Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

August 3, 2001

SIDNEY SMITH STODDARD, JR., a retired business manager of Portland-based Iron Workers Shopmen's Local 516, rates a blare of trumpets as the latest honoree to march into the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council's Labor Hall of Fame.

The retirees selected the 78-year-old Stoddard for his achievements in the labor movement and in government service.

Sid was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 24, 1923, a descendant of a long line of Stoddards that began in England in 1636. The Stoddards first settled in Connecticut and relocated to Rhode Island in the 1840s. After graduating from high school in 1941, Sid worked at steel fabrication jobs in Providence before following in the Stoddard family's mariner tradition.

With World War II under way, Stoddard joined the U.S. Merchant Marine as a seaman and sailed the seas for more than a dozen years. He was a member of the National Maritime Union (NMU), from which he still carries a withdrawal card.

STODDARD WAS ACTIVE in the NMU, serving as a deck delegate and ship delegate on many of the vessels on which he toiled. In 1951 and '53 he was elected as a delegate to NMU national conventions. In recounting that period, he told the Northwest Labor Press that in 1955 "the ship on which I was sailing became expendable and was laid-up in Stockton, California."

Being without a ship, Stoddard decided to look for a land-based occupation. He settled in Portland, and on the basis of his earlier experience in steel fabrication the state employment service found him a job in that trade and he became a member of Iron Workers Shopmen's Local 516.

"During my first few years as a Local 516 member I took a casual interest in union affairs, but at a meeting in 1959 I volunteered to be a member of the apprenticeship and training committee," Stoddard said. In 1961 he was elected to Local 516's Executive Board. Two years later he won election as the union's business agent/financial secretary-treasurer.

AS THE LEADER of Local 516 Stoddard became involved in the labor movement as a delegate to various labor organizations including the Portland Metal Trades Council, the Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest, the Multnomah County Labor Council, the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Oregon AFL-CIO. At state labor federation conventions he chaired the important Grievance Committee. He was elected president of the metal trades; served as secretary-treasurer and vice president of the NW Iron Workers; and was an officer and board member of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co., a labor-owned, non-profit entity that publishes the Northwest Labor Press.

Stoddard participated in international conventions of the Iron Workers from 1964 through 1986, and was secretary of the Credentials Committee in 1981 and '86.

He also devoted time to helping labor-endorsed political candidates in their campaigns, and in the mid-1970s he was appointed to a blue-ribbon committee formed by the Portland School District's superintendent with the goal of finding more effective ways of educating students.

IN THE 15 YEARS that Stoddard served Local 516 as its business manager, he said he received "invaluable assistance from office secretaries Vi Cole, Dottie Fitzhugh and Lillian Lashbaugh," all of whom were members of Office and Professional Employees Local 11. He also cited the important help he received from his assistant business agent, Dick Etchison, and from the union's president, Tony Mongelli.

In February 1978 Stoddard left the leadership job of Local 516 to accept an appointment in Democratic President Jimmy Carter's Administration. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall appointed Stoddard as his regional representative in Seattle for Region X covering Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. "Two accomplishments that stand out in my mind," Stoddard told the NW Labor Press, "were the handling of the aftermath of the Mount St. Helens eruption concerning loggers and migrant workers and their families; and the forming of ANEW (Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Employment for Women). ANEW was set up with the help of local unions, contractors, the AFL-CIO's Human Resources Development Institute, the Private Industry Council, community colleges and women's groups, plus a generous grant of $150,000 from Secretary of Labor Marshall."

MORE THAN 1,000 women attended the first ANEW Trade Fair in Seattle, Stoddard recalled, and over 300 qualified for apprenticeships in the building trades and in other occupations that were non-traditional jobs for women. "This project had a success ratio of more than 80 percent and this concept is still being used in Seattle and Portland," said Stoddard. (In Portland the program now operates under the auspices of the Oregon Tradeswomen's Network.)

Stoddard said that "one of the persons responsible for the success of ANEW was Elizabeth Crow, my secretary/assistant at Region X."

After President Carter lost his bid for re-election in 1980, Stoddard was asked to become a general organizer for the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers by its general president, John Lyons. Stoddard accepted and was assigned the states of Oregon and Washington. Later, his territory was expanded to include Alaska, Hawaii and the Canadian province of British Columbia. He retired from the Iron Workers in 1987.

WITH HIS WIFE MOLLY, whom he had married in 1974, Sid moved from Seattle to Depoe Bay on the Oregon Coast. They soon became involved with other residents of Depoe Bay in a grass-roots movement to save the Fishing Rock headland from being developed by a home builder. "The state bought the property in 1991 and it is now being used as a state park," Sid said.

After years of spending their winters as "snow birds" in Arizona, the Stoddards decided to live there full time and now make their home in Tucson. "Health reasons require a warmer, drier climate," Sid explained. They sold their Depoe Bay home in June.

Between them, Molly and Sid have a son, three daughters, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

"PROBABLY, none of my success would have happened without my wife Molly's encouragement," Sid reflected. "We have had a good life together."


FROM THE PAGES of the national AFL-CIO's America @ Work magazine comes this report under the headline "Students Take the Pledge":

"As college graduates flood the nation's workplaces this summer, some will begin their jobs with an eye on more than just the paycheck.

"While still in college, students from some campuses signed a pledge stating they would take into account the social and environmental consequences of the jobs they choose. The Graduation Pledge Alliance organization, formed in 1996 and based at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, helps spread the word about the program to campuses throughout the United States.

"NICK STUDEBAKER, a recent Manchester graduate, signed the pledge and now is working for AmeriCorps in Vancouver, Wash., helping students with English-language and reading skills. He says taking the pledge 'is a way to hold yourself accountable for your decisions and your actions.' As a member of Manchester Students Against Sweatshops, Studebaker participated in a 'fashion show' of sweat-free clothes. 'The pledge is a way to motivate students to explore the effects of their jobs on the public,' says the aspiring social worker."


"NICKEL AND DIMED" is the title of a book by Barbara Ehrenreich on her experiences in the low-wage jobs held by millions of Americans. The book's subtitle is "On (Not) Getting By in America." It was published by Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co. of New York, N.Y. It contains 221 pages and costs $23.

What follows is a succinct review of Ehrenreich's excellent book by Molly Charboneau, who is an associate editor of Public Employee Press (PEP) in which her review appeared. PEP is the official publication of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 in New York City.

"EVERY YEAR, thousands of low-wage workers nationwide vote to better their lives by joining unions. Barbara Ehrenreich's book 'Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America' offers a personal glimpse into the terrible conditions that prompt many of these workers to organize: low pay, lack of benefits, unsafe jobs, double shifts, substandard housing and management harassment.

"A progressive, investigative journalist, Ms. Ehrenreich took several low-wage service jobs in Florida, Maine and Minnesota to see if she could survive on the $8 an hour or less earned by almost 30 percent of the workforce. She also wondered how the roughly four million women removed from benefits by so-called 'welfare reform' were going to make it on the $6 to $7 an hour they could make.

"DESCRIBING HERSELF as a divorced homemaker re-entering the workforce, Ms. Ehrenreich waited on tables, cleaned hotel rooms, scoured toilets for Wal-Mart. The maids served food in a nursing home and clocked in at Wal-Mart. Along the way she faced psychological exams, urine tests, mind-numbing training sessions, constant concern about affordable housing - which often meant paying by the week at rundown motels - and working two jobs while popping pain pills and eating at drive-throughs.

"Ms. Ehrenreich's co-workers of every race, age and nationality form the living core of the book. She gives voice to their lives. Underpaid; forbidden to talk, eat or sit while at work, lacking health or dental care or paid leave, sometimes living in their cars - these workers still cared more abut doing a good job than management did. From them she learned that 'no job, no matter how lowly, is truly 'unskilled.'

" 'Low-wage work is not a solution to poverty or even homelessness,' Ms. Ehrenreich states. "SHE ENDS her investigative report with the upbeat image of a Wal-Mart co-worker waving her fist in the air after seeing news about a hotel strike on a break room TV, leaving readers to conclude that it is low-wage workers themselves who will write the final chapter."


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