Eric Flint Newsletter – February 2014

The next stories I have coming out are:

I have a novelette coming out next week in an anthology titled MULTIVERSE, which is entirely devoted to the work of Poul Anderson. My story is set in Anderson’s “Operation Chaos” universe. Other authors in the anthology include Larry Niven, Raymond Feist, Nancy Kress, Harry Turtledove, Terry Brooks, Robert Silverberg, S.M. Stirling and Tad Williams. Here’s the URL.

In April, Cauldron of Ghosts, co-authored with David Weber. Cauldron is part of the Honor Harrington universe and is a sequel to Torch of Freedom as well as, to a degree, a companion volume to David’s Shadow of Freedom. For those interested, here’s a link to Baen Books’ publishing schedule. As usual, sample chapters are available on the site.

In May, I have a novella titled “In the Matter of Savinkov” coming out as one of two stories in a volume titled The Aethers of Mars, published by PhoenixPick. The volume combines two related novellas set in a steampunk universe, one by me and one by Chuck Gannon. Here’s a link to it.

I just turned in the manuscript for the next 1632 series novel, 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies, which I co-authored with Chuck Gannon. Chuck was my co-author on a previous 1632 series book, 1635: The Papal Stakes, and will be writing two more novels with me in the future. Commander Cantrell will be coming out in June.

I also turned in the manuscript for 1636: The Viennese Waltz, which will be coming out in November of this year. Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff were my co-authors on that novel, as they were on 1636: The Kremlin Games.

The Viennese Waltz is partly based on a number of stories written by Paula and Gorg which were previously published in one of the Ring of Fire or Grantville Gazette anthologies. It also partly serves as one of the prequels for my next solo novel in the series, which I will start writing sometime this summer.

Another novel I’ve turned in recently is Castaway Planet, which I co-authored with Ryk Spoor. Castaway Planet is set in the same universe that Ryk and I created for our Boundary trilogy (Boundary, Threashold, Portal) but it is not a direct sequel. The story is set roughly two centuries in the future, following the events related in the trilogy. Baen Books hasn’t set a definite publication date yet, but it will be sometime in early 2015.

On a personal note, I just found out that an old friend of mine died a few months ago. His name was Steve Kindred, and many years ago he and I were roommates and worked closely together in political activity, mostly in the Teamsters union. I’d seen very little of Steve since the mid-70s, because we developed political differences that took us in separate directions. I ran across him briefly in Cleveland in 1982, and we shared an enjoyable evening knocking down a lot more whiskies with beer chasers than we probably should have.

Despite our political differences, Steve and I always remained on good terms personally, and I saw him again a couple of times last year, when he came through Chicago. I had no idea his health was precarious, since he said nothing about it and he looked fine. As it turns out, though, he’d already developed the abdominal cancer that would take his life by the end of the year. I’m just thankful I had that last chance to spend time with him.

For those interested, here’s a very nice obituary of Steve written by Dan LaBotz, who worked closely with him in the Teamsters union in later years.

In addition, David McDonald, a very close friend of mine who was also active with Steve and me in the Teamsters wrote a very nice essay on the matter, which I’ve posted below. Periodically, people ask me how I originally got active politically. Dave’s essay gives a good part of the story.

– Eric

● ● ●

The 1970 Los Angeles-Cleveland Teamster Wildcat Strike
by David McDonald

Dan LaBotz’ nice obituary for Steve Kindred here talked about Steve’s days in Los Angeles organizing strike support in 1970 and beyond. As a participant in those days and those organizations and struggles, I want to add a little to Dan’s recounting.

The key precipitating event in my part of this story was the killings of 4 students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, on May 4, 1970, by National Guardsmen. Probably everyone knows something about this, but just as probably many don’t know that these killings caused a wholesale shut-down of American universities in the wake of spontaneous battles between students and cops all over the country in a completely unplanned and therefore even scarier insurrectionary impulse from America’s youth. And I do mean battles. My good friends Eric Flint and Richard Roach and hundreds if not thousands of others fought a running battle with LA and UC cops that ranged all over the campus and lasted for hours. They were graduate students hanging out on campus and thus well placed to join the fight. This was exactly the kind of confrontational shit we had dreamed about and hoped for as the Vietnam War ground on but I had rejected graduate school when I came to understand the kind of writing English professors had to crank out (a decision that 11 months administering life insurance policies at Occidental Life had caused me to regret) so I languished at my insurance company desk waiting for 5 o’clock and then had to endure multiple recountings of the day’s adventures when we got together that night, as we did most nights. I finally understood Othello.

In California Ronald Reagan announced the closure of all the University of California campuses. But way back in the day of Mario Savio activists, students, teachers, community people and lots of others had established that the University of California belonged to the people and was an open public space. So while Reagan could administratively close down the campuses they remained open spaces available for whatever an energized youth might decide.

I hightailed it over to UCLA the following day looking for trouble. The meant skipping work, where I was already on thin ice for various attendance-related issues. There I found something even better than fighting cops, if that is possible.

The campus was astounding. The Student Union Building had been ransacked by enraged kids and the gigantic central dining room transformed, overnight, into an organizing center. By that I mean an entire floor of a very large building was ringed around its perimeter with tables staffed by people advocating and organizing a dizzying multitude of things. There were tables that did nothing but organize the feeding of people at other tables. There were myriads of just plain folks, many of them with no campus credentials or experience, there to address issues they found pressing. Housing. Racism. Sexism. The War. There were radical nuns. No sororities or fraternities. Whatever. These people had just sensed that things were seriously opened up and so they congregated and talked and organized.

I was hanging around one of these tables when a pudgy guy walked up. His name was Steve, and he was a clerk at a trucking firm and hence a member of Teamsters Local 208. He explained to us that his union had gone on strike, but because it was a wildcat strike, the companies had succeeded in getting an injunction against Local 208 members walking a picket line in front of the gates at the various truck barns. He wondered if we would be able to help them by walking the picket lines in their place.

A little back story here. In 1970 the IBT was about to achieve a long-standing goal, viz., a national contract that would expire everywhere at the same time. This would immeasurably enhance their bargaining power because it would put the specter of a national truck strike on the table. Clearly, a plus. On the other side, certain locals that had already gotten super-good contracts for their members in the past were asked to accept a less-than-stellar (from their point of view) contract and take the hit for the team. Local 208 in Los Angeles, which organized local delivery and pickup of common freight and had thousands of members, demurred, and was on the verge (some say had already crossed the verge and had voted) of voting down the contract offer but were gaveled out of order by the meeting’s chair. So the vote to strike was either taken and passed, or not taken and not passed and you could find people on both sides of this question. The “No” voters called a wildcat strike which was remarkably effective. Essentially the same thing, the details of which I do not know, happened in Cleveland in Local 408 (Wow! What synapse fired to make me remember the number of that local! Hope it’s right!).

But the companies went to the judge and got an injunction. So Steve the pudgy Teamster came, on his own, and made his pitch to us around the table at the supremely graffiti-defaced Student Union Dining Room. I am embarrassed that I cannot remember the last name of this guy, who was a genuine working class hero who just had a flat-out good idea and carried through with it.

We were electrified. We said, yeah, hell yeah, we can get some kids to come down and picket for you. Where do you want us and when? So a few of us started making phone calls. I roped in my friends immediately, and so did a lot of other people. In this free-for-all atmosphere it was pretty much duck soup to get a couple of hundred kids from UCLA to caravan down the the City of Industry each morning and go wherever the Teamsters sent us. A couple of days in, when it was clear we weren’t going to get tired of this, the cops started showing up with gigantic buses to arrest and haul us away but part of the fun was that there was actually a very large number of individual firms engaged in this business so the Teamsters could direct us to a different place to avoid the police at least for a little while. Or, as it happened, they might have us go picket in one locale while they went to another locale to commit some act of minor terrorism like burning trucks, setting fire to the barns, or whatnot. So it was a real-world fight, a genuine class battle with real stakes and we were the spearpoint of the student-worker alliance while it lasted. I would go home after a day of whatever at UCLA (I had gotten fired from the insurance company job I but at this time barely noticed that) and make my twenty or so phone calls to mobilize the kids for tomorrow’s action. This was by far the most fun I had ever had in my life and the jolt kept me going for a couple of decades of progressively less fun activities.

Well, wildcat strikes are generally short-lived and so it was with this one. But the little group that had come together to organize these early morning ventures into the heart of the LA working class didn’t want to give it up. By this time we were organized as the Student-Workers Action Committee and had decided that in the wake of the Teamster strike we would just go out and find more strikes to support. Somewhere along about this time Steve Kindred showed up. As Dan LaBotz wrote, the IS had determined to make its way into industrial jobs and our little grouping was prime for plucking, since we were, after all, the kids doing the student-worker thing in LA just by reason of history, good luck and chutzpah.

There were after-effects of the wildcat. While it was happening, a couple of guys got arrested for going up into the San Bernardino mountains and taking potshots at what they considered scab trucks. Nobody was hurt but when firearms get involved suddenly you have a different level of seriousness attached to the proceedings.

At this point the Student-Worker Action Committee’s monthly paper, The Picket Line (the paper Dan LaBotz mentions in his Kindred obit) decided to follow the case of the union brothers accused of shooting up the scab trucks. This was probably under Kindred’s leadership but I honestly don’t remember. I do know that he was the editor of the paper and loved it beyond all loving. So we attended the trial and wrote it up for The Picket Line from the point of view of the wildcatters and our efforts were wildly appreciated by the militant rank and file of Local 208 who had, in all honestly, never seen anything like us before. We became “their” kids and they took a decidedly avuncular approach to us, which was not at all inappropriate, considering. The guys on trial were convicted and had to serve some minor sentences, months not years, and were rewarded with a gigantic party when they got out, to which we were invited as honored amanuenses.

SWAC moved on to support other strikes. There a lot going on in labor that year, a big-three auto contract, some fights in garment, and other stuff. We got used to getting up at 4 in the morning and driving out to Pico Rivera Ford plant or the Bethlehem Steel Foundry in the City of Industry to distribute our little paper to workers driving into the parking lots. It cost a dime.

SWAC was a genuine community organization with lots of different types of folks in it who liked the idea of helping strikers. We had Catholics, formers nuns, all manner of working class do-gooders, would-be radicals like me and my friends, Robert Brenner, and of course pretty quick we had every radical tendency in the book knocking at the door. We had a visitation from a supremely bug-eyed guy named Jeff from the Spartacist League and Les Evenchick from the Workers League selling the Bulletin every week to us, but we also had Kindred from the IS, who just jumped in, started doing the work, and was a continuously positive force who genuinely participated to the point that his membership in the IS was not the point of why he was there, but just something about him that became more and more intriguing as time went on.

As it turned out, the IS was the tendency that did the best in this little strike support group. It recruited a number of people, approaching ten, who went on to have long revolutionary careers.

This is the back story to what LaBotz recounts about Steve’s early Teamster days. Because of the help we had given the Teamsters in the Wildcat they let us in on things, and one day someone suggested we might want to check on a group called 500 at 50.

So we did. 500 at 50 encapsulated the idea that Teamsters deserved to have a pension of $500 at age 50 and proposed this as a demand to the international union. Someone told us about an organizing meeting they were having so Kindred and I went. Turns out it was in the garage of a guy named Ron in a far south-eat suburb of LA. Now, this is a meeting of people concerned about pensions, so you might wonder what they thought a couple of kids obviously in their mid-twenties, who had clearly never driven trucks, were doing there. But when we explained out strike-support credentials they welcomed us and thus we met Grover E. “Curly” Best and got involved in national Teamster politics.

Whatever happened in Cleveland happened and resulted in a call for a national meeting of dissident Teamsters in Toledo, Ohio. We decided to intervene, so Steve and I occupied his ex-girlfriend’s pretty fast car and drove non-stop to Toledo with a hot Gestetner mimeo machine in the back seat, in case there were opportunities for mass agitation. The Toledo meeting founded Teamster United Rank and File. At this point I think Dan’s obit carries the story forward so I will will let it rest with a big wink to Steve, now hopefully at peace.

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5 Responses to Eric Flint Newsletter – February 2014

  1. John Cowan says:

    The jacobinmag.com link is displayed correctly, but is not clickable because the href value has “” at the end. Please fix.

  2. Charles K. Alexander II says:

    Dear Eric,

    My condolences on the loss of your friend and comrade.

    “But whatever may be the circumstances of my death, I shall die with unshaken faith in the Communist future. This faith in man and in his future gives me even now such power of resistance as cannot be given by any religion . . . I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”
    –Leon Trotsky

    Charles K. Alexander II

  3. Stephen St. Onge says:

    Interesting stories, there. My condolences on the death of your friend. He seems like someone I’ve liked personally, though our politics would have been wildly different.

  4. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get set
    up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Appreciate it

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