IAM retiree Clarence Gaskins recently turned 76, but the longtime union activist and Connecticut Local 700 member isn’t slowing down.
Gaskins sat down with the Machinists News Network to talk about union organizing and his commitment to voting rights.
|Longtime IAM activist Clarence Gaskins, second from right, is honored with the “Lifetime of Service to Working Families” award. From left, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, Gaskins, and Connecticut State Council of Machinists President John Harrity.|
Gaskins, who is African American, is a champion for voting rights because of his own experience. He was subjected to blatant voter discrimination when he tried to cast his ballot for future President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
“They wanted to know how many bubbles in a bar of soap and how many seeds in a mush melon,” said Gaskins.
When Gaskins couldn’t answer the questions, he was told he couldn’t vote. “We feel like we weren’t citizens. What can you do?”
Gaskins, who became an IAM shop steward at Pratt & Whitney in 1967, would turn into a prolific union organizer. He’s signed up thousands of workers over the course of his lifetime.
Gaskins was recently presented with the Lifetime of Service to Working Families award by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy.