Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

March 17, 2000

CHARLES EDWARD MOSS of Portland, a longtime unionist and the first black worker to serve on the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board, died of a heart attack on Feb. 25 at age 73.

In the course of his career, Moss belonged to several locals of the Laborers International Union and to two locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Portland City and Metropolitan Employees Local 189 and Multnomah County Employees Local 88.

Chuck Moss was born in Philadelphia on June 5, 1926. When he was four, his father, a Methodist minister, died of tuberculosis shortly after earning a doctorate from Yale University's School of Divinity in New Haven, Conn. Chuck's widowed mother, with two sons, a daughter and a niece to support, returned to Philadelphia to work as a housekeeper. She'd been a teacher in segregated North Carolina, but her teaching certificate wasn't acceptable in Philadelphia.

MOSS ENLISTED in the U.S. Army right out of high school in World War II. He spent more than 10 years in the Army, serving also in the Korean War, and rose through the ranks to the six stripes of a master sergeant. Duty at guided missile facilities in Washington State provided his introduction to the Pacific Northwest.

When he decided to transfer to the civilian workforce, Moss found employment in heavy construction as a member of the Laborers Union. He helped build the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental and Rocky Reach dams in Washington and John Day Dam in Oregon, and also worked as a sand hog in a tunnel project on the St. Lawrence Seaway along the border between New York State and Canada. While in the Laborers, he took part in negotiating labor contracts as a rank-and-file member of local union bargaining committees. To be able to spend more time with his family, Moss left dam construction work in the mid-1960s and took a job as a maintenance man with the Portland Water Bureau, joining AFSCME Local 189. His negotiating experience in the Laborers Union and his Army-honed leadership qualities propelled him to the forefront of Local 189 and the Multnomah County Labor Council's subcouncil for public employees. He became president of Local 189, represented public employees on the labor council's Executive Board and was elected to the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board.

MOSS NEGOTIATED Local 189's first collective bargaining contract with the City of Portland in 1970, which furnished impetus for legislative enactment of statewide collective bargaining rights for public employees in 1973.

The growing demands of his labor movement responsibilities on top of his full-time job at the Water Bureau prompted Moss to take early retirement in 1979. To augment his retirement income, he took a part-time office job at a Multnomah County health center. It soon turned into a full-time job and membership in Local 88. He became a vice president of Local 88, a delegate to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (the successor to the Multnomah County Labor Council) and a delegate to conventions of AFSCME and the state labor federation. He also served as president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute's Portland chapter. He retired from the county in the mid-1990s. A graveside service was held March 7 at Willamette National Cemetery in southeast Portland, with arrangements by Omega Funeral and Cremation Service.

Survivors include his wife, the former Gwendolyn Strothers, two stepsons, William and Charles Denton; two stepdaughters, Cecilia Pritchett and Judy Wysingle; and many grandchildren.


COMMUNITY ACTIVIST William E. Gordon is the latest addition to the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council's Labor Hall of Fame.

Gordon, 92, has long been busy in Portland and at the State Capitol in Salem as an advocate on behalf of senior citizens. He was a founder of the Oregon Gray Panthers, a political action group for seniors. He is president of the United Seniors of Oregon and is active in the Oregon State Council of Senior Citizens.

Bill Gordon helped establish the Oregon Health Action Campaign (OHAC) as an advocacy group for universal health care coverage.

GORDON WAS A LEADER in lobbying at Salem for legislation to create the Oregon Senior and Disabled Services Division and was present when Governor Vic Atiyeh signed the enabling bill at the Capitol nearly 20 years ago.

Gordon pushed for establishing the Southeast Portland Senior Resource and Social Center to provide a one-stop center for low-income elderly to obtain information on services available to them, and also socialize with their contemporaries.

He was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1981.

MANY PLAQUES and citations have been awarded to Gordon for his decades of community service.

Gordon is a familiar presence on labor union picket lines and at rallies on behalf of labor's causes.

A highlight of Gordon's political action was personally collecting 1,000 signatures on petitions to put a split-roll property tax ballot measure before Oregon voters in 1992. The Homeowners and Renters Fair Tax League sponsored the initiative campaign. The ballot measure, which was defeated by big-spending business interests, would have taxed homeowners at $15 per $1,000 in property valuation to finance schools and local government, and would have taxed businesses at $30 per $1,000 valuation.

THIS YEAR, Gordon hopes to gather at least 1,000 signatures on petitions to put a home health care initiative on the ballot. That initiative, which would create a state commission to oversee and ensure quality home care services for the elderly and disabled, is a top priority political goal of the Oregon AFL-CIO.

A native of Lithuania, Gordon was born Feb. 26, 1908. He immigrated to the United States with an older brother, arriving in New York City in December 1920. Later, Bill moved to the Midwest, obtained a diploma from the University of Wisconsin, and landed a job with Chicago's welfare administration office. Gordon was a founder of a local union, affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to represent welfare workers. In 1935 he and his wife Helen were married. In World War II, Gordon served in the USO (United Service Organization) near military installations in the South.

Bill and Helen moved to Portland in 1953 after living and working in Denver for several years. Both joined the staff of the Jewish Community Center when it was near the campus of Portland State. They later worked at the current Mittleman Jewish Community Center near southwest Portland's Vermont Hills. Mrs. Gordon was a coordinator of the center's poverty programs and Bill was a program director and the center's assistant director.

HELEN GORDON'S NAME is perpetuated by the Helen Gordon Child Development Center in the former Fruit and Flower Nursery on the Portland State University campus. The community service work of Mrs. Gordon was recognized in 1969 by Labor's Community Service Agency when it presented her with a Kelley Loe Memorial Award. Loe was a lobbyist and research and education director for the state labor federation. Mrs. Gordon, who died in 1984, helped raise campaign contributions for the senatorial election campaigns of Wayne Morse, who served on Capitol Hill for 24 years.

The Gordons raised two sons and a daughter. Linda Gordon, a professor at New York University, has authored books on the public welfare system. Larry, who lives in Vermont, is an authority on early English music, and Lee, of Portland, is involved in bilingual education.


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.