Charles Hayes

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Charles Hayes

Charles A. Hayes (died April, 1997) was a pioneer organizer[1]of the CIO Packinghouse Workers, a leader of the United Food and Commercial Workers union and a co-founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. He was a former Congressman but, for Chicagoans, the important role he played was in the election of Harold Washington as Mayor in 1983.

Early life/career

Charles Hayes was born in 1918 in Cairo, Illinois.

During the Depression he served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal organization set up to give work to the unemployed.

Later he became an active labor union leader, as Director, District 1 of the United Packinghouse Workers and later International Vice President and Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers.[2]

National Negro Labor Council

The National Negro Labor Council, (1950-56) was a Communist Party USA front for black workers and labor officials.

Key leaders of the Council, included Coleman Young (national executive secretary), Charles Hayes (Chicago leader), Cleveland Robinson, and George Crockett, and Erma Henderson, from Detroit.[3]

Supporting Civil Rights

In the 1950s, Hayes raised funds that fueled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s voter registration drive in the South[4].

In the 1960's radical activist Hunter Gray, attempted to enlist Ralph Helstein, Charles Hayes and Jesse Prosten to help finance "civil rights" activists in the South[5].

In April, 1966, with the Civil Rights Movement having now substantially opened up much of the South, I met at Chicago with Ralph Helstein, President of United Packinghouse Workers and Vice-President Charles Hayes and Director of Organization Jesse Prosten.
Packinghouse, of course, although AFL-CIO, was certainly anything except a business union. Its leaders were essentially radicals. I carried a complex but clear and direct proposal from the Deep South that Jesse -- a friend -- strongly supported: that Packinghouse would fund a number of proven civil rights organizers in Mississippi and the Carolinas who would focus on broad community grassroots organization. And those new, broad organizations would both stimulate new, interracial unionism in those Southern settings and would provide significantly tangible community support for union organizing and eventual strike actions. In the end, although Jesse -- Director of Organization -- continued to support the proposal with the greatest vigour, Packinghouse backed away. Again --money, more than anything else.

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

The original 1972 founders of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists were William Lucy, Nelson Edwards, Cleveland Robinson, Charles Hayes and William H. Simons[6].

Congressman Hayes was the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists first executive vice president, serving until 1986. The Charles A. Hayes Labor, Cultural and Community Center in Chicago, Illinois, is named in honor of this distinguished "statesman for the people.[7]"

Communist Party member

On February 8 and 9, 1975, the Second National Conference in Solidarity with Chile was held at Concordia Teachers College in the Chicago suburb of River Forest. Known Communist Party USA members sponsoring the event included Charles Hayes.[8]


According to Bruce Bostick:

Also, the CP at the national level had helped develop a national unemployed movement, called “Jobs or Income Now” (JOIN) that put out a newsletter. It championed the Income or Jobs Action Act that was proposed by Illinois Rep. Charles Hayes of Illinois. The Hayes Bill was legislation our party helped to initiate that would set up a federal jobs program to rebuild our nation. It gave us some level of national scope and perspective. UCC attended a national JOIN conference in Chicago.[9]

Supporting Timuel Black


In the late 1970s Harold Rogers served on a "Citizen's Committee" supporting Timuel Black's unsuccessful campaign for State Representative in the 22nd District.

The "Citizen's Committee" included "former" communist Charles Hayes, radical journalist Don Rose, socialist Chicago Alderman Leon Despres, future Democratic Socialists of America members members Saul Mendelson (a former Trotskyist), Danny Davis and Milt Cohen (another former communist).

Committee in Support of Southern Africa

Committee in Support of Southern Africa was an anti-Apartheid group active in Chicago in the early 1980s.

Members of the committee iincluded[10];

Charles Hayes, Rep. Carol Moseley Braun, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Bob Simpson, Frank Rosen, Congressman Harold Washington, Harold Rogers, Rep. Monica Stewart, Jim Wright, Alderman Danny Davis, Alice Peurala, Lu Palmer, Milt Cohen, Timuel Black.

Supporting Harold Washington

Several Black labor leaders were important allies for Harold Washington in the run up to his 1983 election as Mayor of Chicago.

Circa late 1982, members of the Citizens Committee/Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago (in formation) included Charles Hayes, vice president of the United Packinghouse Workers Union.[11]

Hayes won Washington’s Congressional seat after Washington was elected mayor, becoming the first trade unionist ever elected to Congress. He served five terms, from 1983 to 1993. He represented one of the poorest districts in the nation, the southside of Chicago. His predecessor, Harold Washington, became Chicago's first elected black mayor in a bitter 1983 campaign, a close race where Hayes lobbied, cajoled and raised a lot of union money, mobilized thousands of labor volunteers and rallied scores of union voters for Washington's landmark victory[12].

Harold Washington campaign committee


In 1983, Charles Hayes served on the Harold Washington Campaign Steering Committee.

Harold Washington Transition Committee

In 1983, Charles Hayes, International Vice President and Director, Region 12 United Food Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO served on the incoming Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's transition oversight Committee.[13]

Labor Committee for the Re-election of Mayor Harold Washington

Near 50 trade unionist met over a weekend in early September 1986 to organize a Labor Committee for the Re-election of Mayor Harold Washington. Rep. Charles Hayes, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and an executive vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists played a leading role in the gathering.

Other leading participants include;

Ishmael Flory tribute

Illinois Communist Party USA leader Ishmael Flory was honored at Malcolm X College in Chicago, September 29, 1991, by more than 100 guests.

Margaret Burroughs, a board member of the Chicago Park District MCed the event.

"Ishmael Flory is a man for all seasons...He never gives up", said State Senator Alice Palmer.

Alderman Jesus Garcia of Chicago's 22nd ward cited Flory's role in fostering African-American and Latino unity , and in building multi-racial coalitions for social progress.

Prof. Robert Starks of the Free South Africa Movement said "Ishmael has never failed to compliment me on my speeches, but at the same time he has never failed to pull me aside afterwards, too point out how I could have been a little more "progressive."

Tributes came from Communist Party USA chairman Gus Hall and Illinois organizational secretary Mark Almberg.

Other speakers included Crystal Bujol for the Flory family, long time friend Christine Johnson, Jack Spiegel of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, Ronelle Mustin, peace activist Sarah Staggs, Harold Rogers, who brought greetings from Rep. Charles Hayes, Gerry Oliver, and Carl Bloice of the Peoples Weekly World.[15]

DSA connections


Hayes was also close to Chicago Democratic Socialists of America in the 1980s.

He was a regular[16]at the annual ChicagoDemocratic Socialists of America organized Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington Dinner.

The 1983 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner was held at the McCormick Inn on Saturday, May 7. Newly elected Mayor Harold Washington was unable to attend at the last minute. Carl Shier, who was to have introduced him, read a message from him instead, and spoke of DSA's considerable role in Washington's election campaign. Congressman Ron Dellums provided the Thomas - Debs address.

Charles Hayes, attended and was photographed (at left) with Chicago city politician David Orr. Hayes was already running for the Congressional seat left vacant when Harold Washington won the Chicago mayoral election.[17]

Supported DSA conference

In May 1986, Democratic Socialists of America "supported" a New Directions conference in the Washington DC Convention Center. Conference organizer was Jo-Ann Mort of DSA.

The conference, supported by DSA, will bring together activists, analysts and elected officials to develop new directions for the Democratic Party and the broad democratic left.

Initial sponsors of the event included Reps. Charles Hayes and Barney Frank, labor leaders William Winpisinger and Jack Sheinkman (ACTWU), Joyce Miller (ACTWU and CLUW) and Jack Joyce, (Bricklayers), feminist leaders Gloria Steinem and Judy Goldsmith and policy analysts Robert Kuttner, Jeff Faux and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Democratic Alternatives conference

On October 31 1987 Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, hosted the Illinois Democratic Alternatives conference.

Sponsors included Congressman Charles Hayes, Paul Gibson from the UAW, Sue Purrington from Chicago NOW, Alderman Danny Davis, Charles Williams, IAM and Sen, Howard Brookins. [18]


Charles Hayes entered Congress for the first time in 1983. He won a special election to fill the seat vacated by Harold Washington for the First District of Illinois. which takes in part of Cook County, Chicago.

Hayes won the regular election in 1984 and again in 1986, the latter by a margin of 96% to 4% over his Republican opponent, an indication of how safe this seat was for the Democrats.

He was 65 years old when first elected.[19]

National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

The 10th Anniversary Conference of National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was held in Chicago, May 13-15 1983, at the McCormick Inn - Featured speakers included Charles Hayes[20]

Communist front honor

In 1984 Ed Asner was one of the "co-sponsors" of the Ninth Annual Banquet of the Labor Research Association . This organization was identified as a Communist Party USA front. It cooperated with the Soviet international front group, the World Federation of Trade Unions.

The banquet honored Democratic Congressman Charles Hayes. Other cosponsors included Howard Metzenbaum and Bella Abzug.[21]

Operation PUSH

Hayes was a co-founder and later Vice President of Operation PUSH, Jesse Jackson's organization that was ostensibly organized to promote minority businesses.[22]

Anti security voting record

Hayes was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and voted consistently with this group in opposing aid to anti-communist forces in Central America.

In 1989 Hayes voted in favor of the following measures supporting the communist efforts in El Salvador:

  • House Concurrent Resolution 1 to slash military aid to El Salvador.
  • Concurrent Resolution 48 "Expressing the Sense of the Congress that the United States Should Pursue a Negotiated Settlement to the Civil War in EI Salvador." This was introduced by Nancy Pelosi (CA) just as the Salvadoran Communists had started a new call for negotiations and demands that the 1989 Presidential election be postponed.
  • Joint Resolution 54, introduced by Robert Kastenmeier, to ban military aid to El Salvador completely.

Hayes was given a rating of 0% for 1988 by the American Security Council.[23]


In 1987 Charles Hayes was a Member of the Executive Committee of Chicago based Comprand (Comprehensive Research and Development)[24].

Voted against support for "Contras"

The Congressional Record of February 3, 1988 shows that the following leading Democratic Party Congressmen voted against aid to the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters - the "Contras"- then fighting against the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government of Nicaragua:

"Congressional Pink Caucus"

In October 1989 the Nicaraguan Sandinista Government announced that they would no longer comply with the 19 month-old cease-fire agreement with the Contras. This had been considered a prime step forward for the "peace process" that was progressing slowly as part of the Arias Peace Plan.

A resolution was introduced in Congress deploring the Sandinistas' action. The Senate voted unanimously in favor, but in the House the vote was 379-29. All the 29 Congressmen voting against the resolution were Democrats.

The Council for Inter-American Security dubbed these 29 people the "Congressional Pink Caucus":

Tribute to Golub and Montgomery

ON November 16, 1989, Charles Hayes served on the Tribute Committee for the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights Tribute to Leon Golub and Lucy Montgomery, held at the Congress Hotel, Chicago.[25]

Citizen Action of Illinois

In 1997 Charles Hayes served on the board of directors of Citizen Action of Illinois.[26]


  2. Communists in the Democratic Party, page 35
  3. PWW, Feb 20, 1993, page 12
  8. Hearings before the Subcommittee to investigate the administration of the Internal Security Act, U.S. Senate, 94th congress part 2 July, 1975 (page 182
  9. [1]
  10. CSSA supporters letter Sep. 4 1981
  11. Undated circa late 1982, HWAC Mayoral Campaign Records, Box 5, Folder 1
  13. Harold Washington Oversight Committee: List of Members
  14. PWW Sep. 10 1986, page 2, "Unionists organize to re-elect Washington, by Marcia Davis
  15. PWW, Chicago tribute hails work of Ishmael FloryOctober 12, 1991, page 8
  18. Democratic Left, Sep./Oct. 1987, page 44
  19. Communists in the Democratic Party, page 35
  20. NAARPR newsletter Mar 24 1983 p1
  21. Communists in the Democrat Party, page 33
  22. Communists in the Democrat Party, page 36
  23. Communists in the Democrat Party, page 36
  24. Comprand Letterhead Sep 29 1987
  25. Tribute to Golub and Montgomery: Program, Nov. 16, 1989
  26. Citizen Action of Illinois B.O.D. list