Today is a Very Sad Day  

Associated Press photo credit

Last night, surrounded by family, beloved Ohio Senator and Union Activist, Howard Metzenbaum passed away.

Announcement of his passing from the LA Times:

Metzenbaum was a firebrand who often didn't need a microphone to hold a full auditorium spellbound while dropping rhetorical bombs on big oil companies, the insurance industry, savings and loans, and the National Rifle Assn., to name just a few favorite targets.

Unabashedly liberal, the former labor lawyer and union lobbyist considered himself a champion of workers and was a driving force behind the law requiring 60-day notice of plant closures.

Metz was different. He started a business with a partner selling space near the Cleveland Airport which became APCOA parking (Airport Parking Company). With enough money to support himself, his family and his desired pursuits, he turned his attention to the things he loved most, Ohioans and Politics, and yes, in that order.

It's safe to say that I grew up union. Family, upbringing, ethnicity, all of it intertwined with tradeunionism, but even with that background, it was a tough row to hoe, even in Ohio, especially with our love and affinity for all things carrying the Taft name. But with Metz as Senator, you just knew that all things were possible. If you ever heard him speak, you'd know what I'm talking about. I don't ever recall him using a mic, but I'm sure he must have. When he spoke, you could not only hear a pin drop, you could feel the electricity.

Again, from the LA Times:

Former Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) once compared Metzenbaum to an airport security guard: "You know he's going to X-ray your baggage, so you have to be clean." His filibusters and stall tactics were so successful that the mere threat of Metzenbaum opposition was often enough to win concessions. Once, when a two-week filibuster was cut off and Metzenbaum was still determined to block action on lifting natural gas price controls, he and a partner sent the Senate into round-the-clock sessions by demanding roll call votes on 500 amendments.

Another year, he held up 80 judicial appointments until his colleagues agreed to schedule consideration of a bill he considered vital.

Metzenbaum claimed to have single-handedly saved billions of tax dollars by blocking special tax breaks and pork-barrel programs.

In 1982, the Washington Post tallied the price tag of legislation he blocked that year and came up with a minimum of $10 billion. In time, Metzenbaum evolved from minority-party commando to majority-party subcommittee chairman and became known as much for the legislation he moved as for the bills he blocked.

I remember my dad referring to him lovingly as Mr. Fillibuster and this was before I knew what that meant. Being in a union in Ohio during the Reagan years, well, let's just say we needed that advocate, especially with too many of the national's offices endorsing Reagan (yep, I mean you my old union, I mean you!). Again, from the LA Times.

He headed panels with jurisdiction over labor and antitrust, and took on such issues as pension protection, workplace safety, the right to strike, age discrimination, food labeling, baby formula pricing, retail price-fixing, insurance antitrust and cable television monopolies.

Metz was an amazing man, even the Plain Dealer (the conservative Cleveland Daily) noted so today:

Metzenbaum was one of the Senate's wealthiest members, yet he prospered in politics for more than half a century as a champion of working men and women.

Metzenbaum's outlook was forged by the Depression, and his politics by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He remained an unreconstructed liberal Democrat to the end.

If you get a chance and want to find out more about how Ohioans still feel about the venerable Metz and what he did for Labor in Ohio, I highly recommend the Plain Dealer's comments section, here, try a sampling of them:

Posted by straighttype on 03/13/08 at 8:42AM
Sen. Metzenbaum was a dynamic legislator of a bygone era - a true fiscal conservative and social liberal. The billions of dollars he save this country by fighting pork ...

ReggieDunlap - Please cite one piece of legislation Senator Metzenbaum threw "extreme support" for that has led to "unreasonable demands on the part of organized labor. Giving workers" a few days warning that a factory is going to shut down is not an unreasonable demand.

Also, enjoy your lunch break today and realize that this is a "benefit" for which organized labor two generations ago worked hard to gain.


Posted by apser on 03/13/08 at 10:09AM
- thank you Howard for your life and all you did for working people in this country - you were one of the good ones - if only we had another 99 senators just like you, this would be a more just, kinder nation.. and as was mentioned, when you haters are enjoying your unemployment insurance, two week vacations and overtime pay, maybe you'll think of HM, he's one of the reasons you enjoy these rights, and people in Bangledesh don't..

RIP howie..

Goodbye Howard, you're already missed.


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