Thursday, December 1, 2016

Frank Rosen---A Life Well Lived

It seems to me sometimes that young people are lost or shut out as they try to find a place on the left and can't locate themselves in a particular tradition or an area of commitment and work. It doesn't help that there are so many people creating false dichotomies in polemics, like "identity politics" versus "class" or "revolution" versus "reform,' and making the left look like a mean, ugly and crisis-driven place hidden away in a very small tent. The older generations I knew as a young person are long gone, and many of them left us with a sectarian spirit or with understandable fears created under McCarthyism. Those of us growing old now, and especially those of us in and around the labor movement, should not repeat the past.

Frank Rosen---union organizer, activist and freedom fighter---died on November 28. An account of his life's work is an owner's manual on how to navigate life as a radical. The following is from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee website:

Frank Rosen, longtime labor leader, political activist, and member of the Defending Dissent Foundation board, died November 28, 2016 in Chicago where he spent most of his life. He was 91. Rosen took part in many of the seminal moments in Chicago history, from studying nuclear physics under Enrico Fermi, to fighting to defend civil liberties in the McCarthy era, to the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, to electing Harold Washington as mayor, to organizing against the unregulated power of utility companies, all while helping thousands of members of his union struggle on a daily basis for decent wages and benefits and dignity on the job.

Following 15 years as a rank-and-file member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and ten years on the union’s national staff, Rosen served as the elected president of UE District 11 from 1976 until his retirement in 1990. Throughout that time Rosen worked closely on many social justice issues with other leaders of the left wing of Chicago’s labor movement, led by the likes of Charlie Hayes of the Packinghouse Workers, who later became a U.S. Congressman.

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