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Oral History About Women Labor Organizers

September 02, 1996
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WOMEN LABOR LEADERS. SOME OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE LABOR ORGANIZERS OF THIS CENTURY HAVE BEEN WOMEN WHO HAVE GONE INTO THE FIELDS, THE FACTORIES AND THE OFFICES TO EDUCATE AND EMPOWER WORKERS TO FIGHT FOR BETTER WAGES, WORKING CONDITIONS AND BETTER LIVES. THERE’S A NEW ORAL HISTORY OUT ABOUT WOMEN LABOR ORGANIZERS, ITS CALLED "ROCKING THE BOAT" AND SOME OF THE WOMEN WHOSE STORIES ARE TOLD IN ITS PAGES RECENTLY GATHERED AT THE GEORGE MEANY CENTER FOR LABOR STUDIES TO TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES ON THE PICKET LINE AND THE UNION HALL AS FAR BACK AS THE 1930S AND UP TO TODAY.

Guests:

ESTHER PETERSON, AN ADVISOR TO FOUR PRESIDENTS, A CONSUMER ADVOCATE, LOBBYIST AND LABOR ACTIVIST ORGANIZED TEACHERS IN NEW ENGLAND AND GARMENT WORKERS IN VIRGINIA, BUT SHE SAYS ONE OF HER HARDER ASSIGNMENTS WAS ORGANIZING IN HER HOME STATE OF UTAH.

MAIDA SPRINGER-KEMP BEGAN ORGANIZING IN GARMENT FACTORIES DURING THE DEPRESSION AND LATER BECAME THE EDUCATION DIRECTOR OF THE ILGWU. SHE WORKED WITH REKNOWNED LABOR LEADER A. PHILIP RANDOLPH AND WORKED FOR THE AFL-CIO IN AFRICA FOR MANY YEARS. SHE ORGANIZED IN THE SOUTH IN THE 1960S, REACHING OUT TO A DIVERSITY OF WORKING PEOPLE.

JESSIE DE LA CRUZ WORKED THE FIELDS OF CALIFORNIA NEARLY ALL HER LIFE AND BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN FROM THE FIELDS TO BECOME AN UNITED FARM WORKERS ORGANIZER IN THE FRESNO AREA. IN THE 1970S, HER FAMILY HELPED FORM AN ORGANIC FARMING COOPERATIVE SO THAT THEY WOULD NO LONGER HAVE TO WORK FOR OTHERS. IN RECENT YEARS, SHE HAS WORKED WITH THE UFW AND FOUGHT CALIFORNIA’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT PROPOSITION 187.


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