Oral Histories

Interview of William C. Aston

Machine shop worker and chair of the United Automobile Workers, Local 887.
Subtitle:
Building the United Automobile Workers at North American Aviation
Topic:
Social Movements
Labor Movement
Interviewer:
Connors, Thomas J.
Interviewee:
Aston, William C.
Persons Present:
Aston, Connors, and occasionally Aston's wife, Ardis Kvanbeck Aston.
Place Conducted:
Aston's home in Bellflower, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Thomas J. Connors, UCLA Oral History Program. BA., anthropology, Brown University; M.A., American civilization, Brown University. Connors prepared for the interview by reading Aston's manuscript on the history of UAW Local 887 and issues of the UAW Local 887 newsletter, the Propeller.
Processing of Interview:
George Hodak, editorial assistant, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. Aston reviewed the transcript. He verified proper names and made a number of corrections and additions. Teresa Barnett, editor, prepared the table of contents. Paul Winters, editorial assistant, prepared the biographical summary and interview history. Barbra Meisenheimer, Gold Shield intern, UCLA Graduate School of Library and Information Science, compiled the index.
Length:
7.1 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Abstract:
Family background and childhood; involvement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; becomes a shop steward; ethnic and racial communities in St. Louis; speaks up for workers at McQuay-Norris Piston Ring Company; United Automobile Workers (UAW) publications and leaders; contrast between grievance procedure of the International Association of Machinists and that of the UAW; leaves McQuay-Norris and becomes a salesman for Guardian Service Century Metal-Craft; Aston's hearing problem prevents him from being drafted for military service; comes to California and begins working at North American Aviation; joins UAW at North American; Eugene Stark-weather; North American work force; the union's demands in 1953 strike; company's attempts at intimidation; recruiting workers to the union; Paul Schrade and the Blue Slate; union expands; the shop-steward system at North American; Aston's increased involvement in the union; Leonard F. Woodcock and Irving Bluestone; union shop defeated in a membership vote; attainment of insurance, pension and holiday benefits; UAW's negotiations set the standards for other unions; layoffs at North American in the late fifties; the right-to-work movement; North American President James Kindel-berger's racist and sexist employment policies; changes in labor relations after Rockwell International Corporation takes over North American; development of the concept of equal employment opportunity; the Congress of Racial Equality pickets North American; establishing a union shop at North American; John F. Kennedy's support of the UAW; the effect of Richard M. Nixon's 1971 wage and price freeze; Henry Lacayo; the UAW disaffiliates from the AFL-CIO; changes in UAW leadership following Walter P. Reuther's death; the problems of converting defense industries to peacetime production; positions Aston held in the UAW; Local 887 as a source of leadership for the international union; Al Ybarra; Aston serves on resolutions committee at UAW international convention; the UAW and recent presidential candidates; the UAW retirees program; Aston receives the Walter Reuther Distinguished Service Award; post-retirement activities; Aston's history of Local 887.