Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

A View of Sadlowski’s Campaign

First Published: The Call, Vol. 3, No. 4, January 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Ed Sadlowski was elected director of the largest Steel Workers district in the country in a race with Sam Evett, who represented the I.W. Abel machine which controlled the District 31 bureaucracy for over thirty years. Sadlowski’s election this November was a re-run of the one held in 1973 where fraud and vote-stealing had resulted in defeat. The Abel leadership had tried for over a year to block a new election and further court testimony concerning the fraud.

Sadlowski’s victory over the Abel machine was a victory for all the progressive forces in the USWA nationwide, and his election was supported by many of the militant rank and-file caucuses which have sprung up over the last few years in opposition to the racism and sell-out policies of the Abel leadership.

Sadlowski’s campaign, however, had several important weaknesses from the point of view of the developing rank and-file movement. The central issue he raised was the question of election fraud, and he did little to push forward other rank-and-file demands. This was particularly significant year for the USWA with the “ENA” being signed (giving up the right to strike until 1980), the racist “Consent Decree” taking effect, and the union’s international convention taking place at which opposition was silenced by the and goons. However, Sadlowski did not take a firm stand on the “Consent Decree” (which denies minority workers the right to further discrimination suits) and only responded to the no-strike deal after it was signed.

The main points of Sadlowski’s reform campaign were the right for workers to ratify contracts, and opposition to dues increases and pay boosts for union officials. But he refused to raise special demands in the interests of minority workers, saying that this would “divide the workers.”

Organizationally, Sadlowski surrounded himself with the some of the more reformist and chauvinist elements of the rank-and-file movement including such known anti-communists as Joseph Raugh. During the International union’s red-baiting campaign, Sadlowski attacked communists and revolutionaries in the USWA.

Sadlowski had energetic support from large numbers of workers and progressive forces, as the overwhelming election victory showed. Communists working in the Sadlowski campaign built unity with his struggle against the International bureaucracy, but at the same time, tried to carry out independent action to force Sadlowski to take stronger stands, and to expose his reformist and chauvinist positions.

This independent role of communists was exercised through the right-to-strike and anti-consent decree campaigns, the various rank-and-file conferences that were held to unify the insurgent movement, and independent propaganda which exposed the relationship of Abel to the growing fascist labor front and the need to fight for the special demands of minority workers.