Association for Union Democracy

In Memoriam: Oscar Paskal, 1920-2022

“Long before he descended to the very bottom of the Grand Canyon, Oscar Paskal was a close
friend of mine since 1942. He has been a longtime supporter of AUD.”
-Herman Benson

The Association for Union Democracy has lost a longtime friend, a Clarion Club member, a
unionist with a long and storied career in the Labor Movement, Oscar Paskal. A former
employee of Chrysler and member of the United Auto Workers, Paskal was featured in the pages
of union publications for decades both for his activism and his various posts within the UAW.
He was a friend and ally of union democracy advocates everywhere.

Paskal was born in 1920 and grew up in New York City, attending high school in Manhattan.
During the Second World War, he served his country in the infantry, seeing combat as the Allies
pushed their way into Nazi Germany. Shortly after returning from the war, Paskal became a
member of the UAW in 1946 at the height of the post war boom in labor organizing and
militancy, joining Local 7 at the Jefferson Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan. He later
moved to Local 227, having become a tool and die maker at the DeSoto (of “You Bet Your Life”
fame) Assembly Plant. The UAW appointed him an international representative, and he began
work at the union’s Education Department, a role he would fill until his retirement at the age of
65.

Even after retirement, Paskal remained active in social causes both within and without the labor
movement. Paskal marched with striking newspaper workers in downtown Detroit in the 1990s
(having done so 30 years before alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). He was also on the board
of directors of the Detroit Community Health Connection (which he cofounded) and had a
community health center named after him in the Detroit neighborhood of Fox Creek: the Oscar
Paskal Health Center. In 2003, for his service both in the Labor Movement and on behalf of
community health, Paskal was honored at the Detroit DSA’s annual Frederick Douglass-Eugene
V. Debs dinner at UAW Local 600’s historic union hall.

In addition to staying active politically, Paskal was a stalwart when it came to maintaining a
robust physical exercise regimen, becoming (even into his 90s) a fixture at the fitness room at the
St. Patrick Senior Center in Detroit. In 2005, at the age of 85, he descended and then scaled the
Grand Canyon on behalf of the March of Dimes, making the trek with the same verve and
determination that had guided him through the previous nine decades of his life. Paskal’s papers are currently being held at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is survived by his daughter Alison.

 

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