Gordon “Brick” Moir, known to many PWW readers for his pithy comments in conversations with Hy Clymer, died May 29 in Aberdeen, Washington. He was 90 years old.
Brick – he would insist on using that name – spent more than 50 years working in the logging camps that were the economic mainstay of the “Harbor,” shorthand for the twin cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam located on Grays Harbor in southwest Washington.
He quit school in the eighth grade to go to work in a shingle mill. After that came a hitch in the CCC. He married Leona Walden in 1935, forming a team that left its mark on many of the Harbor’s working-class struggles.
Brick’s career as a labor leader and Communist Party member began when he became a charter member of the International Woodworkers of America, (IWA) CIO. By the time he retired, Brick had held elected positions as shop steward, camp chairman and a trustee of the local.
He was forced to resign from that office when the 1947 IWA convention buckled in the face of anti-communist hysteria and required local union officers to sign non-communist affidavits. In 1988 Brick was honored for his 50-year membership when asked to address the IWA international convention
In the late ’30s Brick became president of the Grays Harbor Industrial Union Council where, among other things, he met Harry Bridges. “I’ve seen a lot of them,” Brick would say, “but Harry was the best of them.”
Brick played a key role in the Grays Harbor Civil Rights Committee that defended CIO union activist Dick Law against accusations he had murdered his wife, Laura, in 1940, a case that pitted left against right on gritty old Grays Harbor and became a national sensation.
In 1954, he was one of the IWA members subpoenaed by the Un-American Activities Committee. None fought back with more vigor than Brick, who filled two pages of the record by refusing to answer the opening question about his place of residence. “You have my address; you served the subpoena,” he told the committee.
Asked about his organizational affiliations, Brick proudly declared that he belonged to the IWA that, with 60,000 members, “was opposed to the McCarthy Committee, the Velde Committee and the Jenner Committee.”
In the late ’50s, with anti-communist hysteria in decline, Brick once again assumed positions of responsibility in the affairs of Local 3, where he won the respect of even those who had once opposed him. Mahlon Chestnut, who held office in the local for 30 years, called Brick “the most ‘union’ union man” he had ever met. “He was a true believer. I respected the man and I honor his memory.”
Others were no less complimentary: Will Parry, a former leader of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, who worked with Brick in campaigns to build unity among unions representing workers in the forest products industry, described Brick as a man who was “born a worker, lived the life of a worker and died a worker. He had big calloused hands, a strong worker’s voice and a worker’s heart bigger than the woods he worked in.”
BJ Mangaoang, long-time leader of the Communist Party’s Washington district, remembers Brick as “down to earth. He was honest and reliable and spoke in words workers could understand.” Mangaoang praised Brick’s commitment to both the Party and the PWW. “He was always raising money.”
Irene Hull, a long-time activist in printing trades unions, described Brick as “very human. He loved his family, flowers and to work in his metal-working shop. He read everything he could get his hands on and gloried in his garden.”
Brick is survived by a son, Martin David, a daughter, Farol Olson, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.