Interview with Russell Pisle, Sr.
Interview with Russell Pisle, Sr.
Interview Date: December 16, 1992

Camera Rolls: 315:24-28
Sound Rolls: 315:14-16
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Russell Pisle, Sr. , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 16, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

*
INTERVIEW
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
[camera roll 315:24] [sound roll 315:14] [slate marker visible on screen]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

OK, you told me that you started at Republic Steel on November 5, 1935 as a safety representative. What were some of the safety and health problems that you saw in the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I started as a safety supervisor and fire marshal. And the problems in the plant was to reduce accidents through the employees and prevent fires occurring in the plant.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

What kind of accidents occurred?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, some were deaths, some were total permanent disabilities, some were membership—

INTERVIEWER:

Actually, not, not what were the injuries, but what were the kind of accidents? Were there explosions, were there fires, were there, the people cut off, you know, lose [sic] fingers or hands or anything like that?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No, it was due to the fact that they, the employee, did not understand his, his working habits.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

But what was dangerous about working in a steel mill?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Not anymore dangerous than driving an automobile. It was all a basis of what the judgment of the individual was.

INTERVIEWER:

Right, but weren't the conditions—it was hot, there was this really hot molten steel that it was...

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, that, that had its part in, in safety, but not a prominent part.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

OK, do you remember when you first came into, into the mill, were you impressed by the size? Like, was it hot there? Was it noisy? What do you remember about being inside the mill?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, it was a, a reproduction of what I had had for the past five years when I worked for Pressed Steel Car Company and took care of the injured people and took care of the x-rays, and got acquainted with the employees.

INTERVIEWER:

You told me it was so noisy that when you had to talk to people you had to yell, right?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, a steel mill was not normally louder and more noise than actually driving an automobile.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

OK. When you first—can you tell me about Tom Girdler? What do you remember about him? How did he impress you?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never met Tom Girdler, but everything I had ever heard about him was always aggressive - friendly and progressive - always. Well, he, he wanted you to stay and be a friend of the employee.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

Tom Girdler had a reputation both as being a strong manager, but also somebody that really didn't want to have any unions inside Republic Steel. Do you remember about that?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That never occurred to me.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Could we cut? I'm getting a refrigerator sound back here. One second.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

But I want to ask you again when we go back about, you know, Tom Girdler. Didn't...you had some impressions about him, right, even though you didn't know him? Oh well, let's wait until we get back on the camera. Because when we read about Girdler at that time period, he's considered one of the steel managers, one of the owners that really felt like a steel company should be run without, without a union.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never got that impression.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 8
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

So I'm going to ask you again to tell me what you thought about Girdler, but don't tell me you don't, well, without telling me that you don't know him personally, what was your...OK, we'll wait.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me what was your impression of, of Tom Girdler?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Always good.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me how Girdler was? Tell me more like a story about him? What was something that, a way that you would describe him?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well,[laughs] I never knew him, and everything I heard about him was good, and he was aggressive enough to want a good, safe, operated plant.

INTERVIEWER:

Was he the kind of man that knew what he wanted to do and would stop at nothing to get it done?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I understood that was his opinion and idea.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can you, instead of saying "he has", can you say "Tom Girdler's idea"? What was Tom Girdler's idea?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

[coughs] As far as I was concerned was to get better acquainted with the employees and prevent accidents.

INTERVIEWER:

Did you consider, was Tom Girdler considered one of the main leaders in the steel industry?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That, I cannot say.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

When you first came to Republic Steel, there was an employee representation plan, the ERP. Do you, can you tell me what that was supposed to accomplish? Why did you have an ERP?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never was involved in the Employee Representation Plan. They operated independent of the operation that I had.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

What was your—but later you became, you represented management on the ERP, right? You were, you were an assistant to the manager?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, that did not occur during the thirties.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

Oh, OK. Could you observe the ERP? Did you, you know the men that you, that were there, did they join, were they, did they feel that that was a way to address grievances?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

They always seemed to have a good friendly attitude and got along well with the company. That is the Chicago District.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

OK. I want to ask you about Franklin Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt. I know that you at, at that time had some opinions about him. What did you think about Franklin D. Roosevelt?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

[laughs] I never had a good impression of him.

INTERVIEWER:

You never had a good impression of who?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his wife.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can you start from the beginning again? Tell me, refer to Mr. Roosevelt when you're telling me about him.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, as far as I'm concerned in Roosevelt, when he was governor of New York, he did a lousy job and wasn't entitled to be President of the United States as far as I was concerned.

INTERVIEWER:

Why did you think he was not a good president?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because of his operation in New York and how he handled the situation in his areas of politics.

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QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

Politically where did you, what did you, where, in what area and particularly in the area like of dealing with the steel industry or labor relations, what did you think about Roosevelt's policies?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I didn't think very much of his policies because if you will remember he recommended that we get away from the Prohibition and set it aside, and we would improve our crime and conditions. The employment situation at the time of his being president was approximately twenty-six percent of unemployment. And he inaugurated the, what is the name of the...employ—[laughs]—they hired to put people out in camps to utilize them—

INTERVIEWER:

The CCC camps.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Yes. CC camp.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

But you had a different political perspective. What was, why, what did you disagree with in terms of his political perspective about being involved? Did you think that, thought that Roosevelt was getting the government too involved in, in people's lives?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't, I didn't consider that as an issue.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, but in 193—who did you vote for in 1936? Do you remember?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Him.

INTERVIEWER:

That was a long time ago.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Yeah, I, I'm trying to think of, was it Dewey or Al Smith? No, Al Smith was in competition with...

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

All right. OK, but what—I mean, I'd like to understand a little bit more about why you disagreed with Roosevelt. You know, what your own political perspective was that was different than Roosevelt.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I would say party difference.

INTERVIEWER:

And what does that mean?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, the, at that time there were more conservatives, in my opinion, in the Republican Party than there were in the Democratic Party.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

OK, and what did it mean to be a conservative?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Hmm?

INTERVIEWER:

What did it mean to be a conservative?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, create jobs for the people and handle their problems.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

Can we stop for a minute? Again, when you think about the time period, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a very popular President. Everybody liked him. Everybody agreed with him. Well, there's people like you who didn't agree with him, and I'd like for us to understand what your disagreement was.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, now begin.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As, as far as Herbert Hoover was concerned, he belittled Herbert Hoover on the basis of the unemployment situation as I remember it, and was wanting to get rid of Prohibition and make certain other basic changes in our way of life.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

What were the kind of changes in your way of life that Roosevelt wanted to make?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The one that annoyed me more than any was Social Security.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. What about the, the Wagner Act or the National Labor Relations Board? Did that...?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That, of course, was one of the objectives that he had.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, what did you feel about that?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That it was unnecessary, and that we could get along without it.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Can I ask you to repeat that and instead of saying it was unnecessary, can you say that the National Labor Relations Board or that the Wagner Act was unnecessary? Can you say that that's what you believed? Can you tell me that again?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

We have to change the film now.

[change to camera roll 315:25]
INTERVIEWER:

So, if I can ask you again, what were some of your philosophical differences with Roosevelt?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

He wanted more government in the lives of people than I wanted to see happen.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

OK. When you said about, you, you were concerned about the National Labor Relations Board, why did you think it was unnecessary?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because they had ways of getting along together without having arbitration, and some of the problems that the National Labor Relations Board created.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

So did you feel the National Labor Relations Board was interfering in the relationship between management and labor?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I'm not in a position to answer that.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so you didn't have an opinion on that at that time.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 30
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Let's go, let's kind of jump up to the time in, in '37. I want to bring you up to the point that you, that you talked about to me earlier when you heard that U.S. Steel had agreed to recognize the union, and many people who worked in other parts of the steel industry were very concerned about that. Do you remember what happened with that, what your reaction was? This is in 1937.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I, I don't recall the actual date, but this took place when there was an agreement supposedly between Roosevelt and the chairman of the board of U.S. Steel that made it possible for the United Steelworkers, which was then the CIO, against the mine workers, what's his name?

INTERVIEWER:

John L. Lewis

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

John L. Lewis.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 31
INTERVIEWER:

Well, was it a surprise that U.S. Steel agreed to bargain with the union?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

In my opinion, yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me, tell me—

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I didn't see the conditions that were being set up as being factual.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you explain a little bit more?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, there seemed to be a fairly good relationship between labor and management, in my opinion, and in my work.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 32
INTERVIEWER:

And so when U.S. Steel agreed to recognize the union, what happened? How did that affect the other steel plants?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, the opposition, of course, was interested in getting a contract with the company. And in May of 1937 they created a march on the South Chicago plant.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, and why did, why did they decide to march?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

'Cause they wanted recognition, and a signed contract from the Republic Steel.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 33
INTERVIEWER:

OK, now, were these, so these were union, these were workers who worked at Republic Steel that decided to march for union recognition?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I couldn't answer that. The group was so great, and the, the comments were that they'd created all kinds of people that were interested in promoting unionism, as I understood it.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 34
INTERVIEWER:

OK. So let's, OK, so people are talking about having a march. Is there a—at that point, is there a strike against Republic Steel?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

There was a picket line prior to that before the plan, and the employees would go and come to work as usual through the picket line.

INTERVIEWER:

So there was a picket line, but it didn't stop anybody from coming through?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I didn't say that. I don't know, but it would seem that it had some effect, but not enough to put the, create the plant to shut down.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 35
INTERVIEWER:

When you knew that there was going to be a picket line, did you know this in advance? Was there any meetings inside the plant? Did anybody in management talk to you and say, "The union is going to go on strike. There may be some, there may be a picket line. There may be some kind of difficulty"?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Anything I got on that was purely a pick-up because my work was safety and fire prevention.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 36
INTERVIEWER:

So were you surprised when you went to work that day and saw picket lines?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No.

INTERVIEWER:

Why not?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because I wasn't in favor of the union.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 37
INTERVIEWER:

And why were you not in favor of the union?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because I felt management and labor were doing very well at my type of work.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 38
INTERVIEWER:

Why do you think that some of the workers at Republic Steel then wanted to set up a picket line and wanted a union?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I couldn't answer that. I don't know.

INTERVIEWER:

None of the guys talked about it at, at work, or you didn't...nobody came up to you and said, "This is what I think"?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 39
INTERVIEWER:

OK. OK, when the strike began, OK, you came to work one day, and you saw a picket line, right? When you went in and you went through the picket line and when you went into work, was there a buzz? Were people talking about, "What should we do? Is the plant going to stay open," you know, "should we continue working?" Was there any, you know, what was the atmosphere inside the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I really don't remember.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. You don't remember anything that you felt or that people talked about?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 40
INTERVIEWER:

You tell me that people, that there were cops set up inside so that when people...were they preparing for kind of a long strike, the fact that men may have to sleep inside the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Yes, that was provided.

INTERVIEWER:

Ah, was there food that was brought in so you could have your meals inside the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't even remember that.

INTERVIEWER:

But you do remember the cops being brought in, right?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I remember that the company used to provide comfort for employees that were wanting to stay in the plant.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 41
INTERVIEWER:

OK, did do you have any idea how widespread support was to stay in the plant? Did a lot of the guys want to stay in or did a lot of them want to go on strike?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't remember. It didn't affect me in my work at that time.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 42
INTERVIEWER:

OK, but overall you told me that, that at the last time I talked to you, you said that you thought that most of the men didn't want to go on strike. Most of the men wanted to continue working.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The attitude as I understood it was that there was more pro-union opinions among the employees of South Chicago plant than there was anti.

INTERVIEWER:

So there was more of the people that actually wanted to wanted to have a union?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, they were members of the Employee Representation Plan and were getting along very well with the company.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so can I just turn this off for a second? Do you mean that there were more people that were against—

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, in your opinion, were most of the—tell me, what was the feelings about the employees, either for or being, you know, against the union?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The employees, in my opinion, were more content at my knowing of the Employee Representation Plan than wanting to get involved between the CIO and the United Steel, United Mine Workers. [coughs]

INTERVIEWER:

Can you try that again, 'cause you coughed at the end of it. And it was not actually United Mine Workers. So let's tell me again, in your opinion...?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't remember.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, just what you told me before, but you coughed at the end of it, so I wanted you just to tell me it again. You were saying that in your opinion there were more people, more of the workers were in favor of the Employee Representation.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That's right.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can you tell me that again?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, more of the people were, in my opinion, satisfied with the Employee Representation Plan.

INTERVIEWER:

And what did that mean?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, they weren't interested in getting involved with the United Steel Workers and the United Mine Workers.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 43
INTERVIEWER:

And why didn't they want to get involved with this other union, with the CIO?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, it wasn't the United, United Steel Workers then, it was the CIO.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 44
INTERVIEWER:

What did the CIO represent to people? What did, what did people think it, what do you think it was?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 45
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Did you have any image of the, of what the CIO was?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, all I can remember is there was quite a bit of conflict going between the government, the CIO and the United Mine Workers. And my opinion of the United Mine Workers making the first political campaign donation to the political organization.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, great.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 46
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 315:26] [change to sound roll 315:15]
INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me, I'd, you know, I'd like to ask you this again. Can you tell me, you know, about that, about the ERPs working well and then what happened?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, as far as I can remember, and, actually covering the Chicago District, because I can't talk for the Republic Steel as a whole, the relationship at South Chicago, in my opinion, was good with the United, with the Employee Representation Plan, and it was always felt that there was about sixty-five percent, anti, or sixty-five percent pro-company, and the balance were agitators and wanted a union. And from that there developed problems of setting up picket lines and doing things that the minor group wanted to do at the South Chicago plant.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 47
INTERVIEWER:

OK. What was, what did the agitators try to do?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, they set up a, a Memorial Day, they set up a parade of marching upon the plant. And in that march the city police were in and protecting the property
** and protecting the rights of all concerned, in my opinion. And from that came, as you will note in the , a, a very disastrous situation.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you describe that to me?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Hmm?

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me about what happened? Tell me what happened.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, the observation that I could make at that time was that the parade consisted of women and children in the front of the march, and the, backed up by men in the back. And as I remember and observed, they, when the Chief of Police asked them to break up and cut out their march, they, there was some shooting started from the back of the line and injured some of the police officers when the Captain of the Police ordered to, to open fire. And a number of people were killed and injured. That's covered in the .

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 48
INTERVIEWER:

So what you observed and what you saw was this march of people coming and the police, again coming, and the Police Chief said, "Stop!"? Is that what happened? The Police Chief told them to stop and go back?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The Chief of Police asked that they break up their march and assembly.

INTERVIEWER:

And they refused?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, then someone started from the rear of the, and started shooting.

INTERVIEWER:

And then what happened? Was it chaos?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, [laughs] the Captain ordered the police to open fire, and that's when a number of people were injured and killed, as covered by the .

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

And other papers.

INTERVIEWER:

Was this frightening to you that this was happening?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Was what?

INTERVIEWER:

Was, was this, was this frightening to you that this would happen?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I think my curiosity was more at, at the point of view to see what would happen. And I did see.

INTERVIEWER:

So, where were you at this point that you were able to see this?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I was on the company property and watching it from that area, and this is where it took place. They, where they took place was out on the field opposite the company plant.

INTERVIEWER:

So from, from what you saw, you could watch the people coming, walking toward you?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Oh, yes.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 49
INTERVIEWER:

Why would they have had women and children in the front of the line?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know. There was rumors around that it was a communist movement oriented.
** But whether that's true or not I don't know.

INTERVIEWER:

Were you expecting this kind of violence to occur that day?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 50
INTERVIEWER:

What were you expecting to happen when you were watching out there?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I thought when they had completed their march up to the police line that they would be satisfied and, and break up and carry through, because I understood that the police had broke up what the union and others had set up in the march, a first aid station, and they took over. The police took over the first aid stations.

INTERVIEWER:

Why?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because they didn't feel that that was serving the proper situation, and they handled it themselves.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 51
INTERVIEWER:

Was it, were the police, did the police normally guard the Republic Steel plant, or did they come particularly because of this march?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The, as I understand it, the police was protecting the property of the South Chicago plant.
**

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 52
INTERVIEWER:

So when you went to work, and they're protecting the property because they felt that the marchers would come in and invade into the, the plant, or they would come in and, and try to disrupt something in the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

INTERVIEWER:

But when you went to work every day, there were no police, right? I mean, was it, was it normal that the police were there in front of the plant, or was it just for this, for this occasion?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

With the picket line set up, my observation going back and forth, there were occasional police around.

INTERVIEWER:

To prevent scuffles, to prevent outbreaks?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, they didn't want anybody to get assaulted trying to go through the picket line, in my opinion.

INTERVIEWER:

And were people, were people assaulted trying to go through?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Not that I know of.

INTERVIEWER:

Would people yell or anything if you tried to go through?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 53
INTERVIEWER:

So you were able to go through the picket line pretty easily, go to work, do your work, and come home?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never had any difficulty.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

I'm getting a flame over the—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER #2

Let's stop. Let's stop.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, OK.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 54
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Before this march happened, did you, were there union organizers in the plant trying to pass out literature, wearing union buttons, or anything like that?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never observed any such movement, no.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 55
INTERVIEWER:

Do you know how people got information about the union then?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

What?

INTERVIEWER:

Do you know how people got information about the union, how the workers heard about the union, or how they know about this?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 56
INTERVIEWER:

OK. When the picket lines first were set up, did, tell me about that. Was it, what was it like to see that? I mean, it was different than what you, what, what happened every day, right?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As my memory serves me, it didn't make that much difference to me, nor some of the people in the plant. They went, come and go, just as they wanted to.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 57
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Did it make it harder for people to get the job done because there were men that were on strike and not working?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 58
INTERVIEWER:

OK. What did you feel about unions at that time? What was your own opinion about unions?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I have always been an anti-union individual [laughs].

INTERVIEWER:

Why's that? What, what don't you like about unions?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, when I was going to school, I was on the boat from River, from Chicago, Buffalo, New York to Detroit, and I was a linen clerk on those summer cruises. And for three years I was on it and never had any problem until suddenly at the end of three years the steward that was riding on the boat collared me and said I owed them three hundred and some odd dollars for union dues. I stopped by the company in Detroit on that basis, and he said, why as I remember, they said, "Avoid the union on the return trip. We only got one more trip to make, and just don't get on the boat."

INTERVIEWER:

So you felt that, so from your experience, you felt the union...

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, the cost, the, the, what, what we were getting in money for, that certainly didn't warrant my paying them three-hundred and some odd dollars.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 59
INTERVIEWER:

But what you, from what you observed at Republic Steel, you felt that the union was unnecessary, that they were trying to interfere?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That never entered my mind one way or another because my interest was only in fire prevention and safety.

INTERVIEWER:

But you said you had opinions about, you were anti-union, so what was your, did you have any concerns about what would happen if the union came in?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That never affected me one way or another.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 60
INTERVIEWER:

You had, but what, what was, when you heard the U. S. Steel agreed to, to-

[audio only]
INTERVIEWER:

-to bargain with the union, can you tell me the story of how things changed?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, this, that was more of a point of interest then of the conflict between the United Steel Workers, or the CIO, and the United Mine Workers.

INTERVIEWER:

But did you-

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

-they were, both of them, bidding for the steel mill contracts as I remember it.

INTERVIEWER:

Can we stop and just kind of clarify  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 315:27]
INTERVIEWER:

All right, think we're ready to start again. Where we left off was talking about what you felt about unions. What, what, what was your, what did you feel about whether they were necessary or unnecessary?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As far as I'm concerned, I felt that every, everybody had the right to judge for themselves one way or another. And if they were so inclined, that was their opinion and not mine.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, I need you to tell me that again and use the word "union", that you thought everybody had their own...or what didn't you like about unions because you, you had said that you felt that—tell me what you didn't like about the way unions acted.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, actually being a young kid at the time that you're talking about, and my trying to make a living, really didn't concern me to that extent. I felt people could do as they wanted to do, and I could do as I wanted to do, and I never was pressured one or another, other than the incident that I told you when I was going to school.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 61
INTERVIEWER:

Yeah, but you had, you had an opinion, you didn't particularly like unions then, right?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't think I had an opinion so much as I felt that it was the right of people to do what they wanted to do, but I thought there should be certain justices in the way they handled the situation.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 62
INTERVIEWER:

And did you feel that unions forced people to do things they didn't want to do?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

At times I had an opinion on that based on the way they acted, and the way the public was being advised, and what was going on.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you explain that a little bit more?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, if you remember, of course, people were influenced a great deal by paper, newspapers and so on. And you could get both the pro and the con in the newspapers. And it really never bothered me one way or another.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 63
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Then you were pretty management oriented, right, in your job?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, no, I go on to say that I was trying to make a living. I always felt this way. I got married in 1924, and I had kind of rough going until I got the job at Republic Steel. And I always felt that if I made $5000 a year, I'd be satisfied. When I made five, I'd be satisfied if I made ten. When I made ten, I wanted to make twenty. When I made twenty I wanted to go further, and I retired at—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, let's stop for a second.

INTERVIEWER:

Yeah.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER #2

That's not important.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 64
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, so tell me what you just...

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

[laughs] What do you want to know now?

INTERVIEWER:

Tell, tell me about how you thought things should work?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I always felt that everybody should have a fair shake at the way they operated in life.

INTERVIEWER:

And did you feel that unions interfered in that? Or did you, did you feel that unions were, that you didn't need a union in order to happen?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't think I ever had an opinion of that one way or another.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 65
INTERVIEWER:

What did you feel about people in the company?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I got along very well with them. I had my differences, and a couple of times I was on thin ice, but worked out of it. And it's just like in married life, if you want to fight about something, you can get a divorce.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 66
INTERVIEWER:

You said at one point that there was some outside, there's some agitators inside. Did they make it more difficult?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, I have never really had any experience with that type of individual.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Let's stop again. Let's stop again.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 67
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, tell us about FDR.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

[laughs] Well, I really never judged him too much other than the fact that I watched him and his politics in New York, and being a young fellow, I disagreed with him in a number of his policies of, of wanting to get everything done, and I was interested in benefit for the people in general, and not individuals and not setting up bureaucrats in government.

INTERVIEWER:

Did you feel he was trying to get too much government in?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, he represented that as far as I was concerned.

INTERVIEWER:

Represented what?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Too much bureaucrat [sic] in, in government.

INTERVIEWER:

So your feeling was-

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

-and he, he, better be careful. I could talk about his health.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

FDR.

INTERVIEWER:

Yeah, tell us about just his beliefs, what you—OK, I'm sorry.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

You felt FDR, using the term FDR, wanted too much government?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Yes. FDR wanted too much government for the people, which the present time proves that.

INTERVIEWER:

Let's try it one more time. What did FDR want?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

FDR, in my opinion, wanted too much of bureaucratic control in government.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 68
INTERVIEWER:

OK. You, you had some particular experience with the, in labor with, with government. Did you feel that the National Labor Relations Acts was a good thing or bad thing?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I have always felt that the National Labor Relations opinion was always out of line for what was needed by the public and the employees that they represented.

INTERVIEWER:

Why did you feel that?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because in my dealings with them at later years proved what I'm saying.

INTERVIEWER:

But at the time did you feel that they, that you just didn't need such an agency?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know that I had any opinion at that time about what has, what I have been influenced by since then.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. So you didn't consider it like one more example of too much bureaucratic government, too much bureaucracy?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I certainly do. It, it did not keep pace in my lifestyle.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 69
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Can you tell me that, tell me again what you felt? How, how the National Labor Relations Board was an example of thing [sic], of thing you didn't like about Roosevelt.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, my past experience has shown what I felt early in life, that we had National Labor Relations controlled by one group of people instead of a representation of the people by the government, and for the sake of the good of all concerned.

INTERVIEWER:

So you thought maybe it just wasn't fair?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Huh?

 [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 
INTERVIEWER:

Let's stop for a second.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 70
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me what you felt about the National Labor Relations Board.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I have always felt the National Labor Relations Board was biased and did not represent all of the people and for the people.

INTERVIEWER:

 [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]  Anything else?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No, that's my opinion, and that isn't due to the early part of life, but it's the result of what has happened all through life.

INTERVIEWER:

When you said they didn't represent some, they represented some people and they didn't represent others, who did they represent and who did they leave out?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

They always represented the, the, in my opinion, the radicals, in my, and would always not take and represent...and they involved themselves in politics and tried to influence the people to continue to control at large salaries and large pensions, which certainly today is not in keeping with what it was years ago.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. So in some respects it was a biased and political representation.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

That's right.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, good. Let's stop again.

INTERVIEWER:

All right, all right.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 71
[audio only]
INTERVIEWER:

How was Girdler—tell me your impression, the impression that people had of Girdler as a leader within the steel industry-

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

—as aggressive, as...and use Tom Girdler's name when you're telling me.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As far as Tom Girdler is concerned in the Chicago District, I always held him at a great esteem and thought he was doing an excellent job.

INTERVIEWER:

Did he have the reputation? Was he considered one of the big leaders in steel?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

In my opinion, yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, he kept moving along. We, we say, seem to improve our relationship with the people in Chicago. And the plant continued to grow.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 72
INTERVIEWER:

And what about as manager? Was he aggressive? Was he innovative? Was...

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

You would judge him as being aggressive and a real leader.

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me again using Tom Girdler's name. Say, I would, Tom Girdler was—

[audio only]
RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Was an excellent—

INTERVIEWER:

Use his name.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Tom Girdler was an excellent promoter, as far as South Chicago steel was concerned.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 73
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 315:28] [change to sound roll 315:16]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell us what kind of a man Tom Girdler was?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Tom Girdler, in my opinion, was an excellent promoter to help the people in the steel industry, particularly the Chicago District, in my opinion.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 74
INTERVIEWER:

Was he a good manager?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As far as I know, yes, an excellent manager, Tom Girdler was.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 75
INTERVIEWER:

What happened when Tom Girdler came across a difficulty? What did he do? Or, when he came across a problem, what did Girdler do?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never had that experience with Tom Girdler.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so you don't know what his reputation...? Was he the kind of guy that just got things done, was aggressive, just...?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Tom Girdler, as I said before, was always, in my opinion, an aggressive individual.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Stop for a minute.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

In my opinion, Tom Girdler made things move and kept the Chicago District operating and doing things and growing from, as time went on.

INTERVIEWER:

OK and when he—did the people that work—you admired him, I know. I know you, you said you didn't know him very well, right, but you admired him as a leader?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I did not know Tom Girdler personally, nor never, in my opinion, had a meeting with him, but depended on the reputation that he had in the industry.

INTERVIEWER:

And what was his reputation in the industry?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Was progressive. Tom Girdler was progressive. He, he was likeable, and he seemed to know what was needed to keep the industry, particularly Chicago District, moving forward.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Good.

INTERVIEWER:

Very good.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Stop for a second.

INTERVIEWER:

Doing great.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 76
[audio only]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

What else did we have on the list?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER #2

FDR, FDR.

INTERVIEWER:

FDR.

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me about FDR.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, FDR, in my opinion, was always one trying to run things and not give the people what they needed, and he always was creating organizations to interfere with business.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Particularly with—did he make it more difficult for businesses to run?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

With his, with, with Roosevelt—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Stop, stop, stop. Not "Did it." "How did it?"

INTERVIEWER:

Oh, his answering kind of did it. How did it make it more difficult  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

How did this make it more, how did Roosevelt's policies make it more difficult for businesses to run?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, Roosevelt created the National Labor Relations Board which was always a, in opposition of trying to run a business for the people by the people.

INTERVIEWER:

And how did this make it more difficult?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

The interference that the Labor Relations Board and the Agency had created. For instance, when he created the Taft-Hartley Law where all people had to be members of the union—

INTERVIEWER:

I think we'll stop here because that's a much later period.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Yeah, that gets in, gets into in-

CAMERA CREW MEMBER #2

OK, but for instance, when he created like the Wagner Act where people could vote for a union of their choice.

INTERVIEWER:

OK fine. Let's give an example about, instead of with the Taft-Hartley, because the Taft-Hartley is later. What about when Roosevelt created the Wagner Act?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, that was interference with, with industry and the people's desire of wanting to have the freedom that was necessary.

INTERVIEWER:

What kind of freedom?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Restricting operations and creating problems.

INTERVIEWER:

The Wagner act wanted, was, the Wagner Act—did you feel that it was, that it interfered in, because it told people that they could join a union, and it interfered in how management was going to run its business?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I couldn't answer that. I don't know.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Shall we stop?

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 77
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, you were telling me why people were surprised.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

[laughs]

INTERVIEWER:

You said why they were surprised when U.S. Steel agreed with Roosevelt to recognize the CIO.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

They were surprised because they didn't think that the Chairman of the Board of U. S. Steel would do that, and the, and I understand the reason he did it was because Roosevelt promised him a, a job as a diplomat in one of the foreign countries.

INTERVIEWER:

Let's, let's, can you tell me that again? Just describe again that, that day when, when, when, when people heard that U. S. Steel agreed to recognize the CIO. Why were they surprised?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Because they didn't think that the Chairman of the Board would take and sell out the steel industry.

INTERVIEWER:

And how was it selling out the steel industry?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, because he had, the Chairman of the Board had agreed with Roosevelt that they would sign a CIO contract. This was the leadership of the steel industry signing up for their representation of the CIO.

INTERVIEWER:

And then how did that change things for everybody else? Did that change, how did that change?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

In my opinion, it didn't change a great deal in the work that I was doing.

INTERVIEWER:

But did it, did—like, for example, with the ERP, did it make them less effective because all of a sudden there was this other, you know?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I don't know.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 78
INTERVIEWER:

Can I ask you, let me just ask you a couple of more things. You said that you thought that the—well, actually, when you say that there's agitators in the union, did you mean that there was communists there, or that's what people, that's what the rumors were?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I can only quote what has been said in the newspapers about it, that the agitators were influenced by the communists.

INTERVIEWER:

And these were communists that were inside the plant or communists that were out trying to organize?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

They, they were all over as according to the paper, inside and outside.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 79
INTERVIEWER:

OK, OK. Let me just ask you a couple of—do you know when the strike first happened? Let's just go back to this. Did you expect that it was going to be a long strike when, when the strike, when the, you know the picket lines first came up? Or did you think that people would lose interest and it would be over pretty quickly?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I had no opinion at that particular time.

INTERVIEWER:

So you didn't go home and tell your wife anything. You didn't go home and say, "Look it, things might be more difficult or..."

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Not that I know of.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, OK, OK, OK. Can we stop for a second?

[cut]
[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 80
[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

-hazards that you saw and that you, that, that you tried in your work to change when you went to Republic Steel?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

When I went to Republic Steel, I had spent as high as forty-two hours in the plant at a time trying to correct and get the interest of the employees stirred up with reference to preventing accidents and fire prevention.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. What kind of accidents, tell me what kind of—the fires, how did fires get started?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, by neglect of spilling of oil, gasoline, and very inflammable liquids.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 81
INTERVIEWER:

Was it very easy for a fire to start in a steel mill?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Was what?

INTERVIEWER:

Was it easy for a fire to start in a steel mill? In a steel mill, were there a lot of fires because of spilled oil or...?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

No, not a lot of them, but where there was one, they were usually costly.

INTERVIEWER:

Costly in what way?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Well, they would, would shut down a department for a period of time for repair.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 82
INTERVIEWER:

Were there explosions in the plant?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

I never had any in the plant that I remember.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 83
INTERVIEWER:

Was it hot in the plant, temperature?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Not any hotter than most operating operations were. You're dealing with hot metal and so forth, and it requires certain protective clothing for certain people and certain types of operation.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 84
INTERVIEWER:

So did people have protective clothing?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

As far as I was concerned, generally yes.

[missing figure]foj1IipqShI
QUESTION 85
INTERVIEWER:

So when you went into the plant, did you have to put on protective clothing?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

You always had your hard hat on, your safety shoes, and your goggles.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. And those were issued to every worker that they had?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

They, they were, and they were compulsory in most operations, and frequently flying objects would-

[audio only]
RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

-cost, cause an individual to lose an eye.

INTERVIEWER:

Thank you, that's—so when you went in, you had to kind of put on all that gear, right?

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

Yes.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. Well, we're done. You're off the hot seat.

RUSSELL PISLE, SR.:

OK.

[cut]
[end of interview]