Local 22 historic marker honors tobacco unionism

The Unveiling of Local 22 marker from Cheryl R. Green on Vimeo.

Labor activists, scholars and elected officials commemorated Local 22, a union led primarily black, female tobacco workers that won significant gains in a struggle at Reynolds tobacco company in the 1940s, with the unveiling of a historic marker at the corner of East 4th Street Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

Larry Little, a founder of the Black Panther Party chapter in Winston-Salem and former city council member, and Richard Koritz, a long-time labor leader, presided over the ceremony. Koritz's father came to Winston-Salem to help organize the union and Little's mother was active in the campaign. Panelists paid tribute to union leaders such as Velma Hopkins, whose granddaughters were present for the unveiling, along with NC Sen. Earline Parmon, a protege.

"We stand on their shoulders — of Local 22," Little said after the marker was unveiled. "Right on."

The marker tells the story of the campaign in concise fashion: "Tobacco unionism: Strike by leaf workers, mostly black & female, June 17, 1943, 1/2 mile W., led to seven years of labor & civil rights activism by Local 22."

Numerous elected officials attended the unveiling, including NC Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. and Evelyn Terry; Forsyth County Commissioners Walter Marshall and Everette Witherspoon; Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board member Elisabeth Motsinger; and Winston-Salem City Council members Derwin Montgomery, James Taylor Jr. and Dan Besse

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