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

IAM Oral Histories S-Z

Scheri, William
Siemiller, P. L. "Roy"
Spencer, Roe
Taylor, Susan

Waggoner, Fred
Waldner, Frank
Washam, Larry Joe
Wharton, Donald
Williams, Charlie
Worley, James Gordon

William Scheri

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: August 14, 2012
Accession Number: L2012-36 
Bill Scheri was born in Utica, NY in 1935. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up in a union environment; his grandfather was a labor organizer and his uncle was a grand lodge representative. After serving in the Air Force, Scheri joined Mohawk Airlines and trained to be a mechanic. He became shop steward for the IAMAW while at Mohawk.  He subsequently became grievance committee chairman and vice president of the local. In 1968 he became assistant general chairman of District Lodge 147. He also held the positions of assistant airline coordinator and airline coordinator. Scheri became vice president of transportation in 1994. He retired in 1999.
Scheri recalls his immigrant parents and the labor environment in the Utica, NY community, where he grew up. He talks about his service in the Air Force and going to work for Mohawk Airlines as a mechanic. Scheri discusses his role as grievance committee chairman and talks about being vice president of the local and the strike during that time. He recalls serving as assistance general chairman as well as assistant airline coordinator and airline coordinator. He remembers the Eastern Airlines strike and comments on the effects of deregulation on the airlines. Scheri talks about his role as vice president of transportation and recalls influential people in his life.

International President P. L. "Roy" Siemiller (1965-1969)

P.L. "Roy" Siemiller

Interviewed by: Les Hough, February 22-23, 1986
Transcript info: 161 pages
Location: End of I.A.M.A.W. Collection (L1992-14)

Biographical Information:
Roy Siemiller was born in 1904 in Nebraska near the Platte River. He became an apprentice when under aged by fibbing about his birth date. He was hired for nine hours a day at eleven cents an hour. After he completed his apprenticeship, Siemiller served in the U.S. Navy then went to work for the Rock Island Railroad in Herrington, Kansas. He joined International Association of Machinists Local 823 in Port Arthur, Texas in 1929. However, his job disappeared later that same year due to the stock market crash. Siemiller then moved on to Harrison, Arkansas where he organized I.A.M. local 1093 and several other locals. I.A.M. International President Wharton took notice of Siemiller's organizing activities, and appointed him as a temporary organizer. He was given a permanent appointment to Grand Lodge Staff in 1937. After being elected as International President in 1965, Siemiller began the "Go-Go" years of the I.A.M., using the term from the new rock dance style of the times, to give the Union a new public look.

Siemiller discusses his early years and the influence his parents had on him. Both parents grew up in the West and his father was a veteran of the Civil War. Siemiller recounts the circumstances surrounding his leaving home at an early age and his start as a machinist. While working for the railroad, Siemiller was asked to join the International Association of Machinists as an organizer. Siemiller describes his work for the IAM as a Grand Lodge Representative and then as General Vice President. The evolution of the trade union movement in the United States and the union's involvement in politics are discussed. Siemiller discusses the union's work on the creation of pension plans and changes in union policy to allow African-American and female members. The merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations is discussed along with Siemiller's service on the War Labor Board and Defense Transport Administration. The union's opposition to several states attempts to pass right-to-work laws is discussed. Siemiller describes his rise to IAM President from 1965 to 1969 and his work negotiating the airline industry strike in 1966 and the railroad strike in 1967. Siemiller also describes his relationships with various politicians and labor leaders including George Meany and Jimmy Hoffa.

Roe Spencer

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date:May 24, 2012
Accession Number: L2012-25
Roe Spencer was born in Oakdale, Louisiana in 1926.  After being raised in a union household, Roe immediately joined the IAMAW during his first job at the City Service Oil Refinery.  He became Secretary Treasurer for Local 1317 and held this position as the local grew into District 161.  Roe became a Special Representative under VP Glover in 1966 and Grand Lodge Representative for the National Labor Relations Board in 1970.  He was appointed Vice President of the Southern Territory to replace VP George Watkin’s void in 1973 and retired from this position in 1991.
Roe Spencer begins by describing his childhood in a union household, initial aspirations to become a lawyer, and early work experience and IAMAW involvement at the City Service Oil Refinery.  Roe then explains his first IAM position as Secretary Treasurer of Local 1317 and challenges he faced as the Local expanded and became District 161.  He recalls his position as Special Representative under VP Glover in 1966 and Grand Lodge Representative for the National Labor Relations Board in 1970.  Roe discusses his appointment as VP of the Southern Territory to replace Watkin’s vacant seat, his VP staff, and his feelings on IAMAW elections he later ran in.  He also briefly discusses working with Ed M. House.

Susan Taylor

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: November 20, 2013
Accession Number: L2013-18 
Susan Taylor was born 1945 in Washington, DC. Her family relocated to Ohio and she recalls growing up in Martins Ferry where her father built custom homes and her mother worked as a nurse and homemaker. Her family returned to Washington in her senior year in high school and she enrolled at Howard University, becoming involved in student activism. She went to work part time for United Airlines at the mail ticket office and after graduation, she enters the United Management Training program. She becomes involved with the IAMAW when the ticket agents sought representation to obtain better benefits. After holding various positions at United, she retired at age 57. She remained active after retirement tutoring, working with Metro Seniors, as well as working in Ohio on the Obama campaign.
Taylor remembers relocating from Washington, DC and growing up in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Her father built homes and her mother was a nurse and homemaker. She talks about the discrimination her mother experienced. She talks about enrolling at Howard University and becoming involved in student activism there. She talks about going to work part-time for United Airlines in mail ticketing. After graduating in 1972, she entered the United Management Training program. She describes her various positions at United. She talks about becoming involved with organizing efforts by the IAMAW. She talks about race relations at United. She discusses her activities after her retirement at age 57S.he discusses her mentors and talks about working with Maria Cordone with Metro Seniors. She discusses her political activities, working in Ohio on the Obama campaign and attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She ends by discussing the importance of the union in supporting community.     

Fred Waggoner

Interviewer: Rachel Bernstein
Date: December 7, 2011
Accession Number: L2012-13

Fred Waggoner was born on November 8, 1926 in Oklahoma but spent most of his early years in Colorado with a farming family. He was drafted to the Army in 1945. He came back shortly and worked with his brother as an auto mechanic. Later he joined the union at a glass factory. Then he worked for a short period at the GMC dealership and then for 3 years he worked in parts for Pacific Intermountain Express in the Teamsters’ Union. Waggoner then had a mechanic apprenticeship. He quickly moved on to become shop steward. Other positions he held were chief steward and secretary-treasurer (for his local and District 86). Waggoner switched to organizing and was elected business representative of the district in 1960. In 1968 he became business rep for the Grand Lodge. Waggoner then moved out of Colorado to go to the Intelco plant in 1970. Two years later he was back to his original assignment in Denver and eventually became the AA to Stanley and Jim Malott. His last three working years were spent organizing with Malott.
Waggoner discusses growing up on a farm with many siblings. His family had no knowledge of unions, but after Waggoner gets back from the war he decides to take a union job at a glass factory. He then works for Pacific Intermountain Express where he gets more involved with the local. He moves from shop steward to chief steward on to secretary-treasurer. He talks about all of his positions held and getting involved with the District and Grand Lodge. He discusses being a business representative and what the politics were like in Colorado. He talks about how the positions he held influenced his family life as well. Waggoner goes on to explain working on Red Smith’s organizing team and his negotiating strategies. Towards the end of Waggoner’s career he worked for vice presidents Jensen and Jim Malott and he talks about his responsibilities at that time. He then talks about the flood in Chicago and how organizing effected his family life negatively. Waggoner ends the oral history talking about meeting his wife and his family history.

Frank Waldner

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: December 4 & 5, 2011
Accession Number: L2012-14

Frank Waldner was born on March 10, 1934 in Maryland. His family and the community he was born to were very pro-union. This led him to, after the navy, join the Machinists as a mechanic at Capital Airlines around 1956. Waldner participated in local lodge 1759 as shop steward and later in 1963 he serveds as vice president. In 1964, Waldner assumed the office of president when his local's president was promoted to Assistant General Chairman of District 141. He ran and was elected as president effective January 1,1965. He is then elected as vice president for District 141 in 1967 while maintaining his position as local lodge president. Later on, he became assistant general chairman for the District full time. In 1970 he is appointed to assistant airline coordinator and in 1972 he becomes airline coordinator. He then gets appointed as administrative assistant to the transportation general vice president and stayed in this position until retirement, from 1974-1994.
Waldner discusses his family history and growing up in Maryland. He talks about his first job in the military and as a mechanic. He differentiates working in the engine shop and working as a mechanic. He goes to work for Capital Airlines and talks about the various positions he held there. He discusses moving up to the District level and how working in the union has affected his home life. Waldner then becomes Airline Coordinator and he discusses changes in labor since he first started as a mechanic. He faced many challenges during his career with the IAM and he goes into these challenges as well as political events going on simultaneously. He talks in length about the AMFA, PATCO strike and about the Eastern strike with Frank Lorenzo. He ends with discussing the most satisfying part of being a member of the Machinists and how important international relationships were to him.

Larry Joe Washam

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: March 19-20, 2013
Accession number: L_L2013-04_ab
Larry Joe Washam was born May 5, 1950 in Harriman, Tennessee, part of Roane County, and grew up in Kingston, Tennessee. His father was a master craftsman and his mother was a housewife who previously worked on the Manhattan project. Washam entered a machinist training program and started working at the Oak Ridge plant in 1969 and joined the union.  In 1970, he took a leave of absence to join the National Guard.  He returned to the plant and became shop steward in 1972.  During his tenure at the IAMAW, Washam served as business representative, recording secretary, president of the local, special representative and grand lodge representative.  After his retirement, Washam remained active working with IAMAW retirees.
Washam begins by discussing his parents’ work background. His father was a master craftsman with pro-union leanings and his mother, a housewife, had worked on the Manhattan project before he was born. Washam talks about growing up in Kingston, Tennessee and the attempts to organize local textile mills in the thirties. Washam talks about entering machinist training program and starting work at Oak Ridge in 1969 when he joined the union. Washam talks about serving in the National Guard and filing a grievance about progression raises upon his return to work. Washam recalls about the 1958 strike and the role of Women’s Auxiliary as well as the various strikes that occurred at Oak Ridge. He talks about the various offices he held at the IAMAW including serving as president of the local, business rep and grand lodge representative and discusses some of his biggest campaigns. He discusses the people who served as his mentors, particularly H.A. McClendon. Washam ends the oral history by detailing his retirement activities.

Donald Wharton

Interviewer:  Rachel Bernstein
Date: December 5, 2011
Accession number: L2012-15
One of seven children, Donald Wharton was born in 1938 in Ohio. Donald was the next to youngest child. His father was a pattern maker at the Ohio Brass Company, and a member of the IAM. From solid working-class roots, Donald left high school to help his family financially when his father became ill. He joined the IAMAW on his second job and has been union his entire life. Wharton believes he has held more union positions than any other member of the IAMAW. He was elected Conductor of his lodge at 17 and became a full-time representative in 1962. As director of the training center at Placid Harbor he established the first program and timeline, much of which is still used today. He was appointed General Vice President in 1988. In 1993, he was elected General Secretary-Treasurer and retired in 2004.
Wharton discusses being born and raised in Ohio and his father’s membership in the UE and then the IAMAW. He talks about leaving school early to get a job, having a negative union experience followed by a positive one. As a young union activists he tells how he was appointed an officer while 17. He also tells about union history, organizing experiences, the operation of the IAMAW in the Midwest, women in the union, IAMAW record on race and civil rights, Democratic politics, the NLRB, and union raids. Wharton was very much involved in the training program and tells the story of the creation of Placid Harbor, the land acquisition, the curriculum development, history of the property, and the effect of the training program. He provides insight into the work of an International officer, the sponsorship of the Indy car, the ideological shift of the union, and the failed unification talks with the UAW and the Steelworkers.

Charlie Williams

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: November 21, 2013
Accession Number: L2013-22 
Charlie Williams was born in Arbyrd, Missouri, a small farming community. His father was a farmer; mother was a homemaker. He joined the Navy after graduating from high school and worked as an aircraft mechanic during the Korean War. After leaving the military, he went to work for McDonnell Aircraft and joined the IAMAW. He became shop steward and eventually special grand lodge rep. He served as chairman of the labor council for Democratic Party, working in various political campaigns. He also worked for the national benefit trust fund office. After his retirement, he worked with the Alliance for Retired Americans and the “Rat Pack” with Maria Cordone and Fred Perkins.
Williams starts by recalling growing up in Missouri on a farm. His father was a farmer, his mother was a homemaker. He talks about joining Navy after high school, working as an aircraft mechanic in the Korean War. He discusses going to work for McDonnell Aircraft, where he joins the union and becomes shop steward. He recalls working in the regional office in Midwest territory and discusses working in political campaigns when he was chairman of labor council for Democratic Party. He talks about taking over national benefit trust fund office. He remembers his relationship with Wimpy Winpisinger and recalls with George Kourpias. He talks about working with the “Rat Pack" with Maria Cordone and Fred Perkins. He ends by talking about the most important thing about being in union and his mentors.

James Gordon Worley

Interviewer: Traci Drummond
Date: March 20, 2013
Accession number: G_L2013-05
James Gordon Worley was born in White County, Tennessee in 1932. His father was a timber cutter, working in sawmills and his mother was a garment worker. The family also worked a small farm and Worley recalls growing up in rural environment. He joined the Navy and worked on an aircraft carrier as a machinist. He went to work at Oak Ridge in 1959 and joined the union in 1960. During his tenure at Oak Ridge, he worked on the moon box project, among other projects and became steward and chief steward. Worley also served as recording secretary and as vice president. Worley also worked with the Anderson County Election Commission and the Democratic Executive Committee. He was especially proud of his involvement in fundraising activities for the Shriners in support of their children’s hospitals and working with the Local Lodge History Project.
Worley begins by discussing his parents’ work background and their feelings about unions. He recounts his relationship with his half-brother. Worley talks about serving in the Navy, basic training and working on an aircraft carrier. Worley talks about working at Oak Ridge Laboratory and joining the union. He discusses the various projects he worked on at Oak Ridge. Worley talks about being steward and chief steward and about the strike of 1963. He recalls the role of the Ladies Auxiliary during the strike. Worley discusses being recording secretary and serving as vice president. He talks about the decline of union membership and changes in union negotiations. Worley talks about working with the Oak Ridge Central Labor Council, the Anderson County Election Commission and the Democratic Executive Committee. He ends by talking about the importance of preserving union history.

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