Edward and Lois Gray
A Tribute to Edward Gray
It may have been his youthful experiences as a sharecropper and migrant farm worker in the Depression or simply something in his blood, but somehow, early in his life, Ed Gray developed an acute and wide-ranging sense of social justice.
In his years as a United Auto Workers official, first elected to the Union’s Executive Board when he was 26 and later as a Regional Director in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Ed took a broad view of his role. He helped lead the Union into the campaign against racial discrimination, served on the Board of the American Committee on Africa, was an organizer of the Labor Committee to End the War in Vietnam, and championed affordable housing for the elderly and the disabled.
Ed was a relentless champion not only of workers, but of all of those who struggled to realize the full promise of a truly just and humane society.
While serving as a UAW Area Director in Buffalo in the late 1940’s, he became so incensed that black workers were banned from bowling leagues sponsored by the American Bowling Congress that he established a rival, integrated bowling organization that helped prompt the A.B.C. to change its policies.
Ed Gray’s Union career began when he was 19 and took a job at an auto parts plant in Trenton and led a successful campaign to organize a UAW local there. As the local’s first President, he became an early and fierce supporter of Walter Reuther in the Union’s bitter factional wars of the 1930’s and 1940’s and won election to the Union’s Executive Board in 1943.
Mr. Gray was defeated for re-election the next year and was in the Army in the latter stages of World War II. But with Mr. Reuther finally installed as UAW President, Ed was named to the Area Director position in Buffalo, where he led a bitter 19 week strike at the Bell Aircraft plant in 1949.
After violent clashes between Union workers and strikebreakers, Ed and then Regional Director Martin Gerber were tried and convicted for “conspiracy” for their activities during the strike. On appeal, the convictions were overturned.
In 1977, Ed was again elected to the Union’s Executive Board. In his years with the regional office, Mr. Gray became concerned that some auto workers in New Jersey had to commute long distances because they could not afford to live in the expensive suburbs near their plants. He was active in the campaign against restrictive zoning regulations that prevented the construction of low-cost multifamily housing.
After retiring from the UAW, Ed brought a private sector perspective to municipal Union matters as a member of the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining’s dispute settlement board.
As he grew older and became more aware of problems faced by the elderly, Ed, ever the organizer, led the drive to establish the New York State Council of Senior Citizens and was elected its first President.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son John, four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren.
A Tribute to Lois Gray
Lois began her career in the 1940’s, working for the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo, NY. By 1947, she had become the first Director of the Buffalo Office of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where she remains the longest serving faculty member.
As the only woman in a group of visionary organizers, Lois helped to form the University and College Labor Education Association. She became the first woman to serve as UCLEA President in 1965. Lois helped to develop innovative approaches to labor education and was instrumental in establishing Labor Studies as an academic field. Her leadership was critical in starting the UALE Women’s Summer Schools, founding Cornell’s Institute for Women and Work and the Latino Leadership Center. Extraordinarily, Lois Gray also earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia during this time, when such programs were almost exclusively male.
An educator, a scholar, and a pioneer; Lois Gray is one of the founders of the field of Labor Education.
Lois has published numerous articles on labor education, Union structure and administration, women in Union leadership, and labor relations in the entertainment industry.
In recognition of her contributions, Cornell’s ILR School has established a professorship in her name.
A leader known globally, Lois Gray has helped numerous countries start their own labor education programs. Among them are Chile, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Barbados.
She has also been a confidant and advisor to city, state, and national Union leaders. In addition, Lois has been a mentor for several generations of labor students, educators, researchers, and practitioners.
Lois also had an impact through her service to state government. She was appointed by three different governors to chair the New York State Apprenticeship and Training Council and served on the New York State Manpower Training Council for many years.
Throughout her long career and with the deepest commitment, Lois has worked to improve the lives of Union members and their families in a myriad of ways, with unmatched grace, humor, and humility.