Q4 2022

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By Rob Callahan I n our recent elections, hopefully you took the time to study the candidates' statements, to mark the names of the folks you choose to lead the Guild, and to return your ballot. Solidarity and de- mocracy are the twin pillars of unionism, without which our house cannot stand. I want to turn attention, though, not to those names on the ballot, but to the leaders who largely go unnamed. Every muncher of popcorn knows the name of the leading man or leading woman, the big star chewing the scenery. But such performances, of course, are made possible only by a council of de- partment heads coordinating the army of craftspeople laboring off-camera to ensure such scenery is in place to be chewed. It's those leaders outside the limelight on which so much depends. And the thing about lime- light is that it can blind us to all that falls outside its glare. The protagonists of the histories taught in my schooldays were often monumental figures. Rulers, martyrs, and heroes — the big stars of history, you might say — that loomed larger than life in our collective memories, their names chiseled in stone, preserved for the ages, repeatedly invoked in appeals to our defining mythology. Sports fans squabble over who's the G.O. A .T. , b u t n o t o n l y i n t h e a re n a o f athletics do we valorize such a notion of a greatness that transcends and defines history. Every culture, subculture, faith, or movement exhibits a similar impulse towards canonizing the greats. We reflex- ively identify and incant the names of those giants whose shoulders prop up the tales telling us who we are, the colossi who stand for their times and thereby stand outside of all time. "Yet they were of a dif- ferent kind,/The names that stilled your childish play," Yeats writes in "September 1 9 1 3," b e fo re n a m e - c h e c k- i n g I r i s h r e v o l u t i o n a r i e s o f p a s t c e n t u r i e s w h o s e h e ro i s m o n l y u n d e rs co re d t h e s u p p o s e d d e b a s e m e n t of Yeats's contemporaries. History told in terms of such g re at f i gu re s — g re at m e n , a l m o s t a l l of them — is a history told in superla- tives, enacted by superhumans, casting long shadows over lesser mortals such as ourselves. In the labor movement, too, we tell much of our history by name-checking the legend- ary heroes of our pantheon. The names we invoke are of w o r k i n g- c l a ss c h a m p i o n s, heroes from and for those who toil, but they are stars still notwithstanding salt-of-the- earth origins: Mother Jones, Joe Hill, Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Lucy Parsons, John L. Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Bayard Rustin, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, to call out a handful of our greats. Their names and stories may have been given short Rob Callahan Terry Moore hugs United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez at the UAW rally in 1984 against Douglas aircraft at Long Beach Park (Wardlow Park). P H OT O : LO S A N G E L E S P U B L I C L I B R A R Y The Fights Ahead WHY WE NEED SHOP STEWARDS IN OUR UNION 12 C I N E M O N T A G E G E T T I N G O R G A N I Z E D

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