Alice Bernstein and mastheads

Originally published in the Long Beach Times.

Union Leader Outlines Most Important Study for America

At the 26th Convention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Las Vegas this summer, Timothy Lynch, President of Local 1205 (Melville, NY), spoke in a way that I see as a high point in labor history.
     I am myself the wife of a Teamster retiree. And I believe that what Mr. Lynch said to an audience of thousands, including 1800 elected delegates representing 1.4 million workers, is the means of America's understanding at last the cause of economic exploitation and of prejudice. Through what he explained, both these horrible injustices can really end!
The Most Needed Study Barbara Allen and Robert Murphy
     On the second day of the convention, a resolution supporting human rights came before the assembly. After the motion to adopt it was seconded, General President James P. Hoffa called on Timothy Lynch, who began: "I rise in support of this most important resolution." Then he said, with ringing conviction: "In order for this resolution for human rights to succeed in the work place, on the picket line, and in our living rooms, we all need to study what I'm very grateful to be learning from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by the great philosopher Eli Siegel, and what he says about where prejudice and all injustice begin—in the self of every person. We need to learn about contempt, which Eli Siegel defined as the 'disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world,' and how there is a fight in all of us between respect and contempt."
      With his experience as a union official for over 13 years, he continued: "Every person in this room needs to understand how this battle goes on, for our union to succeed. Contempt is behind every boss whose desire it is to make profit off the work of the people we represent….Unions need to study this….Contempt is the cause of every human rights violation."
       About the Aesthetic Realism study of the fight in everyone between contempt and respect, he said: "It's the most pleasure-giving study and the most pro-union thing this body and every union could do."
       The convention greeted Mr. Lynch's statement with thunderous applause. Gerry Whelan, President of Teamsters Local 805 (NY), described it: "The response was loud and embracing of Timothy. I'm very proud to know him."
       Articles by Mr. Lynch have appeared in major newspapers: LA Times, Capital Times (Madison, WI), Star-Ledger (NJ), as well as labor periodicals. In an LA Times op-ed (9/4/00), he writes: "I learned from Aesthetic Realism that unions have been the largest force on behalf of not just economic justice for workers but safety on the job….Unions have been the means of stopping an employer from using a human being utterly as a mechanism to supply him with money."
       In a Star-Ledger op-ed (7/30/97), he describes what's essential to have respect, not contempt, win in America:
"The burning question people need—and want—to answer is the one posed by Eli Siegel: 'What does a person deserve by being a person?'"
                            "This Is What We Need to Hear"
At the Teamsters Convention, Timothy Lynch was not only describing the cause of injustice, but the need for those fighting injustice to understand how contempt works in themselves so they can fight it successfully. "This is what we need to hear," said Robert Lee, principal officer of Local 983 (Idaho).
       Joe Biggs, President of Local 819 (NY), stated that what Timothy Lynch said "hit me in a place in my heart. The way Eli Siegel explains contempt has in it the answer to racism."
       Sean Murphy is Vice President of Local 1205. When I asked him to comment on what Mr. Lynch described about the need to study contempt as taught by Aesthetic Realism, he said this study "would greatly help us." He added that Timothy Lynch had opened his eyes to contempt in himself for people who are different: "Your courage comes when you admit it."
       How much the study Mr. Lynch outlined is in behalf of people getting justice, can be seen in what Sean Murphy said of him as a union leader and negotiator: "He's obviously the best one I have ever seen or worked with. He's landed some of the best contracts in the country—awesome contracts—and part of it is his love for labor. Our local wouldn't be going the way it's going if he wasn't so unselfish. He goes the extra mile for the members."
                                       "Solidarity Forever"
       Concluding the 5-day convention, General President Hoffa asked Timothy Lynch to step to the podium to sing "Solidarity Forever." He sang the verses, electrifyingly; the officials onstage joined hands and sang the choruses, together with the thousands in the hall.
       That famous union song sung with real conviction by the man who had talked about the need to learn from Aesthetic Realism about contempt and respect, made for a tremendous emotion in the audience: pride, exuberance, true solidarity. "this place was rocking," said one attendee. Another said, "I've heard this song sung a thousand times, but I never heard it sung like this before!"
       The study Timothy Lynch asked for and the welcome he received stand for the kind future of America.