By David Green
Over 125 Detroit DSA members, progressives, and trade unionists gathered to celebrate our recent electoral success at the 10th annual Frederick Douglass-Eugene V. Debs Dinner. The dinner was held at historic UAW Local 600 on Saturday, November 8th. Local 600 was the home local of the participants in the Hunger March of 1933 and is adjacent to the Miller Road Overpass (site of the Battle of the Overpass in 1937 at which UAW organizers were savagely beaten by Henry Ford’s security personnel while attempting to distribute literature to workers at the Ford Rouge Complex). The dinner is the sole fundraising event each year for Detroit DSA.
The co-chairs for this year’s Douglass-Debs Dinner were UAW Region 1A Director Rory Gamble and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 547 Business Manager Phillip Schloop. This year’s Douglass-Debs Award winners were David and Judy Bonior and Judge Claudia Morcom. The keynote speaker was In These Times senior editor David Moberg.
David Bonior served in Congress for 26 years rising through the leadership to become the Democratic Caucus Whip. During his tenure in Congress, Bonior fought to raise the minimum wage, protect pensions, support unions, and extend unemployment benefits. He led the fight to oppose NAFTA in 1993. He worked to prevent war in Central America in the 1980s and again to prevent the Iraq War in 2002. After leaving Congress, Bonior co-founded American Rights at Work, a labor advocacy and research organization, which has made passage of the Employee Free Choice Act its major legislative priority. Bonior was recently appointed to the Obama economic team.
Judy Bonior was the campus chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at the University of Iowa in 1963. She then went to Mississippi to work on behalf of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She later became a Congressional staffer working for such progressive legislators as Byron Dorgan and John Brademas before working for, and eventually marrying, David Bonior.
Judge Claudia Morcom was the first African American woman to work in an integrated law firm when she joined the firm of Goodman, Crockett, Eden, Robb, and Philo in the early 1960s. She was the Southern Regional Director of the National Lawyers Guild’s Committee for Legal Assistance from 1964-1965. In 1966, she became the Director of the Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services Program for the indigent. She became a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge in 1983. She served as a delegate to the United Nations Council on Human Rights.
In their remarks at the dinner, both David Bonior and David Moberg stressed the importance of building social movements to pressure the new Obama administration for bold progressive changes such as single-payer national health insurance, significant public investment in infrastructure and green technology, fair trade, progressive taxation, massive cuts in the military budget, ending the war in Iraq, and passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
David Green is chair of the Detroit Area Democratic Socialists of America.