Wyatt, minister, labor activist dies at 88

March 29, 2012 at 6:57 PM
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CHICAGO, March 29 (UPI) -- The Rev. Addie L. Wyatt, one of the first black union leaders in the United States, has died in Chicago, a hospital nursing assistant said. She was 88.

Wyatt died at Advocate Trinity Hospital Wednesday, two days after being admitted for an undisclosed illness, nursing assistant Connie Ivy-Jones told the blog ChicagoNow.

Wyatt was born March 28, 1924, in Brookhaven, Miss., moved to Chicago in 1930 and married Claude S. Wyatt Jr. in 1940. Having tried and failed a typing test, she altered course and began working for a meat-packing company in 1941.

Wyatt stayed at the job until 1954 and was elected vice president of the United Packinghouse and Food and Alliance Workers Union, Local 56, becoming the first black woman to hold senior office in an American labor union, Time magazine said.

In 1955, Wyatt became an ordained minister in the Church of God alongside her husband, also a minister in the same faith, ChicagoNow said.

Together, they marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and co-founded Operation Breadbasket, an organization operating in 12 U.S. cities helping to distribute food.

U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt appointed Wyatt to a position on the Labor Legislation Committee of the U.S. Commission on the Status of Women. Wyatt's union activism continued with her work in the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, which she founded, and the United Food and Commercial Workers, in which she held the position of international vice president.

Wyatt is survived by her son, Claude, and many grandchildren, the blog said.

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