Pacific Northwest Labor History Association Presidential Candidate Statements

Responses to Presidential Survey by PNLHA Presidential Candidates

Ross Rieder, having served as the president of the PNLHA for several decades, has announced that he will not seek re-election at the next Annual General Meeting to be held in Seattle on May 3, 2015.

(Statements below in Ascending Alphabetical Order)

TOM LUX, PNLHA Vice President, Lake Forest Park, WA

QUALIFICATIONS

I have been involved with PNLHA since the early 2000’s, attending conferences and local events, selling the calendar at union meetings, ensuring that my union renewed its annual membership in a timely manner and supporting our conferences, recruiting new members, etc.

I have been a Trustee and am presently the Washington State Vice-president.

I first helped out with a conference in 2009 in Seattle. I was active on the planning committee for the 2012 conference in Tacoma and did much of the work on the brochure, literature and developing the conference schedule. I am the Planning Committee Chair for the 2015 conference in SeaTac with major responsibility for the schedule, fundraising and coordination. In 2014 I chaired the PNLHA Executive Board’s rewriting of the by-laws.

RELEVANT ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE OF PNLHA

I have been a PNLHA representative on the WA State Labor Council MayWorks Committee since its inception three years ago. MayWorks celebrates worker culture and history statewide throughout the month of May.

In 2003 I helped found the IAM District 751 Labor History Committee and continue to be the committee chair. Our activities include creating picture and artifact displays in our union halls, writing articles for the union newspaper, creating materials to educate members on labor history and the history of their union, videotaping and digitizing oral histories of union retirees and former union leaders, and supporting PNLHA activities.

Since 2009 I have been active on the Visiting Committee of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington and an active member and donor of the Friends of the Labor Archives.

I am a member of Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA)

WHAT OTHER ACADEMIC, LABOR, OR COMMUNITY QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU OFFER?

I am the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Shoreline Community College.

I am the Chair of the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee and also Chair of the Aerospace Machinist Joint Training Committee. These programs ensure the continued high skill level of aerospace workers in the State of Washington by developing state approved apprenticeship programs for Boeing/Airbus suppliers.

I sit on the Executive Board and am Treasurer of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA), a multi-generational labor/community organization of 1300 members who work for a secure future for all. I am co-chair of the Government Relations Committee and co-chair of the Environmental Committee. I also am active on the PSARA Long Term Planning Committee and the local Social Security Works Committee. I am the PSARA representative on the Blue/Green Alliance, the labor/environmental organization in Washington State.

I am a delegate to the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council from IAM Local 751-F.

I am active in and am the Treasurer of my union retiree club, the 751 Retirement Club.

VISION:

WHAT DO YOU MOST VALUE ABOUT THE PNLHA?

I value the successful collaboration of labor activists and academics that for 47 years has helped those who are interested in studying and educating about working class history to express the importance and relevance of labor history for our region. For all these years PNLHA has held annual conferences and other events where we can share ideas and learn – no other labor history association can say that. I believe that PNLHA has greatly enhanced the understanding of not only labor history but also labor values on our campuses, in our union halls, and in our communities.

What priorities would you set for the PNLHA under your leadership, and why?

My first priority is to grow PNLHA especially among younger workers and academics. I know many of our members feel the same way. If PNLHA is going to prosper for another 40+ years or more it is vital that we capture the interest of those who can continue this work.

The Labor History calendar has been a great outreach tool for PNLHA and a source of many interesting facts from labor history throughout the year. Ross will continue to produce the calendar for only a year or two more. I would want a small committee to work with Ross on the calendar and to come up with a recommendation on how best to continue producing the calendar in the future. I think it may be best to have more than one person responsible for production and distribution.

I also think it is important that we are more visible in the community. I would like to develop a volunteer cadre of members who want to give workshops in the schools and in union halls. I think it is important that we do this in an organized way and by drawing on the lessons of our past we can show how to build a better future.

PERSONAL QUALITIES:

What motivates you to seek election as the PNLHA president?

PNLHA is a great organization born of a great concept and I think it is very important not only to continue the work that has been done but to build on it. I feel that those of us who are active in the labor movement need to take a significant role in telling our own story. I know I am the right person to be president of PNLHA and with your vote and assistance we will continue to make PNLHA even better.

What personal qualities would make you successful in this role?

I have the organizational and leadership skills to help PNLHA continue its work and to build on its legacy. As a good listener I am respectful of others. I am leveI-headed and calm, and I think over all options and don’t rush to judgement. Working cooperatively with others has been a successful method for me. I believe strongly in including members in decision-making and that an organization run democratically is a stronger organization.

 

RON VERZUH, Oregon PNLHA Vice President, Eugene, Oregon (formerly Burnaby, British Columbia)

QUALIFICATIONS:

I offer extensive experience as both a labour activist/leader and academic historian dedicated to the study of labor history.

I have been an active member since 2010, served as an Oregon trustee, and am the current Oregon PNLHA vice-­‐president. In addition, I was on the planning committee for the 2013 Portland conference and served as an organizer of the Oregon PNLHA mini-­‐conference held on March 14, 2015, at Astoria, Oregon.

I am a director of the Slim Evans Society and the On to Ottawa Society, and a former director of B.C’s Labour Heritage Centre. All three organizations promote the preservation of labor history and sponsor projects to improve public knowledge of that history.

I have been a union member since 1966 when I joined the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. I became a Steel Worker in 1967. In the 1970s, I served as president of Local 2059 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada’s largest union. I became a CUPE staff member in the 1980s and was appointed national director of communications in the 2000s. I continue to be a member of my staff union’s retiree association.

My academic credentials include a BA in journalism, an MA in Canadian Studies, and I am currently completing a doctoral degree in history with a focus on the labor movement. My published academic work appears regularly in BC Studies, the premiere B.C. academic journal. One example is my extensive examination of singer-­‐activist Paul Robeson’s Peace Arch concerts organized by Mine-­‐Mill in the 1950s.

My more popular work can be seen in in the Journal of Local History published by the Trail Historical Society where my article on organizing immigrant workers recently appeared. A much more detailed article has been accepted for publication in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, a juried journal. Also, this summer,

Canada’s History, the popular national history magazine, will publish my article on

Canada’s role in making the atomic bomb.

I have published numerous other articles in various Canadian publications, including Canada’s labor magazine Our Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail, and other newspapers and magazines. I was the founding editor of The Arrow, a regional B.C. monthly, and Goodwin’s, a national alternative magazine. Both covered labor issues as a priority editorial policy. My work has also appeared on the activist web site www.rabble.ca and at www.ronverzuh.ca.

My published books include:

  • Radical Rag – The Pioneer Labour Press in Canada (Ottawa: Steel Rail

Publishing),

  • Underground Times – Canada’s Flower-­‐Child Revolutionaries (Toronto: Deneau),
  • Remembering Salt – A Brief History of How a Banned Movie Brought

McCarthyism to Canada (San Bernandino, CA: Createspace),

  • Dirty Dishes Done and other Work Stories (Copenhagen, Denmark: Erhvervsskolernes Forlag) Excerpts appeared as part of a textbook for use in teaching English at a Danish industrial college.

In 2015, I will release my second short documentary film entitled Remembering Salt based on the above-­‐mentioned book. In 2014, my short documentary Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout won the award for best historical documentary at the Oregon Independent Film Festival. It was also an official selection at the Workers’ Unite Film Festival (WUFF) in New York, the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLIFF) in Toronto, and the Rossland Mountain Film Festival in Rossland, B.C., where “Joe Hill” was set.

I am a Canadian from B.C. now retired and living in Eugene, Oregon, thus putting me in the unique position of having labor movement experience on both sides of the U.S.-­‐Canada border.

VISION:

My vision is of a PNLHA that engages seasoned labor historians, young scholars as well as those whose life experiences as workers have given them a valuable perspective on the labor history events that mark the Pacific Northwest.

I want our organization to be able to assist members to pursue historical research topics that are particular to our regions and to offer the broad labor history community in-­‐depth research articles in scholarly journals. But it is also essential to promote oral histories that come from interviews with working people, and to support those who write for popular history publications, union newsletters, and web sites.

To that end, my vision necessarily includes establishing and maintaining a program budget using funds raised through calendar sales, membership and conference fees. I also foresee a PNLHA fundraising effort that includes grants to support new labor history projects. This process will require that our non-­‐profit legal status and financial reporting are thorough and transparent as demanded by granting and government agencies.

Part of my vision sees us developing more collaborative relations with other labor history organizations that share our respect for both academic scholarship and lived experience. I see the possibility of joint research projects, public events, and membership recruitment campaigns. I also see us jointly publishing articles and other materials in online, audio, video, and print form.

I see a PNLHA that offers young people a prominent place for discussing and collaborating on work that is relevant to the labor history community, and providing new outlets for the work of up-­‐and-­‐coming historians and labor history activists.

I also see an organization that builds bridges between various communities of working people and assists in the formation of regional labour council history groups. This might entail providing advice for local history projects and helping to develop labor walking tours that could be made available on the PNLHA web site.

I imagine a PNLHA that puts a high priority on developing a credible and vibrant program that enhances our standing in the labor history community. Among other possibilities for accomplishing this goal:

  • Regular outreach to many labor movement and labor education organizations,
  • Continuing support for the ongoing struggles of working people in all three regions and helping to give historical perspective to those struggles,
  • Regular communications with members, using email and e-­‐newsletters like the one we have created in Oregon, and encouraging more cross-­‐regional member communication,
  • Strengthening relations and building greater cohesion among regional executive members and trustees and streamlining a transparent decision-­‐ making process,
  • Sponsoring and promoting more regional events between conferences,
  • Periodic meetings with central labor councils and retirees groups to promote the benefits of PNLHA membership,
  • Regular appearances on union-­‐sponsored podcasts, videos, radio stations, such as KBOO in Portland and Vancouver Co-­‐op Radio in B.C., as well as social media outlets,
  • Meetings with social justice organizations who wish to include events in labor history as part of their understanding of today’s key social justice issues.

I further see the need to initiate a leadership development program that calls on younger labor history enthusiasts both in the academic and the union worlds to come forward and shape the organization with new ideas and visions for the future. As president I would seek out those new sources of energy and talent.

PERSONAL QUALITIES:

I am a leader who consults before deciding, who communicates before acting, and who collaborates with those who share our labor history interests. I would continue to follow this path as president, discussing concerns with our executive board, keeping the board informed through regular communications and face-­‐to-­‐ face meetings whenever possible, and acting together as PNLHA leaders. I am also a leader who would endeavour to ensure full transparency in our actions and duties as a non-­‐profit organization.

My history as a trade union activist, union staff member, and leader testify to my ability to steer our organization in a direction that would achieve the goal of making labor history more relevant to the difficult battles that confront the labor movement of today.

My current activities as Oregon vice-­‐president illustrate the kind of innovations I would bring to the presidency. Since my election as Oregon VP in June 2014, for example, I have introduced the following improvements:

  • Regular contact with our trustees in person and by email,
  • A monthly newsletter that goes to all Oregon members as well as to the executive board and trustees in all three regions,
  • A revitalized and redesigned PNLHA web site, including the addition of an online membership and renewal system with PayPal option,
  • A generic membership recruitment leaflet that is being used across Oregon to build our region’s membership,
  • A regional mini-­‐conference that focuses on local labor history and contemporary issues of concern to trade unions. Note: a possible model for other regions is our Oregon mini-­‐conference in Astoria on March 14, 2015.

I want to expand these services to the other PNLHA regions, work closely with the unions and historians in those regions, and put my skills to work for the benefit of all PNLHA members.

I want PNLHA members to connect to our organization, to feel proud of our legacy and to value their contribution. To that end, I will consult members frequently between annual general meetings to learn about the direction they want the PNLHA to follow. I will share ideas with them with the aim of maintaining and advancing a healthy and effective organization that speaks to its members’ labor history interests.

With your support, I pledge to devote my energy, skills and commitment to initiating a program that will serve PNLHA members and lead us into a new era that respects the vision of our founders while embracing the new challenges we face today.