Lou Pardo

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Lou Pardo


Lou (Louis) Pardo is a Chicago based socialist activist, who worked with Barack Obama on voting enrolment projects in the early 1990s.

Early life

Lou Pardo is the last of a breed--a lifelong labor, civil rights, and political activist radicalized by the Depression and World War II. He was born in Indianapolis, the son of Sephardic Jews who had migrated from Macedonia. By the age of 18 he was working in a packing plant.

"I saw what unions could do when they organized the packing workers and wages went up from 25 cents to 75 cents an hour--in 1938 that made you pretty rich... "So many people have written unions off, but I think unions will lead the way to social change in this country. I really do."

During World War II Pardo served in the Air Force and was based in England. "The war really opened my eyes," says Pardo. "It was a fight for democracy. And I figured if you were going to fight for democracy in Europe and Asia you ought to practice it at home."[1]

Political activism

After the war, Pardo returned to Indianapolis; he supported Henry Wallace's Progressive Party candidacy for president in 1948 and worked in early civil rights campaigns.[2]

"When I came out of the Air Force no black could stay in a downtown hotel in Indianapolis, so we held demonstrations...We had a rally for Henry Wallace and Paul Robeson. The American Legion, which is based in Indianapolis, raised a fuss, but that was all right. They called so much attention that we were able to fill the National Guard armory. I truly supported Wallace. I was convinced we needed a new party of labor, small business, farmers, and minorities. I haven't seen anything to change my mind; the recent Democratic Party is mentally bankrupt and doesn't represent its constituency at all."

Throughout the early 1950s, he and his wife Edna moved around the midwest. They settled in Chicago in 1956, buying a home in Austin, where they have lived ever since. It was a "hard time for Pardo, who was labeled a Communist".

"I always worked at the tool and die trade, always worked on the bench," says Pardo. "But there was a lot of red-baiting then. When an employer found out who I was he'd want to get rid of me."

To keep a job he changed his name to Pardo (he still won't say what his former name was). Gradually he rose through the ranks of the tool and die makers' local 113.

"I've held every position in the union...Most of the guys I worked with were white ethnics, and they didn't always like the stands I took. I was for the ERA and I worked to get blacks and Hispanics hired. One time some of the guys in the shop didn't talk to me for a month because I pushed hard to get this Mexican American kid hired. That's tough, having the guys you work with give you the cold shoulder for a month. But these things pass. I think the attitude about me was, 'Lou's got some screwy ideas, but he'll never steal anything and he'll always stand up for the union.'"

Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

The Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (CACOSH) was founded in 1972 as a not-for-profit-organization of unions and health and legal professionals. The founders included Quentin Young, MD, Lou Pardo -IAM Tool & Die Makers; Peter Orris MD; and Frank Rosen –UE among others.

Young, Orris and Rosen all had some affiliation to the Communist Party USA.

CACOSH was the first COSH group in the country and provided the inspiration and model for the 18 groups now working in all parts of the nation.

Http www.uic.bmp.jpg

In 1972, the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) sponsored a conference in conjunction with area unions and health professionals. CACOSH grew out of that conference, because local union members decided that they needed an organization, run by union members, that would give them ongoing help on job safety and health problems.

The CACOSH motto was “No one is going to solve our problems for us, we had to do it ourselves.” The health professionals in MCHR helped educate union members about what their jobs were doing to their health.

CACOSH grew from a handful of people in a few local and district unions to an organization of more than 50 locals from 20 different international unions. Thousands of workers have participated in CACOSH and benefited from the education and training they have provided, and have shared their skills and knowledge with each other[3].

CACOSH - Circa 1980 Front row — Pat McGuire, Lou Pardo, Loretta Schuman, Joel Swartz. Back Row — William Kojola, Dan Hanks, Jean MacGraine .

Supporter of the New American Movement

In 1981, Lou Pardo, President, IAM Chicago was listed as a supporter of the New American Movement.[4]

DSOC leader

Capturepardo.JPG

In 1982 the Chicago local of Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee was led by;

Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights

In 1992 Lou Pardo and Edna Pardo were members of the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, a long time front for the Communist Party USA, then dominated by members of the newly formed Committees of Correspondence.[5]

Voter activism

Pardo retired from the tool and die trade in 1985. By that time he was a well-known activist on the west side. He'd volunteered in the campaigns of such independents as Art Turner, Anthony Young, and Danny Davis.

"The big boost for independents came in 1982 when the state changed the voter registration law...Before that, voters could only be registered at city hall or a library. Now people can become official deputy registrars by taking a course at the Board of Election Commissioners. After that they can go all over the city registering voters. I think we were able to register about 30,000 voters on the west side.

In the 1980s Pardo volunteered out of Alderman Percy Giles's office in the 37th Ward. But a few years ago Pardo had a falling out with some precinct workers in Giles's office; they apparently resented the presence of a white man, even one who had marched for civil rights well before they were born.

"One guy said to me, 'Get your white ass back to Oak Park,'" says Pardo. "I never lived in Oak Park. For 35 years I've lived in Austin. I've lived there longer than he had. I didn't need that kind of abuse."

Miguel Del Valle invited Pardo to work out of his office and help register voters in his racially and ethnically mixed near-northwest-side district. "I was honored that Lou would come here," says Del Valle. "There's a lot of turnover here as people move in and out. A lot of people aren't familiar with the process. They don't know they have to register every time they move. Part of Lou's task is teaching them about the system."

Pardo helped organize the northwest-side Registration Project, whose members include local leaders like Kevin Lamm, the Reverend Jorge Morales, Hilda Frontany, and David del Valle, the senator's younger brother.

Most important, he recruited volunteers eager to sign up voters. "The secret to registering voters is relating to people, because you are going to be stopping total strangers on the street or knocking on their doors," says Pardo. "You have to be outgoing, you have to like to talk to people. You also have to be consistent. Registration can be very boring; you're sitting in one place for hours at a time."

Pardo tracks the number of voters each registrar signs up, awarding prizes to the most productive. In the six months leading up to last year's presidential election, the five best registrars from Pardo's organization were Geraldine Varner, Martin Rodriguez, Molly Harris, Florice Sutton, and Teresa Gonzalez, each of whom registered more than 1,000 voters.

"Lou taught us that if you want to get registration done you have to take care of your volunteer registrars," says Lamm. "Lou buys them lunch, gets them bus fare, drives them all over the place. He even gets them card tables to set up their operation. It's hard to find card tables these days. Lou's always cruising the thrift stores looking for those tables."

For his part, Pardo remains optimistic. "(Harold) Washington's victory didn't just come overnight--it was years in the making," he says. "I'd like to think that's what we're doing now--building the framework for the next political movement." [6]

Voter registration master

In 1993, Lou Pardo and his voter registration activism were profiled in the Chicago Reader;[7]

At age 73, Pardo, a retired rank-and-file union leader, heads a crack group of activists who march door-to-door or position themselves outside el stops, grocery stores, and public aid offices, registering voters in Logan Square, Humboldt Park, and West Town.
The secret to Pardo's success, all observers agree, is perseverance. By day and night, weekday and weekend, he can be found behind a messy desk in a cramped office in State Senator Miguel del Valle's storefront headquarters at 3507 W. North Ave. He spends most of his time with his volunteers, cajoling them, encouraging them, driving them to their locations and catering to their needs. For his efforts, his friends and allies will honor him with a dinner on October 22 at the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union.
"Lou's the czar of voter registration," says Kevin Lamm, a Logan Square activist. "He's absolutely amazing--he just won't stop."

Pardo makes no secret about his most immediate goal: he wants to help ignite a grass-roots political movement that would unseat Mayor Richard Daley--the same kind of movement that carried Harold Washington to City Hall.
"These are apathetic times," says Pardo. "Or maybe voters have a realistic attitude that the system doesn't work for them. But I think people underestimate their ability to make change."

First work with Obama

Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle told the 2008 Democratic Party convention of his[8]first meeting with Obama-through Lou Pardo[9];

I first heard of Barack back in 1992. The year 1992 was a little like 2008. Then, as now, we needed to save the country from the misguided policies of a president named Bush. I was working with my old friend, Lou Pardo, a retired machinist, on an effort to register Latino voters in Chicago. One day, we were talking about how we could reach more voters and cover more ground, but we needed more resources. Lou told me we should go see Barack Obama, who was directing a voter-registration drive called Project Vote. So Lou met with Barack and, without missing a beat, Barack Obama helped us out. Barack Obama made sure that the thousands of Latinos in Chicago were registered to vote. He helped empower the Latino community and ensure that we were full participants in our democracy.

Progressive Chicago

In late 1993 Progressive Chicago letters were always signed by 17 people;[10]

Membership of Democratic Socialists of America

Pardo was, around that time, a member of Democratic Socialists of America.

According to Chicago DSA's New Ground November 1994;

Lou Pardo, a volunteer with Senator del Valle, DSA member and activist with the Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project, emphasized how important it was to support independent progressive democrats.

Debs-Thomas-Harrington honoree

Pardo was honored by Chicago DSA, at their 1994 Debs-Thomas-Harrington awards dinner for his work on turning out the vote for leftist Democrats[11] .

Your voter registration efforts have been recognized. In 1990, you were given the William C. Velasquez Volunteer of the Year Award at the 8th Annual U.S. Hispanic Leadership Conference. You have worked in the Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project in Senator Miguel del Valle's district. This project was a tremendous success, and on August 20, 1992, you were the recipient of an award by the Illinois State Democratic Convention for "historic efforts in registering thousands of new Illinois voters".

Committees of Correspondence connection

In 1994 Lou Pardo ,Chicago, was listed on a "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" for the Chicago Committees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA[12]

New Party

In 1995 Lou Pardo was a member[13]of the Chicago New Party.

Paul Robeson 100th Birthday Committee

In 1998 Lou Pardo and Edna Pardo were listed as a volunteers and interns of Paul Robeson 100th Birthday Committee.[14]

References

  1. [1] September 23, 1993 , Chicago Reader, Lou Pardo, the czar of voter registration, nears 100,000 By Ben Joravsky
  2. [2] September 23, 1993 , Chicago Reader, Lou Pardo, the czar of voter registration, nears 100,000 By Ben Joravsky
  3. http://www.uic.edu/sph/glakes/pdfs/25thanniversary/25th_bklt_final.pdf
  4. 10th Anniversary Booklet for the New American Movement, 1981
  5. CCDBR 1992 membership list
  6. [3] September 23, 1993 , Chicago Reader, Lou Pardo, the czar of voter registration, nears 100,000 By Ben Joravsky
  7. [4] September 23, 1993 , Chicago Reader, Lou Pardo, the czar of voter registration, nears 100,000 By Ben Joravsky
  8. Reuters press release
  9. Reuters press release
  10. Progressive Chicago letterheads November 5 and December 31, 1993
  11. http://www.chicagodsa.org/d1994/index.html.
  12. Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
  13. http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng41.html
  14. http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/robeson/links/chicago/ack_org6.html