Ray Teeple

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Ray Teeple...was a Communist Party USA activist in Iowa. He died in 2000.

Survivors include his daughters and sons-in-law, Marie Canham and Cleve Canham, Oberlin, Ohio, and Joann Langasek and Alois Langasek and Nancy Buckley and James Buckley, all of Davenport; sons and daughter-in-law, Robert Teeple and Frank Teeple and Brandy Teeple, all of Davenport.[1]

Activist life

Ray Teeple was born Jan. 22, 1912, in Davenport, the son of Clayton and Nellie (Ryan) Teeple. He married Anna Caroline Lakers in 1935 in Bettendorf. They had five children. She preceded him in death in 1994. Mr. Teeple was a lifetime resident of Scott County. He worked in many Quad-City area foundries and factories. He was active in labor and farm organizations. He served as president of Local 149 of the United Farm Equipment and Metal Workers at the International Harvester Tank Arsenal from 1942-1946. He also served as president of the Scott County local of the U.S. Farmers Association.

He served as president of the permanent interracial committee, a coalition of 22 civic, religious and labor groups. His memberships include the Iowa Rainbow Coalition; Scott County Democratic Party; Public Citizen; Greenpeace; Gateway Peace Council; Southern Poverty Law Center; Iowa Civil Liberties Union; Iowa Farmer's Union; and the Iowa Sierra Club. He served as a corporal in the Iowa National Guard, 185th Field Artillery Medical Detachment from 1933-1941. He also served as a first sergeant in the Iowa State Guard during World War II.[2]

Party leader

In the 1940s Ray Teeple was secretary of the Communist Party USA in Bettendorf, Iowa. He was working at the tank arsenal in Bettendorfy, and he was chairman of the local tank-arsenal unit in Bettendorf.[3]

Activism

When white supremacy and sexism beckon, Ray Teeple shuns them and speaks out for equality.

The long-time Quad-Cities labor leader recalls a question a co-worker asked him during World War II. At the time, Mr. Teeple was running for union steward at Farmall, and the members were deciding how to vote.

"The guy asked me, `Would you let your daughter marry a derogatory phrase for a black man,' " Mr. Teeple recalls.

The right answer apparently would either gain or cost him a vote.

"My daughter's not old enough to get married, but if she were she could marry whoever she pleases," Mr. Teeple answered.

"You son of a b----," the co-worker replied and walked away.

When Mr. Teeple looks back on his 83 years, he is proud of leading the struggle for "equal pay for equal work" for women and minorities. He fought to establish unions, then for union contracts that treated all workers fairly.

In 1943, he was elected president of the Quad Cities Inter-racial Council.

Born in Davenport at the corner of 6th and Iowa streets, Mr. Teeple says he lived in the slums, mostly with his grandmother. "She was `Ma' to everybody," he says. "She always had a kettle of stew on the cookstove."

Although his grandmother worked in restaurants as a pastry chef, she did not come home and talk about organizing her co-workers. "There weren't any unions when I grew up," Mr. Teeple says.

In 1927, he landed his first job for $20 a month as a farmhand. "I was lucky," he said, not to get the job at age 15, but to survive falling under a harrow's metal teeth after baling wire, sending him reeling.

A year later, he lied about his age and took a job in the core room at Black Hawk Foundry in Daveport. A core is sand mixed with oil that is set in a mold to shape metal parts.

"I liked the work because I was able to develop new skills," he says. Years later, technology eliminated the need for skilled workers in the core room. "That's still happening today."

One day, the foreman announced that the core-room workers and others would have to shift two floors of weights, which prevent hot metal from busting through the top of the molds.

"One guy said, `I'm not going to do that,' " Mr. Teeple recalls. A second guy said the same thing.

"I think I was the third one," Mr. Teeple says.

Their refusal led to a strike.

Their strike got them fired.

"We were all blacklisted," Mr. Teeple says. "Word got out. A couple of us went to Charles City for a job, but they didn't hire us. We were on the list."

Eventually, he got hired at Farmall, where he protested women receiving only 80 percent of men's wages. He also helped the Farm Equipment Workers Union contact farmers, building a coalition between people who built farm machinery and those who used them.

Always an avid reader, Mr. Teeple says, he started reading about the Congress of Industrial Organization, or CIO. He met "some of the old guys who had been in unions" in the Quad-Cities who thought the CIO had the right idea.

John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers had been expelled from the American Federation of Labor for trying to organize in mass production industries. He formed a rival federation, the CIO, which tried to organize workers by industry instead of by craft.

As late as 1926, the constitutions of 11 unions affiliated with the AFL limited membership to whites. Mr. Teeple was having none of that.

So, he joined the Quad-Cities United Steel Workers Organizing Committee, which organized several locals for the CIO.

About that time, an English friend who worked as a hammersmith offered Mr. Teeple some advice: "Ray," he said, "you've got to be political."

Coming from England, the man was familiar with the Labour Party, Mr. Teeple says. "He told me, `They can give you a dime an hour raise and take 50 cents away from you with legislation.' "

That also is happening today, Mr. Teeple says.

Although Farmall had a "company union" called the United Motor Power Association, the 1935 Wagner Act gave workers the right to choose their union.

"When the AFL came in, they red-baited our union," Mr. Teeple says. When Farmall workers cast their votes, they chose the AFL.

"Unions not only get benefits for their members, but for all working people," Mr. Teeple says. "If you get a minimum wage, that has an effect on everybody. Everybody should be in a union, no matter what their line of work."

These days, Mr. Teeple is a member of the National Farmers Union and is president of the Scott Co. Farmers' Association. He and a member of Iowa United Professionals, Local 893, are writing his biography. The labor activist has "enough memories to talk for six months."

Mr. Teeple still reads extensively, campaigns during local elections and writes letters to the editors of several newspapers, encouraging people to take stands on political issues. That's especially important today, he says, because working people are under attack.

"The right wing in the United States has always yelled `creeping socialism' about any advances for the betterment of the people," Mr. Teeple says. "When you have a conservative Republican like William Bennett claiming that one of the GOP presidential candidates is proposing fascism, I think we should be more concerned about galloping fascism."[4]

Communist Party 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.

Ray Teeple, Davenport Iowa, was on the list.[5]

1999 May Day greetings

May Day greeting was included in the Special May Day 1999 Supplement of the Communist Party USA's People's Weekly World. Greeters included Ray Teeple.[6]

References