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Ego-Tripping Lawyer Does Not Tell Strike Story
on August 18, 2014
It was 44 years ago that courageous ILWU Local 35 members took on Kerr-McGee in the Mojave Desert, Trona, Bloody Trona is not the book that tells the story of that struggle.
As a retired ILWU member I ordered and read Los Angeles lawyer Paul Henry Abram's book, and it is much less about the strike than about his sex-, drug- and alcohol-addled ego and exploits and opinions. Lots of opinions. After all these years one should have, and impart, some sense of perspective, and that is missing.
Yes, the sabotage, bravado and violence make for juicy reading, but what of the hundreds of strikers' daily struggles to endure? Granted, Abram's book is a memoir, not a history, but he owes it to the workers who launched his labor law career to tell their story, not just his. And as a memoir, I doubt that he actually remembers those long and detailed conversations he recounts as fact.
To hear Abram tell it, Harry Bridges -- out of the blue -- came to Trona to "betray" the strikers and tell them to go back to work. I've been around enough to know that difficult decisions sometimes have to be made but also that there is a process to get to that point. And in the ILWU, it's usually been a democratic process.
As president of ILWU Local 6 during the Reagan Unionbusting 80s we had to face those situations more than once. When there were hard decisions recommended by the union officers and plant committee, my experience is that working women and men are thoughtful and intelligent in their decision-making, and sometimes voted the recommendation down. That process is missing here, leaving only the author's ego-driven sense of betrayal.
I do not speak as one who believes Bridges was never wrong; Harry's not on any pedestal in my house. But fair is fair, and Abram has had years to do the research and present a multifaceted, thoughtful review of those events. But that's not what he did.
The real book about the Trona strike, honoring those courageous workers who took on a murderous corporation, has yet to be written.