Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Less Than Half Workers Vote

Liberals Lose USWA Race

First Published: The Call, Vol. 6, No. 7, February 21, 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

With more than 90% of the ballots counted, it has become clear that Ed Sadlowski’s charge to the top of the United Steel Workers union has ended in failure—at least for now. According to unofficial tabulations, Lloyd McBride has defeated Sadlowski in the USWA election by a three-to-two margin. But Sadlowski maintains that the election was stolen through fraud and may appeal the results.

Only 500,000 out of a total 1.4 million steel workers even bothered to vote despite the fact that the election received more media coverage than any previous one. Sadlowski’s defeat can be attributed in large part to the fact that he put forth no real program of class struggle to rally the workers. He confined his campaign to taking some pot shots at the reactionary old-guard Abel leadership.

Sadlowski did manage to defeat McBride in the large steel locals, while McBride won in those areas outside of basic steel.

The votes Sadlowski succeeded in collecting reflects the strength of the liberal illusions he spread about “returning the union to the rank and file.” His appeals for union democracy in the face of the Abel machine’s open collaboration with the bosses succeeded in bringing a section of the most active union members into the campaign. Sadlowski also received the backing of the revisionist Communist Party and other opportunists who tried to ride the reformist campaign into some positions for themselves.

The October League maintained that Sadlowski and McBride were simply two sides of the same coin and that Sadlowski presented no alternative to the present bureaucracy. In a leaflet handed out at plant gates on election day, the OL called on steelworkers “to drive these company agents from the leadership of the union, and make the union a weapon for fighting the steel bosses—an organization of struggle and not collaboration.”

The leaflet called for a boycott of the election and raised slogans against the layoffs; for a shorter work week with no cut in-pay; against the racist Consent Decree; against discrimination faced by-minorities and in defense of the right to strike. It exposed how Sadlowski has paid lip service-to a few of these issues, but in his activity as chief of District 31 actually opposed these and other demands of the rank and file.

Sadlowski did get his man James Balanoff elected to his old post of Director of District 31. In turn, Balanoff will most likely appoint Sadlowski as Deputy Director. This power base will continue to be used as Sadlowski’s stepping stone to the next election.

Balanoff’s victory margin was cut down considerably from the one Sadlowski scored in 1975 over the Abel machine. This showed that large sections of Sadlowski’s own supporters have become angered over his opportunist behavior as head of that district for the past year and a half.

While the liberal campaign of Ed Sadlowski was defeated, the bosses are dragging out other such reformist campaigns in the United Mine Workers and United Auto Workers unions just to name a few. This movement within the unions, closely linked to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, has nothing to offer the rank and file.

With the election over, the upcoming contract struggle holds some potential for the struggle to unfold on the basis of the workers’ own fighting demands. But this can only happen to the degree that class struggle leadership develops in opposition to both McBride and Sadlowski.