Friday, May 25, 2012

Paul Baizerman, ¡Presente!

The Update learned recently that longtime solidarity activist Paul Baizerman died last December in New York at the age of 67. A retired public school teacher, Paul dedicated much of his time to the Skilled Trades Task Force, a group he helped found to promote solidarity exchanges between trade unionists in Nicaragua and trade unionists in the US.

Paul leading a delegation in Nicaragua
Paul’s work in Nicaragua began in the middle 1980s when he volunteered with TecNica, a California-based organization that brought technical assistance to Nicaragua at the height of the US-sponsored contra war against the new revolutionary government there. Paul quickly saw the potential and the need for developing direct solidarity between the labor movements in the two countries. With fluent Spanish and years of experience in the politics of the New York teachers’ union, he formed a close relationship with unionists in Nicaragua and began sending US unionists to Nicaragua and organizing tours of Nicaraguan unionists to the US.

The Skilled Trades Task Force was started as part of TecNica, but it continued to operate after the Sandinistas’ 1990 electoral defeat brought TecNica itself to an end, along with many other solidarity groups. Far from being discouraged, Paul expanded the project to include work with Cuban unionists and labor activists from other Latin American countries.

Paul was typically modest about his work. Generally he only talked about his role in providing material aid, such as the way he would drive tools and spare machine parts to Nicaragua in beat-up old VW bugs, which he donated along with the other equipment to Nicaraguan unions. When conversations got too ideological, he would shrug and say: “I don’t understand any of this crap; I’m from Brooklyn.” But he did understand, much better than most of us did at the time.

Now the idea of cross-border solidarity has won acceptance across a wide range of groups and people, from Occupy Wall Street activists to leaders of the AFL-CIO. But we must never forget that this acceptance is the result of the vision, dedication and hard work of Paul Baizerman and others like him.

For more information, go to: 1

For two articles by Paul, go to:

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