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Interview with Will Parry, Part IV

Editor’s Note: In 2010 former Retiree Advocate Editor and lifelong working class activist Will Parry gave a 90th birthday interview to Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis. This is the concluding part of that interview.

For those who knew Will, his answers to these final questions illustrate the boundless optimism and faith in working people that kept him going even through the worst years of the McCarthy period.

Can the labor movement ever regain its strength?

I wouldn’t underestimate its remaining strength. It’s all connected with things like NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and the export of jobs to low-wage countries and the destruction of our manufacturing base, which was the base of strength of the labor movement. Look, here are the garbage workers—there are still people on strike fighting for the best contract. The UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers] at the grocery stores are in the middle of negotiations and the employers are trying to water down their health care and increase deductibles and take away some of their benefits, and the workers are not going to stand for it. If necessary, there’ll be a strike … They’re not horsing around. They mean business about protecting what they’ve won.

What keeps you so optimistic?

What keeps me so optimistic is, among other things, my 21 years [with the workers] at the Longview Fibre Company. I know firsthand all their shortcomings, defects, misunderstandings, lack of sophistication, [but] my God, they’re strong and I believe in workers. … No matter how they transform the economy, the work has to be done and capitalism creates workers. It has to—You can’t have any profits without workers. You can have all the bankers in the world, but if you don’t have someone cleaning the toilets, you don’t have a society … When I was young, I thought by now we’d have socialism in America. But I go by the advice of the rabbi of two millennia ago: “You are not required to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.” None of us finish the work. It goes on, but we have a responsibility while we’re above ground to do something about it.

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