Bay Area labor statesman Leroy King attended this year’s Labor Day festivities at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 San Francisco union hall. King has a history in the Bay Area labor movement and the ILWU that stretches back to the end of World War II.
Born in Fresno in 1923, King came to San Francisco during war. “I was in San Francisco when I got out of the Army in 1945,” said King. “I was there, when they sent me to ILWU Local 6, the warehouse local, and that is when I started working for the ILWU.”
He also helped to spearhead the creation of the St. Francis Square Cooperative Housing Development in 1963, with the sponsorship of the ILWU, which built 299 units of apartment housing in Fillmore/Japan town area, where King still lives to this day.
“Labor has helped to change America for the better,” said King. “But today, there is to much division in labor. Unions are fighting each other, and they are not working together like they should. That needs to change.”
Aside from his work with the ILWU and his activism with various labor councils, King has served on the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission, appointed as a commissioner by six mayors starting with Dianne Feinstein, continuing to present Mayor Ed Lee.
“He has touched so many lives from a young Willie Brown, to Lefty Gordon to Will Bass,” said San Francisco School Board member Keith Jackson. He said that King’s impact can be witnessed in the many people he has helped in San Francisco and the development work that exists throughout the city .
“With his years on the Redevelopment Agency, he has contributed to building up San Francisco, from the Yerba Buena Center, to the Fillmore, to part of Van Ness Street to the mid Market area,” said Jackson.
Despite his age, King’s activism hasn’t dissipated. In his early 80s he was arrested for staging an act of civil disobedience as he in a strike of the hotel and restaurant workers union to improve working conditions.
He was appointed by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as an elector to the Presidential Electoral College. On Dec. 15, 2008, King cast an official vote for Barack Obama.
“Leroy King has been a strong pillar within the African American community, and he has taken a lot of young guys like myself, and he has guided them and provided them leadership,” said Jackson .
“With him turning 90, his we wanted to give him a celebration and bring everyone together for his contributions to San Francisco.”
King’s legacy and his 90th birthday will be celebrated Sept. 21 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the ILWU Local 34 hiring hall at 4 Berry Street at 4th and King streets , directly behind AT&T Park .