Jim Baldridge

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Jim Baldridge


Jim Baldridge was a Baltimore Maryland Communist Party USA activist. He died in December 2017, aged 71.

A Vietnam War-era Navy vet, Jim Baldridge joined the anti-war movement in the 1960s and is still an active leader of Veterans for Peace today. He was a Bethlehem shipyard worker and later a hospital worker at Johns Hopkins, active in Hospital Workers Local 1199. He retired in 2011. He is married to Margaret Baldridge. They had two children, Mary Jean and Paul Baldrige of Nebrasha.[1]

Activist life

Baldridge’s last major political assignment was as President of the Maryland-D.C. Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), an 80,000 member affiliate of the AFL-CIO. He assumed the post in 2013 and spent the rest of his life mobilizing retirees to fight back against attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and Social Security by the ultra-right Republicans on Capitol Hill.

A few months ago, by then weak and frail, Jim attended the retirement banquet for his dear friend, Fred Mason, president of the 350,000 member Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO. Mason was at the microphone thanking the crowd when he caught sight of Baldridge sitting at a table. He departed from his speech to praise Baldridge as a model trade unionist, loyal, clear-thinking, always working to unite the ranks of all races, gender, and creed against their common enemy. The crowd burst into applause.

“When Jim became President of the Maryland-D.C. ARA, it was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Mason told the People’s World in a phone interview.

Mason, now“emeritus” president, added, “I recommended Jim for a position on the Executive Board of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO.” It was a position Baldridge accepted.

Added Mason, “Jim was the kind of leader who not only showed up at meetings himself, he always brought other workers with him. He was a good and loyal friend. You could always count on him. He was always on the right side of any fight we were in. We loved to talk politics together. He knew how to bring practical know-how together with his ideals. He was anti-racist and always worked to build unity in any struggle we were engaged in. He was not dogmatic. He brought those qualities into the workplace at Johns Hopkins Hospital.”

Mason was Executive Vice President of Local 1199-E, when he met Baldridge in 1989. Baldridge was a Local 1199-E leader in the maintenance department of the hospital. “We needed some strong leadership in that department and Jim provided it.” They became close friends along with other 1199-E stalwarts like Les Bayless, Armeta Dixon, who later was elected 1199-E Vice President, union attorney Steve Godoff and Keith Zimmerman.

Baldridge came of age politically in the early 1970s as an inside machinist at Beth Steel Shipyard where his proficiency in math and skill in handling huge wrenches. hammers and other tools helped him repair propellers, and other running gear on ocean-going ships. He was an active member of the Union of Shipbuilding and Marine Workers of America and helped organize a rank and file caucus. He worked there nine years until the shipyard closed. Then he found work as a mechanic repairing hospital equipment at Johns Hopkins Hospital were he worked for thirty years, retiring in 2011.

James Allen Baldridge was born August 4, 1946 in Hastings, Nebraska. The family moved to Painesville, Ohio, near Cleveland. Jim’s father, a chemist, got a college teaching position. Baldridge attended Mentor High School where he took up the clarinet. He developed a deep love of music that lasted into his later years when he sang with the Charm City Labor Chorus.

He attended Ohio Wesleyan University but in 1965 dropped out and joined the U.S. Navy. The Vietnam War was raging and Baldridge was appalled by the atrocities, the rising death toll. He joined the GI anti-war movement. He had been stationed at the Patuxent Naval Air Station in southern Maryland and met Margaret Harmon, a school teacher.

When Baldridge was deployed to Iceland, he continued his anti-war activities and also corresponded with Margaret who reinforced those views. He returned to the U.S. and settled in Baltimore. Margaret by then was teaching in nearby Towson, Maryland. Together, they plunged into the peace movement, so active that they were arrested for defacing a U.S. Army recruiting poster in downtown Baltimore. The eminent civil liberties attorney, Harold Buchman, got them out of jail. They were married in 1970.

The couple also started visiting the New Era Bookshop managed by Bob Lee, who introduced them to the Communist Party USA. They joined the Party. Among the early undertakings, was driving to Chicago with three other young people to attend the founding convention of the Young Workers Liberation League. They also befriended George Meyers, Chair of the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, and Jake Green and Joe Henderson, two African American labor activists who had served successively as chairperson of the Maryland CP.

All three were veteran union organizers who had played a leading role in the CIO drive that unionized basic industry in Maryland by defeating the divisive tactics of giant corporations like Bethlehem Steel. Meyers had been the President of the Maryland-D.C. Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He was convicted under the witchhunt Smith Act and served four years in prison. It was from labor movement veterans like these that Baldridge learned the strategy and tactics of fighting back against the ruthless war on the working class waged then—and today—by the corporations and ultra-right Republicans.

They also participated in weekly mass distributions of 800 copies of the Daily World at the clock house of Beth Steel’s Sparrow’s Point Mill and many other plant gates and working class neighborhoods.

Baldridge continued to distribute the paper until the print edition ceased publication. He and Tim Wheeler often drove in his pickup to the Greyhound Bus Terminal to retrieve 50 or even 100 bundles of the paper to be distributed by a team at mass demonstrations in Washington, D.C.

Baldridge remained active until the end in Veterans For Peace, driving his pickup truck festooned with anti-war slogans in the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday march on MLK Boulevard in Baltimore followed by a contingent of anti-war vets.[2]

Supported Communist Party call

In May 1992 the Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a May Day supplement which included a call to "support our continuing struggle for justice and dignity"

Endorsers of the call included Jim Baldridge, Baltimore, MD.[3]

Labor Day call

The Communist Party USA paper People's Weekly World issued a statement to mark Labor Day 1995, entitled "We honor the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Of the more than 100 endorsers listed, almost all were identified members of the Communist Party USA.

Baldridge of Baltimore, Maryland was on the list.[4]

Anti Bush statement

In May 1995 the Communist Party USA newspaper Peoples Weekly World published a May Day supplement. Included was an anti Bush/Quayle statement signed by several Maryland supporters of the party, including Jim Baldridge[5].

Endorsed Communist Party Call

On March 30 2002 the Communist Party USA paper People’s Weekly World called for a national holiday in honor of late Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chavez. The article was followed by a long list of endorsers[6]including Jim Baldridge, Almost all endorsers were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA.

Delegate for Dennis

In 2004 Baltimore hospital worker, Jim Baldridge ran as a Dennis Kucinich delegate in Maryland’s March 2 Super Tuesday Democratic Party primary.

“I see the poverty and unemployment up close...A vote for Kucinich is a vote to take back our country from the Halliburton corporate looters, to make the rich pay their share of the taxes … Our school deficit cries out for a president like Dennis Kucinich who will deliver on the promise, ‘Leave no child behind.’

Backing Barack in Baltimore

In early 2008 Tim Wheeler, his wife Joyce Wheeler and another Communist Party USA couple Jim Baldridge and Margaret Baldridge were all active members of Obama's Baltimore operation-organizing canvassing, phone banking and general campaign work. [7].

Jim Baldridge of Vietnam Veterans Against the War o told British website Socialist Worker Online;[8]

I went with a busload of union members from Maryland to Richmond, Virginia, to support the Obama campaign.
On the bus and at the union hall in Richmond we were joined by federal government workers, postal workers, communications workers, machinists, steel workers, state employees, miners and electrical workers.
The enthusiasm was powerful – workers know how to organise themselves to get things done.
The doors we knocked on were overwhelmingly in support of Obama. Most knew that John McCain would be devastating for workers...
The task is now to mobilise those who were motivated to support Obama to become active in their communities and their workplaces to make the changes needed in a new political atmosphere. We’re moving forward. And the struggle continues.’

Peace letter to Edwards

In May 2009, leaders of 23 Maryland-based organizations wrote to Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) thanking her for her “courage and foresight” in voting May 13th against the $96.7 billion supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The letter dated May 27th, and initiated by Baltimore United for Peace and Justice, commends Edwards, a freshman member of Congress for traveling to Afghanistan just before the vote “and observing first hand that there is no military solution to the crisis there.”

BUPJ is affiliated with United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) which appealed this week to its affiliates to mobilize phone calls and visits to lawmakers offices urging them to vote “no” on final passage of the Iraq-Afghanistan Supplemental.

Signers included Jean Athey, leader of Peace Action, Montgomery County, Kevin Martin, National Executive Director, Peace Action, Jim Baldridge Vietnam Veterans Against the War, John Oliver, Baltimore Chapter, Veterans for Peace , Rev. Pierre L. Williams, VFP National Board Member, Rev. Heber Brown, III, Pastor, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Donna Blackwell, President, Winston-Govans Neighborhood Improvement Association, Gwen DuBois, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Diane Witter, founder, Chesapeake Citizen, Gary Gillespie, Director, Baltimore Urban Peace Program of the American Friends Service Committee, Andre Powell, AFSCME Delegate to the Baltimore Metro Council, AFL-CIO, Sister Carol Gilbert and Sister Ardeth Platte of the Jonah House Community, and Max Obuszewski, Pledge of Resistance Baltimore. [9]

ARA activist

Maryland Alliance activists Jim Baldridge (center) and Les Bayless (back row, yellow shirt) join the fight to help Hyatt workers unionize in Baltimore, June 16, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans

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2015 President Maryland/DC Alliance for Retired Americans,Jim Baldridge.[10]

Canvassing for Donna Edwards

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In March 2016 Jim Baldridge and Margaret Baldridge were organizing canvassers for Donna Edwards for Senate.

References

  1. http://peoplesworld.org/jim-baldridge-retirement-bash-set-for-nov/ Jim Baldridge retirement bash set for Nov 5, accessed Sept 13 2016
  2. PW Jim Baldridge, 71; life devoted to labor movement December 27, 2017 5:07 PM CST BY TIM WHEELER
  3. PWW, May Day Supplement May 2, 1992
  4. People's Weekly World Sep 2 1995 p 14
  5. PWW May Day supplement May 2, 1992
  6. http://www.pww.org/index.php/article/articleview/882/
  7. http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/timchng
  8. [1] Socialist Worker Online, November 2008, issue 2127
  9. http://www.peoplesworld.org/maryland-residents-hail-rep-edwards-anti-war-stand/, PW Maryland residents hail Rep. Edwards anti-war stand, May 31 2009]
  10. Alliances