Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

January 15, 1999

THE OFT-USED HEADLINE "Local Boy Makes Good" could well be employed to summarize the successful career of Tom Drew, a labor union leader who became a federal mediator and retired this month from the Portland office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Drew, 63, a Portland native whose father was a union bus driver, was born in the St. Johns area and graduated from Benson High School after first attending Central Catholic. He made good in the U.S. Navy, then did likewise as an employee of the Pennwalt chemical plant and as a member of Chemical Workers Local 109, becoming president of the union and later an international union representative.

He led a bargaining unit of 70 of the local's members in a strike that began in 1969 at the Lloyd Fry roofing manufacturing plant and its Volney Felt Mills. The strikers found themselves pushed and pulled by outside influences. Drew recalled that Hells Angels bikers from Oakland, Calif., scabbed for a while behind Local 109's picket line, offered to quit if he could get them waterfront jobs, then pulled out and returned home after he refused.

MEANWHILE, POLITICAL ACTIVISTS and a far-left-wing college student group tried to take over the picket line to advance their radical agenda. But Drew and Local 109's members resisted and managed to retain control of the strike which saw the Illinois-based employer eventually shut down its Portland operations.

Drew's abilities caught the attention of the International Chemical Workers Union's leadership in Akron, Ohio, and he was appointed to the ICWU's staff, first as an organizer, then as a general representative. A tour of duty followed at the international's Los Angeles office and in other areas of the country.

A FEDERAL MEDIATOR in Los Angeles with whom Drew dealt as a union representative suggested that he apply for a job with the federal agency. He did, was accepted in 1977 and assigned to Seattle for training, then was transferred to the Portland office, which covers Oregon and southwest Washington. In his 21 years as a federal fireman, assigned to prevent labor-management disputes from flaming into strikes or lockouts, Drew's work earned nods of approval from both sides of the bargaining table.

Retirement will give him more time to pursue his hobbies of boating, wine collecting and listening to classical music. He and his wife Linda also plan to do some world traveling.

He has three grown sons from an earlier marriage, Daniel, Sean and Kevin, and five grandchildren.


JACK LONDON, the man who wrote the famous definition of a scab, was born 123 years ago on Jan. 12, 1876 in San Francisco. London's bloodcurdling definition of a strikebreaker - a person who takes a striking worker's job and goes to work behind a picketline - follows:

"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain, a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts he carries a tumor of rotten principle.

"When a scab comes down the street men turn their backs and angels weep in Heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of Hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with.

"JUDAS ISCARIOT was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his Master he had character enough to hang himself - a scab has not. Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his Savior for 30 pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for the promise of a commission in the British Army.

"The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, his country, his wife, his children, and his fellow man for an unfilled promise from his employer, trust or corporation. Esau was a traitor to himself. Judas Iscariot was a traitor to his God. Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country; a strikebreaker to his God, his country, his family, his class. "A real man will never scab."

A STORY OF LONDON'S life was printed 30 years ago in the Labor Press. Written by Ruth Jordan of Press Associates Inc., a labor news service in Washington, D.C., the article gave London's definition of a scab, then said:

"The man who wrote those words was a flamboyant American talent - newspaperman, adventurer, fiction writer, Socialist, individualist. Jack London could well understand working-class hatred of strikebreakers. He had been the route - from cannery work, to coal shoveler, to bum. He did not forget where he had begun.

"...His father was a Pennsylvania-born soldier, scout, backwoodsman, trapper and wanderer. His father and his Ohio-born mother met and married in San Francisco, where they had migrated.

"...When he was 10, his parents moved to Oakland, and London got a hard look at urban poverty and working-class life that was to lead him steadily toward his pro-labor philosophy..."

FROM HOWARD ZINN, a Boston professor, came this fact-packed account of London's short life, which Zinn wrote as an introduction to a 1971 Bantam edition of London's novel "The Iron Heel," which was originally printed in 1907:

"Jack London climbed, sailed, stormed through 40 years of life, all ending in the torment of sickness, and the calculated swallowing of a large dose of morphine tablets. Tired, he lowered himself into death, like the hero of his autobiographical novel, 'Martin Eden.'

"He had come out of the slums of San Francisco...By the time he was 15 he had been a newsboy, worked in a cannery, begun to read hungrily the books of the Oakland Public Library, become a sailor and a fisherman, found a mistress, and was drinking heavily. "BEFORE HE WAS 21, he had worked in a jute mill and laundry, hoboed the railroads to the East Coast, been clubbed by a policeman on the streets of New York, been arrested for vagrancy in Niagara Falls, joined the Socialist Party, pirated oysters in San Francisco Bay...shot rapids and climbed mountains in the Klondike gold rush...and sold his first adventure stories to magazines.

"At 31, he had written 20 books, married twice, run for mayor of Oakland on the Socialist ticket, covered the Russo-Japanese War, sailed to Hawaii and Polynesia, made huge sums of money, and spent every dollar..."

London died at age 40 in 1916 at his ranch in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco.


TWISTS OF THE TV TONGUE - In addition to the frequent misspellings in the graphics that appear on Portland television news shows and network news programs, the local reporters and anchors toss into their offerings amusing slips of the tongue or mind. Without mentioning names or stations, here are a few fairly recent flubs:

"A teen-aged teen-ager." "Serving" as a mispronunciation for surveying. "First Congressional Church" for First Congregational Church. "Senator" Earl Blumenauer for Oregon's Third District U.S. representative. "In sub-zero temperature" when it was 19 degrees. "The ice is beginning to freeze." "Chains are good to put on if you don't have traction devices." And, in reporting on the rain, "It's light but beginning to come down fairly heavy."


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.