ST. LOUIS Salute to working-class heroes

ST. LOUIS – Nearly 100 union members, community leaders, student activists and others attended the Missouri/Kansas Friends of the People’s Weekly World 12th Hershel Walker Peace and Justice Awards Breakfast here April 24.

Roberta Wood, labor editor of the People’s Weekly World, was the keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast.

“Americans have lost a lot of ground in the last three years,” Wood said. “Hundreds of thousands of workers, because of a stroke of a pen, no longer have the right to organize. Attacks on overtime, affirmative action, women’s rights and health care have all worsened since Bush took office.”

“Hershel Walker really was a working class hero,” she said. “In the next six months we are going to need a lot of working class heroes” to defeat Bush in November, she added.

The awards breakfast started in 1991 in honor of Hershel Walker, an African American trade unionist who died in 1990. Walker, who joined the Young Communist League in 1930, was a lifelong member of the Communist Party USA, a 30-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a founding member of the National Negro Labor Council and the Committee on Racial Equality (CORE), and a member of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Former State Rep. John Bowman, a member of the United Auto Workers and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) who is once again running for state representative, said, “I am one of the many people who have benefited from the life of Hershel Walker.”

This year’s “Peace and Justice Awardees” included Harriet Weaver, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 and the CBTU, who help lead the strike/lockout against 94 St. Louis-area grocery stores last fall; Mary Watkins, who helped win the release of J.B. Johnson, who was wrongfully convicted of robbery and murder in 1970 and spent 13 years in prison; and the Washington University Student Worker Alliance, which has started a campus- and community-wide campaign to force Washington University to pay all campus employees a living wage and to adhere to an ethical code of conduct.

The author can be reached at tonypec@pww.org.