Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

February 5, 1999

THE NORTHWEST OREGON Labor Retirees Council, sponsor of Labor's Hall of Fame, has selected 85-year-old activist Valerie Taylor of North Bend as its latest honoree. The retirees are affiliated with the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Mrs. Taylor is a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 12 Ladies Auxiliary.

Mrs. Taylor, who was born in Morton, Wash., has lived most of her life in the North Bend-Coos Bay area on Oregon's southern coast. However, she did live and work in Portland during World War II while her husband Forrest Taylor served in the military.

In the war years she worked at Columbia Aircraft Industries as a member of Machinists Local 737 and was elected a shop steward and a delegate to the Portland Labor Council, where she was one of three women members.

"I came from a union family," she wrote last year in tracing her history as a recipient of a Harry Bridges Columbia River Labor Tribute at an awards banquet in Milwaukie. The award is named for the late founder and longtime president of the San Francisco-headquartered International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). "My father was a logger when we lived in Morton, Wash., before World War I. He belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, as they were better known. The company union they had to contend with was called the 'Four Ls', which stood for the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.

"WE WERE LIVING in North Bend, Oregon, when the longshoremen went on strike in 1934. Our sympathies were naturally with the waterfront workers. Harry Bridges became a household name. Later, when I learned Bridges and his wife were visiting her relatives, who were good friends of ours living a couple of blocks away, I took the opportunity to meet him. I can remember him speaking about the strike and telling of the $50,000 bribe that was offered him to throw the strike. Later, during the third annual ILWU convention held in North Bend, my family invited Bridges and his sidekick, Chili Dwarte, to have dinner one evening. My father and Harry had a great visit with so much in common, and the rest of us realized we had met a great union leader.

"I was a member of the International Woodworkers of America Auxiliary in the late 1930s on my husband's union card. I helped in passing out leaflets from the Auxiliary to the Coos Bay Area Industrial Union Council. The council was very active in civic affairs. I was elected council secretary and held that position until the war broke out and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) Council disbanded temporarily..." VALERIE TAYLOR'S personal history continued:

"ILWU Auxiliary #1 was started in 1937, shortly after the 1934 Big Strike. I joined in 1946 on my brother's union card. I was elected a delegate to the ILWU Federated Auxiliaries Convention in San Francisco in 1949 and elected president then. The '40s, '50s and '60s were years of struggle for labor and for unions to build or even exist under almost constant attack. Our own great leader, Harry Bridges, underwent 21 years of hounding by government deportation and naturalization proceedings to ship him back to Australia and thus bust our union. With good labor lawyers and solid support from the ILWU membership we finally won the right to keep our leader. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy declared, 'The record in this case will stand forever as a monument to man's intolerance of man.'

"...In the 1950s the House Un-American Activities Committee began its attempts to bust the union of movie stars and other progressive groups through its hearings in Seattle, Portland, Honolulu and other cities throughout the United States. My name was among several ILWU members called to appear before the committee in Seattle. We all were strong unionists and had spoken out against the McCarran-Walter Act, which was aimed principally at the unions and progressive foreign born.

"BEING AN OFFICER in these various unions, especially the ILWU Federated Auxiliaries, kept me busy over the years. It seems I was at the typewriter constantly, writing our congressmen and state legislators against anti-labor bills, for a national health program and a civil rights bill, and otherwise carrying out the aims and policies of the ILWU...

"For some of us it seems a long time ago - the Great Depression and bread lines, veterans' marches in Washington, D.C., strikes and wars. The lesson we learned was that big businesses never cease their drive to maximize their profits. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Alliance) is an example of jobs being exported to Mexico; they have not bettered the wages of Mexican workers and have taken away many U.S. jobs. "At the present time, in addition to serving as secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Oregon ILWU Pensioners Association, I am a volunteer in STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) for the Coos River system. I am also a member of the Southwestern Oregon Steelheaders and I help feed the volunteers in the Adopt a Stream program.

"I am most proud of having worked with ILWU member Harry Hanson in circulating petitions to establish our Southwestern Oregon Community College." Life was not all labor activism for Mrs. Taylor. She told the Northwest Labor Press that she enjoyed camping, hunting and fishing with her husband Forrest who's now deceased. "I miss him," she said.


The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in its America @ Work magazine, commented on what it called "The Nike Economy," referring to the Oregon-based sports shoe giant which makes most of its products overseas. The national AFL-CIO had this to say about corporations like Nike:

"CORPORATIONS need to stay competitive in the new global economy. But that doesn't mean putting American workers in an unfair race with the lowest-paid, most-impoverished workers in the world.

Multinationals are often based in the United States, but they respect no flag and are loyal to no one but their officers and shareholders. Case in point: Nike has been a corporate poster child for tolerating below-subsistence wages and dangerous working conditions for the 500,000 laborers in its contracted production facilities overseas - while selling its prestigious sports and consumer products at top dollar. Chiquita Brands, an American company, has crushed labor unions at company-owned farms in Latin America and formed local front companies to further limit union activity.

THAT KIND of 'flexibility' may enhance corporate balance sheets. But it ignores the higher domestic unemployment and lower standard of living that can result while stripping workers, here and abroad, of the bargaining power they need to counterbalance multinational behemoths. To fight this global corporate agenda, Americans must demand that trade agreements insist on basic worker rights. All workers everywhere - no matter how poor their country - should enjoy:

* The right to associate freely.

* The right to form unions and bargain collectively.

* The end of all forms of coerced, unfree labor, including child labor.

* The end of discrimination in the workplace.

* Acceptable conditions with respect to minimum wages, hours of work and occupational health and safety...

AS CHRYSLER WORKERS are finding in Germany and Sprint workers are finding in Mexico, international labor solidarity can protect workers on both sides of a trading relationship."


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