Not for Bread Alone: A Memoir

Not for Bread Alone: A Memoir

Not for Bread Alone: A Memoir

Not for Bread Alone: A Memoir


"Foner often let others take credit, but with his names and telephone numbers he was the man to call--and take a call from. He was a champion of civil rights and civil liberties and an early and strong opponent of the Vietnam War when that was rare among labor."--The Nation"For the daily truth behind phrases like 'first-generation American,' 'labor movement,' and 'civil rights,' there is no better life story than that of Moe Foner. Like Emma Goldman, he insisted on dancing at the revolution, and on every American's right to joy and justice. In these dark times, his memoir is a beacon of past and future light."--Gloria Steinem"I operated under the theory that a good union doesn't have to be dull."--Moe Foner"Don't waste any time mourning--organize."--Joe Hill

Moe Foner, who died in January 2002, was a leading player in 1199/SEIU, New York's Health and Human Service Union, and a key strategist in the union's fight for recognition and higher wages for thousands of low-paid hospital workers. Foner also was the founder of Bread and Roses, 1199's cultural program created to add dimension and artistic outlets to workers' lives. Foner produced a musical about hospital workers; invited Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to perform for workers and their children; presented stars such as Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Alan Alda; and installed the only permanent art gallery at a union headquarters. One of Foner's last projects was a poster series called "Women of Hope," which celebrates African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latina women including Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Septima P. Clark, and the Delaney sisters Sarah and Elizabeth. Today his legacy is the largest and most important cultural program of any union.Not for Bread Alone traces Foner's development from an apolitical youth whose main concerns were basketball and music to a visionary whose pragmatism paved the way for legislation guaranteeing hospital workers the right to unionize. Foner writes eloquently about his early life in Brooklyn as the son of a seltzer delivery man and about many of the critical developments in the organization of hospital workers. He provides an insider's perspective on major strikes and the struggle for statewide collective bargaining; the leadership styles of Leon Davis, Doris Turner, and Dennis Rivera; and the union's connection to key events such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.


Somewhere just South of the Center of our
Deepest Affection, There He Abides,
Our Very Own Hero of Labor: Moe Foner

On may 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States ended segregation with the Brown v. Board of Education decision. the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson precedent was dead. the separate-butequal standard was horrendous—sometimes deadly, based on the assumption that black folks were inherently inferior to white folks. We never accepted the premise, but segregation was the only lifestyle we knew. the decision was a gift, not only to us but to all Americans, a reward for years of valiant struggle. But it didn’t come with instructions.

Everybody knew that something momentous had occurred. It said flat out that many laws and practices by which we Americans conducted our daily race relations were unconstitutional. That was a big relief, something we had argued for and struggled to get since 1896. But now that we had it, how did we make it work? Obviously some serious changes had to be made. But who was to make these changes and when? in the black community there was much waiting around to see how the rest of America, the white South in particular, would respond to what the Court had said.

The answer, even from Congress, was not encouraging, expressing an almost total opposition to what the Court had ruled.

It wasn’t until August 1955 and the murder of Emmett Till, a 15year-old black boy from Money, Mississippi, that things began to change. When we looked down on the mangled and viciously beaten . . .

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