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One For The Road: RIP Addie L. Wyatt

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 30, 2012 10:40PM

Civil rights activist and union leader Addie L. Wyatt died Wednesday at the age of 88. Wyatt's work touches many social issues spanning decades. She founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked her to help start Operation Breadbasket, which eventually became the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Wyatt was working at a meatpacking plant when she became involved with the union and rose swiftly through the ranks, becoming director of the Women’s Affairs and Human Rights Departments of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters. In the 1960s Eleanor Roosevelt appointed her to the Labor Legislation Committee of the United States Commission on the Status of Women. Chicago Now writes:

In the 1970’s she held a powerful position in the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and in 1974 she founded the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wyatt became the international vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers in 1976. Again she was the first African American woman to hold a high union leadership position in an international union.

In the video below, Wyatt speaks on how she became involved with the union for "The Force of Ethics in Civil Rights," an oral history project of the not-for profit Alliance of Ethics & Art, Inc.