Today, based on the war economy and the unions, some people make a few dollars, and the feeling, the atmosphere is different. Labor's respectable now, it's status quo. If you fight against these guys, you're labeled. Fear. A lot of fellas want to know how come George Meany don't walk together with Martin Luther King, you know, in these demonstrations. We evade the question. (Laughs.)
There was a meeting downtown where all the business agents were, labor leaders. I thought they were gonna pull Mayor Daley's pants down and kiss him. These guys go overboard. And they were raising a question of why we wasn't organizin' more. Why there wasn't more than five Negroes out of two, three hundred guys! So I finally got up enough courage to get the floor. (Laughs.)
So I told 'em, "Looking around the room here, you guys got all diamond rings, manicures." Honest, I didn't know Bill Lee* had a telephone in his Mark IV, air-conditioned, chauffeur, everything. (Laughs.) And I said, "The image of so-called labor leaders is not what it was in the old days. Now you can't tell 'em from a businessman." So they accepted the criticism.
* Bill Lee was the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor at the time.