United Electrical Workers Local 104.1

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There was a meeting at Charles Laquidara’s apartment in Cambridge. I started to walk there from Danny’s place on Norfolk Street, down Cambridge Street past the Inn Square Men’s Bar, then up Beacon Street in Somerville, past the original Legal Seafood. By the time I reached the rear of Cambridge Hospital I realized I was going to be late, so I stuck my thumb out and got a ride up to Porter Square, and walked a short distance to Charles’s pad in North Cambridge.

We were going to vote on the Union – not the official, National Labor Relations Board election, that would come later. We were going to talk about the Union and determine if we had a majority, or not. The United Electrical Workers organizer, Bill Murdoch, would not be there. This meeting was for staff only.

It was June, 1971. The NLRB election was scheduled in two weeks. The United Electrical Workers organizer Bill Murdoch had given Danny and me the NLRB cards, and as soon as we got 40% of the bargaining unit staff to sign cards Bill went to the NLRB and scheduled the elections.

Arnie Ginsburg had cornered me in the shop a few days earlier. “What is this UE union”, he asked. “why don’t you get a real union? This union is for people who make toasters. I was in the engineer’s union, the IBEW.” Woo-Woo knew very well why we had not chosen the IBEW – it only represented technicians. AFTRA would only represent air talent. We needed a union that would represent everybody: the DJ’s, salesmen, technicians (me), Carla the receptionist/scheduler and Meryl the bookeeper.

But would we win an election? There were eighteen eligible bargaining unit members and we needed a majority. We knew we had nine votes: Danny, me, Charles, Jim Parry, John Brody, Debbie Ullman, Kenny Greenblatt, Tim Montgomery and Carla Epple. We believed that Andy Beaubien, Tom Hadges and Meryl were “no” votes. ( Tommy and Andy went on to have long, successful careers as executives in the radio business. They were deeply involved in and committed to their work, and had shown no interest in our union activities. )

How would Maxanne Sartori vote? Max, like Tommy and Andy was a thorough professional, a perfectionist with few interests outside the music world. She had not signed the NLRB card. Whenever I suggested she join me in the latest anti-war demonstration or protest she gave me that arch “are you crazy?” look. It was not her thing.

We crowded into Charles’s delightful, small apartment. There were about ten of us. Four of us sat on the bed. Max was there. Danny began by reviewing what the union was, what we hoped it would accomplish, and what it could not. We could bargain for wages, hours and working conditions, and even construing “working conditions” broadly would not allow us to prevent Woo-Woo and T. Mitch from imposing a playlist. But we would gain protection against arbitrary firings, and we could expect higher pay.

When Danny finished we went around the room, each of us explaining how we were going to vote, and why. When it was Max’s turn, she stood up, smoothed her blond mane and said, “I’m going to vote for the union, of course”.

I felt great. I knew we were going to win. I didn’t hang around at Charles’s – it was too crowded and hot, and I had to get ready to move, as my new place on Franklin Street was ready and I had to get out of Danny’s. I tried to keep to the shade on the streets of Somerville.

Maxanne Sartori Copyright 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

Charles Laquidara and Carla Epple Copyright (c) 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

John Brody Copyright (c) 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

Jim Parry and Lois (L) Copyright 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

Bill Murdoch and Kenny Greenblatt Copyright (c) 1971, 2010 William J. Spurlin

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