An Inspiring Subscriber

By Rothschild, Matthew | The Progressive, September 2012 | Go to article overview

An Inspiring Subscriber


Rothschild, Matthew, The Progressive


We have a lot of inspiring subscribers here at The Progressive. Let me introduce you to one of them.

His name is Harry Kelber. He turned ninety-eight on June 20.

Harry Kelber's parents came over from Russia. "They didn't speak much English," he says. In fact, he ended up teaching them the language.

When he was nineteen, he organized his first union at a Brooklyn food market.

In his twenties, he edited weekly labor newspapers and rallied support for the CIO.

He continued to work as a labor editor and printer. When he was forty-six, he "decided to get a college education," as he puts it. He graduated summa cum laude from Brooklyn College and then went on to get a master's and Ph.D. from NYU. He used his degrees to help establish the field of labor studies in the academy, and he played a big part in the New York City newspaper strike in the 1960s.

His wife, Mira, was also an activist. She was a victim of McCarthyism, he told me, but she kept on going and ended up writing speeches for Bella Abzug. After more than fifty years of marriage, Mim died in 2004.

Kelber has dedicated much of his work over the past few decades to the cause of democratizing the AFL-CIO. And for the last five years, he's been writing three columns a week for his own newsletter, The Labor Educator.

On his birthday this year, he announced that he was running for the position of president of the AFL-CIO next year.

"I can't stop," he tells me. "I still have a mission: My mission is to end the corruption in the AFL and establish free elections and members' rights. That's what I do."

We're pleased to count Harry Kelber as a faithful Progressive subscriber.

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