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Harry Bridges Eulogized as Champion of Working People

April 16, 1990|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Harry Bridges, the Australian-born seaman whose waterfront union organizing spread from the West Coast docks to the Hawaiian sugar plantations, was eulogized as a man who remained the champion of working men and women up to his death at 88.

"Harry was an ordinary man . . . a working stiff (who) articulated the demands and desires of the people he represented," labor arbitrator Sam Kagel told the audience packing the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union headquarters on Saturday.

A New Orleans-style band played the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the public memorial honoring the naturalized American who founded the ILWU and fought four deportation attempts by U.S. officials who claimed he was a Communist.

Work on the docks halted Saturday in Washington state where about 70 union members, leaders and retirees paid last respects, the second shutdown of West Coast ports in two weeks. The day after Bridges died of emphysema on March 30, 9,000 union members along the coast walked off the job.

Bridges sailed from Australia as a teen-ager and was returned to the sea last week when his ashes were scattered near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hundreds of guests at the memorial Saturday included the old liberal wing of San Francisco's Democratic leadership: Mayor Art Agnos, former Mayor Joseph L. Alioto, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

Bridges was the son of a well-off Australian real estate owner and never forgot the poverty he saw collecting rents for his father in the Melbourne slums. He came to the United States as a merchant sailor at a time when seafarers labored under some of the worst conditions arising from the Industrial Revolution.

Bridges led members of a rebel local of the corrupt International Longshoremen's Assn. in the 1934 waterfront strike that sparked the city's only general strike and creation of the ILWU.

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