Moe Foner, labor activist and member of a well-known left-wing family, who died January 10 at the age of 86, will be remembered with fondness and respect by Nation readers. From an immigrant Jewish family–his father delivered seltzer water, carrying it up New York tenement stairs–Foner was instrumental in building the hospital workers union, 1199, in New York City, and Bread and Roses, a program of art and culture for workers. Bridging the divide between culture and progressive politics, he brought his union to the frontlines wherever there was a battle to be fought. He and his brothers provided comfort, help and troops to The Nation and to progressive causes, helping to maintain the magazine’s ties with labor and putting writers and benefactors in touch with us. For years he was a valued board member of the Nation Institute.
Foner often let others take credit, but with his names and telephone numbers he was the man to call–and take a call from. He was a champion of civil rights and civil liberties and an early and strong opponent of the Vietnam War when that was rare among labor. He was also a man of courage, and in his last years valiantly fought the illness that would kill him. He had, as his friend actor Ossie Davis said at a memorial service, the qualities of the best labor leaders and of the best leaders of the struggle–far from complete–to make America a better place.