Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

May 16, 1997

THE NORTHWEST OREGON Labor Retirees Council has established Oregon Labor's Hall of Fame to honor retired union activists and publicize their accomplishments as a way of acquainting younger workers with various facets of labor history.

The retiree council is affiliated with the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which covers Multnomah, Washington, Columbia and Clackamas counties.

The first person selected for the Labor Hall of Fame is Nellie Fox-Edwards, retired political education and legislative director of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Her designation was announced by retiree council officers, who include Arlene Collins, president; John O'Halloran, vice president, and Harold King, secretary-treasurer.

FOX-EDWARDS RETIRED from her state labor federation post in 1985 at the age of 62 but has kept busy since then as a lobbyist at the Oregon Legislature on behalf of mental health organizations and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). She is president of AARP's Oregon branch.

She was born in Yakima but her family moved to Oregon a year after her birth and she has lived in the Portland area most of her life.

At age 20 she became a widowed mother as a result of her husband being killed in an auto accident. She took a sales clerk job at a downtown department store for $72 a month. Later, she remarried but continued working and, at the insistence of her husband, a union electrician, found a job in a unionized store. This led to organizing assignments for the Retail Clerks International Association, now part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Because her husband fell ill she left the organizing job, which involved travel and long hours, and went to work as a clerk at a downtown Portland jewelry store which was under contract to Retail Clerks Local 1257. She became active in the local union and in 1962 was appointed as one of its business representatives.

NELLIE SERVED as a delegate to the Portland area central labor council's meetings and state AFL-CIO conventions, and in 1965 was elected second vice president of the state labor federation, an unpaid post. She continued as a business agent for Local 1257, negotiating contracts, servicing and policing them, processing grievances, and taking care of other union business. In 1971 No.1257 merged into Food and Drug Clerks Local 1092 and she was hired as a business agent for that local.

Two years later she was appointed women's activities director for the Oregon AFL-CIO, a job that involved getting union members registered to vote and urging them to turn out on election day, plus other assignments in the political and legislative arenas.

Fox-Edwards had long been interested in politics and legislation because she realized that "everything in hard-won union contracts could be negated by the people elected to the Legislature and the Congress." While with Local 1257 and Local 1092 she had appeared at the Legislature and the Wage and Hour Commission to pursue issues like hours of work, rest breaks, lunch hours, equal pay for equal work, and other legislation of concern to workers.

IN 1975, Nellie ran for the elected post of director of political education and legislation for the Oregon AFL-CIO and was elected at a convention in Seaside. She was the first woman elected to such a post in any state labor federation.

Over the years she was appointed by the president, governors and other government officials to various boards, committees and commissions. Among her appointments: President Jimmy Carter named her to a nominating panel for a judgeship on the federal appeals court in San Francisco, and she served 10 years as a governor-picked member of the board governing the Tri-Met mass transit agency.

Nellie made a run for public office herself in 1978, seeking the Democratic nomination for state labor commissioner, losing out to Mary Wendy Roberts who went on to serve as commissioner for 16 years.

FOX-EDWARDS was one of the founders of the Oregon Pioneer Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women; she's a past president of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association and continues as an Oregon member of its executive board. Spurred by her longstanding interest in labor history she's working on a book based on interviews with retired union leaders and activists.

Over the course of her career numerous awards have been bestowed on her, including three from the Oregon Women's Political Caucus, and a Labor History Person of the Year plaque.

AFTER HER RETIREMENT from the state AFL-CIO, she was motivated to lobby for legislation to benefit people with mental health problems by the illness of her son. She's held several offices in mental health organizations, one of which was the presidency of the Mental Health Association of Oregon.

Fox-Edwards has a son, two daughters and two granddaughters, all grown. She's been a widow since the 1993 death of her husband, Dr. L. E. Edwards, a Beaverton chiropractor.

Looking back, at age 74, Nellie said, "There've been lots of ups and downs in my life, especially on the personal side. But it's been interesting -- never a dull moment. I'm going to stick around a long time and keep trying to make a difference."


PIERRE SALINGER, a Paris-based public relations consultant and retired chief European correspondent for the ABC-TV network's news department, has caught a lot of flak over his theory that Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 was shot down by an errant U.S. Navy missile. Flight 800 exploded and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New York's Long Island last July, resulting in the deaths of all 230 passengers and crew members.

Salinger's theory was first mentioned in a speech he gave to a convention in France. He said his information came from French intelligence sources who'd obtained it from U.S. intelligence sources. He was quickly criticized by the media, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others who sneered that the "friendly fire" missile theory had been kicking around on the Internet weeks before but was unfounded.

HIS CRITICS IMPLIED that Salinger was an out-of-touch old guy who really didn't know what he was talking about but whose words got widely reported because of his being a former network reporter who'd earlier been President John F. Kennedy's press secretary. Media accounts didn't mention that he'd also been Lyndon B. Johnson's press secretary in the early period of LBJ's presidency following JFK's assassination.

Later, Salinger elaborated on the missile theory and distributed radar-tracking printouts to support his allegation. But his critics still gave him short shrift.

Thus far, about 100 million dollars have been spent to recover the airliner's wreckage and the crash victims' bodies from the ocean and in trying to determine the cause of the explosion. But to federal investigators the cause remains an unsolved mystery.

ALTHOUGH SALINGER CLAIMS Flight 800 was hit by a U.S. Navy missile, one can only wonder why the government's investigation didn't take his theory seriously because it came at a time when reports leaked out about civilian airliners being shadowed by military fighter jets.

Those who sold Salinger's theorizing short probably didn't know that he's more than an ex-TV newsman and White House press secretary. He's had lengthy experience digging out information and analyzing it. Before he went to work for Kennedy in 1959, Salinger had been an investigator for a U.S. Senate committee, and before that was an investigative reporter for the old Collier's weekly magazine. Earlier he'd worked as a reporter and night city editor for the San Francisco Chronicle in his native city, and in World War II he was a U.S. Navy officer. After his White House service he filled an interim appointment as a U.S. senator from California. He has more credentials than his critics do.


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