By SHERI GASSAWAY
For those in the St. Louis Labor Movement, Kevin FitzGerald is a man who needs no introduction. His name is synonymous with activism, and he is everywhere – rallies, marches, political events – always standing up for workers and social and economic justice.
That passion earned the Heat & Frost Insulators Local 1 retiree the unexpected honor of being named the 2018 recipient of the Hershel Walker Peace & Justice Award at the 26th Annual Hershel Walker Peace & Justice Award breakfast May 12. The awards breakfast was hosted by the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society (WES) and the Missouri/Kansas Chapter of People’s World.
Walker was a St. Louis trade unionist and human and civil rights leader committed to the struggle for peace and justice.
WES Secretary-Treasurer Don Giljum, who presented the award, recognized FitzGerald for his outstanding service, commitment and leadership in the struggle for workers’ rights and social and economic justice and his herculean efforts in collecting signatures to place Proposition A (RTW) on the ballot for voters to decide.
"He represents the best of the best of Hershel Walker,” Giljum said. “He’s selfless, he’s tireless and he is everywhere…. He grinds it out every day and never asks for anything for himself or any recognition.”
CANDIDATE FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE
FitzGerald, a candidate for Missouri state representative, graciously accepted the award. “I’m humbled,” he said.
FitzGerald is running against incumbent Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis County) in the 89th District that includes the cities of Chesterfield, Des Peres, Kirkwood, Frontenac, Ladue, Huntleigh and Town and Country.
Plocher co-sponsored a recent bill that took away the City of St. Louis’ minimum wage increase, co-sponsored a bill to no longer count people who are not citizens – even if they have permanent resident status – when House districts are redrawn, and voted for a bill in 2016 that prohibited a wage range increase for personal care assistants.
“Just because he represents Ladue and Town and Country, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t affect you,” FitzGerald said. “Remember that name in District 89 – Dean Plocher. Don’t do it for me, do it for you and let’s all get together and work against him.”
Other honorees recognized for their Labor activism and work to create a more just and equitable society included:
• Cathy Sherwin, vice president of the Missouri Coalition of Labor Union Women. Sherwin recently retired from the Missouri AFL-CIO, where she had worked as a regional field communications coordinator, and has also been a member of CWA Local 6355, the United Media Guild and Painters District Council 58.
• State Representative Peter Merideth (D-St. Louis), chairman of the House Victory Committee. Merideth was elected to his first two-year term in office in November 2016. Prior to his legislative duties, Merideth worked with the Labor law firm Husch Blackwell and in 2011, he started his own practice, GroundUp STL, in the Shaw neighborhood.
• SEIU Healthcare and the 90 victorious Christian Care Home workers, who went on strike for more than 100 days last winter before finally wing a fair contract with the Christian Woman’s Benevolent Association, which manages the Ferguson nursing home. The new contract includes wage increases, favorable health insurance provisions and seniority protections.