Labor Advocate Online

Mazzocchi Remembered at Two D.C. Gatherings
by Bill Onasch

Tony Mazzocchi

I've been accused of wanting to lead a crusade. Yes, I confess, the labor movement is a crusade or should be a crusade. It's a commitment for tomorrow. It's a commitment for the heritage of our children to make it better for them than it was for us. If we fail in that responsibility, we failed the future.—Tony Mazzocchi

Tony Mazzocchi's “crusade” was not limited to his fifty-two years of leadership in the labor movement. He lied about his age to join the Army as a teenager and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. He became somewhat of an expert, and certainly the most tireless worker advocate, in the field of workplace health and safety, leading the fight that ultimately established OSHA. He played an active role in the Civil Rights Movement and took the initiative in launching Labor for Peace during the Vietnam war. He was the first to make a serious effort at building an alliance between organized labor and the environmental movement. During his final decade he devoted almost all his energy to nourishing the fledgling Labor Party.

In addition to this remarkable crusade he also found time and energy to raise six kids, do the usual renovation and repair of his house, listen to opera—and cook enormous meals for friend and family.

He  made many friends, and I suppose quite a few enemies, over the span of this action packed life. A lot of those turned out for two memorial meetings in Washington, DC December 8 and 9.

Before his death in October Mazzocchi left instructions that no memorial meeting be planned for at least a month after his demise to allow us some time to adjust to our grief. He further insisted that such an event be free from prayers or mournful hymns but rather be a celebration of his life. 

The first, sponsored by the Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, was attended by more than three hundred. The program, chaired by the new Labor Party national organizer Mark Dudzic, included his companion Katherine Isaac, his children and grandchildren, and close family friends. Also speaking were Ralph Nader, Rich Trumka, Dr Sidney Wolfe, Adolph Reed Jr, Les Leopold. Musical interludes were provided by Elsie Bryant and Tony's son, Anthony [trombone], accompanied by his fiancé, Deborah Buck [violin]. An excellent video tribute displayed dozens of photos of Tony in various situations from childhood to his final public appearance at the Labor Party convention in July. At the end of the program the audience sang a rousing rendition of Solidarity Forever! Adjourned, the gathering lingered for food and Tony's favorite beverage—wine—and all were led in a toast to Tony by Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association.

The following afternoon Tony's union, PACE, sponsored a somewhat smaller event, attended mainly by union officials, at AFL-CIO headquarters. Speakers there included AFL-CIO President John Sweeney; Morton Bahr, president of the Communication Workers; Bill Lucy, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME; GCIU secretary-treasurer Gerald Denau; Joslyn Williams, president of the DC area labor council; South Carolina AFL-CIO president Donna DeWitt; UNITE vice-president Noel Beasley; and Lois Gibbs, director of the Center for Health and Environmental Justice.

I'm glad that I had an opportunity to show my respect and share with others an appreciation for Tony.

Although I was well aware of many of Tony's achievements I didn't meet him personally until he visited Kansas City for  Labor Party Advocates in 1994. I had the assignment of picking him up and dropping him off at the airport. It was one of the few times I had any substantial interaction with him outside of meetings. At first I felt a bit awkward being in the presence of one of the few I could honestly call  a great leader of our class. But that didn't last long. He soon had me involved in nonstop discussion until he got on the plane. Like all genuine great leaders he was just as interested in listening as he was in speaking.

Someone of the stature of Tony Mazzocchi doesn't come along often. No single individual is likely to replace him. But he touched a lot of us, educated us, inspired us. Collectively we can carry on his crusade—and, like Tony, I'm convinced  some day we will prevail.  

If you wish to make a donation in Tony's memory, please send to:
Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute - a 501(c)(3) charitable organization
1532 16th Street NW Washington, DC 20036

Labor Party Mourns Loss of National Organizer Tony Mazzocchi - 1926 - 2002