Pioneering Longshoremen Leave Lasting Impact News & Notes producer Zachary Slobig, who handles the show's economics coverage, talks with Tony Cox about one of his favorite segments. It's the story of a father and a daughter, both pioneering black longshoremen on the docks of the busiest port in the country.
NPR logo

Pioneering Longshoremen Leave Lasting Impact

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Pioneering Longshoremen Leave Lasting Impact

Pioneering Longshoremen Leave Lasting Impact

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

TONY COX, host:

Now, we're going to turn to Zachary Slobig. He is another producer here on News & Notes. Hey, Zach.


COX: So, you regularly handle our economics coverage on the show, and it's been an extraordinary time to cover the financial world, of course. Whole industries contracting and changing forever; the auto industry, an obvious example. Our own industry, the media, another example. But a few months ago, you found a worker from another industry that is reeling from the recession. Tell us about her.

SLOBIG: Well, Tony, this was back in mid-December. And Farai Chideya, the former host of News & Notes, and I were working on a segment about workplace identity, about race and gender roles in the workplace. And I had found a few folks I thought might be interesting. And I took them into our mid-day meeting here, which we have every day at noon. And you know, between the group, we decided these weren't the right folks. And Farai insisted, you know, we should really find a worker. We should talk to a worker. How about a female longshoreman or something like that? So I went out, had a few more hours in a day and tried my best. And sure enough, I did find a female longshoreman. I found the Longshore and Warehouse Union's newsletter online. It's called the Dispatcher, and that's where I found Clovijean Good. And she was one of the first women working here on the waterfront in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the nation's busiest. So I talked to her, and I got her come in the next day and go live on the show. And Farai sort of started the conversation off, asking about her father, who was also a longshoreman, and asked what her father's response was to her desire to follow in his footsteps.

(Soundbite of interview with Clovijean Good)

Ms. CLOVIJEAN GOOD (Longshoreman, Los Angeles): Oh, he did not want that. He did not want his daughter on the waterfront. He felt that he had struggled long and far enough, and that he didn't want me in that type of environment.

FARAI CHIDEYA: Why did you want to do it?

Ms. GOOD: Because I was - you know, like they say, apple don't fall too far from the tree. I knew that it was a great career. I knew that it was excellent money, and I knew that I could become a great, independent woman, help myself and help others. So I had plenty challenging days where I had to fight for my rights. So...

CHIDEYA: What do you mean by that? What do you mean by fight for your rights?

Ms. GOOD: Well, you know, I took on my employer. You know, I went ahead and I sued them, and I did what I had to do to break the glass ceiling so that women, African-American women and everyone, can have an equal employment opportunity.

COX: Now, Zach, I remember her being here, but what I also remember was her father, who sat on the other side of the glass here, watching his daughter. He had this really proud face, a proud expression on his face. Tell us about him.

SLOBIG: Yeah. Her father's name was Clovi Good. And he did accompany her to the interview that day. He had come to L.A. back in '56 from Jasper, Texas. And he soon found work down on the docks as what's known as a casual. He picked up shifts as a longshoreman. And over the course of a few minutes, found out that he had been one of the first black crane operators down on the docks, back in the late '50s. So, I chatted with him and sort of coaxed him into sticking around and doing another interview with Farai and his daughter after the show. And Farai kind of started off asking Mr. Good how and why he first came to Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of interview with Mr. Good)

Mr. CLOVI GOOD (Longshoreman, Los Angeles): My mother always told me when I was a little boy, said, I don't want you to live here in the South. She said, and when you leave here from the South, she said, go west. She said, don't go east. She said, make sure that you don't go to Mississippi or Louisiana. So, I came west. And I end up in California.

CHIDEYA: Jobs like in the longshore industry are ones that traditionally have been considered good paying jobs but also ones that are not very friendly to black folks. So, what did you find when you first started as a casual?

Mr. GOOD: It wasn't friendly. And so, you know, it wasn't friendly. It wasn't easy. It was hard. But it wasn't too hard for me because I was from the South anyway, and it was hard there. So when I got here, I was used to it. Everything hard, you got it. Everything dangerous, you got it. They didn't feel that a black man could operate those jobs. They - to me, they didn't want us to have the job because it was paying a skilled pay, more money. That's what I looked at, you know. Didn't want you pick up the jobs out of the hall or when you do get them out, you come out on the job site, well, the means didn't want to work underneath you, underneath the crane because it's a black man driving it, a black man driving the winches and all of that old kind of crap, you know. That's how they would respond to you. And they would go far to walk off the job, they'd reap out, leave, you know. Miss a night's pay, you know, to keep from working under a black man.

CHIDEYA: Do you think things have gotten better?

Mr. GOOD: Yes, they have. It's gotten better like, you know, black men's just stepping up on to the plate and taking the jobs and going to work, and making a living and ignoring him.

CHIDEYA: Clovijean, what about black women?

Ms. GOOD: It was a struggle for us, you know. We had to stand up. A lot of women maybe walked away from the job, you know, didn't want to ever come back on the waterfront. But as a whole, if you stayed and you worked it out, and you learn your job and you apply yourself, you could advance. Personally, I stayed focused on what I wanted, and I went forward with it. And opened up the doors for other women to come in behind me. You know, just stuck to it. And my father always told me, you go down that waterfront, you can be anybody you want to be. You just got to apply yourself, and don't take no wooden nickels.

CHIDEYA: There's not a lot to go around at this point. Not a lot of work, not a lot of people buying goods. Are you thinking that your industry, let alone your position, is secure at this moment in America's history?

Ms. GOOD: Right now the industry - less ships are coming in, you know. Where we used to work seven days a week or now we're cut back now, maybe to five to four days. But like everything, it will pass.

Mr. GOOD: It's just a matter of time. I've - saw it happen lots of time there, that it got down to two days a week, you know. And it came back around. It just goes and come. It's not going to stay away.

COX: So what was it, Zach, that really drew you to these people and their story?

Mr. SLOBIG: Well, I think it was just that the toughness of this father-daughter duo and their optimism as well. And you know, as Farai noted - and this was a few months ago, at this point - it's tough times down there on the docks, and word is now that they are down to two days a week work.

COX: Zach, good job. Thank you.

Mr. SLOBIG: Thank you, Tony.

COX: That was Zachary Slobig, one of our producers here at News & Notes, talking about one of his favorites segments, the story of a father and daughter, both longshoremen here in Los Angeles. That's our show for today. Glad you could join us. To listen to the show or to visit the Web site, visit us at News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.