The 1995 change of leadership in the AFL-CIO nationally had a big effect in Texas as elsewhere. Activists in Jobs with Justice chapters were pleased to be "adopted" by the official union hierarchy. Many aspects that had been left undone or done only by the small JwJ chapters became legitimate efforts of the big labor federation. Their "Union Cities" program called for coalitions with community groups, churches, and civil rights organizations. Student activists and senior citizens were actively solicited to help further the union's program. The long decline in union membership began to turn around. Labor's political clout grew.
In Texas, the UAW finally joined the state federation and all local CLC's. Teamsters Local 745, the biggest freight local in the nation, began to affiliate with the state and with the Dallas Central Labor Council after Gene Freeland became the Dallas principal officer. Even doctors began to form unions and affiliate with the AFL-CIO.
The UPS strike of 1997 taught Texans, and unionists everywhere, how to conduct solidarity activities and win a major strike. In the Dallas area, Jobs with Justice was the first organization to begin calling for solidarity activities. Very soon, many unionists and others had pitched in to help the Teamsters win.
In August, 1997, President Joe Gunn left the Texas AFL-CIO convention to help picket with Teamsters from the UPS strike. He put a trash bag over his shoulders to keep out the rain.
Child Labor Issue Unifies World Movement
Book review: Keilburger, Craig with Kevin Major, Free The Children. A Young Man's Personal Crusade Against Child Labor. Harper Collins, NY, 1998.
In the opinion of this participant, the number one motivation of independent protesters against the World Trade Organization in Seattle on November 30, 1999, was the world-wide drive to end child labor. The issue of child labor may well be the main awakening force for ordinary people the world over.
Some of the credit should go to Craig Keilburger, the 12-year old Canadian who began Free the Children with his classmates in Toronto in April 1995, just after they learned about the death of Iqbal Masih in Pakistan, April 16. Little Iqbal's picture is in the early pages of the book.
Before 1996 began, Craig had spoken to millions, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, linked with the worldwide labor movement, met Mother Teresa and the PM of Canada, visited Iqbal's grave, gained world wide renown, and established a world-wide network of children fighting against child labor.
His narrative begins with the death of Iqbal and basically ends after his first tour of child labor conditions in early 1996. He carried out that tour with the help of a 21-year old Canadian/Asian friend, but with no institutional backing! They basically back-packed through the main countries where children are exploited.
There are plenty of facts and plenty of suggestions for ending child labor, but the best part of the book is his own descriptions of the Asian children he met, studied, and played with. His careful descriptions of their conditions, especially as it affected his own adolescent consciousness, are not to be forgotten nor ignored.
The book is a chronicle of his awakening and a shout toward ours.
--Gene Lantz 2/2/00
I interviewed Craig August, 1999, at the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles. Craig was one of the speakers. There is a video of his speech as a 12-year old at the Canadian labor conference.
World Labor Takes Stand Against Corporations
In the last days of November and early days of December, 1999, unionists and their allies marched in Seattle against a meeting of the World Trade Organization. As far as I can find out, I was one of only 3 who attended from North Texas. But Emmett Sheppard of the Texas AFL-CIO and about 30 others statewide were also there.
WTO officials, the Seattle establishment, and the world media conspired to discredit the historical significance of the event, but they failed. The workings of this anti-democratic, corporation-dominated secret and powerful organization were exposed to world view by the Seattle demonstration and the world-wide protests of the same period. What the public saw, they didn't like. The WTO meeting in Seattle was a total failure, and the organization will have a difficult time in future because of its newly gained notoriety.
The AFL-CIO called for the "Protests on the Puget" and participated fully. But new allies from all over the world joined in. The list of middle-class organizations that participated would be far too long. In my own opinion, the numbers of independent, unorganized people who came on their own would be very large.
What Do Texans Think of WTO?
During and after the November 30 protest march against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, I interviewed dozens of Texas union members, retirees, and others. Although they had not previously been aware of the WTO, they know about it now. Unanimously, they don't like it! Here are typical statements from a 30-year steelworker from Rockdale, Texas, who attended the march in Seattle:
Larry J Fisher was bone-tired but happy as he changed planes in Dallas to complete his trip home to Rockdale, Texas, from the anti-WTO protest march in Seattle on November 30. He is the Political Action Chairman for Steelworkers Local 4895, and has been active since the 1960s.
To sum up labor's actions in Seattle, Fisher put it plainly: "I think we were very effective!"
The was most impressed with, "The unity of the people -- unions, environmentalists -- all there for human rights. This was something we had not accomplished in earlier labor actions."
"The bottom line was human rights, the dignity of people. All over the world."
Fisher lamented the actions of what he called the "crazies" who broke a few windows in Seattle, and the news agencies who focused on all the wrong things. But, he said, "The crazies won't destroy the effect of the action."
What will happen next? Fisher predicted, "I agree with [Steelworkers International President] George Becker that there will be major actions in Washington if WTO doesn't respond to labor now."
After the World Trade Organization tried to continue its secret and undemocratic globalization schemes in Seattle, Americans are still trying to interpret what happened. Some things are certain:
Leading Texas Labor Lawyer Dies
The following was received 11/1/00 from the Texas AFL-CIO Communications Director:
The Texas AFL-CIO joins labor lawyers in Texas and around the country in mourning the passing of attorney Nat Wells. Here is his death notice:
L.N.D. (Nat) Wells, Jr., died on October 26, 2000. For several decades he was "the Union Lawyer" of Texas.
Nat Wells was born on August 24, 1914, in Akron, Ohio, and raised in East Dallas where his father was the pastor of the East Dallas Christian Church.
He graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth in 1934 and Columbia Law School in 1937.
Nat joined the National Labor Relations Board as an attorney shortly after it was founded and served the NLRB from 1937 to 1946 in Fort Worth, St.
Louis and Washington, D.C.
Shortly after leaving the NLRB, Nat Wells and Otto Mullinax formed a partnership and law firm that represented unions and working people in Texas, the South and throughout the nation for over forty years. Nat was a tireless spokesperson for unions in numerous forums ranging from arbitrations, Dallas District Court, the NLRB, and the Supreme Court. His superb story telling skills, focus, and charm made him an effective advocate, feared opponent, and great companion.
Nat also led many labor law organizations. He was Chair of the Labor Law Section of the American Bar Association, Chair of the Labor Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, Member of the Advisory committee on Rules Of Procedure, Supreme Court of Texas, and Chair and Co-Chair of the Labor Law Section of the Southwest Legal Foundation.
Nat's commitment to labor law and unions were also reflected in his long term service as a Director of the AFL-CIO Lawyer's Coordinating
Louise and Nat Wells were married for over sixty years. Besides his wife, Nat has left four children, Nat Wells, Sally Bennett, and Joe Wells of
Dallas, and Letty Angione of San Diego, and eleven grandchildren. He was
proud of each of them. They were his greatest comfort in his last years.
Nat's passions were his family, trade unionism, and the Democratic Party. To his delight his family had prominently posted in his room a "Gore/Lieberman" sign. In the days just preceding his death, he participated in early voting in Texas.
Director of Communications, Texas AFL-CIO
[Wells handled the lawsuit that finally allowed the CIO into Texas when the NLRB ruled that the Ford plant in Dallas had to allow the UAW in at long last--Gene]
Oklahomans Lose “Right to Work/Scab” Fight 9/25/01
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