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Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker

Moe FonerMoe Foner
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Session:         Page of 592


Philadelphia is not yet organized. Baltimore is not yet organized. We don't have any real bases anyplace outside New York and New Jersey. We have no bases. Suddenly the thing happens. Let me set it up, leading up to '69. When we got the $100 minimum, we had a contract settlement rally at Manhattan Center, a big, happy kind of thing, because it went close to a strike. We had been in touch with the SCLC. Andy Young had come to New York and had met with us, and we were talking about training. We'd had contacts with the SCLC. We'd been talking about the possibility of organizing together, but it was very theoretical and nothing very practical. We'd been at retreats with them. They'd come to our place and we'd sent some people there, they'd sent some people here. We didn't know what was going to happen with that. It sounded nice. Stanley was interested in that. At the time of the '68 contract, I spoke to Stanley and told him that it looked like this could be the basis for organizing, and he said, “What can we do?”

I said, “One thing we can do is to get Coretta to send a wire to the settlement meeting, in which she says that, ‘This is a magnificent thing, but that hundreds of thousands of black women outside New York don't have it. Wouldn't it be great. I am prepared. You are prepared to go outside. I pledge to you that I am prepared to go with you.’” So I drafted that telegram and it was read. We used that as the basis for beginning to scuttle around. We formed the national union. The hospital and nursing home employees existed in '69.

Henry Nicholas and Elliot were out in the field, doing it, and at one point Nick had gotten contacts and heard from people in Charleston, and so he had gone down there and he had come back and that kind of thing. Then before you knew it, there had been the firing of twelve rank-and-file people. It turned out that it was a put-up, that the director of the hospital, the president of the hospital, wanted to get rid of these people. It turned out there had been organizing going on there in conjunction, in cooperation with a guy named Bill Saunders, who was a Black Power guy, who was training people who worked in the hospitals to work with him to form some kind of organization. He wasn't sure whether it would be a union or what. They were meeting quietly and privately and secretly with him. The word got out and they called us. Nick had gone down there. Our international had something down there, and so it was very, very vague.

One thing that did happen is that we didn't know whether they were serious or what was going on, and so once we decided that Doris Turner should go down to talk. Doris was scheduled to go down to Charleston to address a meeting. They were going to put together a

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