Friday, October 20, 2006

Lynne Fox of UNITE/HERE receives Philaposh Award

The following is a transcript of a presentation made by Kathy Black to Lynne Fox, Business Manager for UNITE/HERE, Philadelphia Joint Board, the largest garment workers’ and hospitality industry union. Lynne is a feminist, and one of the strongest, smartest, most accomplished women in the Pennsylvania labor movement. The occasion was the annual awards night for Philaposh, the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health. Lynne received an award named for Tony Mazzocchi, the leading labor advocate for safe workplaces in the 20th century. He was the motivating force behind establishment of the Occupational Health & Safety Act and Administration. He was a prominent leader in OCAW (Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers), and worked closely with Karen Silkwood, famous whistleblower who was killed while trying to expose the nuclear industry’s unsafe workplaces.

Intro of Lynne Fox, Tony Mazzocchi Award
Philaposh Awards Night, October 20, 2006

It is my great honor and pleasure to present the Tony Mazzocchi Award to one of the most prominent and respected women labor leaders in our state, and Philaposh’s new fundraising champion - thank you very much - Lynne Fox of UNITE/HERE.

We all know Lynne, but as I looked over her resume I found a couple surprises in her background. Apparently she had other dreams as a young woman. Her Bachelors degree from Penn State is in Foreign Service and International Relations - usually considered preparation for a career that would take you very far from the Philadelphia labor movement, in more than just physical distance. Who knew she once aspired to be a member of the diplomatic corps!
She did leave Philly for a bit, but then returned to graduate from Temple Law School in 1984. She practiced law with two local firms for the next ten years, (Think they are well represented here tonight and in our ad book) but then succumbed to the call of the family business. Maybe unionism is in the genes; and certainly she was thoroughly schooled as a girl about the dignity of all workers and the righteousness of our social and economic justice movement that advances and defends workers’ rights. That schooling came from her famous father, the long time business manager of ACTWU and renowned Philadelphia labor leader, John Fox - who is here with us tonight. (Applause please for the many great contributions John made to our labor movement.)

Lynne joined UNITE as General Counsel in 1999 and worked her way up to Manager, a position she has served in since 1999. Her bio in the program tells you about some of her many other leadership positions, so I won’t repeat them. I will add though, that she is a longtime member and strong supporter of other labor constituency groups, including A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Jewish Labor Committee and CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women), and a former honoree of CLUW, and of organizations that work for cures for multiple sclerosis, breast and cervical cancer. She’s been a champion fundraiser for all of those causes too.
And of course, Lynne has long been a supporter of Philaposh as well. And no wonder. The workers represented by UNITE do a lot of seriously dangerous, difficult work - from the extreme heat and steam of the laundries, to the textile dust of the garment shops, to the life and limb threatening machinery industry-wide. Lynne has long recognized the importance of safety and health issues for workers, and the protections that can be provided through a union contract and a unified labor movement.

Most recently, Lynne’s been the local leader of UNITE/HERE’s new "Hotel Workers’ Rising!" campaign. If you go to the campaign’s excellent website - and you should go to it, by the way, and sign up for their action alerts , http://www.hotelworkersrising.org/ - you’ll see that health and safety issues are front and center on their home page. Many might view hotel housekeeping as little more than extra housework, but the speed-up, and the increasing demand of hotel guests for more and more amenities, bigger beds and heavier luxury linens are all leading to record injury rates and disabling conditions for these mostly minority and immigrant women. And I believe you’ll be hearing from them directly in a few minutes too.

On this campaign, and on so many others, Lynne has been a passionate, compassionate and savvy leader. She is a terrific role model, admired and beloved by her members, her staff, and her colleagues past and present. She is also a devoted wife and mother of three school age kids. Truthfully, we don’t see Lynne at a lot of evening labor events. Her days are pressure packed, and her responsibilities huge, and she gives them her all during business hours. But she makes sure she’s home most nights with her family, and in this too she is a great role model, performing admirably that precarious balancing act between work and family.

Tony Mazzocchi was smart, passionate, fearless, and totally committed to workers’ rights, and especially their right to a safe and healthy workplace. Lynne too exemplifies all those terrific qualities, and so it is entirely appropriate that she be presented with Philaposh’s annual award made in Tony’s name. Congratulations, Lynne.

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