SEATTLE - Lynne Dodson, secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, called on union activists to live as Irene Hull lived, "fighting like hell" to create a better world for working people and their children.
She was speaking here to the Puget Sound Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women, annual awards banquet, Sat. May 14. The CLUW chapter conferred its "Special Honoree Award" on Irene Hull, who died March 20 at age 98. Hull was a founding member of the CLUW chapter and a lifelong member of the Communist Party USA.
"Sisters and brothers," Dodson told the crowd, "women are being thrown under the bus as states and the nation try to reduce deficits by slashing budgets." Hardest hit are programs that employ women and serve women and children, such as teaching and nursing, Dodson charged.
She blasted Republicans in Congress for slashing Head Start by $1 billion, the WIC nutrition program by $750 million, $50 million from a block grant that provides health care for poor children and for attempting to terminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
"Corporate profits are up," Dodson said. "Wages are stagnant and unions are under attack because we get in the way of unchecked greed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to promote the kind of broader social agenda our founding CLUW sisters and brothers worked for.
"Now is the time to continue firmly on the path our sister, Irene Hull, traveled."
She urged a stepped up fight for equal pay for women, single payer national health care, and paid maternity leave.
"Email your legislators, take to the streets and the union halls," she exhorted the crowd. "You can run for office in your union and in local, state and national government. Let's work together to put this country back on the right track."
The crowd erupted in prolonged applause.
Featured in the program book was a tribute to Irene Hull written by her longtime friend and comrade, Will Parry, editor of the Retiree Advocate, monthly publication of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, AFL-CIO.
"From 1942 until her death, Irene was a member of the Communist Party," Parry wrote. "Her political views shaped her lifelong commitment to peace, civil rights, social justice and unionism. Irene was fearless in promoting hundreds of campaigns and causes."
Parry noted that the labor movement honored Hull on her 80th birthday, proclaiming, "Eighty is just the start." He added, "As it proved to be. For another full 18 years, into the final week of her life, she was a burr in the side of the enemy."
Other awardees were Lonnie Nelson, SEIU Local 6 (retired); Kathy Oglesby, special assistant to Ron Sims, President Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Rhonda Oden Gossett, community activist; Carol Dotlich, president, AFSCME Council 28; Rep. Phyllis Guterriez Kenny, 46th Legislative District; and Velma Veloria, director of Home Sight.
Gossett's bio in the CLUW program book reports that she met her future husband, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, when she interviewed him after he returned from the World Youth Festival in Moscow during the 1970s. She was then a writer for the University of Washington campus newspaper.
Gossett honored his wife and the other awardees with a greeting in the program book saying that the Metro King County Council proclaimed March 28, 2011, "Public Employee Appreciation Day," adding, "The Council opposes any attempt to restrict or eliminate collective bargaining in the State of Washington."
Photo: Kevin Allen/PW