In Memoriam: Rochelle Flanders

Rochelle “Rickie” Flanders, who died on March 15 at 90, was more than a longtime generous supporter of AUD. She helped get it started.

In 1966, just after Dow Wilson and Lloyd Green, the two California Painters union insurgents were murdered, Rickie volunteered to recruit 23 sponsors for what became the “Committee for an Investigation of the Wilson-Green Murders and Racketeering in the Painting Industry.”

One of those whom she induced to sign up with the committee was Al Shanker, then president of the United Federation of Teachers, who agreed on only one condition: that we get at least one other prominent labor leader to join the list. After she recruited Marty Gerber, then a UAW regional director, labor representation seemed guaranteed. But, just before the formation of the committee was publicly announced, a San Francisco Painters union official and two employers were indicted for the murder, and Gerber pulled out, which is why the committee lacked major union representation.

The committee alerted media around the nation to the murders and to corruption in the union. Later, many of its members sponsored the formation of the Association for Union Democracy to continue the work on a broader scale.

Around 1942, when Rickie was 20, she went to California, where like many young radicals of the day, she chose to join the working class and worked there as a welder in the Los Angeles shipyards. After the war, she returned to New York and joined the editorial board of the United Teacher as a writer. Her family suggests that donations in her memory be made to AUD.

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