I was born in Ohio in 1940 and grew up in Cleveland Heights. My grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. My dad got a Depression-era job as an office boy and finally retired as a manager of a building materials company. He then developed a new career as a management consultant. My mother was a garment worker and then worked full-time taking care of four boys. My parents were very active in the labor movement. They were committed to defending and promoting the rights of working people, even during the repression of McCarthyism.
I went to college in 1958 at the University of Chicago and majored in physics. I became very active in student activities to advance civil rights and to oppose the nuclear arms race and took off two years from school to work in these movements as the National Secretary of the Student Peace Union. I returned to the University and earned a BA in Political Science. I paid for my education by doing electrical and electronic work at the University’s audio-visual center.
In 1964, I moved to Berkeley to start graduate school in Political Science. I worked my way through graduate school, first as a researcher and teaching assistant and then later with TV repair work. I earned my MA in Political Science in 1965 and successfully completed the courses and exams for a PhD in Political Science. I even started work on a dissertation. But finally I decided I preferred electrical work to being a professor at a university. I liked the mix of manual and intellectual skills required in electrical work. Similarly, political theory was only interesting to me if I could apply it to the real world.
All through this period I was a political activist seeking fundamental changes in society. I was a leader in the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. I believed then as I believe now that injustice in the world is only reduced when people organize to demand justice. Later I was very involved in civil rights, particularly with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). I was an active supporter of the Farm Workers organizing struggle. I was one of the original organizers of the Peace and Freedom Party and worked closely with the Black Panther Party. I was a member of the Independent Socialist Club, which ultimately became part of an organization called Solidarity. I believed then as I do now that freedom, democracy, justice, and equality are worth fighting for.
In 1975 I moved to Detroit. Over the next 32 years, I worked there as a skilled industrial electrician, mostly in the auto industry. During this time, I also taught and did some engineering work. I was involved in both my local and national union. I believed that the union movement had lost its way and I was involved in many efforts to reform and rebuild unions. The main issues we fought for were democracy within the union, an active, involved membership, and leadership that represented the members rather than making deals with management that cut members' pay and benefits.
I was one of the founders of a publication/network called Labor Notes. I continue to serve on its National Policy Committee. I wrote or co-authored several books published by Labor Notes; the last two were Working Smart: A Union Guide to Participation Programs and Reengineering and Democracy Is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up.