You’ve probably not heard of Tony Mazzocchi. But if you are a blue-collar worker, you have more rights and possibly safer working conditions because of Tony Mazzocchi.
For 31 years as a rising member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW), this union vice president has been doing quietly the hard work that makes him a leading candidate for the finest labor leader in our country.
In the late ’60s he was a tireless advocate for the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Law that finally was enacted in 1970. Mazzocchi led the way in finding and involving first-rate scientists with his union’s effort to educate workers about the toxic chemicals in the workplace and reduce the risks from these daily exposures.
It took uncommon courage for Mazzocchi to raise questions about atomic energy and the risks to workers at those installations. Most labor leaders do not challenge vigorously anymore such company practices. This labor leader in 1973 brought together a coalition of labor, consumers and environmentalists when OCAW struck Shell Oil Company in the country’s first strike over health and safety issues.
I remember during the struggle in Congress over the natural gas pipeline legislation some 13 years ago how Mazzocchi brought home the point about leaking gas pipelines under cities. A gas company worker he brought to testify showed the startled lawmakers pipeline sections whose gaping holes were patched over, sometimes with cloth, in the most primitive way. The risks of greater explosions from old or unrepaired pipes became very real that day on Capitol Hill.
During the ’60s and ’70s, Mazzocchi worked with OCAW president A.F. Grospiron to make the union a progressive model for trade unionism. Consumer protection issues were part of OCAW’s agenda. Full-page newspaper notices appeared in 1974 displaying the union’s criticism of oil industry overcharges and power plays in Washington.
Now Mazzocchi is running for the presidency of his union against Robert Goss, the incumbent, who defeated him in 1979 by less than one percent of the vote. If the OCAW workers voted directly for their president, Mazzocchi would win hands down.
But the workers choose delegates who then, at the union’s August convention, choose the president. Since some delegates are more susceptible to the influence and staff resources of Goss’ incumbency than are the rank and file, the race will be close.
Goss clearly is the favorite of the oil industry. Under his two-year regime, the union has lost members steadily. There is no organizing drive for new members. Goss lost a costly strike against the oil companies in 1980 over fully-paid hospitalization and medical care. Oil company moguls now consider him tamed. In-addition, OCAW workers are upset with Goss for trying to merge their union with the United Paperworkers International Union.
Mazzocchi charges that “Goss’ brand of business unionism has contributed to the overall decline of the American labor movement. Union members no longer truly believe in the trade union movement as a cause, as a social commitment, and as a crusade.”
These words illustrate his belief that unions are not to be run as special interests but as the cutting edge for justice on behalf of workers, their families, neighbors and the rest of humanity with whom they are inextricably linked.
With the energy industry having a political and economic field day for itself against the rest of the country, the OCAW election over who is to lead the energy workers of America could be the most important election this year. As consumers, citizens and workers, the outcome of the vote will affect you for years to come one way or another.
If you are interested in Mazzocchi’s way and want more information on the issues, write to him at P.O. Box 18887, Denver, Colo. 80218 and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.