Lane Kirkland facts for kids
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Joseph Lane Kirkland
March 12, 1922
|Died||August 14, 1999
Life and career
Kirkland was born in Camden, South Carolina, the son of Louise Beardsley (Richardson) and Randolph Withers Kirkland. He rose over his career to head the 16-million-member American labor movement.
In 1941, Kirkland entered the United States Merchant Marine Academy, graduated 1942, and became a deck officer on U.S. merchant ships during World War II. After the war, he worked in the Research Department of the AFL. He received a B.S. degree from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Kirkland married Edith Draper Hollyday in June 1944, with whom he had five daughters.
A year after their divorce in 1972, he married the Prague-born Irena Neumann (1925–2007). An Auschwitz survivor, Neumann had previously been married to film producer Henry T. Weinstein, who had directed Marilyn Monroe's final unfinished picture. The couple had been close to Monroe during the last months of her life.
From 1979 to 1995 Kirkland was president of the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). During his tenure, union membership in the United States declined precipitously. The unions suffered some of their most serious defeats, including the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike and the 1985–86 Hormel strike. He also served on the Federal Prison Industries, Incorporated (FPI) board from 1980-1988, representing Labor during FPI's growth years. On the international front, Kirkland's support of the Solidarity movement in Poland contributed to the decline of communism. According to Michael Szporer in Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980, American Unions under the leadership of Lane Kirkland contributed $150,000 shortly after the successful Solidarity Strike, as early as September 1980. At the time, the Carter administration, including its two prominent Polish Americans, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Ed Muskie advised against such aid fearing Soviet reaction. Kirkland boldly took the initiative persuading Zbigniew Brzezinski of the wisdom of supporting the Solidarity movement. In all US union support of Solidarity far exceeded its European counterparts. Solidarity aid was part of Lane Kirkland's internationalist vision for the labor movement and the building of the global consensus on human rights. After the changes in Eastern Europe, Kirkland became a mentor for many prominent labor leaders who saw him as a visionary and visited him in his office at the George Meany Center. He befriended Lech Walesa as well as Marian Krzaklewski who replaced Lech Walesa at the helm of Solidarity. Kirkland was awarded posthumously with the highest Polish award, the Order of the White Eagle. The Polish American Freedom Foundation has established a grant in Lane Kirkland's honor.
His best remembered quotation is:
If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.
On November 13, 1989, Kirkland was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bush.
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