The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights
The Color of Law recreates the compelling story of Ernie Goodman, one of the nation’s preeminent defense attorneys for workers and the militant poor. Authors Steve Babson, Dave Riddle and David Elsila tell the story from the beginning, starting at Goodman’s early years as a corporate lawyer to his conversion to labor law during the Great Depression. From Detroit to Mississippi, Goodman saw police and other officials giving the “color of law” to actions that stifled freedom of speech and nullified the rights of workers and minorities. The Color of Law demonstrates that the abuse of power is non-partisan and that individuals who oppose injustice can change the course of events. Published by Wayne State University Press.
- The book goes beyond my Dad as just an individual person who led a wonderful life and talks about the experience of going through the ’20s, the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’50s and ’60s and even into the ’70s.
- His awakening as a political person came about out of the formation of the labor movement in the United States.
- He was one of the key people that provided legal counseling to the UAW.
- The sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan: Governor Frank Murphy refused to send in the National Guard troops.
- Literally taking power and grabbing these factories from huge corporations was enormously important and symbolic. Ernie Goodman and others ended up representing UAW during McCarthy period.
- George Crockett was one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known in my life. He would not bend.
- My Dad got one of those Attica grand jury cases.
- Colman Young was highlighted in this period. Our law firm took the lead in the National Lawyers Guild saying this has to be the priority of the guild to represent the civil rights movement.
- Ernie Goodman grew up in the Jewish ghetto in Detroit
- When Ernie Goodman died in 1997, his wife Frieda wanted some way of chronicling his life. She contacted Dave Elsila and he contacted Dave Riddle, and began writing the book. Dave Riddle became ill. We saw what a wonderful start he made to the book so, we picked it up and I became the lead writer in 2005 and 2006.
- Ernie was not unlike millions in the US that confronted the collapse of capitalism.
- They were collecting the cadavers off the streets every morning (in Detroit, during Depression)
- He was a repo man, repossessing furniture, which brought him face to face with the unemployed councils and some of the early organizing in response to the Depression.
- He finally has a conversion crisis, where he finds his way to the other side of barricades, where he joins those contesting the outcomes of the Great Depression. It’s the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the UAW and this upsurge of worker mobilization on the job on behalf of industrial unions to turn back the Great Depression that leads to the black and white unity in the workplace.
- The Civil Rights Federation was supported by these new unions. It was the Civil Rights Federation that not only questioned segregation in neighborhoods and on the job, but the role of these vigilante groups (the Black Legion) that were trying to roll back the New Deal and the CIO.
- The Lawyers Guild represented a progressive alternative and on that basis quickly grew in the late ’30s to about 5,000 members. 90% of the Guild was driven from its ranks from this concerted and fabricated web of lies, typical of the McCarthy era.
- Ernie Goodman takes the Guild to the South, first Virginia, then Mississippi.
Guest – Steve Babson, one of the three authors of The Color of Law. Steve is a labor educator and union activist living in Detroit for the last 32 years with his wife, Nancy Brigham. He received his doctorate in U.S. History in 1989 from Wayne State University, where he also worked as an instructor in the Labor Studies Center from 1985 to 2006. Steve has published six books, including Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town and Lean Work: Empowerment and Exploitation in the Global Auto Industry.
Guest – Bill Goodman, former legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has been an extraordinary public interest lawyer for over 30 years, and has served as counsel on issues including post-Katrina social justice, public housing, voting rights, the death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights, human rights work in Haiti, and civil disobedience.
Big banks have resumed the foreclosure process in 23 judicial states after a temporary suspension. Judicial states require a judge and court hearing for foreclosure proceedings–not so for the remaining 27 non-judicial states. Faulty databases that track mortgage foreclosures electronically have made big mistakes amid the high volume of mortgage defaults. Meanwhile, Bank of America started to file new paperwork for 102,000 foreclosures. Consumer advocates and lawyers for homeowners doubt Bank of America completed an accurate review of the paperwork. Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, expressed his skepticism to one media source: “These are lawyers. These are banks going to court and committing fraud,” he said. “For them to say this is a minor technical problem is mind-boggling.”
This is part 2 of the mortgage crisis. The same banks the public bailed out stand to make hundreds of billions more on these foreclosures of homes.
- We have a broken mortgage system. The same system that created all those terrible mortgages, that led people into default and losing their homes also created a mortgaging servicing that’s completely broken.
- Anything that would stop them from moving quickly they avoided; they figured they weren’t going to get caught.
- You have GMAC, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup.
- As a lawyer I’m offended by the law firms who are involved and really are knowingly committing fraud.
- These affidavits that they were putting before the court, the person signing them said, I have knowledge we are proper owner of the mortgage. I have knowledge this is the amount that’s owed.
- That person that was signing that affidavit was signing 500 that same day. They’re not going to suddenly have a staff to track down the original documents saying they have proper ownership.
- We’ve seen time and again those industries, those banks add fees they’re not allowed to charge, mis-ordering payments like we’ve seen in the credit card industry.
- The bottom line is what does this demonstrate? It demonstrates the banks can’t be trusted.
- What the foreclosure crisis has done is devastate communities across this country.
- The way we rebuild our economy is by allowing homeowners to actually be capable of affording their house and stay in their homes. We’re talking about 3 million foreclosures across the country.
- FHA is a mortgage that the federal government insures.
- You need to clean this mess up.
Guest – Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. NACA is an organization dedicated to protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. As director of NACA, Mr. Rheingold has testified before both houses of Congress on various mortgage lending and consumer finance issues, offered commentary before federal agencies charged with regulating financial service industries and protecting consumers, and helped draft amicus briefs on issues of great concern to consumers before the nation’s highest courts.