. Beginning in 2006, his final position with the union was as administrative assistant to the vice -president of the mid-west territory until his retirement in 2010. Nauyalis concludes by reflecting on what the union has meant in his life.

Justin Ostro

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date:August 13, 2012
Accession Number: L_2012-39
 
Biography:
Justin Ostro was born in 1927 on the West Side of Manhattan. He grew up in a pro-union community and first became a member of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 6. He then joined the United States Maritime Service and the National Maritime Union. After leaving military service, he went to work for Home Linen Supply, joining the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. He then went to work for Republic Aviation as a structural mechanic, where he became shop steward for the IAMAW and then president directing business representative. He also worked with the New York State Council of Machinists and the Long Island Federation of Labor. In 1966, he became grand lodge representative and then general vice president. Ostro also worked with the Hartford Labor Council and the New Haven Labor Council, as well as being elected to the Democratic National Committee. He retired in 1992.
 
Abstract:
Ostro starts by discussing his parents’ work background. Ostro recalls growing up in a pro-union environment and talks about some of his early work experiences and union involvement. He describes working for the United Maritime Service and being repatriated after the war. He recounts joining Republic Aviation as a mechanic and becoming shop steward. Ostro discusses the 16 week strike at Republic Aviation and its settlement. He details his duties in the positions of directing business representative and grand lodge representative. He recalls becoming general vice president and talks about his political activities with the Hartford and New Haven Labor Councils. He recalls his time with the Democratic National Committee and talks about his retirement.

Lee Pearson

Interviewed By: Traci Drummond
Date: December 7, 2011
Accession number: L2012-11
 
Biography:
Lee Pearson was born in San Diego, CA on February 14, 1946 to Ed and Ruth Pearson.  His parents met in Texarkana, TX, where his father entered the Navy during the Second World War.  At the conclusion of the war, they settled in San Diego, CA, where Lee was born.  His father worked many jobs, primarily as an upholsterer, which led Lee to his first job with as a concessionaire in the Bartenders and Confectionery Workers Union for the (then minor league) San Diego Padres.  Pearson joined IAMAW local 685 in 1966 when he was hired on as a metal cutter at Solar Turbine in San Diego, a closed shop.  Following his involvement in a 1975 strike at Solar Turbine, Pearson received a reputation throughout the International lodge when he filed a lawsuit after the International lodge disqualified him from nomination as a business representative to district lodge 50 due to a clerical error associated with his strike loan repayment.  Pearson would eventually earn the position of business representative, and he would ultimately join the International lodge staff as a special representative in 1981.  At the end of his probationary period, Pearson would be subject to layoff from the international staff, where he would return to the shop floor on behalf of local lodge 685 for almost two years to the day before his position in the International lodge was restored.  Pearson went on to become the administrative assistant for the General Vice President of the Western territory before he was selected to become the General Vice President himself.  During his time as GVP, Pearson oversaw a number of mergers of local and district lodges in order to maintain the financial stability of his territory.  Since his retirement in 2008, Pearson has remained active in IAMAW and labor ventures, and he serves on the board of trustees of Guide Dogs of America and the Worker’s Compensation Board of the State of California.
 
Abstract:
Pearson provides his family background and his early work experience with the San Diego Padres adn other odd jobs, leading to his involvement with the IAMAW with his employment at Solar Turbine. Pearson describes the political environment of the 1960s in his area which was largely skeptical of union. Peason recalls a 1975 strike at Solar Turbine primarily over the companies retraction of its voluntary overtime policy and the right  to conduct union business during company time. Pearson recounts the lawsuit that he filed against the international union that prevented him from being nominated for business representative following the 1975 strike. Pearson discusses the impact of the PATCO strike on the labor movement, and in the aftermath of the PATCO strike, the reorganization of the Western territory that occurred during his time as the General Vice President. Pearson discusses the diversity of the Western territory, and as a result, the environment of racial discrimination that IAMAW workers often encountered, particularly against Hispanic workers. 

John Peterpaul

Interviewed By: Traci Drummond
Date: August 14, 2012
Accession number: L2012-38
 
Biography:
John Peterpaul was born in Rome, New York, 1935 to immigrant parents from Italy and Austria. His father was factory worker at the General Cable Corporation in Rome, NY and a member of the IUE and then the machinists union. After serving in the Navy, Peterpaul started flying and went to work for Mohawk Airlines. He started his tenure with the IAMAW as chief steward at Mohawk, then became General Chairman at District 147. Peterpaul moved to Washington, DC to take the position of airline coordinator and was eventually appointed general vice president. Peterpaul also held the position of the International Transport Workers Federation general vice president and was appointed president of the National Airline Commission in 1993. He also served on the board of Directors of United Airlines.
 
Abstract:
Peterpaul begins by recounting his family origins and talks about growing up in Rome, NY. He discusses joining the Navy and working as a mechanic on a seaplane tender. After the Navy, he learns to fly and joins Mohawk Airlines. Peterpaul recalls becoming chief steward and eventually general chairman at District 147 while working at Mohawk. Peterpaul discusses his work as assistant airline coordinator and airline coordinator in Washington, DC. He recalls serving as president of the National Airline Commission, started by Bill Clinton. Peterpaul talks about the effects of deregulation and recalls the Eastern Airlines strike and dealing with Frank Borman and Frank Lorenzo.

George Poulin

Interviewed By: Traci Drummond
Date: December 5, 2011
Accession number: L2012-12
 
Biography:
George Poulin was born in 1932 in Hartford, CT to French Canadian immigrants. His mother is from Cape Hill and his father is from Quebec Province. After meeting in the states, they had five children with George as the second oldest. George grew up in Connecticut and joined the IAMAW at 18. He worked on organizing campaigns throughout New England. Poulin has been a member of the IAMAW for more than 60 years. During his tenure at the IAMAW, Poulin served as Lodge President, Grand Lodge Representative, Regional Vice President, and General Vice President. Poulin’s organizing experience comprises an impressive list of wins including newly organized plants, affiliating independent unions, and important strikes in the Northeast. After retiring Poulin also organized two retiree groups and remains active in politics. He retired in 1997 and lives in Connecticut.
 
Abstract:
George Poulin begins by talking about his first exposure to unions, briefly turns to his parents, and then returns unions. He talks first joining the IAMAW at Plax Corp, becoming a steward, and the first understanding the power of the contract. He discusses being elected to the local lodge, the duties of a president, the strikes at Vulcan Radiator and M.H. Roach Corp. He spends time talking about organizing while being president and working for the International as an organizer, particularly working with Jerry Page. Poulin also mentions the impact of the AFL and CIO merger and the confrontations with UE. He talks about becoming a regional organizer and then regional vice president. He specifically mentions working with Eugene Glover on the Winpisinger Center. He goes into detail on the strike at United Aircraft and Winchester Repeating Arms. He then talks about international work with South African unions. Poulin discusses how the economy has impacted the union, particularly outsourcing. He ends by talking about his life in retirement.

Sam Rodriguez

Interviewer: Rachel Bernstein
Date: November 19, 2013
Accession Number: L2013-15 
 
Biography:
Sam Rodriguez was born in Spain in 1937. His family left Spain in 1939 and lived in a number of different countries before coming to the United States. He attended only two years of formal school, getting his most of his education from his father. After school, he started a business selling food and then worked in a printing shop becoming a printer. In 1969, he took a job as an airport cargo handler for Northwest Airlines. He filed a grievance with the shop steward and decided to run for the office, getting elected. He organized two thousand food service workers at Marriott. He eventually became a grand lodge rep. He retired in 1997 and continued to organize.
 
Abstract:
Rodriguez begins by talksing about his family background in Spain, describing his father as an anarchist and his mother as a fascist. He talks about his family leaving Spain in 1939 and living in various countries. He talks about getting his education from his father. He recalls starting a business selling food after high school and his first job in a printing shop where he becomes a printer after a few years. He discusses taking a job in 1969 as cargo handler for Northwest Airlines. He recalls deciding to run for union office after filing a grievance and being elected shop steward. He recalls organizing two thousand food workers at Marriott. He discusses being a grand lodge rep and the demands of the position. He talks about organizing activities after his retirement and recalls working on the Obama campaign in Ohio.    

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