Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Held in Detroit After Three-Year Delay

By Tom Schram

Image: Rebecca Cook


DETROIT, MI (SEPT 26, 2022) -- It was worth the wait.


More than three years after the announcement of their pending enshrinement into Labor’s International Hall of Fame, the three newest members took their places in the pantheon of organized labor on September 15 when they were enrolled into the Hall in ceremonies at the sparkling new Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Training Center in Detroit.


The Covid-caused delay did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd of labor activists and family who attended the event.


“It is so great to see Labor’s International Hall of Fame induction ceremony back up and running after such a difficult three and half years,” said Hall of Fame labor co-chair Shawn Ellis.


The three inductees are:


Ralph Bellamy (1904 – 1991): In a career that spanned 62 years in film, television and stage, Bellamy distinguished himself not only as an actor, but as an advocate for performers both in and out of the public eye. He was a dedicated founder and prominent board member of the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles and he was president for an unprecedented four consecutive terms of Actors Equity in New York. At Actors Equity, he helped establish the first actors’ pension fund; and presided over the merger of Actors’ Equity and Chorus Equity and the unionization of Off-Broadway. In 1987, Bellamy received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his body of work. 

Joyce Miller (1928 – 2012):  As a founding member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) and vice-president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Miller was an early and enthusiastic advocate for women in the workplace. Miller was named education director for the Clothing Workers in 1962, and later became vice-president of that union. In that role, she was instrumental in establishing day care, college scholarship programs and legal assistance for members. In 1974, she helped found and eventually became president of CLUW.  She became the first woman elected to the executive board of the AFL-CIO in 1980.


Tom Turner (1927-2011): In 1968, Turner, a former steelworker and then-president of the Detroit NAACP, became the first black president of the Wayne County AFL-CIO. Using that position for leverage, and with the legal backing established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Turner was instrumental in significantly increasing membership for minorities in unionized skilled trade positions particularly in the automobile industry. He established what became known as “The Detroit Plan” to use affirmative action to vastly expand journeyman opportunities for minority members in the Michigan building trades, setting precedents that would soon echo throughout the country. Turner served in AFL-CIO position for 20 years.


To kick off the induction ceremonies, former Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Donald Boggs called upon his experience as a retired public school educator, giving those in attendance a “homework assignment.”


“I want you to take what you learn tonight and share it with others. I want you to honor those who came before us through education.”


Eric Wydra, the Local President of SAG-AFTRA Michigan, accepted Bellamy’s award on behalf of the union. Wydra cited Bellamy’s work in establishing a pension system and said that because of the sacrifices made during the Bellamy era, many members – including him – have been able to carry on with their careers despite the Covid pandemic, which has had a devastating effect on the entertainment business.


“It is because of people like Ralph Bellamy that we are able to have these protections,” Wydra said. 


Miller’s son, Joshua, and daughter Rebecca Miller-Hassler, accepted the award for the CLUW pioneer.


“It wasn’t easy being a labor activist in the ’50s,” said Miller-Hassler. 


And while his mother was often cited as an early and dedicated feminist, that was only part of her story, said Joshua Miller.


“Her staunch feminism was topped only by her dedication to the labor movement,” he said.


Joshua said his mother was most comfortable around other organized labor activists.


“She would feel right at home here,” he said. “This is the greatest award she has ever received.”


Accepting the award for his father, Michael Turner said that while coming of age at the dawn of the Civil Rights era, he had a pillar to emulate.


“Growing up as a young Black boy and seeing it on TV, I wanted to be just like my father,” 


Turner said his father was not as bombastic or perhaps as rhetorically skilled as others in the Civil Rights movement.


“He had to find another way to promote minorities. That is why he got involved with the NAACP,” Turner said.


Labor Hall of Fame academic co-chair Aliquae Geraci called Turner “an enduring force for racial and social justice.”


In his remarks, labor co-chair Ellis expressed a unanimous sentiment of relief that the three-year wait for the enrollment of these three staunch labor figures was over.


“We wanted to make sure this class was honored properly and personally,” he said. 


And he echoed Boggs’ opening “homework” assignment of spreading the word of the goals of organized labor.


“If we don’t learn from our past, how are we supposed to go forward in our work?”


Preparations for the announcement of the class of 2023-2024 are currently underway.






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