St. Louis salutes peoples champions

ST. LOUIS — The Missouri/Kansas Friends of the People’s Weekly World annual awards breakfast always draws a crowd. This year was no different.

More than 130 trade unionists, activists, and religious leaders attended the Hershel Walker Peace and Justice Awards Breakfast here April 30. The event, now in its 13th year, honors Hershel Walker, a life-long peace and justice advocate who joined the Young Communist League in 1930 and spent the rest of his life in the Communist Party USA. Walker was killed in a car accident in 1990 while on his way to deliver petitions for the campaign to save 4,000 jobs at Chrysler Plant #1 in Fenton, Mo.

This year’s award recipients included state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (D-St. Louis), Progressive Vote organizer Margarida Jorge, and the registered nurses of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 655.

The keynote speaker was Keren Wheeler, editor of Dynamic, the YCL magazine, and the event included remarks from Student Worker Alliance member Danielle Christmas. The SWA recently won a living wage for Washington University campus service staff after a 19-day sit-in. Christmas thanked the World for its coverage and support. “This truly was a community victory,” she said.

Wheeler spoke about other recent student-labor victories, working-class unity, the importance of independent media, and the connection between the war in Iraq and domestic struggles.

The Missouri Legislature recently passed HB 539, which eliminates Medicaid services for up to 130,000 state residents.

After receiving her award, Mott Oxford, who opposed the bill, apologized for the Legislature’s action and vowed to do everything in her power to fight implementation of the cuts.

This year’s breakfast also recognized the lifelong contributions of John Pappademos, who recently celebrated his 55th year in the CPUSA. Pappademos received a standing ovation from the packed union hall. Members of SEIU Local 2000, AFSCME Local 2730, CBTU, and UFCW Local 655 were among those who attended, along with state Rep. John Bowman and 22nd Ward Committee members Jay O’Zier and Fay Davis. The event raised more than $4,000 for the World’s 2005 fund drive and local activities.