Deirdre and I got married in May of 1971 in St Paul’s Chapel. Deirdre had graduated from Barnard in 1970 and taken some graduate courses the following year.
After our marriage we moved to Washington, DC. I had never finished my graduate work after 1968 and I was not particularly interested in being a chemical engineer.
I got a job as a truck driver and Deirdre entered the PhD program in Philosophy at the University of Maryland.
I tried some union organizing, but got fired for being a communist. The case went to the NLRB, but they ruled that it was okay for the company to fire a communist. I got another driving job but after three years the company went bankrupt and me and about 10,000 other workers lost their jobs.
One thing that bothered me about living in Washington was that the American Nazi Party would stand on the median strips as commuters drove into the city and hold up racist and anti-semitic posters. So one Saturday morning when they planned to have a meeting in their Arlington Headquarters, we organized about 50 people to let them know that this type of behavior was unacceptable. Several of them were hospitalized. After this they packed up and moved to West Virginia.
By this time Deirdre had finished her studies and was looking for a job in philosophy. Our first two children were born during this time.
I then got a job working for Metrobus in DC. It was 1976 and Metro rail was about to open so they were hiring a lot of workers; many of them were veterans of the Vietnam War and /or the 68 rebellions. One friend’s brother had been killed by the police during the rebellions and another had help lead the rebellion on the Kitty Hawk which forced it to return to port during the Vietnam War.
In 1978, Metro launched a major attack on our wages and benefits. We knew this was coming from the actions of Metro over the previous two years. The union leadership was ready to make concessions to the company, but the workers were not. When Metro refused to give us a pay raise that was due under our union contract, hundreds of workers showed up at the next union meeting. The union president walked out of the meeting. We took over the meeting. We spoke of the need to shut the system down if were to fend off this attack. We took a vote to strike the next morning. There were no nays.
The city was in chaos for the next week with the bus and rail system shut down. The strike was declared illegal and I and several of my friends were held in contempt of court. (I got fined $100. At Columbia we got put in jail for 30 days for being in contempt of court. They were more afraid of what the workers would do if they put us in jail.)
After the strike I got fired as you would suspect, but we won most of our demands. I got my job back after a six month suspension.
By this time we had two more children and Deirdre was getting ready to go to law school.
We continued to fight the day to day exploitation of workers on the job. We slowly moved many workers to the left. The union took a stand against apartheid in South Africa. It spoke out against the wars in Latin America in the 80’s and both Iraqi wars. Many of our members marched in support of the Jena 6. I eventually became an Executive Board member of the union, then Financial Secretary and then President.
Deirdre finished law school (we had our last child the week before she took the bar exam) and got a job with the Federal government after working as a clerk for a year with the DC Court of Appeals.
In the early nineties, Deirdre got a job teaching at American University. Today she is the chair of the Law, Justice and Society Department at AU. She also wrote a philosophy book called “The Case Against Punishment”.
I am still working at Metro
The Columbia strike changed my life for the good. I meet my wife and developed a revolutionary outlook. I came to understand that imperialism with its racist and sexist practices had to be destroyed, not reformed, and replaced with a communist society. Forty years ago I thought the process would move along a little quicker than it has.- by Mike Golash