The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. The lead stories of this Friday are these. Secretary Shultz will meet tomorrow with Soviet Premier Ryzhkov. A general's revolt led to a state of emergency in Ecuador. Wholesale prices dropped dramatically last month, sparking a big day on Wall Street. And the national union ordered Hormel workers to end their strike. We will have the details in our news summary in a moment. Charlayne Hunter-Gault is in New York tonight. Charlayne?
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: After the news summary, the NewsHour takes on these stories. The Hormel strike is debated by its chief architect and a critic from management's side. In the wake of the suicide of a former top New York City official, we look into the widening corruption scandal there. And we also have a documentary report on what some are calling the most important French election since De Gaulle's.News Summary
LEHRER: U.S.-Soviet relations ran both hot and cold today. The Soviet premier and the U.S. secretary of state will meet tomorrow. The Soviets ordered a U.S. diplomat out of the country. And President Reagan offered a new counterproposal on nuclear testing. On the expulsion, the Soviets claimed that Michael Sellers, a second secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was caught spying. U.S. officials refused comment on the matter. But on the other side of the ledger, Secretary of State Shultz will meet tomorrow with Soviet Premier Ryzhkov. The meeting will be in Stockholm, Sweden, where both will be attending the funeral of assassinated prime minister of Sweden Olof Palme. The Shultz-Ryzhkov encounter will be the first at that high a level since the November summit. Shultz said it would be an informal session.
GEORGE SHULTZ, Secretary of State: This is not set up as a negotiating session. He's there and I'm there, and we're there primarily to pay our respects to Prime Minister Palme and the people of Sweden. And we'll take the occasion, since we're there, to meet and compare notes, and that's the nature of it.
LEHRER: On the nuclear test ban proposal, the White House said President Reagan sent a letter to Soviet leader Gorbachev outlining a new, very specific and far-reaching way to reach agreement on nuclear testing. A spokesman said Mr. Reagan invited a Soviet representative to come to Nevada late in April to observe new U.S. technology that would enhance verification of such a ban. Also today, President Reagan named a replacement for former Senator John Tower on the Geneva arms control negotiating team. Ronald F. Lehman, who served as Tower's Geneva deputy, was selected. Charlayne?
HUNTER-GAULT: And President Reagan sent a message to Congress saying that the United States opposed tyranny in any form, whether on the left or right. That led some analysts to conclude that it represented a major shift in policy by including opposition to right-wing dictatorships. But administration officials denied that there was anything at all new in the message.
In Ecuador the army stormed an air base that was seized yesterday by a rebellious general who had been dismissed from command of the air force. One report said a soldier was killed and the renegade general got away. The State Department expressed support for the government of President Febres Cordero.
BERNARD KALB, State Department spokesman: We are disturbed by the events of the past evening involving rebellious elements of the Ecuadoran air force. A dangerous situation has developed that could result in violence. We ought to emphasize our complete support for the democratic process in Ecuador and for the constitutionally elected government of that nation.
HUNTER-GAULT: In Geneva, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights called upon Chile to stop torture by its security forces and said that could only be done by restoring democracy.
LEHRER: Big news on the economy today. Wholesale prices dropped 1.6 in February, according to the Labor Department. That is the largest monthly decline since 1947, when they started keeping track of such things. The decline was due largely to the dramatic drop in gasoline and other fuel prices. Also, U.S. industrial production was down 0.6 in February, the steepest decline since the worst times of the 1982 recession. And Wall Street had another big day, fueled partly by the wholesale prices news. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 39 points, one of its largest one-day gains ever. It closed at 1792, the highest closing on record.
HUNTER-GAULT: The parent union of striking Hormel meat packers in Minnesota today ordered leaders of the renegade local to end their seven-month-old walkout. The union also cut off strike benefits to the 1,000 striking workers. Although they gave approval for the strike, leaders of the 1.3 million-member union have opposed it from the beginning and have accused strike leader James Guyette and consultants working with him of being on a suicide mission. At a news conference today, the president of the parent union, the United Food Commercial Workers, said continuing the strike could only lead to further suffering and further loss of jobs.
LEHRER: The search for the remains of the Challenger astronauts off the coast of Florida slowed down a bit today. Correspondent Elizabeth Brackett has this update report.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT [voice-over]: High winds and rough seas kept search ships in porttoday. The USS Preserver will return to the area where the crew cabin was discovered as soon as the weather clears. Sources say the grim job of retrieving remains of the seven astronauts has not yet been completed. Crew cabin tape recorders and computers brought in by the USS Preserver late Wednesday night are now being examined by NASA. The five computers and five tape recorders record and store astronauts' conversations and flight data. Because the Challenger exploded only 73 seconds after liftoff, this information would not have been transmitted from the crew cabin back to earth. Three technicians from the firm that makes the tape recorders have been asked by NASA to help in the recovery of this critical information from the tapes. The tapes are now being flushed with fresh water to remove the salt after six weeks on the ocean floor, though the manufacturer of the tape says the heat from the initial explosion may have caused more damage than the salt water.
[on camera] NASA remains mum on the progress made in identifying the remains of the seven astronauts, but families have been told that autopsies have begun. Some families say they plan private services when the identification process is complete, but the father of Gregory Jarvis says he hopes another public ceremony, perhaps at Arlington National Cemetery, could be held for all seven astronauts.
LEHRER: There were more and better pictures of Halley's Comet today. They were taken from the European spacecraft Giotto and indicated the comet is much larger than was thought. Scientists said the nucleus, seen here as a white spot surrounded by bands of color, appeared to be about nine miles long and at least two and a half miles wide. The colors are not real, but were chosen at random and supplied by a computer. When this picture was taken, the spacecraft was within several hundred miles of the comet. The Giotto came as close as 335 miles. But before that, its camera was knocked out of service when it hit a wall of dust particles about the size of grains of sand.
And finally in the news today, a neo-Nazi group claimed responsibility for the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. The claim came from a group called the European National socialist Union in a letter to a Stockholm news agency. The letter claimed former West German Premier Willy Brandt will be the next target. Palme and Brandt were close friends. Officials had nothing to say about the authenticity of the group or the letter.
HUNTER-GAULT: That completes our news summary. Still ahead on the NewsHour, a debate about the wisdom of the Hormel strike, a look at a suicide and a widening corruption scandal in New York City, and a documentary report on what some are calling the most important French election since De Gaulle's. Hormel: Union Strikes Out
LEHRER: We look first tonight at today's dramatic turn in the Hormel strike: the order to 1,000 workers to end their seven-month walkout against the Hormel meat-packing plant in Austin, Minnesota. It came from the strikers' parent union, the United Food and Commercial Workers.
WILLIAM WYNN, United Food and Commercial Workers: Nothing further can be gained by continuing or expanding the strike. In fact, the converse is true. Many more jobs could be lost if the strike is not ended now. The Local P-9 strike and the so-called corporate campaign have failed in their principal objective of moving the company toward the local's position. In fact, it has only resulted in locking the company into its hard-line position and provoked the company intosome stupid and brutal retaliation. Further, the UFCW is unwilling to watch one of the largest and most modern plants in the industry go nonunion because of Local P-9's leadership is incapable of settling their strike. One thing is clear: after seven months of this strike and 15 months of a feeble Corporate Campaign, Local P-9 stands further away from achieving its goals than it did on the day its leaders broke ranks with the Hormel chain locals in September of 1984.
LEHRER: For the story behind today's announcement we have a report from Fred de Sam Lazaro of public station KTCA-Minneapolis-St.Paul.
FRED SAM LAZARO, KTCA [voice-over]: Today's decision by the international union will change one routine here in the basement of Austin's Union Hall, where striking meat packers usually gather: no more $40 weekly checks. But whether it will change the resolve among these strikers is open to question.
R.J. BERGSTROM, striker: I've been down to my last dollar before, and I'm sure a lot of people have too, so I mean, it's time to stand up and fight for what you believe in.
LAZARO [voice-over]: Ray Rogers, chief planner of the strike effort, has long criticized the international for its lack of support. But Rogers has nevertheless maintained that he'll eventually succeed.
RAY ROGERS, labor consultant: We expect to be closing that plant down again, totally. In addition, again, this campaign has constantly escalated the groundswell of support.
LAZARO [voice-over]: Rogers' track record in the Austin dispute has been spotty so far. Among the notable failures: a leafletting campaign before the strike to get First Bank System, a Hormel creditor, to pressure the meat packer into meeting union demands.
RICHARD KNOWLTON, chairman, Hormel: I think that was a flawed concept to begin with and it still is. If the idea, the concept of hurting the company every way possible you can do it -- if that's the way that America is going to begin to do its business, we're in deep trouble.
LAZARO [voice-over]: The dispute began about two years ago when Hormel sought and imposed wage cuts. The company said it needed to compete in a changing, increasingly nonunion industry. The temporary wage cuts were accepted by all Hormel plants, except its flagship facility in Austin, where the strike began at midnight last August 17th. The strike shut down the plant for 22 weeks. It took several hundred nonunion workers, strikers who changed their minds and National Guard troops to reopen the plant in January. After a period of breaking in for new employees, Hormel now says things are pretty much back to normal. Outside the plant and in the community, however, it will take much longer for things to return to normal. The strike has turned neighbors, friends, even brothers, into enemies.
R.J. BERGSTROM, striker: My mom called me the other day and says, "Why don't you go in and get your job back?" And I says, "Well, one scab in the family's enough."
RONALD BERGSTROM, meat packer: There are no winners. Our union based most of their strategy on the fact that we never called Hormel's bluff. And the one time we did, we really lost.
LEHRER: There are those inside the labor movement as well as critics from the outside who are now suggesting the strike may have turned up lame as a weapon of labor. They cite the Hormel case as an example, along with earlier lost strikes against Greyhound, Continental Airlines and the air traffic controllers, as well as the still-in-progress one of flight attendants against Trans World Airlines. We explore that question, among others now, with Ray Rogers, the New York-based labor consultant who masterminded the workers' strategy against Hormel, and Stephen Cabot, an attorney who represents management in labor disputes. He is with us from public station WHYY-Philadelphia. We had also hoped to have a representative of the International United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which issued today's Hormel order, but they declined to participate.
Mr. Rogers, is the strike against Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, now over?
RAY ROGERS: Absolutely not, and it will not be over until the workers vote that it's over.
LEHRER: What will be the impact of today's order from the international union, then?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, that remains to be seen. The workers at Hormel have been very upset with the international union for some time to come. You know, when you talk about union busters, the management consultant firms, that's one thing. When you're talking about union busters that are supposed to be union leadership, like William Wynn, that's another thing. And I would say that William Wynn has been the biggest union buster in trying to undermine the workers' campaign against Hormel from day one.
LEHRER: Mr. Wynn says that the workers at that plant are worse off now than they were when the strike began.
Mr. ROGERS: Workers throughout the meat-packing industry are in a very bad way. They've gotten no direction and no support from this international union. This international union from day one has tried to undermine these workers' campaign. This international union went out prior to the strike claiming that the local union was near bankrupt because of the high fees being paid corporate campaign. We put all our resources behind this organiz -- behind Local P-9, we've raised them nearly a million dollars in cash, and they've fought this entire battle on their own. They've not only fought the company and fought the bank and fought the National Guard, but the most difficult thing they've had to fight is their own international union.
LEHRER: Well, Mr. Rogers, what do you have to show for it?
Mr. ROGERS: We have turned this country's attention to the problems that workers face throughout the meat-packing industry and labor faces throughout this country, and we've really gone below the surface and people now recognize that workers' struggles aren't only against a corporation and a financial power structure behind it, but it's against a political system that will bring out the National Guard when there's no reason to bring the Guard out, and they're also fighting a labor bureaucracy that is so far out of touch with the workers that they simply cannot communicate with them. In fact, they don't have any real commitment to the struggles, and I put William Wynn in that category.
LEHRER: Mr. Cabot, from your perspective, what has Mr. Rogers and the strike of the Hormel workers in Austin, Minnesota, accomplished?
STEPHEN CABOT: I don't think it's accomplished anything other than to dramatize and to demonstrate to the public that strikes of this sort create a lose-lose situation, not only for the company, for the employees, for the unions, but for everybody. And in listening to Mr. Rogers, I'm surprised and I sense a type of naivete when he says that there's a demonstration of something positive that the public ought to understand or grapple with. It seems to me that the one thing that Mr. Rogers has demonstrated to the entire country is that using violence and force doesn't accomplish anything, and that what it does accomplish, in a sense, is that people, wage earners in our country, the corporations that provide the jobs to those wage earners, are all hurt. And even beyond that, the city or the locale where the people work, where their children go to school, is torn asunder, and in part destroyed. And perhaps that community will never get back to where it was.
LEHRER: So you think, Mr. Cabot, then, that what the international union did today and its president, Mr. Wynn, is the correct thing to do?
Mr. CABOT: I think it was absolutely the correct thing. My only disappointment is or was that Mr. Wynn did not do it sooner.
LEHRER: Mr. Cabot? Excuse me. Mr. Rogers, what do you say about that?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, you know, I nd -- I think it says something when Mr. Cabot, who's a management consultant, and the company and the bankers and people like Mr. Wynn are all talking the same thing. You put Mr. Wynn right in the same category with the rest of them. I would also challenge him. Our struggle has not been a violent one. In fact, we've preached nonviolence, and a lot of people who've been watching that struggle are amazed at the fact that we've had no violence. The worst violence that occurred was when one of the company photographers got out of the car and kicked one of the strikers. The other thing that was shown on TV was a car being shaken, which was done by a number of people from the outside. There has been no violence, there has been no wanton destruction of property and no mob violence that the company has claimed. And if anybody would like to claim otherwise, I'd like to show that wanton destruction of property and show me some of that mob violence. No one's been able to do it yet.
LEHRER: Mr. Cabot?
Mr. CABOT: Yes, sir. I think that there's a broader issue that really needs to be addressed, and it's an issue that's broader that just labor relations warfare. It's the question of how labor and how management are going to deal with the competitive issues that are facing not just the meat-packing industry but every industry in the United States. We're in a worldwide marketplace right now, and the issue of competitiveness and producing goods at the highest quality and at the least possible cost, so that jobs can be secure, so that there won't be layoffs, so that businesses earn profits and therefore more jobs would be created. It's that issue, as to how management and labor can best achieve that. And probably the most horrifying thing that Mr. Rogers has demonstrated is that he has failed to take into account the competitive relationship between Hormel and the industry. And the very thing that Mr. Rogers is trying to do is to perpetuate the types of things that failed in the '30s, '40s and subsequent decades. Hormel, for example, is paying one of the highest wages in the meat-packing industry. Hormel had offered the workers approximately $10 an hour. Mr. Rogers had urged for the local and the local union leadership of P9 -- they were not satisfied with $10 an hour, despite the fact that it was the highest wage rate in the industry. They wanted to set a better standard. They wanted $10.69, even though, for example, some of their competitors were paying at least -- or no more than $8.25, and many who were nonunion competing with Hormel were paying less. So that to strike for $10.69 or approximately 69 cents an hour above the highest wage rate that was offered in the industry is absolutely, in my opinion, more than appalling, it's absurd.
LEHRER: Mr. Rogers?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, I'd like to respond to that, because he's trying to make this seem like a 69-cent issue and it isn't. It goes far beyond massive wage and benefit cuts by a company that is very, very profitable, also by a company that raised the salary of its top official by $231,000. Let's talk about the injury rate. This plant has the worst injury rate in the industry. Thirty-three percent of the workers suffered a major lost-time injury in the past year. Let's talk about what concessions have done to workers. In Austin, where just about 10 years ago they had a population of about 36,000, now with concessions the last 16 or 20 -- the last 22 years, they now have a population of less than 23,000. They used to have six to seven thousand jobs at Hormel in the Austin area. Now they're down to approximately 1,000 jobs. Is that what concessions give? By tearing the economy of the whole community apart, they've given nothing. The other thing I'd like to say is, you've got these low-wage companies in the industry, and that's a problem that this international has not dealt with. When the international tried to blast the local P-9 campaign and tried to undermine, they decided the real problem was Con Agra Armour -- they would go after low-wage Con Agra Armour. So they announced a national campaign against Con Agra Armour. Will you tell me what's happened at Con Agra Armour? Number one, they lost an organizing drive; number two, nobody's ever heard of the national boycott campaign.
Then let's look at the low-wage companies. Let's look at a company that's paying, say, $6 an hour, and they say, "We can't compete with Hormel with that ultramodern plant at 10, so we come down to six." Then Hormel says, "Well, we can't compete with those $6 wages. We got to go down to eight or nine." Then the $6 one says, "We have to go down to four or five." Hormel comes back and says, "We got to go down to six or seven." When does it stop? When do people stand up and say, "This is it. We're going to stand here and we're going to protect a wage, and we're going to protect safety, and we're going to protect from having our contract gutted, our seniority system, our grievance procedure." Because these have been the major issues. Don't make this a 69-cent issue. These workers should not have to give one cent to a company as profitable as Hormel, nor should they have to have their contract gutted, nor should they have to go into these plants and have their fingers cut off and their backs and their arms ruined.
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers, it's no longer a 69-cent issue. You offered -- you agreed to accept the last offer of Hormel. So the very principle on which the strike --
Mr. ROGERS: No, we did not agree to accept the last offer of Hormel.
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers --
Mr. ROGERS: No, let's get that straight.
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers --
Mr. ROGERS: They did not agree to accept the last offer of Hormel. You've got your facts wrong.
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers, let's -- you did accept the last offer, except that you said that Hormel would have to fire all the people who they took during the strike and get rid of them in order to take back some of the other people.
Mr. ROGERS: There is a very key element in that last offer, and that's common contract expiration dates, something that the international union has said time and time again that they wanted. They want a national agreement, and they want common contract expiration dates, so one group of workers can't be pitted against another group of workers at another plant. The fact of the matter is, right now Hormel is under tremendous strain. Why? Because all the contracts at nearly all their plants expire this summer, and in September. And if the P-9 people hold out, they will run into contract expiration dates of all the other plants in the Hormel operation.
LEHRER: Gentlemen, let me ask you both a general question. To you first, Mr. Cabot. The Hormel situation is merely the latest in a series of strikes that have resulted in the union being replaced by -- or the union workers being replaced by nonunion employees and the company just going on about its business. Why is that now possible where it was not possible before? What's changed?
Mr. CABOT: Well, I think what's changed is that -- let's go back and focus on the meat-packing industry just for a second. And I think that all we need to do is to look to a company by the name of Wilson Foods, who has faced a Chapter 11 bankruptcy situation. The question has to be asked, why would a company that was once strong and profitable now face the bankruptcy problems? And the answer is that management has learned, when it looked into some of the problems it faced in the '60s and '70s, and it found, for example, that in the '60s and the '70s, many times management bought labor peace. Even though it couldn't afford the demands of labor, it wouldn't take a strike. It felt that it could pass on the prices to the consumer. And when the consumer began to balk and when competitiveness became an issue, and the public wanted to buy the best-quality but lowest-priced product, then management had to reevaluate its labor-relations positions. And one of the positions that it has reevaluated, and I think a healthy evaluation, was that it was not going to mortgage itself and borrow its future and pay labor costs that it couldn't afford. So that management --
Mr. ROGERS: Two issues. Two issues --
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers, let me just finish.
Mr. ROGERS: Well, he just was going to ask me, and maybe you went on too long, because I'm not sure you're telling correct information.
Mr. CABOT: Mr. Rogers, it seems to me that Wilson Foods --
LEHRER: Mr. Rogers, hold on a minute. Let him finish and then I'll get to you very quickly. All right, go ahead, Mr. Cabot, please.
Mr. CABOT: So in direct response to your question, the answer is a commitment, that management now has said to itself, like the Hormel situation, that it will stand firm, it will take a strike, it will do all the things necessary to preserve that financial viability.
LEHRER: Okay, thank you, Mr. Cabot. Mr. Rogers, what's the problem with the strike? Why is it no longer as effective a weapon as it used to be?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, a strike which is not effective is when they simply allow the workers to stand out prostrate and let everybody go by while they stand as a docile force out there. What we did in the Hormel situation is we turned the strike force into a powerful economic and political force. Every striker has a job. We've gone into 450,000 homes throughout the Midwest with our campaign message. We've gone in caravans all across the Midwest, building union solidarity with other unions. We've got massive demonstrations all across the country going on right now. We've got a number of things that are happening that the strike force themself is carrying out. These strikers have to be turned into a powerful economic and political force, because you have to collectively mobilize their energies and their collective imagination, skills and knowledge. And that's when the strike will become an effective weapon, as it has become in Hormel. But what you've got is you've got this international union working in collusion with the Hormel Company, and that's been the major obstacle in a victory in this campaign, is theinternational's role. It's a scandal in the labor movement.
LEHRER: Mr. Rogers, thank you; Mr. Cabot, in Philadelphia, thank you. Charlayne?
HUNTER-GAULT: There's more to come on the NewsHour. A look at suicide and a widening political scandal in New York, and a documentary report on what's being called the most important French election since De Gaulle's.
This is pledge week on PBS, and we're taking a short break now so that your local public television station can ask for your support. That support helps to keep programs like this on the air.
[PBS pledge week intermission] Big Apple Scandal
HUNTER-GAULT: Our next focus segment is about power, politics and corruption in New York City, and now death. Last night one of the city's most powerful politicians was found dead, an apparent suicide. The death of former Queens Borough President Donald Manes was the latest and most dramatic development in an ever-widening political scandal. The investigation continues, but for Manes it was a tragic end to one of the most promising careers on the New York political scene.
[voice-over] Donald Manes, elected in 1971 at age 37, the youngest borough president in Queens history. By 1984 the affable Democrat and friend of New York City Mayor Ed Koch was being touted as a possible successor to Koch. All of that began to unravel the night of January 10th, when police stopped a weaving car on the highway. Inside was Manes, dazed and bleeding. His wrist and ankle had been slashed. Manes was rushed to the hospital, where he later suffered a heart attack. At first he claimed he was a victim of a kidnaping, an attempted robbery. A week and a half later, he admitted he had slashed his own wrist.
DONALD MANES: The wounds I received that night were self-inflicted. There were no assailants and no one but me is to blame.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: His powerful friends and political allies initially stood by him, but shortly after that, one of Manes' close friends, Geoffrey Lindenauer, then deputy director of the city's Parking Violations Bureau, was arrested and charged with taking bribes. Others implicated Manes in the kickback scheme. Several other city commissioners and their associates also came under investigation and resigned. Mayor Koch was among the first to denounce his friend Manes.
Mayor EDWARD KOCH: I am convinced now that he engaged in being a crook.
HUNTER-GAULT [voice-over]: Under increasing pressure and faced with possible indictment, Manes took a leave of absence. Four days ago, Geoffrey Lindenauer pleaded guilty to lesser extortion charges and agreed to testify against other city officials, including Manes. Last night, at his home in Queens, Donald Manes stabbed himself in the heart with a kitchen knife and died shortly after. Today Mayor Koch was among the first to remember his former colleague.
Mayor KOCH: Donald Manes is someone who I've known for about 20 years, a friend, who I think, notwithstanding my judgment made as it related to a particular incident, did a lot of good things, and those are the things that I prefer to remember.
HUNTER-GAULT: Some further insight into the story now from someone who's not only been on top of it but who's been a part of it by breaking new ground in his columns. New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin has made a career covering the ins, outs and undersides of New York City.
Jimmy, first of all, for people who don't live in New York, what does it mean to be borough president of Queens?
JIMMY BRESLIN: You're a member of the board of directors of the city of New York, which is the Board of Estimate. You've got local power of some sort, which seemed to have been disguised mostly by the fact that they were using it for theft more than for good.
HUNTER-GAULT: But basically a borough is like a little mini-city.
Mr. BRESLIN: Well, Queens is a place with two million people. We're not dealing with a small place.
HUNTER-GAULT: Larger than all but three U.S. cities.
Mr. BRESLIN: Large place here.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, how powerful was Manes?
Mr. BRESLIN: I think Donald Manes was a product of his times. We'll have to look at the power, what power means, in that thing. He was on a board of directors of a city where 78 of the blacks and Hispanics don't even finish school. He did not -- there was no power to help the powerless. There was much power to help builders and to help politicians to help themselves. That's how they were using power. For the rich and for themselves. And I think that that has a lot to do with Mr. Manes' problem and it speaks for the condition of the rest of the country, because I don't think this was a Queens tragedy; I think this is a product of its times and it's this way all over the country. This tone of greed. This was a large act, committing suicide, and I think it should be addressed in large words and not in terms of a crummy municipal scandal. And I think if you had to speak about a suicide, let's speak about greed.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, well, let's be specific then in terms of the kinds of corruption that we're talking about here. How big was it and what was it?
Mr. BRESLIN: This nation -- it started in Washington. This doesn't start on Queens Boulevard. This country has been told now that we have a new standard. Our old standard used to be to assist, to help, to lend a hand, to other countries, to the poor of our own. We didn't do it well, but that was the goal, that was the standard we believed and we were doing it. That standard has been changed to greed, now a new American standard. We confer royalty on anyone who's got money. Therefore, you come to Queens Boulevard, we can't make money with missiles, we can't do it with defense contracts; we can do it with parking tickets.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Specifically, though, in this instance it was a case of the Queens borough president, as it is alleged, having control over handing out the --
Mr. BRESLIN: Just as the city is cut up into boroughs, they cut up the central administration of the city of New York under Ed Koch, who's an absentee mayor. He's on television; he does not work. He's a lazy, vain man; he doesn't know what he's thinking until he talks.
HUNTER-GAULT: But let's stick to the story.
Mr. BRESLIN: They cut it up like gangsters -- just a minute. Queens had parking, Brooklyn had this, the Bronx had a computer that wasn't even in existence and they got $22 million. Each of them in order for Koch -- in order to go around and be a celebrity and be a mayor, he allocated power to the political leaders, told them do what they want -- in essence, "I don't want to look at it, I don't want to know what you're doing. Go ahead," and they did. Now, Queens --
HUNTER-GAULT: Now, the charge is that in Queens they had the Parking Violations --
Mr. BRESLIN: That isn't a charge; they had it. The Parking Violations Bureau, they came up with a system whereby to collect overdue tickets after a period of time if the city itself didn't collect them, they gave them to private collection agencies.
HUNTER-GAULT: And got kickbacks.
Mr. BRESLIN: Well, they wouldn't give the contract to the private collection agency unless they got money.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right. This scandal is being compared to the Serpico police corruption scandals of the early '70s.
Mr. BRESLIN: Serpico was a couple of little cops. It meant nothing. This is a major scandal.
HUNTER-GAULT: How high does it go?
Mr. BRESLIN: It goes to the character of the nation.
HUNTER-GAULT: But how high in New York City?
Mr. BRESLIN: Well, who's the mayor? Koch is the mayor. I mean, everybody around him is in trouble. They've got 21, 22, 23 people having to leave. You've got indictments. You've got a man plunging a knife into his heart over this. And he says it's not any of his doing -- it's his city.
HUNTER-GAULT: There's a history of suicide in Donald Manes' family -- his father, his brother. Is this possibly not related to all of these investigations, or what's your sense of that?
Mr. BRESLIN: Oh, it was directly related to the investigation. He attempted to commit suicide back in January at the time the scandal was just started, and now at the part of it where he seemed to be in the deepest trouble, he did commit suicide.
HUNTER-GAULT: Some have said -- I think it may have even been you -- that this may be the beginning of the end of the Koch administration. Is it going to burn down this administration, in your view?
Mr. BRESLIN: I think the level of public disgust will rise to a point where I don't think he'll be useful as a mayor. He'll find that out himself.
HUNTER-GAULT: Is the Manes death going to hurt the investigation?
Mr. BRESLIN: I don't think, with all of the things that are wrong out there, I don't think his death is going to cover it up. I think it'll just go on. Someone will come forward, people will remember things. And there are records, there are investigations going. I think we should worry about the length of time politicians are in office right now, rather than what Donald Manes took with him to the grave. That will come out from some other area. He was in office for 14 years in Queens County without an election of any consequence against him, and you have Eastern European politics. Therefore, he thought he was in a private business, it was his private domain, that job. No politician in this state -- I can just speak for my state and my times -- should have office for more than eight years, because clearly the integrity dissolves inside them after a period of time, and they begin to steal, and they think it's right. Then when somebody calls them on it%%%
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, it's a terribly sad story. Thank you, Jimmy.
Mr. BRESLIN: And I'm sorry for their troubles, as we say in the old country.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, thank you. Thank you for being with us. Crossroads for France
LEHRER: Next come the French elections. They are for control of the Parliament. They will be held on Sunday, and like all French elections they are very, very complicated. Fortunately for us. Ann Macmillan of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has done a report that explains everything.
ANN MACMILLAN, CBC [voice-over]: France is in the feverish grip of an election which could lead to constitutional collapse. As the campaign enters its final frantic days, the prospect of political chaos looms ever nearer. The polls say that Jacques Chirac, a conservative, will be the next prime minister. The rise of conservative power will almost certainly lead to conflict, because the president of France is a socialist. The president is the most powerful man in France, and Francois Mitterrand is head of state until 1988. In theory, the president is responsible for the armed forces and foreign policy. He can also appoint the prime minister and dissolve Parliament. But he's obliged to work with the elected government. If the conservatives win this election, they've threatened to challenge the president in a battle for supremacy. Olivier Todd is a political commentator and former editor of the newspaper L'Expres.
OLIVER TODD, French journalist: This is probably the most important election we've had since De Gaulle came back in 1958. This is a moment most people believe that when the results are out on Sunday at 8:00 plus one minute, then they're going to have a situation that's never occurred before. A left-wing president who's going to stay there, says he, until 1988, 'til the end of his mandate, and a right-wing assembly. So for the first time we'd have a president without a majority in Parliament and a majority in Parliament without a president.
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: It was Charles De Gaulle who designed the present French constitution 27 years ago. To end a century of political instability, he created the Fifth Republic, with a powerful president who is elected every seven years and a Parliament, elected every five years. It was a system that was to work as long as De Gaulle and his conservative followers dominated the political scene. But in today's political free-for-all, De Gaulle's legacy has become a blueprint for confusion.
There was widespread celebration when the socialists came to power in 1981. After 23 years of conservative rule, the French public had opted for Francois Mitterrand and a complete change of direction. But it wasn't long before Mitterrand's socialist experiment ran into trouble.
Mr. TODD: He said he would reduce unemployment. He said he'd create a million jobs. He said that he would bring down inflation. He said that the poor, the handicapped, would be helped more than they'd been helped before. He said that nationalization would solve the problem of unemployment. And, you know, a lot of these things did not come to pass.
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: Mitterrand inherited a lot of problems from his conservative predecessors. Unemployment was high; so was inflation. But his socialist policies failed to work. As the jobless rate has soared, so have lines at charity food centers. Under the socialists, unemployment has risen by 40 , a national disgrace, according to opposition leaders like Jacques Chirac.
JACQUES CHIRAC, opposition leader: You know that one French boy less than 25 years old is unemployed -- one out of four, and one out of three for the girls less than 25 years old are unemployed. This is not acceptable.
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: Public pressure has forced Mitterrand to adopt more conservative policies. Although his new approach has brought inflation down and is beginning to boost the economy, many former supporters are disenchanted. For Alain Sathicq, unemployment was something that happened to other people. But as the cancer of unemployment crept through the system, what he thought was impossible happened. Eighteen months ago he lost his highly paid job as a sales executive. Once a week Alain visits a government center for jobless executives. He used to come here more often, but recently he's grown discouraged. His search through newspapers and magazines has been fruitless. He's answered hundreds of want ads without a single job offer. He's not alone in his search. Sharing his table today is an out-of-work engineer and an unemployed economist.
ALAIN SATHICQ, unemployed salesman: I voted socialist last time and I've been terribly disillusioned, so I think I'm going to vote conservative again, as I used to do in old times.
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: Alain used to earn $36,000 a year. Now he gets $84 a week unemployment insurance. He's ashamed he can no longer give his sons the things they once took for granted. Disillusioned as he is with the socialist government, Alain is searching for an alternative. But the political confusion he finds wherever he looks makes him wonder how anyone can decide which party to support. On television the most popular program in France is a nightly political puppet show. It makes a mockery of the country's political leaders. President Kermitterrand the Frog squabbles with a pig representing Georges Marchais, leader of the French Communist Party. But the real fun is reserved for the conservatives. Valery Giscard D'Estaing, the former president, leads one of two main conservative parties. Jacques Chirac, who was once prime minister, leads the other. Now a third conservative has entered the fray, another former prime minister, Raymond Barre -- Teddy Barre in this comedy series. The power struggle between Chirac, Giscard and Barre has become a national joke. It's dog-eat-dog as they unceremoniously fight for the office of prime minister. And just to add to the confusion, they've all got their eye on the top job of all, the presidency in 1988. Jean-Claude Sergeant is professor of politics at the Sorbonne University.
JEAN-CLAUDE SERGEANT, political scientist: We must remember that these people put up a respectable front of unity, but can I say that they hate each other's guts in private?
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: If they were united, the conservative parties would score an overwhelming victory. Instead they are vying with each other for votes. Conservative election posters feature different candidates, different slogans, different parties. Yet in the end, they must somehow join together to form a government.
[on camera] Nobody in Paris is watching the conservative in-fighting more closely than socialist President Francois Mitterrand. He's clearly delighted at the spectacle of his political enemies squabbling and bickering, and he's using their disunity to strengthen his own position.
[voice-over] Mitterrand has lived up to his reputation as a wily survivor in this election. After promising not to get involved in the campaign, he turned up at socialist rallies, urging voters to give his party another chance. This president likes nothing better than a good fight, and he's made it clear that he intends to stay on as president until his mandate expires in 1988.
Mr. TODD: He is going to fight tooth and nails, first because he thinks he has some sort of historical mission, and also because he enjoys the trapping of power, very obviously. He also feels that he's the last hope of the French socialist Party.
MACMILLAN [voice-over]: As French voters prepare to go to the polls on Sunday, they are faced by an unenviable choice, and they know it. Conservative supporters are already celebrating what they see as certain victory on Sunday. What no one can predict is whether the French constitution will prove strong enough to stand the strain of having a government of one political persuasion and a president of another.
HUNTER-GAULT: The Lurie cartoon tonight is about two different economies.
Ranon Lurie cartoon -- three Soviet observers with binoculars, saying, "The capitalists have launched another propaganda war." They are looking at the Statue of Liberty, whose torch says "U.S. Economy."
LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Friday. Secretary of State Shultz will meet tomorrow with Soviet Premier Ryzhkov, the first high-level meeting of its kind since the November Reagan-Gorbachev summit. Wholesale prices fell 1.6 in February because of the drop in gasoline and other fuel costs. It was the sharpest drop since figures like that have been kept. The news helped trigger another booming day on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average soaring 39 points.
Good night, Charlayne.
HUNTER-GAULT: Good night, Jim. That's our NewsHour for tonight. Have a good weekend. I'm Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: News Summary; Hormel: Union Strikes Out; Big Apple Scandal; Crossroads for France. The guests include In New York: RAY ROGERS, Labor Strategist; JIMMY BRESLIN, New York Daily News; In Philadelphia: STEPHEN CABOT, Management Lawyer; Reports from NewsHour Correspondents: ELIZABETH BRACKETT, at Cape Canaveral; FRED deSAM LAZARO (KTCA), in Austin, Minnesota; ANN MACMILLAN (CBC), in Paris. Byline: In New York: CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, Correspondent; In Washington: JIM LEHRER, Associate Editor
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Identifier: NH-19860314 (NH Air Date)
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- Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1986-03-14, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-tq5r786g75.
- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1986-03-14. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-tq5r786g75>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-tq5r786g75