My grandfather was a flawed man, but a man with great heart and dedication. He served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II and then in the Merchant Marines. After the war, he hopped trains, riding across the country and traveled by barge up and down the Mississippi. He eventually became an iron worker, working out of Local Union #111 in Rock Island, IL. This man, who looms large in my childhood memories, experienced many unjust labor practices and was dedicated to working towards fair treatment for workers. He served passionately in various union positions. After retirement, he served as apprenticeship coordinator in the 70s, actively working to get African-Americans in the union. He strongly supported them once they were in, during a time when it was not popular to do so. In the late 60s and 70s he also supported women who sought to join the union. He walked many picket lines, never crossing one, even when he was intentionally hit by an anti-labor driver while walking the picket line. He fought for the rights of all classes, races and religions, even serving on the Clinton (IA) Human Rights Commission in the 70s and running for State Representative twice in Iowa. He was a man who walked the walk. He stood up for what he believed in.
We are all flawed people, and we can all have great heart and dedication. Before we make rash decisions, take a moment and remember my grandfather, and all those like him, that worked so tirelessly to get us where we are today. Let’s give them the respect and honor they earned and continue that tradition by treating one another with respect and dignity as we work through this challenging time.