The Truth About NATLFED

Re-staffing the Entities

After Gino’s death, there was a period of confusion and strife.  Some thought the Organization would disintegrate in the turmoil.  A huge power vacuüm had been created, with several striving to assume control.  Margaret Ribar eventually emerged on top, backed with the authority of Gino’s handwritten will.

Summer of 1995 was the period that Margaret began sending persons from National out to the field entities.  If you understood the caliber of persons at NOC during that period, there was an imbalance of long-standing members (ten or more years) and younger cadres (less than a couple of years in the Organization).

Recruitment had been down in the field entities for years.  Some say the Organization never fully recovered from the backlash that resulted from the 1984 Raid.  Suffolk Eastern Farm Workers Association continued to recruit cadres regularly.  Women’s Press Collective in Brooklyn also recruited regularly.  There was the occasional recruit from other entities, far and few between.  COSHAD recruited regularly but the recruits rarely lasted beyond the probationary period.

I always thought I was an effective floor liaison.  Having actual field experience made a difference in the rapport I had with my entity.  I had gone canvassing, ran bucket drives, participated on picket lines and joined members in-house meetings.  I saw the Workers’ Benefit Council form the Long Island Grape Workers Organizing Committee.

Some of the liaisons had never set foot in an organizing drive.  Instead, they quoted procedures from the Essential Organizer and other documents, received extensive briefings from National Operations Manager 1 on how to conduct phone calls, practically had to be hand-held on the phone calls.

To place such persons in leadership capacity might seem atypical.  The truth of the matter was that many tasks that needed completion at National did not require the direct participation of cadres with twenty years’ dot.  Someone had to do the laundry.  Someone had to cook dinner.  The Liaison Floor was a training environment.

Margaret began dispatching National cadres to field entities.  Wayne County Eastern Farm Workers Association had been a single cadre entity for years in Upstate, New York.  So had Western Massachusetts Labor Action.  Atlantic City Eastern Service Workers Association was another single cadre entity.  The Philadelphia ESWA Operations Manager had gone AWOL and National did not feel one of the local cadres would make an adequate Operations Manager.  Redding Western Service Workers Association in California had been a single cadre entity for at least a year before recruiting a woman, who acted more as a love interest for the Operations Manager than as a dedicated cadre.

Even with the entity jumps, the Organization sent out two cadres to start a drive.  To expect an entity to manage with just one cadre after a series of departures was just unrealistic.  Yet it was considered “beneath the Organization” for National to send cadres to entities when it was expected that the entities had to send cadres to National.  This changed in 1995.

From what I can gather about other cadres that were sent out to the entities, the stories vary but ultimately the persons left the Organization.  The girl recruited from Rochester was dispatched to Philadelphia as Operations Manager, a no-win situation as a probationary member in charge of several veteran organizers.  Another girl recruited through Women’s’ Press Collective was sent to Wayne County.  You can read her story on the various blogs including Portland IMC.  There are others that I do not know what happened to.  It is difficult to figure out who is really who on the blog circuits, as most persons prefer anonymity.

This was during the period of the purges, better fewer but better with Margaret “encouraging” undesirables to leave the Organization.  Those that did not get the hint were eventually physically forced out of the Organization.

I do not know much about what happened after August, 1996 (when I was expelled).  I heard about organizing in Ohio and can infer it has something to do with the Ribar family living in Shaker Heights, Ohio despite its purported Organizational agenda.  I remember the plans to send Rory and another cadre to Chicago to start a drive there.

Barbara started Alaska Workers Association, but do not be fooled that this was a planned entity jump.  She was unwilling to commit full-time as a cadre; an upper middle-income housewife whose husband indulged her social obligation to the poor.  Her husband is a volcanologist who was transferred to Alaska.  Check out some of the blogs on this group, members complaining that the entity will not provide them resources because they do not participate enough.  Well, excuse the members for trying to survive by working two jobs!

It is difficult to know what is going on now as persons recruited after 1995 are especially reluctant to talk about their experiences after leaving the Organization.  Maybe they still believe the Organization will come after them.  Maybe they are just waiting for the right moment to step forward.  Maybe there were just so few that were recruited that we are looking at a handful of persons, perhaps.

As it closes inward on itself, the Organization dooms itself to extinction.  As they continue to isolate themselves from those they purport to be organizing on behalf of, they come off as saints doing nice things for poor people.  So be it.

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