On November 1, 2009 I published my personal story concerning the International Harvester (IH) and United Auto Workers (UAW) strike that lasted almost six months from November 1, 1979 until April 20, 1980. I was a UAW member on strike during that time.
That post on my Time Out Of Mind website was accessed by readers many times over the years. I received a few emails about that story. The one I received in this past week is revealing.
I requested the sender to grant me permission to publish the message written to me, except I would withhold any reference to the sender’s identity. That agreement came this morning. Below is what was written to me about my 2009 strike topic.
Dear Mr. Larson,
I am a PhD candidate who is working on my dissertation and in the course of my research (looking into the economic crisis of the early 1980s) I came across your wonderful blog.
Thank you for posting your memories of the 1979-1980 IH strike. My dad worked in the Skills Trades at the West Pullman plant for 30 years–going into forced retirement in 1982. He was a member of IAM, but I know that they were also on strike in partnership with the UAW.
It was great to read your post. My dad was also an IH union steward and he didn’t have anything nice to say about Archie McCardell. In fact, at our dinner table, he painted him as a sort of villain with a waxed mustache, hair parted down the middle, who would leave a woman tied up on the train tracks screaming for help.
My mother kept a “strike scrapbook” where she pasted news articles about the strike as well as the food stamp booklets that my parents were so ashamed to have to use. I’m sure it was difficult not knowing how long the strike would last–six months is a long time. I certainly could not remain solvent today going that long without income.
I wanted to thank you for sharing your memories. If you wouldn’t mind sharing more information about your experiences during the economic downturn of the early 1908s, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I responded to the sender last weekend. My message is next.
Thank you for writing to me.
My career with IH actually started in the West Pullman Planet on October 1, 1974. After layoffs through the mid 1970’s between the West Pullman and Melrose Park Plants, I stayed at Melrose from May 1977 until my layoff in October 1981.
Your father’s impression of Archie is accurate. Not much different than mine was. So many people harmed by that strike, including retirees who had depended on that company’s stock value for income before and during the strike. The strike while long, and cost me and my wife about $3,000 out of our savings, had a benefit to me later on after IH.
Before the strike started in October 1979, I started school at Triton College the prior August taking Trade Math and Drafting Classes. More Math classes continued through June 1980 and later in 1983. Because of the strike I devoted a great deal of time to studying and as a result I have a ‘A’ average for all those classes. All that education helped me in my computer career, and later in my project management and business careers.
The recessions of the mid 1970’s taught my wife and me how to remain strong in the face of economic pressure. We almost went broke in June 1976 as we we awaited the birth of our daughter in September of that year. But we made it through those years and the recessions of the early 1980’s.
I learned to not take recessions personally and instead to keep my mind focused on continuous learning as a hedge against economic downturns. I still keep learning to this day: https://www.linkedin.com/in/donaldwlarson
I hope what I’ve written is helpful to you. I wish you well on your own continuing education.
The internet is a wonderful resource allowing people from all over the world to communicate about matters spanning decades. The life experiences are often reveal even between total strangers. It is that way for this post.