Tag Archives: obituary


Mourning 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa

It is with great sadness that we note the untimely passing on Thursday, July 11th of Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU and long-time member of the Murphy Institute and SLU Advisory Boards.

Héctor was a great labor leader and political powerhouse. His belief in the right of workers to determine their own destiny and to enjoy the benefits of unionization led him to wage numerous successful campaigns that brought better pay, benefits, and working conditions to thousands of women and men. He was a progressive leader with a broad vision of labor and its role in the larger struggle for social justice. He was a champion of racial, social, and economic equality. His work in defense of immigrants’ rights was outstanding, as were his efforts to expand voting rights. Continue reading Mourning 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa

Remembering Sister Ida Torres

Sister Ida Torres — labor leader, beloved community member, mentor and friend — passed away over the weekend. Leaving behind a community that both grieves her loss and celebrates her life, Sister Ida was one of the founding members of the NE Summer School for Women in Unions and Worker Organizations and an impactful leader whose presence can be felt across the labor movement.

In 2011, Sister Ida was honored with the Clara Lemlich Award for Social Activism. From the Labor Arts website:

Ida Torres Ida Ines Berrocal-Torres was born and raised in New York City, into a union family. She learned about the importance of the labor movement at the dinner table, through the words of her father, a co-founder of the Maritime Workers union, and her mother, a “Shop Chair Lady” at the ILGWU. Her union activism took her to the United Office and Professional Workers of America, where she started as a telephone operator.

Torres’ career in the labor movement continued as she became a finance clerical employee at District 65, and in 1954, office manager at RWDSU Local 3 United Storeworkers, the union representing Bloomingdale’s department store workers. In 1965, the 4,000 Bloomingdale’s workers in New York City went on strike, and Torres became actively involved in the fight for justice at the department store. After the 15-day strike ended, Local 3 members rallied around her. She rose through the ranks, becoming a vice president in 1977, secretary-treasurer in 1984, and finally, president in 1998, an office she held until her retirement. Continue reading Remembering Sister Ida Torres

Remembering Rosalyn Baxandall (1939-2015)

[10/19/15: Murphy Prof. Ruth Milkman wrote a short piece commemorating Rosalyn Baxandall’s life for Jacobin Magazine. Check it out here. – Ed.]

Professor Rosalyn Baxandall died Tuesday evening. Following her retirement from SUNY Old Westbury, the Murphy Institute was very fortunate to have Ros come teach labor history. Ros was a pathbreaking feminist scholar whose activism and writing brought women into labor history and women’s work into focus for scholars across the disciplines. All of us who care about social history, labor, feminism and the role of struggle and movements in shaping the direction of our society and our studies are indebted to Ros, for her example as well as her contributions to our fields.

From the New York Times obituary, published today:

[Baxandall] helped create Liberation Nursery, the first feminist day care center in New York. As an early member of New York Radical Women and Redstockings, she picketed the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, one of the most visible of the feminist protests of the ’60s, forever associated with a symbolic burning of restrictive women’s clothes that mainstream publications referred to as a “bra burning.”

She played a prominent role in the abortion “speakout” in the West Village in 1969, a forum at which women described in public their experiences in obtaining illegal abortions.

Recalling those days in an interview with the feminist activist Jacqueline Ceballos in 1991, Ms. Baxandall said, “The one thing that I do have against the books that are written is they talk about all the politics and the splits, et cetera, but they don’t talk about the joy and fun we had.” She added, “We knew were changing history, and it was terrific.”


Remembering Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

Grace Lee Boggs was no ordinary activist. A trailblazer in the civil rights, black power, labor, environmental justice and feminist movements, she formed strong and enduring relationships, reflected deeply, and contributed to the foundation on which so much grassroots innovation, exploration and resistance continues to take place in Detroit.

Boggs died yesterday morning at the age of 100 in her home in Detroit. We remember her as a leader and hero, and look to her legacy for lessons on how we can wage struggles now and in the future: with tenacity, bravery and love.

From the New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:

Born to Chinese immigrants, Ms. Boggs was an author and philosopher who planted gardens on vacant lots, founded community organizations and political movements, marched against racism, lectured widely on human rights and wrote books on her evolving vision of a revolution in America.

Her odyssey took her from the streets of Chicago as a tenant organizer in the 1940s to arcane academic debates about the nature of communism, from the confrontational tactics of Malcolm X and the Black Power movement to the nonviolent strategies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and finally to her own manifesto for change — based not on political and economic upheavals but on community organizing and resurgent moral values.

“I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling,” Ms. Boggs told Bill Moyers in a PBS interview in 2007. “We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently.”

For the full obituary, visit the New York Times.

For video clips of Boggs throughout the years, visit Democracy Now!

Photo by Kyle McDonald via flickr (CC-BY).