Pat Barile: A century of devotion to workers, equality, and socialism
Pat Barile, 1920-2020. | Courtesy of Barile Family

Pat Barile learned the meaning of the word devotion from the rank-and-file workers at the Sonotone Corporation plant in White Plains, N.Y. in the mid-1940s and 1950s.

Repeatedly, they elected him president of United Electrical Workers Local 428 for ten years—even after Cold Warriors had branded him a Communist and instigated a witch hunt and continual efforts to decertify the UE.

Pat Barile, lower right, with some of his co-workers at the CPUSA National Office, April 1977. Top row, from left: Joelle Fishman, Ken Newcomb, Beth Edelman, Betty Smith, Ed Teixeira, Margaret Cann, and Lee Dlugin. Bottom row, from left: Henry Winston, Jake Green, and Arnold Becchetti. | People’s World Archives

Sonotone fired him. The rank-and-file of Local 428 was not drinking the company anti-communist Kool-Aid, though. They continued to elect Pat Barile to lead them, and he continued to edit Local 428’s newspaper.

They knew Pat Barile was devoted to them, and they were devoted to him. Finally, a Cold War rival, IUE, replaced UE at the Sonotone plant when District 4 of the UE merged with the IUE. The rank-and-file still elected Barile as their local president. IUE bowed to the loyalty of the Sonotone workers and hired Barile as an organizer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Then in 1960, IUE fired him because Pat refused to raid UE shops in New England. He became an organizer for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. It was as an AFSCME organizer that he met his future wife, Lee Dlugin, who was working in the shop he was organizing.

They were married for 53 years at the time of his death last September.

Pat Barile brought that organizer’s spirit of devotion with him when he came to work as a reporter for the Daily World newspaper in 1971 and subsequently its labor editor. I was DW Washington Bureau Chief and got to know Pat when I took the train up to New York twice a month for DW Editorial Board Meetings. We were both assigned to the Farm and Rural Commission of the Communist Party USA and became fast friends discussing the crisis in rural America when we met, usually in Minneapolis.

His devotion to workers, farmworkers, and farmers convinced him that the labor movement would come to understand the profound mistake they made in surrendering to anti-communism.

And he was right. The AFL-CIO and its affiliates came to understand that error—but at what a huge cost! Unions were smashed in a decades-long binge of union busting, with “labor density” in private employment plunging to about 6%.

The union-busting reached an all-out frenzy with the election of President Ronald Reagan, dramatically demonstrated by his mass firing of 11,359 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers on Aug. 5, 1981.

Pat bought a T-shirt while covering the strike in Nashua, N.H., with a slogan voicing solidarity with PATCO. He and Lee joined the half-million strong “Solidarity Day” march on Washington on Sept. 19, 1981, protesting Reagan’s busting of PATCO and the all-out war on organized labor his administration had unleashed.

“Pat wore that T-shirt until it was reduced to tatters,” Lee told this reporter in a phone interview from her home in New Jersey.

Pat Barile, left, sings ‘Bandiera Rossa’ with CPUSA Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner at a meeting of the party’s National Committee in New York, July 7, 2007. | People’s World Archives

Pat was going blind in his later years. The last time I saw him, he showed me the projector that enlarged the print of People’s World big enough that he could read it. And read it he did. He continued to write sharp, pithy columns for People’s World as recently as 2014. Lee told me Pat dictated his articles, columns, and letters to her, and she typed them into their computer. Blindness could not stop him.

In his earlier years, he was assigned as the main organizer of DW’s annual fund drive that brought in $400,000 every year without fail for several decades.

In Sept. 2005, following the tragic, devastating Hurricane Katrina, Barile wrote a letter published in PW, “Stop corporate looters.” In it, he said, “There should be no profiteering permitted off the suffering of the people in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mississippi, or elsewhere because of the hurricane and flood.”

Pat Barile, right, with his wife Lee. | Courtesy of Barile Family

Barile reported that he wrote to New Jersey lawmakers, Sen. Jon Corzine and Rep. Robert Menendez, urging them to introduce legislation to roll back gasoline and fuel prices and “seize all excess” profits and distribute the funds to flood victim relief.

In July 2008, Barile wrote a column about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign: “The candidacy of Barack Obama for President of the United States is a long stride toward throwing off the last vestiges of the slaveocracy,” he wrote. “They will try to minimize and marginalize Obama…demean his eloquence, question his loyalty…. This will be wrapped in the race card.”

He saw in the grassroots movement to elect Obama a sharp contest between “finance capital and the broad-based forward march of the people toward a new America.”

Barile added, “Will the movement blossom into the beginning of a labor-led people’s party or will it take different forms?”

He continued, “New advanced democracy is in the offing. To achieve this, we need to topple the racist barriers, curb the monopolies, demilitarize government policy.”

With his brave comrade and life partner, Lee, Pat continued to work actively and creatively in the New Jersey District of the Communist Party. In his articles for People’s World and in his work in New Jersey, he always sought to advance what past CPUSA National Chair Gus Hall called “the Communist plus” to go forward in both demands and understanding. And he was a brilliant negotiator, starting from a strong position and then willing to accept reasonable compromises.

Courtesy of Barile Family

I had not spoken to Pat Barile for years when my phone rang in the summer of 2019. It was Pat calling from his home in Jersey City to express his condolences at the death of my wife, Joyce. He also wanted to let me know that his beloved wife, Lee, was going into surgery. He was a devoted, loving husband, and thanks in large part to that devotion, Lee made it successfully through the surgery and is recovering.

Pat Barile was born Dec. 17, 1920, in Jersey City, N.J., son of immigrant Italian parents. He learned his politics from his father, a leader of the Italian immigrant community. He died Sept. 30, 2020, two months shy of his 100th birthday.

Lee said she and Pat’s many admirers are waiting until COVID-19 is vanquished to hold a memorial “so people can meet face-to-face” to remember and celebrate his life.

If you want to express your love for Pat Barile, make a donation to People’s World. I just now donated $500 in his memory.


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.