Eleanor Roosevelt to be First Unionist on U.S. Currency

WASHINGTON –For the first time in U.S. history, a committed union member, Eleanor Roosevelt of what was then the American Newspaper Guild, will be on U.S. currency, announced Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Roosevelt will join Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson on the reverse side of the to-be-redesigned $5 bill. President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the bill.

“We have always taken great pride in the fact that Eleanor Roosevelt was a card-carrying member of our union,” said Bernie Lunzer, President of the News Guild sector of the Communications Workers, the renamed Newspaper Guild. Roosevelt joined the Guild in 1936 and was a member her whole life.

Roosevelt’s column, My Day, syndicated to more than 200 newspapers, with more than six million readers. She was a member of the Guild’s Washington local, which is now the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild.

“ER walked on picket lines, went into mines to inspect working conditions…and testified about what she saw,” Cornell University Professor Jo Freeman wrote in reviewing a Roosevelt biography in 2011. “Even during wartime” – World War II – “she supported the right of all workers to join unions.”

Roosevelt used her column to argue for workers’ rights, women’s rights, African-American rights, and to chastise unions for excluding those groups from leadership positions.

After the war, Roosevelt continued to support U.S. strikers and successfully argued for inserting the right to join unions into the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Treasury said 274 names of women were also submitted to be on currency. Other unionists among those nominees were Jane Addams, founder of Hull House and co-founder of American Federation of Teachers Local 1, miners’ and labor activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and socialist unionist Emma Goldman.

Source: PAI