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Terry Sweeney

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Terry Sweeney, A Union Man Who Fought For Working People
By Eric Nalder

Terry Sweeney was a union man, as solid in retirement as he was during the 40 years he worked on Seattle's docks as a cargo checker.
As president of the longshoremen Pensioner's Club following his retirement in 1985, Mr. Sweeney fought for the rights of retirees and the needs of working people.

Sometimes he would pester the Seattle Port Commission regarding the issues of longshoremen and other times he would be writing letters to members of Congress in favor of reparations for Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Any time he saw an injury to the elderly, to the retirees, to the socially downtrodden, he was one to bear arms and he would do it within the system. He would basically be a watchtower,'' said Alex Baroumes, secretary treasurer of the International Longshoreman's and Warehouseman's Local 19.

Mr. Sweeney, 67, a lifelong Seattle-area resident, died on Oct. 10 in Highline Community Hospital.
Mr. Sweeney joined the Navy in 1941, prior to graduating from O'Dea High School, and during World War II served aboard the aircraft carrier Lexington.

He was on board the Lexington when it was sunk off the coast of New Zealand. He often recalled to friends and relatives how a close buddy, then 19, died on the burning decks of the ship despite his efforts to rescue him.

Although Mr. Sweeney was a checker (or clerk) on the docks rather than a longshoreman, he was well-known to members of both the longshoreman's local and the checker's local.

He was a member of the union's negotiating committee and sat on various boards. He was a delegate to the Puget Sound District Council.
His work with the pensioner's club, an organization of retired longshoremen and clerks, made him even more visible. He was still president when he died.

He liked to think of Pensioner's Club as a political arm of the ILWU, something to help the rank-and-filers do what they couldn't do because they were at work,'' said Carol Blacker, a secretary in the Longshoreman's union. He canvassed neighborhood. Attended all kinds of meetings, anything that looked like it would help working people.''

Baroumes said in life and in death he deserved nothing less than to be labeled a great union man.'' He also was active in the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party. Mr. Sweeney is survived by his wife Ann, of Des Moines, sons Dennis of Renton and Donald of Federal Way, and his sister Gloria Oliver of Seattle.

A memorial mass will be held today at 1 p.m. at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Des Moines. Remembrances to the American Cancer Society.


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