Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

April 6, 2001

GLENN E. (PAT) RANDALL of Springfield added Labor's Hall of Fame to his list of achievements when the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council cloaked him with membership in the honorary chamber.

Randall, now 74, was the administrative secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO in Salem from 1967 until 1981. Before that he was financial secretary and business agent of Carpenters Local 1273, serving the Eugene-Springfield area and the rest of Lane County.

Randall left the state labor federation post upon losing his bid for re-election by fewer than a thousand votes at the 1981 convention in Springfield. At a testimonial dinner in his honor in December of that year, Randall was given credit for having played a major lobbying role toward the establishment by the 1977 Oregon Legislature of the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Some 200 well-wishers from labor, management, academia and government, including Democratic and Republican state officials, attended the testimonial event in Eugene.

"I THINK ONE of the lasting benefits of Pat Randall's leadership will be in the establishment of LERC," said one of the testimonial event's speakers, Ed Czarnecki of Washington, D.C., assistant director of the national AFL-CIO's Department of Education. The AFL-CIO official graded LERC as "one of the finest labor education programs in the United States."

Czarnecki's tribute was echoed by the president of the U of O, Paul Olum, and LERC's director, Dr. Emory Via, who also praised Randall for his chairmanship of the LERC labor advisory committee. The current UO president, Dave Frohnmayer, attended the testimonial as the state attorney general.

In addition to his lobbying work for LERC, Randall was also saluted for his lobbying on behalf of higher benefits for injured and unemployed workers and for widows and children of workers killed on the job.

"I'VE SEEN HIM fight for everything working men and women hold dear," said another testimonial speaker, Grattan Kerans, a Eugene Democrat who served in both the House and Senate at Salem.

After leaving the state labor federation, Randall served on the Oregon Employment Appeals Board by appointment of Governor Vic Atiyeh. That panel reviews decisions by hearings officers in contested unemployment insurance claims cases.

A milestone Randall reached in the 20 years since his retirement from the AFL-CIO was to receive a 50-year membership card in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC).

HE JOINED the UBC affiliate, the Lumber and Sawmill Workers, which is now the Western Council of Industrial Workers, while working in Lane County sawmills and plywood mills as a young man. He transferred into a UBC construction local, #1273, upon taking a job to help build the Weyerhaeuser mill in Springfield.

Randall's life illustrates the axiom about the acorn not falling far from the tree. He was born in Lane County and still lives there. Life for him began Dec. 10, 1926 in McGlynn, a logging camp he said has disappeared from the maps of Oregon. His father, who'd moved to Oregon from Kansas, worked as a logger. The nickname "Pat" was pinned on him as a baby by his father, making his son a namesake of a pal back in the Sunflower State.

"I grew up in logging camps and sawmill towns," Randall told the NW Labor Press. He graduated from Oakridge High School and attended the University of Oregon for a year, with the intent of becoming a lawyer, before deciding to pursue a career in the carpentry trade.

RANDALL AND HIS WIFE, the former Loretta Osborne, were married in 1946. They have two daughters and a son, and four grandchildren.

For the past 15 years, Pat and Loretta have spent most of their winters at Port Isabel on the southernmost point of Texas. In addition to fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, the Randalls enjoy driving across the Texas border into Mexico. "We have a lot of friends in a little Mexican border town," said Randall. To better converse with them, Randall has been taking Spanish language classes at Lane County Community College. His teacher is Harland Wilhelms, an 84-year-old retired union printer who'd worked at the Eugene Register-Guard.

In addition to studying Spanish, Randall keeps busy tending to his oversized Springfield yard and doing maintenance work on rental houses he and Loretta own. Only recently, he climbed and cut down, section by section, an 85-foot-tall tree that needed to be removed from his yard.

To all his old friends and colleagues in the labor movement, Randall sends his best regards.


FROM THE FILES of the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department in Washington, D.C., comes the following background information on the term "mad hatter":

The "mad hatter" wasn't really mad. Did you ever wonder where the expression "mad as a hatter" originated? It's not just an expression taken from author Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." It was a name applied to hat makers in the early 1900s, primarily those working in Danbury, Connecticut, the hat-making capital of the country at that time.

The reason was nitrate of mercury.

THE PROCESS of making felt hats was to separate fur from the skin, where it was then graded, cleaned and mixed. After this process the fur was sucked onto a revolving cone by a vacuum inside it. Wet fur fibres were joined together to make felt. The felt shapes were then "carroted," held against a rotating brush soaked with nitrate of mercury, then sent to a wet room for shrinking.

It was in the shrinking process that men, stripped to the waist in mercury-tainted "turkish baths," were exposed to poisonous steam that penetrated their bodies. A few years of exposure to mercury caused "the hatter shakes" to begin, with a slight tremor of the limbs. Symptoms following this included ulceration of the gums, rancid breath, excessive salivation, blackening and destruction of the teeth, headaches, pallor and skin rashes. All were outward appearances of being "mad."

IT WASN'T UNTIL 1941 that the hatters, represented by the United Hatters of America, could convince the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) that there was a health problem. Subsequently, PHS issued a report advising the use of a substitute of mercury with a non-toxic "carroting" agent.

The Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers Union merged in 1982 with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, which in the the 1990s merged with the Ladies Garment Workers to form UNITE - the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.


MORE ON WALT DERRY: In the March 16 issue of the NW Labor Press this column profiled Walter Derry as a new member of the Labor Hall of Fame sponsored by the NW Oregon Labor Retirees Council, AFL-CIO. Because of space limitations, I omitted a couple of sentences at the end and want to make amends in this edition. The Derry article said that he plays golf regularly with other retirees at the Glendoveer course at 14015 NE Glisan St., in Portland, and that they call themselves "the Geritol bunch." The omitted portion reported Walt has shot two holes-in-one at Glendoveer on the same 168-year par three hole. The dates were May 4, 1995 and Feb. 25, 1996. He used a seven-wood once and an eight-iron the other time.


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