Midway near post office, Apr. 15, 1983
  • Midway near post office, Apr. 15, 1983
  • Image by Rick Jahnkow
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

You say you used to march for peace? Used to stand up for justice. Sit down in protest. Bet that was a long time ago, wasn’t it?

“Who do you think you are, Communism?”

The shout is just audible over the buzz of a midweight Honda’s muffler and comes from one of its two riders, a shock-haired redhead in a flannel shirt, whose scalp is visible over the ears. Navy. The botched suffix — ism — has ruined the effect of Navy’s epithet, an insult he had probably planned in frustration as he and his companion aboard the Honda motored slowly with the rest of the cars, vans, and motorcycles up to the canvas bins and postal workers stationed on Midway Drive to accept last-hour tax returns April 15. Navy is taken somewhat aback by his mistake and is made to pause by it, as are the two peace picketers and two Marines whose conversation he has just interrupted. But Navy’s instincts rescue him. “Why don’t you go live over there if you don’t like it here?” "Over there" would be Russia, presumably. Navy is probably aiming his advice at Joanie Swartz and a small, gray-haired woman from the Gray Panthers who together are the eastern bulwarks for a fifteen-foot-long, No More War sign, but he might be including in his advice the two young black Marines, judging from his ridge-runner yahoo gestalt. What are Joanie and the Gray Panther next to her supposed to yell back at Navy? Your mother wears combat boots? Good point, too bad it’s on top of your head? Where were you when the brains were passed out? The picketers on Midway Drive are talking about nuclear war, joblessness, and taxes, but most of the passersby aren’t keeping up their end of the dialogue. Some are: the Marines, Swartz, and the Gray Panther lady are conducting a fairly coherent debate.

Jim Jacobson:  “We’re working so many different things and we haven’t got a staff."

Jim Jacobson: “We’re working so many different things and we haven’t got a staff."

“I understand that when you say, cut armaments, you’re talking about survival,” says the talkative Marine, “but don’t you think that we’ll fall behind and if we . . .”

“No,” Swartz interrupts, “our country’s been spending billions and billions for years, long before the Vietnam war was . .

“Yes,” interrupts the Marine,

"the Vietnam war was ...”

“I’ve been listening [Swartz resumes] to a radio program all week, ‘Vietnam Reconsidered,' and it’s so clear what we’ve been doing lately. We’ve made the Russians into gnarly, saber-toothed monsters. You can’t tell anyone they’re evil over and over without making an enemy out of them. You can corrupt the entire ...”

Bob Holzman: “I don’t think any of us could live under the same roof."

Bob Holzman: “I don’t think any of us could live under the same roof."

“Are you saying [the Marine interrupts] Russian leadership is not corrupt? The people in Poland want reform of their government and they ’re being overrun by the Soviets. Do you believe the people in Poland aren’t suffering?”

The Gray Panther has been listening quietly but at this point jumps in, attempting to get the debate onto new, broader ground personalizing it at the same time. “Look, I’m Jewish,” she says, “and I know something about how this administration deals with minorities. You’re black. Why support a government like this when so many black youth are unemployed? I’m from New Jersey and . . .”

“You’re from New Jersey?” the Marine says. “So’m I. Orange.”

The Gray Panther sticks out her hand. “Well, I’m from East Orange. How’re you?” They shake. Swartz is content to let the debate take its new direction.

It’s the first hour of a seven- or eight-hour picket line that has formed every April 15 since the mid-1960s, when local anti-war organizations first began trying to link rising taxes to military expenditures. When the effort began, it was out in front of the old post office at Eighth Avenue and E Street, and a particular war in Southeast Asia provided the activists with a highly visible target. Now the picketers, some of them veterans from the mid-1960s, are advancing a more complicated economic analysis, against nuclear arms, but without the bull’s eye of a Vietnam. The tax-day protest is the final event in Jobs with Peace week, the spring opener of this season’s dissent against war policy. This loose national network of organizations — Jobs with Peace — is attempting to spread the notion that unemployment is not just a temporary feature of a recession but the continuing outcome of high-tech nuclear competition. The Jobs with Peace argument is based on analyses showing that federal military spending creates far fewer jobs per million dollars than any other federally contracted industry, and that if only we could force the government to turn toward more labor-intensive contracting for mass transit, housing, or education, we could end both the arms race and joblessness.

This may be an interesting argument, but it’s a tough one to see. San Diego, where out of some 750,000 wage earners, about 120,000 are active-duty military. Jim Jacobson, the director of Community Energy Action Network, this year’s leader of Jobs with Peace in this county, likes to say that San Diego is home port to fully one-quarter of the nation’s seagoing armed services. Besides the 120,000 in uniform, there are some 33,000 drawing military retirement payments. And San Diego is the home of the cruise missile, a major component of the new arms race and one of General Dynamics-Convair’s most important contracts. The cruise missile and other defense department projects utilizing smaller companies now directly employ nearly 50,000 San Diego workers. On the bases, some 32,000 civilians are also directly employed by the defense department in this county. So of the 750,000 wage earners living here, more than 200,000 can be said to be directly employed or compensated by federal money flowing out of our arms policy.

Guns into butter. For nearly a third of the county’s workers, the one is the other.

Small wonder, then, that the line of picketers at the tax-day protest April 15 is a short one. It is also a very thin line the twenty-five or so various individuals must form as they stand in the slightly chill April air. If they stand on the sidewalk, they are warned off by the police, who are enforcing municipal code 52.20, which forbids obstruction of public right-of-way. If they step backward one short pace, they will be standing on postal service property, in this case a grass lawn fronting the big, gray building, and Title 40, section 318 of the U.S. Code forbids leafletting, soliciting, electioneering, vending, and advertising on federal property. This legal conundrum has been resolved with the help of a six-inch-wide curb separating sidewalk and lawn, on which the picketers, young and old with few in between, must stand for hours — a kind of demilitarized zone. Toes of shoes dangle over the streetside edge of the narrow concrete berm, heels over the well-kept postal lawn.

The police rarely warn anyone who steps for relief down to the sidewalk, but T. L. Fife, director of security for all the postal service in this county, walkie-talkie in hand linking him to several other security men, seems every bit as concerned with the grass as he is with the flow of traffic on Midway Drive. Thin-lipped, lean and gray, there’s a grim, coping air coming off him. “They’re going to get tired in a little bit,” he says at about 7:00 p.m., two or so hours after the picketers had set themselves up, “and they’ll want to get off on to the grass.” He follows that with a conciliation. “But they’re no problem.” However, within little more than an hour, Fife will have discovered another problem. Some extra signs intended for those who never do show up are being allowed to rest on the grass. Fife warns the picketers not to rest them there, then confiscates the offending signs, promising to return them at the end of the demonstration.

By about 7:30 p.m. the line has grown slightly to about thirty people, among them five from the Bishop’s Schools in La Jolla and three from Poway High. There are a number of democratic socialists from San Diego State University, some from the Committee Against Registration and the Draft, some from a UCSD “affinity group,” some Gray Panthers and Catholic Workers. One of the most faithful, now well into her third hour on the line, is a short, handsome woman late in her fifties, a member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. “In the 1960’s, during the Vietnam war, there was a bit more intensity and it always felt a little more threatening,” she recalls. “We were downtown, of course, at the old post office, and almost always across the street the FBI was taking pictures.” The small turnout this year is a perplexing question for her. “San Diego has always been so close to the military bases and Convair, where people’s jobs are. But then last year there were a lot more here. Many times it’s been larger. I don’t know whether people aren’t hurting [economically] here, or they aren’t aware. Maybe there has been so large a variety of protest people are picking and choosing according to their comfort zones. Standing out by the post office in the cold may not appeal to them.”

If anything, it is the comfortable, the people driving BMWs and Mercedes, who seem more inclined to send appreciative, encouraging signals to the demonstrators. They aren’t old and they aren’t young, and they sometimes lean out the window to cheer quickly and exchange a few mainly incomprehensible comments — a "right on" or two — before ducking back into their cars. A smile with the thumbs-up signal is common. There are no V signs. On the other hand, the negatives all come from the less affluent. “Nuke ’em till they glow,” from a pick-up truck. “How ’bout doing that in Russia?” from a battered old Detroit sedan. “Nuke, nuke you all,” from the young driver of an old Pinto. A favorite with the picketers was an eight- or nine-year-old with his parents who stuck out his head and squealed with a laugh, “It’s all going to the government. Reagan’s taking it and throwing it away,” as the car moved up to the postal bins.

Fourteen organizations or groups endorsed Jobs with Peace week here, and worked on it to one degree or another: the Alliance for Survival, San Diego chapter; Catholic Worker; Committee Against Registration and the Draft (CARD); Pacific Peacemaker Project — San Diego; the Peace and Justice Commission of the Diocese of San Diego; the Peace Resource Center; the Progressive Coalition (UCSD); Red and Black Action (a small group of UCSD people); the Student Peace Education Committee (SDSU); Womens International League for Peace and Freedom; and two labor organizations, the Service Employees International Union local 535, and the United Domestic Workers. And the fourteenth was Community Energy Action Network, or CEAN. CEAN is best known for its position against nuclear energy and SDG&E rates and for its advocacy of alternative fuel technologies, but in recent times there seems to have grown up a general merger of those concerns with environmentalism and disarmament. CEAN now seems to be a phone number to ring whenever any reform is contemplated.

At any rate, no other organization picked up the ball for Jobs with Peace week. And CEAN really is just less than a handful of people: Jim Jacobson, Bob Holzman, and Judy Salazar. The first two are paid full time, while Judy Salazar has a half-time, temporary grant to work up a study of the cruise missile program for distribution to other peace groups throughout the United States. “We’re getting a late start on Jobs with Peace,” Jacobson said April 6. “We’re working so many different things and we haven’t got a staff. It’s ridiculous. But there are some things that have to be done. The unions ... if they had it together they’d be doing this. In other cities the unions have paid organizers who are doing some of the work, but here in San Diego we don’t do this sort of thing.”

There was no national formula for events and propaganda set out by the national coalition of organizations that calls itself the Jobs with Peace Network — whatever happened in this state and others was the result of planning by whatever local organization took the challenge. CEAN decided it would help produce audiences and posters for an April 9 seniors’ rally in Balboa Park protesting social security cuts, hold a benefit dance at Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach the following Monday night, picket and leaflet unemployment offices and the Kearny Mesa Convair plant Tuesday and Wednesday, stage a forum with speeches on economic conversion Wednesday, April 13 at Roosevelt Junior High School, leaflet Convair again on the fourteenth, and conclude with the tax-day picket line.

Nearly 200 people paid their way into the Belly-Up at five dollars per head, but on Tuesday, just fourteen showed up to picket two unemployment offices. At the Wednesday night forum, fifty people were in the audience. On Thursday, only Jacobson and Holzman showed up to leaflet Convair on the day before the small turnout in front of the main post office. By any standard, it was a dismal defeat. If each of the fourteen sponsoring organizations had sent just seven people to the Wednesday night forum, there would have been twice as many people in the auditorium at Roosevelt Junior High. On CEAN’s own phone list of the “very active” (people who are called upon to phone another fifteen people known to them as sympathetic and likely to attend an event) there are fifty-five names, more than the number that was at Roosevelt High. Ellen Schmeding, one of CEAN’s “very active,” said of her fifteen contacts, “Almost everybody pledged to attend one of the three major events. Of those who pledged to show up, about one-half did. In my limited experience here, I’ve seen a real poor turnout at every event. I see a lot of the same people at every event.’ ’ There must not be very many peace activists in San Diego.

That may be true. But there are enough to gather more people than were actually gathered. Not enough organizations? There were thirteen who endorsed the week’s activities, some providing manpower for planning, others mailing out leaflets to their members or including mention of the activities in their newsletters. And beyond those organizations lie others that could have been expected to involve themselves, but did not. The Campaign for Economic Democracy, for instance, which might have found the unemployment issue a natural lure, sent two of its local leaders to a CEAN organizing meeting and then never again took part in the planning or events of Jobs with Peace week and did not endorse it. (One of CED’s leaders who did not attend the planning session said, “I don’t want to say it wasn’t well organized, but if I didn’t hear about it . . The CED person who did attend the planning meeting would not return phone calls to explain CED’s position because, according to the CED leader who was ignorant of Jobs with Peace week, “He just didn’t see why, if this is a story about Jobs with Peace, you want to talk with us. CED didn’t have anything to do with it.”)

Organizational jealousy (“I don’t think any of us could live under the same roof,” CEAN’s Bob Holzman said one day), doctrinal considerations (“Unity for the sake of unity is fascism,” said a member of Red and Black Action), a multiplicity of events that tends to overstretch the active (‘ ‘Most activists I know are going to an event or organizing an event every night of the week,” Jacobson said) — all of these to some extent took a lot of the punch out of the week. Then too, for a variety of reasons, there was little help from the major institutions that are traditionally active elsewhere when attempts are made to reform the economy: the Democratic Party and the labor unions. But San Diego itself, itself in general, probably had a lot to do with the failure of Jobs with Peace; hypertranquil, sweet San Diego, where the palms and the sea breezes make pretty what is virtually a military encampment — a stupor market of manana and militarism. That, too, is what CEAN was up against.

Every day in the week prior to Jobs with Peace week, as I mounted the steps to CEAN’s cluttered office on Morena Boulevard near Buenos Avenue — the better to follow CEAN’s preparations for the week to come — under the steps were two reminders of the innocent and unthinking attachment we all have to war and death. Just as I was about to begin the day’s work of monitoring Holzman and Jacobson and others trying to put together a successful war protest, my eyes would be drawn daily to the two blinking, winking, neon-bright attractions whose origins nobody in CEAN could explain — the video games Moon War and Warlord.

Thursday, April 7

For days Jacobson and Holzman knew that CEAN would have to make some headway with organized labor if the planned events for Jobs with Peace were to produce credible crowds. One of the keys in the late going is to get permission from the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council’s secretary-treasurer Joe Francis to use the mailing list of a council subdivision, the Labor Community Coalition. But Francis is proving difficult to reach by phone. CEAN is on speaking terms with Dee Contreras, a local leader of the Service Employees International Union and a member of the coalition, so messages have reached her requesting that she get Francis to answer the phone, but as of yet Contreras has not been heard from. It’s getting late. CEAN wants to mail out some 1000 leaflets to coalition members announcing the coming week’s events, and tomorrow is the last possible opportunity before the events begin to mail and still get the bulk rate from the postal service.

Between calls to Contreras and another labor activist, Holzman is on the phone to some of the fifty-five “very active” members of CEAN. “What Bob is doing is phoning them to tell them to start calling their assigned people to show up at speeches and the forum. And to show up tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. to paint posters,” Jacobson explains.

Minutes later, Mike Buckley shows up to relieve Holzman of the phone calls to the fifty-five “very active.” Holzman tells Buckley what to say. “We need signmakers tomorrow at 4:00 p.m., here. Tell ’em about the Rebel Rockers [the Belly-Up benefit concert] Monday night, and the Tuesday leafletting at 1350 Front [the State Building, where unemployment offices are]. At 3:30 [also Tuesday] we’ve got to have people at Convair.” Buckley interrupts, asking, “How you been doing on this? Because I think by the time I get to what we need on Friday people are going to be overwhelmed.”

“Well, this is an activist list and they won’t have to do much on Wednesday [the night of the forum],” Holzman answers.

Glenys Scott comes in. A New Zealander in town since 1982 and on a long vacation from home, she’s a volunteer and the promoter of the Monday night concert benefit. She’d been out the previous Friday on a short sail of the Pacific Peacemaker, a fifty-foot Australian ketch that last November took part in a blockade of the delivery of components to the manufacturers of the Trident missile in Washington. Excitedly, she says, “We sailed by a carrier. Everyone on deck was so somber. There was a woman standing next to her husband and I saw her start to wave at us and then stop. Then she waved behind his head. At the last moment as we were passing, a sailor waved.”

A call comes in from Channel 39 about the proposed picketing at Convair. The station wants to know if the picketers will also be singing.

Mary Lin Price, a member of Committee Against Registration and the Draft, has arrived after a short break for lunch and takes a call from someone who was supposed to be writing a brochure due for mailing soon. She tells Jacobson that the person has only been collecting information, and thought that Jacobson was supposed to write the brochure. Jacobson rolls his eyes, says nothing. He asks Price if she has ten dollars to buy poster supplies. Another organization has said it will pony up twenty-five dollars as well. “At least I think they agreed,” Jacobson says.

“Well, just make them think they did and it’ll be all right,” Price says.

They both tear into a box of old tempera pots and brushes. “We need some yellow and some orange. You better get a blue and a black, too,” Jacobson says. Holzman resumes calling the fifty-five “very active,” a project that was abandoned by Buckley about twenty minutes after he started it.

Holzman also explains that Contreras, with the labor coalition, has given her okay, but hers is not enough. Francis’s is needed. The list of addresses and names is on the computer of an SDSU professor and member of the coalition, but he won’t do a run without Francis’s okay. The list is absolutely important, Holzman says,

“because we send out announcements to our people all the time and the same people are always showing up. But this time it’ll be different. We can tie labor into it, we’ll be able to reach out.”

“Robert,” Jacobson calls over to Holzman. “What about Dee?” Contreras has not called back.

"I left a message and left a message. Maybe she can’t get through to Francis.”

“I don’t want to give up on this labor council thing. They should be doing this themselves,” Jacobson says.

“Don’t,” Price says. “Keep the pressure up.” They cast around among themselves for names of other friendly laborites who might talk to Francis — Morris Jones, Nick Nichols, others.

CEAN’s office is about ten feet by twenty feet and looks smaller, jammed as it is with file cabinets, piles of peace and energy pamphlets and reports, cubicles housing movement buttons and T-.shirts CEAN sells. Desks line two walls. There are just two phones, one reserved for incoming messages and the other for calls out. Inevitably, someone is in the wrong seat to place an outgoing call, and must reach past another person on the other phone to get the outgoing line. The cords get tangled in chair legs, bodies lean and dodge. An urgent call is made on the incoming-message line, drawing somebody’s admonishment. The two-phone tango.

After Jacobson and Holzman’s salaries are paid (Holzman gets $125 and Jacobson $180 per week), and now the half-time salary of the cruise-missile project coordinator, and after rent and utilities are paid, and after all the fees for printing and mailing, there isn’t any money left in CEAN’s 1982 budget of $50,776.71. The treasury was the result of donations from some 500 people contributing between fifteen and twenty-five dollars each. Another $9300 came from those who gave larger donations. Another $23,000 came from the AGAPE Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising arm of the Abalone Alliance, and CEAN took in $6500 from T-shirt and bumper sticker sales, and the rest of the revenue came from the “miscellaneous,” income as various as the hundred-dollar check that arrived this day in April from a publisher for reprint rights to an article written by Jacobson. It’s the $9300 from the larger donors that Jacobson especially appreciates — “People who just won’t let us die. ”

CEAN gets by on volunteers, but there are fewer of those these days, especially from the student population. “They aren’t the backbone anymore, which is a major change,” Jacobson says. “A lot of students come to us for help on papers and research. We clip three papers every day. They come in, look through our files, we give ’em the brochures, and never see ’em again. We had a couple of students from State who were getting class credit for doing office projects, so they typed letters, stuffed envelopes, did some filing. We get paralegal interns who are a little more serious, from USD Law School.” Holzman interjects that the paralegals are too busy to be able to afford more than the fifteen hours assigned them.

Jacobson makes another call about the coalition mailing list, this time to Rolf Schulze, which ends without any new suggestions on how to reach Francis. He calls Dee Contreras for the third or fourth time, and only gets her answering machine.

Glenys gets a phone call from the band, the Rebel Rockers, informing her that there is going to be a fee after all for what she understood was agreed to be a donated concert.

At 3:30 Jacobson decides to call Francis’s office directly for permission to use the coalition’s mailing list. He gets Francis’s secretary, and spiels for Jobs with Peace before asking her, “Has Dee gotten through to you? She says it’d be okay with her [to use the list].” The secretary replies that it’s not up to Contreras, Jacobson says he knows that, the secretary says she’d try to talk to Francis. Jacobson leaves the CEAN number for a callback with Francis’s permission.

Meanwhile, Glenys, fuming from the bad news about the Rebel Rockers, is all the more aroused after a call to one of the fifty-five “very active.” She spits his name out and says sarcastically, “He’s an anarchist, huh? Which means he doesn’t do anything.”

Jacobson ruminates on the problem of motivating people. “People in San Diego are just not political. In the twelve years I ’ve worked here in political action, it’s been rare when I’ve seen large crowds. The Sasway people got 300 out once, that’s the most you can expect. I don’t know if it’s harder to get ’em to phone or to man picket lines. I’ve never figured it out. The Navy, Republican control of the public offices . . . Maybe people are afraid. I’ve often had people tell me lately, ‘I don’t want to be arrested.’ They don’t seem to understand they have a right to be out there.”

Just before 5:00 p.m. Francis’s secretary calls to tell Jacobson that she’s not sure what list he’s talking about and that she ’ll have to talk to Contreras to know.

Jacobson says he’s going to the Grass Roots Cultural Center tonight to pass out leaflets to people attending a musical performance at that leftist gathering spot in Golden Hill.

Glenys hangs the phone up on another sour call to a “very active” who doesn’t want to picket the tax-day line. “What’s she doing on the active list? She doesn’t want to do anything that isn’t respectable.” The woman on the other end of the line, Gleny says, told her the tax-day picket line is ‘ ‘just stupid, doesn’t make sense at all.”

Bogged down at the end of the day, Holzman and Jacobson decide to search the phone book for the home number of Joe Francis and fail to find it. They look for a Dee Contreras home number in the book and find a Delia, but it’s not Dee Contreras.

Jacobson knows it’s going to be tough to get labor out to the upcoming events, even if he gets permission to use the mailing list, which is looking more and more doubtful. “It’s hard to sell San Diego on a nondefense economy. You have to ensure that people won’t suffer during the transition. You have to assure them they won’t just be retrained but that their economic survival can be guaranteed during the retraining. It’s going to take years. You have to go to Congress and ask that any cuts in defense spending be accompanied by retraining and living allowances.”

Holzman says, “It’s going to happen, and we have to plan for it.” Jacobson says, “We’d like to see Convair build trolley cars, for instance . We go to West Germany to buy trolley cars! We don’t have to do that."

Friday, April 8

Overnight Jacobson has reached Morris Jones, of the San Diego Federation of Teachers, who promised to reach Francis. By the morning, Jones has called with a message on the long-sought Labor Community Coalition list. “Go ahead and use it. We support what you’re doing.”

In CEAN’s offices later, talk is addressed to the following day’s rally of seniors in Balboa Park protesting social security cuts, at which Jacobson is supposed to speak. The organizers of that rally want CEAN on the program as a demonstration of seniors’ concern for the young. “Are we going to say radical things?” Glenys asks Jacobson, who has been made aware of the seniors’ preference for a temperate, short statement about the damage done to youthful hopes by federal social policies.

“I can’t,” Jacobson says. “The ‘Bread Not Bombs’ banner will not fly. At first they didn’t want me to address the issue of military funding cutting into Social Security, but they said okay, you can talk about it.”

I asked Jacobson about what kind of help he’s been getting from Democratic Party figures who have been active in the past against defense policies. He explains that Evonne Schulze can’t spare any time because she’s busy running Roger Hedgecock’s precinct canvassing. Floyd Morrow lets CEAN have his Abraxas alternative school for organizing meetings free of charge, but Morrow’s busy trying to put together a lawyers group to help defend those who are expected to be arrested in a June 20 act of civil disobedience in town here, and a rally preceding it on June 19. Phil Connor, Jacobson says, is preoccupied with elections and Democratic fundraising in his role as Democratic Party Central Committee chairman. COPE, the AF of L’s Committee on Political Education, is also election-minded and not peace oriented.

Joe Stern, a hard-working organizer of the elderly, comes in, apparently to prime Jacobson on what he should say in the short time allotted him in the coming day’s seniors rally. A long hassle ensues, with Stem insisting that CEAN speak for youth. “But this is a peace organization,’’ Jacobson protests.

“I know. Youth and survival. Slant it toward youth. Youth who are entering the job market and youth who are about to.”

“We’re not youth. We don’t represent youth.”

“You don’t understand. They [seniors organizers] wanted to get a college student. So I said I’d get a speaker. What I want is jobs and peace, but from the youth perspective.”

Someone comes in with poster materials that need unloading and Jacobson escapes Stem’s persistent instructions. Stem tells Holzman that for the most part labor has washed its hands of tomorrow’s rally and that only Dee Contreras and Morris Jones are speaking there. ‘ ‘[Joe] Francis sees no use for this kind of thing. He sees activism as working behind the scenes with elected officials.”

Glenys has just received in the mail the Rebel Rockers’ conditions. They want twenty dollars in gas money for each of the six cars they are driving down from Laguna Beach to the Belly-Up, sixty-five dollars for a van they are renting, and ten dollars for the ten people comprising the band and its roadies, plus CEAN is to supply two six-packs of Corona, two six-packs of Beck’s and fifteen tuna or chicken sandwiches for backstage. CEAN has to agree to the $300 expense, it being too late to find another band.

Mary Lin Price answers a call from a member of the Committee Against Registration and the Draft, requesting that CEAN chip in thirty dollars to fund a mailer announcing a federal court decision in the matter of the administration’s attempt to tie student aid to a requirement that students register for the draft. Price promises that CEAN people will pass the hat for the thirty dollars at an upcoming meeting.

Jacobson leaves to take care of the mailing of some 1000 or more brochures and leaflets to those on the prized Labor Community Coalition mailing list.

At 4:00 p.m., when sign painting was supposed to begin, only two people have arrived to help out. Also, the seniors have yet to send over a list of slogans they want painted for the rally. At 4:50 two more sign painters arrive, and so do the slogans from the seniors, which include: “Save our Pensions,” “No Increase in the Retirement Age,’ ’ and ‘ ‘Hands Off Social Security.’ ’ It is not a list of slogans that has a lot to do with CEAN’s jobs-and-peace mission, and some of the slogans are too long for visual impact. The sign painters are a bit disgruntled, and throw in a few of their own slogans: ‘U.S. Out of Central America,” “No Draft, No War,” “Tax the Rich,” “No War Taxes.”

One of the sign painters is from Red and Black Action, an entity nobody has seemed eager or able to define. “It grew out of the old Committee Against the New Right,” says the youthful blonde member, also explaining that Red and Black Action involves people who put out UCSD’s left alternative paper, the New Indicator. “We realized that simply to be against the New Right amounted to being in favor of the Democrats. So we had to figure out what we were for. What do you want after Reagan? Not the Democrats.”

Saturday, April 9

The lawn at Sixth and Laurel in Balboa Park is stage for some 125, all but about twenty of them elderly. Somehow, between yesterday evening and today, more signs, more pertinent to the day’s theme, have materialized: “Social Security Isn’t Bankrupt, Reaganomics Is,’’ “Social Security Cut Lately? Thank the Arms Race,” “If You Think the System Is Working, Ask Someone Who Isn’t.” Banners are flying, identifying the groups who have come: the National Council of Senior Citizens, National Women’s Political Caucus, Colina del Sol Senior Citizens Club, the Silvergate Retirement Club, the Gray Panthers.

Maureen O’Connor has a table up for her literature and both she and Roger Hedgecock are on hand for introductions to the crowd; they both leave shortly after the two-minute speeches begin. Lenore Lowe, San Diego chapter president of the National Organization for Women, takes her turn at the microphone, and so does Lucille Moore, former county supervisor and now leader of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Arthur Deutsch of the Gray Panthers in his speech says, “People are not yet angry enough. But on the other end, the young are angry, and the government finds it convenient to attempt to direct that anger at us, to keep us divided.” Merkel Harris, of the local Welfare Rights Organization, and Celia Ballestreros and Dee Contreras make their brief presentations. Jess Haro, former city councilman and now leader of the Chicano Federation, says, “This is more a rally about equity, fair housing and jobs and all the things that we, in a progressive society, have come to expect. ...” The only labor representative other than Contreras to speak is

Morris Jones, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Federation of Teachers, the man who got to Francis for the Labor Community Coalition list, and only he and Jacobson mention arms spending.

After the speeches, Jones explains why labor in San Diego won’t immediately support the Jobs with Peace program. “When you get into the Labor Council, you have people concerned first with jobs, and defense is the breadbasket here. So they tend to go right down the middle politically. The machinists and the UAW have some Convair units here, so they don’t support Jobs with Peace. When everybody converts to more nondefense industries, they’ll say fine, but not until then. Take Wimpisinger [the president of the IAM], who favored the nuclear freeze. He has a lot of trouble with his rank and file over that.”

Dee Contreras is sympathetic to Jobs with Peace but thinks that at the very moment when unemployment is high, the politics of labor is stacked against the idea. ‘‘Everybody I know is involved in negotiating for their very working lives. The public service workers are taking cuts, companies are opening contracts to renegotiate wage cuts. And then, the kind of changes they [Jobs with Peace organizers] are talking about aren’t based on what happens in the field here, but in Washington. I’m not sure that if millions marched in the street that Reagan would change his commitment. Labor is looking to its international presidents to influence Washington politics.

“Look, this local [labor] community sees itself as defense-based. It’ll take a lot of education to convince it that there are more union jobs in nonweapons industries than are in defense industries. I grew up in San Diego. I remember the 1957 aerospace recession. People who worked a very long time at Rohr got laid off.”

Jobs with Peace missed making contact with some element of labor that might have helped out. Thomas Vandeveld, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers local 1222, says he wasn’t made aware of any of the events. ‘ ‘I don’t recall being contacted, but then I’ve been awfully busy lately, and hard to contact. Sure, I think we’d have supported it. We have a lot of younger people and their natural instincts are toward peaceful existence.” Vandeveld points out that the heavier industrial trade unions are losing members, and that these are the areas that have traditionally supported big defense budgets. “In fact, our local is the largest in San Diego County, some 10,000. That General Dynamics [advanced cruise missile] contract that was just announced doesn’t translate to a lot of rank-and-file jobs, for instance, so it may be that labor will start seeing that the defense industry isn’t everything. It’s already happening. When President Reagan announced he wanted a ten percent increase in defense spending, the AFL-CIO took a position supporting five percent, so there’s a difference. ”

One local labor official didn’t want to be quoted criticizing the local organizers of Jobs with Peace for failing to reach out to the rank and file.

"They ’re going to have to get to know us. One of the things they have to do is buy into this system, show up at meetings and make their pitch. And also, convince us that they’re not Communists."

That may be hard to do. “Unfortunately, the word ‘peace’ is a negative buzz word in labor,’ ’ says Larry Frank, a union official in Los Angeles who managed to get sixty-five area labor union locals to endorse the nuclear freeze initiative and was instrumental in gathering labor support for Jobs with Peace in that area this year. “There’s more red-baiting taking place in unions than anywhere else. What they’ve got to do in San Diego is find the progressive network in the unions, it exists everywhere, and go there first. You can’t just appeal at first to union leaders across the board. Make one wrong move and you get stopped.”

When it was all over. Jobs with Peace organizers from throughout the state met early in May in a San Francisco church for a post-mortem. It was clear that organizers in the other large cities enjoyed more help from labor and the Democratic Party and enjoyed a bit more success than did CEAN. In San Francisco, where labor is liberal and strong and so is the Democratic Party, fifteen trade union officials and a representative of the Central Labor Council endorsed Jobs with Peace, and San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt gave the speech at a union hall meeting of 200 people. Two hundred people at a mock court in Oakland “tried” the Reagan budget, with the chairman of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors presiding; 250 people attended a Marin County rally; 300 people in Long Beach went to a "Soup Kitchen and Bread Line” picnic. In Los Angeles, forty or more organizations sponsored or endorsed the week, including at least five union locals, some of whom assigned organizers whose time was paid for by the unions. The Los Angeles organizers set up a ‘ ‘peoples ’ budget hearing ” in Patriotic Hall; the hearing drew 350 people, the only crowd significantly larger than that in the Belly-Up for CEAN’s new-wave benefit concert.

It was then Jacobson’s turn. He said “We got two labor unions to support us, we leafletted Convair . . . forum attendance was very poor . . . there was some human billboarding at a tax-day protest . . . 30,000 leaflets were either mailed or handed out. We got no interviews from television or the press, even though they showed up to cover the tax turn-in. The media is like an Iron Curtain down there.” And maybe it is. For the month preceding and following Jobs with Peace week here, Jacobson kept track of the newspapers for any stories or pictures that had to do with the events and found just three — all of them wire-service stories from Washington, D.C., that were printed in the Oceanside Blade-Tribune. What made the front-page headline in the San Diego Tribune on April 15, the day of CEAN’s protest at the main post office, was the announcement of General Dynamics-Convair’s new cruise missile contract, a story that disclosed no dollar amount but which promised San Diego an additional 1000 jobs over the life of the contract.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Sign in to comment