Some 100 people gathered July 12 at the Martin Street Church of God in Atlanta to honor the life of longtime Atlanta union and political activist Gary Washington, who died here July 3 at age 69.
Washington, a former member of the Black Panther Party, went to work in 1968 for Mead Packaging company, a cardboard manufacturing plant in Atlanta. He played a prominent role in the 1972 wildcat strike in which 700 of the plant’s 1,100 workers, primarily African American, walked off the job, demanding safer conditions and an end to racial discrimination in hiring and promotions. Less than two months later the strike ended when Mead conceded to several demands.
Washington served as a union steward until his retirement in 2016, and was active in many union and civil rights battles. For many years he co-hosted The Labor Forum, a weekly radio show on Atlanta’s WRFG-FM. During this time he interviewed Socialist Workers Party candidates, Cuba solidarity activists and others.
In the early 1990s Washington joined the international campaign to defend Mark Curtis, a union and political activist and member of the Socialist Workers Party beaten and framed up on bogus rape charges by police in Des Moines, Iowa, for his political activity on behalf of immigrant co-workers. He spoke to win support for Curtis at schools, churches and community groups.
He also was a subscriber to the Militant and reader of Pathfinder books.
Washington’s family acknowledged his many friends and supporters with these words: “Gary would encourage each of you to continue to fight against racism and injustice wherever you find it. Instead of flowers and cards, he would want you to donate to a cause or organization that is at the forefront of the fight against injustice.” Militant readers can make a contribution in his name to the paper online at themilitant.com.