LETTER to Shepherd Express
                             July 21 -- July 28, 1994

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Zonyx Report Dancing ScorpioNote:  The Letter to the Editor below is self-explanatory as it pertains to cuts in the article:

Sacks & Violence:
Milwaukee Longshoremen
 (& A Few Pioneering Women)
Battle Their Image

Zonyx Report Photo:  Unloading at Port of Milwaukee.  Go to Accompanying Article.

. . .  on this Website, published in the Shepherd Express as "Heads Up/Life settles down on Milwaukee's docks."  But what is important here is what was cut, not from the article -- part memoir, part history -- but from the letter itself, in which I attempted to clarify various errors introduced in the editing process, as well as restore some of the more important omissions.  Readers would naturally have attributed the errors to me, without a clue that I made any criticisms of then-News Editor Scott Kerr's ineptness in handling the story, quite apart from any problems with length he may have had.
     Kerr, whose own writings of social criticism and promotion of economic justice I had generally admired, nevertheless botched things by making grammatical errors, such as changing,  "The hooks, at any rate, lie rusting in corners of the warehouse. . . ." to "lay rusting. . . ," an offense to this English major.  Or he completely reversed the meaning of "nothing can stop some minor 'breakage' of crates in the hold, not even crew members sent down to watch over more attractive cargo, such as bottled beer, during unloading"  by changing it to read "not even by crew members. . . ."  And he somehow rendered  a description of "skewed logs like giant Pick-up Sticks which could rumble across the hatch" as "giant stand-up toothpicks," implying they somehow stood on end. 
     More presumptuous, because intentional, was changing a reference to retired AB Seaman Fred Wright -- an East Side friend of Kerr's and myself -- by identifying him as "Brady Street Potentate."  It is outrageous for an editor to make up a label like that on his own, whatever he meant by it -- and though Fred was popular and gregarious and a good drinking buddy at Regano's, at least before age slowed him down, "Potentate" is quite a stretch.
     Finally, even their headline implies a much more benign state of affairs  ("life settles down") --  and ignores the article's main thrust, which is stereotyping of longshoreman -- on the waterfront, while telegraphing the kicker  ("Heads up!") at the ending.
     Unfortunately, Kerr died at 49 of leukemia [read obit for
The Outspoken Man] after becoming editor and then parting  ways with the Shepherd, moving on to other alternative papers & a role in the new Website, MilwaukeeOne.com.  So I was never able to sit down with him [I had never met him] over a few beers at Regano's and discuss my complaints.
    But the Shepherd, as I say, never even acknowledged anything that could be considered an error on its part part, as simple protocol would demand, though I suppose I should be glad I got a few grafs of additional text to make up for some brutal emendations.  They also chose to run the letter under the heading below that still makes no sense to me whatever, unless it refers to the very corrections the editors decided not to make after all.
           It might be asked, why bring these corrections up now, since the long, original version with material added is now available online.  But though the  original was well-received by longshoremen and those interested in the subject, the online version -- or at least the many changes and additions --  might be overlooked by many if it is not pointed out.  The Letter to the Editor (which readers at the time may have missed) might help clear some things up, however it is stumbled upon, and does offer some new information about the docks as well, including some more suspicious practices by owners and city officials.  And it gives me a chance to vent.                     
                                              [letter]Zonyx Report Down Arrow:  Go to Letter Below


Longshore Language Barrier Clarified

     Since I originally wrote about 8,000 words, or about four times the length of the published article, "Heads Up/Life settles down on Milwaukee's docks," in the June 16-23 issue of the Shepherd [Vol. 14, No. 24], I appreciate the necessarily ruthless nature of the cuts made.  As longshore leadman Joe Taylor used to say when fitting a huge crate dangling from a crane's cable into a tight space, "you can't pour a pint of piss into a half-pint bottle."
     But I regret most deeply, for the sake of those who knew the militant Pat Huck and who were reminded of his death in connection with some trivial pilferage, and appearing with other examples of minor lawlessness, such as pot smoking in the hold, that a counter-balancing reference to the owning class was cut out.
     It should be pointed out that Charles A. Krause, president of Milwaukee's Krause Milling Co., was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $25,000 in 1978 on charges of price-fixing estimated by the Justice Department to have helped rig bids with Lauhoff Grain Co. (et al) on $313  million in U.S. purchases donated overseas, resulting in an overcharge to taxpayers of $19 million.
     "It was a classic white collar crime, conceived by grain milling executives over drinks and lunch at a private Chicago club in early 1970," wrote the Minneapolis Tribune.
     This was the Food for Peace Program of foreign aid that, along with exclusive leases  for city dock property that drove out competing firms, that allowed Hansen -- later, Meehan -- Seaway Service Ltd. to thrive and then hand-pick a port director, Kenneth Szallai, to diversify  the Port's activities when the union membership had been milked.  Businessmen, it seems, revere the Republican principles of competition, except on their turf.  Why else were leases given to Meehan rather than advertised in the Journal of Commerce, for example?
     Now that the shaky steel import business keeps a few gangs going while Meehan is poised to leave quickly at its option, not the city's, we see yet another example of possible "lemon socialism" as the union studies taking over operations.  Of course, it's 20 years too late, as the profits that could support innovation have long been siphoned off.
     I think the worst omission would be to leave out
Jack Dussault, a geology major and former teacher who gave the newer arrivals -- dissidents, hippies, blacks, women -- a voice in the union as a young vice president -- and who was strong enough and gracious enough to do more than his share in the hold.  In short, a decent human being, of whom there were more -- and they more intelligent -- than I ever met whenever we clashed with management over a gang's inability to throw yet another couple of tons.  Thanks, Jack.
                                                     --Mike Zetteler


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