Henry Foner (1919-2017)

March 6, 2017
Henry Foner. Photo Len Tsou

Henry Foner. Photo Len Tsou

Former ALBA Board Member and longtime emcee at the annual reunions of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Henry Foner, died in New York on January 11. He was 97.

Henry served as president of the Fur, Leather & Machine Workers Union for 27 years before retiring in 1988. He was also a founder of Labor Arts, a non-profit organization devoted to art as a part of working people’s lives. He served as president of the Paul Robeson Foundation, as part of the editorial board of Jewish Currents magazine and on the Board of the New York Labor History Association. His wide-range of activities and his genial disposition made him the perfect moderator for left-wing audiences.

Mr. Foner, who lost his academic job along with his three older brothers in the 1940s because of Communist ties, became a labor leader of Fur, Leather and Machine Workers Union. A story about Mr. Foner was described in the New York Times:

In 2008, the morning after he underwent hip replacement surgery, Mr. Foner was visited in his hospital room by his surgeon.
“I expected the routine inquiry about my condition,” Mr. Foner recalled, “and almost fell out of my bed when he asked me, as though he were talking to my body, ‘Which side are you on?’”
The question was not only surprising — coming from the surgeon who had only recently operated on him — but it also happened to be the title of an anthem of the labor movement.
Naturally, Mr. Foner pointed to his left side.

Read more obituary of Mr. Foner here