Labor arts fund honors Bread and Roses founder, trade unionist Joan Suarez

THE POWER OF UNIONS: Volunteer actors union members Rachel Sacks, Sonja Gholston-Byrd, Mike Paplanus, Shannon Duffy, Georgia Brown and the rest of the Bread & Roses Missouri cast show the power a group has when it organizes during a performance of “Then & Now, Again (Remix): ‘A Workers’ Opera.’” – Labor Tribune file photo

Veteran trade unionist Joan Suarez, the founder of the unique Bread and Roses, where artists and actors work to advance workers and social justice issues in our community, is being honored as the group’s new director emeritus with the formation of a Joan Suarez Director’s Fund.

The fund will support Bread and Roses art initiatives that showcase local writing and acting talent in performing works that highlight social justice issues. Additionally, the Fund will support Bread and Roses Missouri Youth Initiative workshops and the Workers’ Theater group where many local unionists are performers.

The goal of this campaign is to match $20,000 made by several groups and individuals in Joan’s honor. They are: Workers United- $15,000; Missouri Jobs with Justice- $1,500; Eugene V. Debs Foundation-$1,000 and $2,500 pledged on Day One from individual supporters.

Suarez retired last month as the group’s founding executive director.

Her union career as an activist and organizer began in 1962 when she signed on as education director for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and because of her commitment to the union’s efforts, became international vice-president of Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union. As a leader in Missouri Jobs with Justice, in 2015 she helped to form the Bread and Roses project and lead its establishment as an independent non-profit. Sister Suarez is also Founding Chair (now emeritus) of the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), a post she held for 15 years.

Bread and Roses Missouri is a celebration of the arts in the lives of working people and their families. As the Labor hymn for which the organization is named reminds us, “Hearts starve as well as bodies…give us bread and give us roses.”

Bread and Roses Missouri uses an arts lens to examine social and economic justice issues in all its programming believing that cultural and creative expression are a means to effect deep and lasting social change.

The group organizes and participates in arts and humanities events, exhibits and workshops for and about workers and their families as a way of addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality.

For more information about Bread and Roses, visit

You can help this great organization raise another $20,000 matching funding. Donations should be made payable to “Director’s Fund” and mailed to Bread and Roses Missouri, 2725 Clifton Ave., St. Louis, Mo 63139. For more information contact Development Chair/Board member Roseann Weiss at or 314-495-3781.

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