PNLHA and Labor Day 2015

Ryan Wisnor and Jim Strassmeier joined by PNLHA secretary Lane Poncy at Portland Labor Day picnic.

Ryan Wisnor and Jim Strassmeier joined by PNLHA secretary Lane Poncy at Portland Labor Day picnic.

PNLHA members attended several Labor Day picnics on September 7, 2015. The biggest gatherings were in Portland and Eugene where hundreds of working people celebrated the holiday.

Trustees Ryan Wisnor and Jim Strassmeier “stirred the embers” at Oaks Amusement Park in Southeast Portland. “We awakened a lot of interest in the May 20-22, 2016, conference, and attention to the website.” One Spanish-speaking picnicker volunteered for our oral history program.

PNLHA secretary Lane Poncy also attended the event sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. “We had a selection of old calendars that people were interested in looking at,” she reported, and many wanted to learn more about labor history.

Oregon VP Ron Verzuh pitches PNLHA to the crowd at the Eugene/Springfield Labor Day picnic.

Oregon VP Ron Verzuh pitches PNLHA to the crowd at the Eugene/Springfield Labor Day picnic.

Oregon vice-president Ron Verzuh staffed a PNLHA table at the Eugene/Springfield event sponsored by the Lane County Labor Council. He was also invited to comment on the association during the formal part of the day. The result was a renewed interest in labor history and two new members.

Trustee Mike Sullivan attended a smaller event in Salem and reported success at promotion interest in both the association and the pursuit of labor history.

Thanks to PNLHA president Tom Lux, members received two lists of songs appropriate to Labor Day celebrations.

Jobs and climate change

Joe UehleinLabor activists on climate change and the jobs crises is the theme of an evening of music and dialog in Portland on Oct. 10.

Joe Uehlein, executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability, will speak and perform at the event to be held at the AFL-CIO Hall at 3645 SE 32nd St. (just south of Powell Blvd.).

Uehlein, a musician and band leader, is a 40-year member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). He holds a deep interest in working-class culture, which “motived him to help found the Labor Heritage Foundation (LHF) in 1980.”

For more information, 503-286-5850 or

Historic labor site under attack

Blair Mt. plaqueThe historic site of “the largest armed confrontation in American labor history” is in danger of being strip-mined, say the United Mine Workers and the Friends of Blair Mountain in a Charleston Gazette-Mail news report dated August 24, 2015.

The Blair Mountain Battlefield is where 10,000 union coal miners battled company guards and police who tried to stop a union drive in Logan and Mingo Counties, West Virginia. Part of the struggle was vividly depicted in the 1987 movie Matewan.

Some historians argue that the battle of Blair Mountain was the stimulus behind the pro-union Wagner Act (1935). The act allowed West Virginia miners and many others to organize into unions.

Coal companies want to resume mining in the area, but the UMW and others are fighting to preserve “vital historical resources” and to protect the regional environment from further deterioration.

There is a need to protect “previously unidentified significant archeological properties,” UMW lawyer Laura P. Karr said, and mountaintop mining threatens the historic and natural beauty of the area.

Companies that want to restart the mining are Aracoma Coal Co., a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources; Mingo Logan Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal; and WPP LLC, a coal-leasing company with offices in Delaware.

For more information on the Battle of Blair Mountain and the efforts to stop the strip mining of Blair Mountain visit . Also see .

New book on IWW gay activist

Marie Equi coverAuthor Michael Helquist, also a PNLHA member, will release Marie Equi – Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions at a launch party on September 14 (7-8:30 p.m.) at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland (1200 W Park Ave.).

“On the West Coast, Dr. Marie Equi, a lesbian firebrand and member of the Industrial Workers of the World, earned notoriety for doctoring her injured comrades and distributing contraceptives, wrote Linda Averill on the Freedom Socialist Party web site.

“With the start of World War I, Equi was jailed for treason, although the Oregon AFL spoke in her defense. A climate of anti-Red hysteria swept the entire U.S., silencing rebels like Dr. Equi, but not before they had made their mark on labor.”

The book, published by the Oregon State University Press, tells the almost hidden history of this “fiercely independent lesbian doctor regarded by J. Edgar Hoover as ‘a menace to the good morals, happiness, and peace’ of society.”

For more go to .

“Make some labor history,” PNLHA tells AFL-CIO summer school

PNLHA table 2 - AFL-CIO summer school - August 7-9, 2015Several PNLHA members and trustees were among the 150 participants at this year’s AFL-CIO summer school held at the University of Oregon in Eugene on August 7-9.

The annual summer school, organized by the Labor Education and Research Centre (LERC) at UO, provides union members from across the state with courses on bargaining, labor law and numerous other topics of value and interest to union activists.

Preceding a rousing “fight back” speech on opening night from AFL-CIO Oregon president Tom Chamberlain, PNLHA Oregon vice-president Ron Verzuh encouraged participants to join or renew their memberships.

“Make some labor history of your own,” he told the plenary session after presenting some background on the PNLHA and outlining the benefits of membership.

PNLHA table - AFL-CIO summer school - August 7-9, 2015“This is your kind of organization because the PNLHA doesn’t lose site of who makes labor history – its YOU,” Verzuh said. “The PNLHA offers a healthy mix of academic scholars and street-wise union activists.”

“By reviving and commemorating past events,” Verzuh said, “we not only celebrate their historical significance but we also remind ourselves that the struggle continues and that we can learn from our history.”

He then offered several examples of how labor history is relevant to today’s labor movement, citing both the Oregon PNLHA’s recent “Bloody Wednesday” event which commemorated the 1934 ILWU strike and the Astoria mini-conference earlier this year.

“Our annual conference is also full of other examples of how labor history can assist today’s unions,” Verzuh added, noting the May 20-22, 2016, Portland conference dates.

Joe Hill & Pride movie nightThe PNLHA also got a plug for new members on the school’s film night when Verzuh’s short documentary, Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout, opened for Pride, the British feature film about an LGBT group that supported the coal miners during their 1980s strike.

“People will always remember Joe Hill,” Verzuh told the film night audience, “and his songs still influence local actions to promote progressive social change. It’s another example of how history helps the contemporary labor movement.”

Another well-liked feature during the school was the Saturday night concert performed by Eugene’s Low Tide Drifters with PNLHA trustee Nathan Moore on guitar and vocals.

Many school participants visited the PNLHA booth during the three-day event to discuss their own interest in labor history and to join the association.

PNLHA joins Portland JwJ, attends meetings

JwJ logoOur affiliate membership to Portland Jobs with Justice was unanimously approved by the steering committee at its August 3 meeting, reports trustee Ryan Wisnor, our representative at JwJ.

Oregon trustees had agreed to the affiliation and a $100 financial contribution at their June meeting, but before the decision was made to accept our affiliation, Ryan attended three JwJ meetings as a guest.

On August 3, some JwJ members complimented the PNLHA on the June 11 Bloody Wednesday event, while others asked how the PNLHA could help members look into their union’s history.

Ryan has agreed to continue attending steering committee meetings and will provide a short report each month for Oregon Update on JwJ happenings. He also plans to arrange a meeting between Oregon PNLHA trustees and JwJ committee members.

For more on the Portland JwJ,

Labor Archivist of Washington’s Conor Casey on We Do the Work Radio Show

PNLHA member and Washington State Trustee Conor Casey was interviewed on We Do The Work radio: Tuesday, July 21, 6:30 pm, 91.7 FM KSVR. Casey, Labor Archivist and Director of the Labor Archives of Washington (LAW), explained how LAW was founded to preserve working people’s history and make it accessible.
Listen online at:

For more information on the Labor Archives and its collections, go to

WE DO THE WORK is dedicated to the well-being of all workers, union and non-union alike. The program believes that everyone who toils for wages or salaries, or who would if they could find a job, deserves to be treated fairly and have the opportunity to live in economic security. With the drastic increase in inequality over the last thirty years, fair treatment and economic security have become more mirage than reality to millions of workers.

Listen to We Do The Work Tuesdays, 6:30 pm, at KSVR, 91.7 FM, or Tuesdays, 6:30 pm and Fridays, 8:30 am, at KSVU, 90.1 FM or KSJU, 91.9 FM

For live streaming: go to

Concert stresses cross-movement links

Feeney performs; Lyons in background

Feeney on stage with Lyons in background

on stage

PNLHA members attended a musical event in Springfield, OR, July 18 designed to encourage cooperation between social movements, particular trade unions and environmentalists.

Billed as “a night of solidarity of environmental and labor activist, the 50-75 attending the event clapped, and sang along to some of the old movement favorites modified to suit the theme of the “Teamsters & Turtles – Together at Last” tour.

Labor singer Anne Feeney told the audience that the idea for the tour grew from her experiences as a participant in the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization.

SEIU singers 1

SEIU Local 503 singers

The show featured Feeney and Dana Lyons, called the environmental movement’s minstrel, with warm-up performances by the Eugene Raging Grannies and the SEIU Local 503 singers. Many of the songs, including the labor anthem Solidarity Forever, were inspired by labor history events. Visit and for more on Feeney and Lyons.

Eugene Raging Grannies

Eugene Raging Grannies

Proceeds from the event will go to the Civil Liberties Defense Center’s Backbone Campaign to run the “Next Generation Action Camp,” a week-long training workshop for youth 14 to 18.

The workshop is intended to “empower youth around the region by providing age-appropriate training and mentoring for future social justice and climate justice organizers and activists,” said a leaflet at the event. To donate or register visit: .

For more on Dana Lyons’s environmental music and a delightful animated version of his Cows With Guns theme song: For Eugene’s Raging Grannies: .