The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

wealth of information on Stuck's life, and provides insights into the
archdeacon's personality. Stuck was a man who was self-effacing and
bullying, intolerant of ignorance and injustice, and he held strong
opinions on many subjects. He also was loving and supportive of those
he cared for. The biographer also gives the reader a good idea of
Stuck's relationships with his colleagues and superiors. In short, this is a
fine contribution to northern history.
University of Alaska Fairbanks CLAUS-M. NASKE
Working the Waterfront: The Ups and Downs of a Rebel Longshoreman. By
Gilbert Mers. Introduction by George Green. (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1988. Pp. xxiv+274. Introduction, preface, ac-
knowledgments, illustrations, afterword, index. $19.95.)
Working the Waterfront: The Ups and Downs of a Rebel Longshoreman is a
colorful and absorbing personal account of Gilbert Mers's odyssey as a
union radical from 1929 until his retirement in the 196os. Increasingly
frustrated over the years by employer tactics, the strategy of accom-
modation by "business unionists," and mindless adherence to the party
line by communists on the waterfront, Mers's journey led him at differ-
ent times to join the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA),
the Communist Party, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
He also was instrumental in creating a rival organization in 1936, the
Maritime Federation of the Gulf Coast (MFGC), which challenged the
dominance of the AFL-affiliated ILA. Mers's struggles against those in
power, both employers and the established unionists, are reminiscent
of Len De Caux's Labor Radical: From the Wobblies to CIO, a Personal His-
tory (Beacon Press, 1971) and Charles Denby's Indignant Heart: A Black
Worker's Journal (South End Press, 1978).
Always suspicious of those whose primary concern is the profit mo-
tive, Mers equally is critical of entrenched union officials. He believes
that the terms of union leaders should be limited and that their salaries
should remain in line with the wages of the workers they represent.
In accordance with his IWW persuasion, Mers believes in a "par-
ticipatory democracy" in which working people should represent their
own interests; he is convinced that they effectively can run and direct
union affairs.
Perhaps the most interesting and important part of the book con-
cerns the attempts by discontented longshoremen and seamen to form
the Maritime Federation of the Gulf Coast in the mid-1930s. Mers and
his rank-and-file colleagues, fed up with ILA conservatism and the lack
of union solidarity, placed hope in the CIO. Despite their efforts, how-
ever, opposition by employers and the ILA, both of whom viewed


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed September 4, 2015.