Michael Hoyt


[Excerpt] At 12:01 a.m., November 1, All Saints' Day 1983, the Chrysler Corporation's stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, suddenly fell silent. Members of United Auto Workers Local 122 shut down their machines for a strike. As the door panels, floor pans, and other parts they produce stopped flowing across the country from Twinsburg, the only source of supply for these parts, half a dozen Chrysler assembly plants fell silent too.

In New York that night, on NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw called it a "wildcat strike"-—an unauthorized walkout. On the other coast, a Los Angeles Times editor changed the first paragraphs of the Detroit bureau's story, making it "Robert Weissman's strike," a walkout "almost singlehandedly" engineered by Weissman, the president of the Twinsburg local union. The alterations made the story conform more closely with other coverage around the country, which implied that a pack of militants in Twinsburg was knocking Chrysler down just as the company was getting up off its knees.

That was Chrysler's line on the strike, but it was just one way of looking at it. Weissman, a man who does not "regard the title of militant as a smear," has few fans among the top leaders of the UAW. But authorization for his local's strike had been carefully cleared through the union's regional director, its Chrysler director, and its new president, Owen Bieber, following fifteen fruitless months of local bargaining. As often happens in labor stories, a lot of good questions went unasked in Twinsburg.

For example, what was the strike about?