Retirees

More Than a Half-Century of Struggle

September 6, 2013
1199SEIU retiree Clifton Broady can attest to the victories of our nation’s civil rights struggles. He has been fighting on the frontlines for more than half a century.

“I became involved in the fight for civil rights when I was in my teens,” Broady recalls. Around the same time, he left his hometown, Rockingham, NC, for New York City. “I knew that I would have a better chance to find a good job and continue my education in New York,” he says.

He was working at Harper & Row Publishers in 1963 when he took time off to go to the March on Washington. “I was 22 at the time and I had grown up during segregation – separate restaurants, schools, water fountains, movie entrances. I wanted to help change that,” he stresses.

“I think we’ve made great strides, but the march to full justice is not over,” Broady says. That is why he helped to organize two buses from North Carolina, where he is now retired--to the August 24 commemoration of the 1963 march. The August 24 action, attended by thousands of 1199ers, was called to continue Dr. King’s dream of justice and equality.

“One difference between 1963 and 2013 was my 1199 membership,” Broady says. After he became an 1199 member in 1970, much of his involvement for people’s rights was guided and aided by his Union membership. And although he retired and moved back to Rockingham with his wife, Josephine, a retired RN, that did not end his activism.

“1199SEIU has become a place for retirees in North and South Carolina to get involved in the struggles for workers’ and people’s rights,” Broady says. “In fact, folks look to us for leadership. When we in 1199SEIU call, folks respond.”

Broady says that people look to 1199SEIU for leadership because many of the 1199SEIU retirees are experienced organizers who continue to have the support of the Union. “On our buses to the Washington commemoration we had T-shirts, badges and information about the march,” Broady says. “People are impressed by our operation and organization.”

The reputation of the 1199SEIU retirees also has been built by what they do locally. Many, for example, take part in North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” demonstrations in Raleigh against regressive state government policies.

Broady, who is acting president of the local Philadelphia United Methodist Church, has helped initiate an organization of African American men that counsels youngsters and fights for much-needed community programs. “We’ve made great strides, but we’ve also lost our sense of community,” Broady laments. “We seemed to have lost some of the discipline and strict upbringing that kept young people on the right path. We’re just not as close knit.”

Broady also argues that North Carolina’s anti-union environment and policies has held back progress. “TV and the papers constantly attack unions and our accomplishments, like pensions,” Broady remarks. “They resent retirees like the 1199ers who have returned to the South with pensions and benefits and they try to use that to divide us from other working people.”

Broady is not pessimistic. “I think we can make a great difference,” he stresses. The people are ready to move. Now is the time to help organize them.”

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