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Celebrating a Legacy of George Brown, Jr. and a History of People who Labor in America

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By Hardy L. Brown

This past Sunday, a few family members and quite a few friends of the late George E. Brown, Jr gathered at the home of Bill and Gloria Macias Harrison to celebrate the life and legacy of Brown and reminisce about his contributions to women and this community. In addition, they gathered to promote the project of archiving his work as a public servant at the University of Riverside library.

His wife, Marta Macias Brown was there to meet and greet the 60 plus loyal people in attendance.

I first met George in 1972 at Frank Tillies’ home in Rialto where George and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, told the story of their first meeting as roommates at UCLA, integrating the dorms for the first time.

I went on to work on his many campaigns and was working on staff when he passed in 1999. Our daughter, Paulette also spent a summer as an intern on his staff in Washington, which was a life-changing experience for her.

It was great seeing some of the people in attendance that I have not seen in a long time. Former San Bernardino Mayor Judith Valles, former San Bernardino City Council Member Betty Dean Anderson, Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Wanda Scruggs, Community College Trustee John Longville, Colton School Board Member Robert Armenta, longtime stafferBobbi Johnson, Dr. Ernie Garcia and others.

The reason I am happy to celebrate George Brown’s legacy and Labor Day together is because they go together like peanut butter and jelly or chicken and waffles or red beans and rice, take your pick. People argue about who started the labor celebration but one thing is clear and that was on Labor Day George Brown was always there to celebrate with them. He fought hard for their rights to organized and negotiate while recognizing that business owners created the jobs and had a right to earn a profit for taking the risk.

Labor employees during his public service tenure understood Brown because Brown understood them. He understood what it took to labor in the fields, wait on tables, empty bedpans, teach in the classroom, fight fires or be a construction worker. He saw dignity in a person willing to give a hard eight hours of work for a decent wage to care for a family.

Today we have some politicians and some labor organizations that exhibit an entitlement attitude and could learn from a Brown’s legacy. Currently we have a public that is hard on both politicians and labor because of this attitude but most citizens do not reflect the vast majority of the public. Why, because most of us have relatives or close friends that are nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, healthcare workers belonging to organized unions.

Our eldest daughter, Lynn Renee Lee is a healthcare worker and a member of the United Steel Workers of America and I am proud of her. She has traveled all over the country in recent years organizing workers in the USWA Union.

Like her and George Brown I believe that without unions we would not have many of the benefits we enjoy today. Being able to take a rest break and lunch time did not just happen. Having eight-hour work days did not just drop out of the sky. Having a safe work environment did not just come about from the generosity of big business or big government? It came about after organized labor took to the streets and elected representatives like George Brown to help make public policies. We do have some in office and seeking office that do not understand business owner create jobs not the other way around. If business owners fail jobs disappear from the community.

I guess Brown took a page from Henry Ford’s playbook when it comes to wages, the employees must earn enough in salary to buy the products they are making. Somehow, that kind of thinking got lost in the past few years in Washington. The rich has gotten richer while the middle class hourly wage earners have lost in wages.

So I close by saluting George Brown and organized labor on this Labor Day Weekend and thank Bill and Gloria Macias Harrison for hosting such a wonderful event to celebrate his legacy.

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