EMANUEL (Manny) Fried, Buffalo playwright, actor and longtime labor activist and gadfly on the left, has been chosen to receive the Joe Hill Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Labor Heritage Foundation.
The award for the 77-year-old Fried comes at the end of a turbulent labor career, which saw him blackballed by much of organized labor during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s.
The award celebrates Fried's contribution in telling labor's message through the arts during most of his adult life. It will be presented Monday at the annual Labor Arts Exchange Conference at the George Meany Labor Center outside Washington, D.C.
Of Fried's work, which includes 15 plays, the drama critic of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "no American playwright writes so knowledgeably and sensitively of labor's rank and file as Emanuel Fried."
His one-act play, "The Dodo Bird," set in a workingman's bar near a Buffalo factory, has been performed several times in various theaters throughout the United States and Canada since it was first staged off-Broadway in 1967. At the time it was hailed by Richard P. Cooke of the Wall Street Journal as "compelling theater, entirely convincing."
At one time, Fried wrote a short story a week for the now-departed Buffalo Union Leader. He began his acting as a youngster, playing juvenile parts in 13 Broadway plays during the 1930s. Returning to Buffalo in 1939, he organized the short-lived Buffalo Contemporary Theater.
Fried has self-published an autobiographical novel, "Big Ben Hood." His short story "The Junkman Sings in Spring" won the Pushcart Press "Outstanding Story of the Year" award.
Seven years ago, he founded the Just Buffalo Literary Center's Western New York playwright's workshop in residence at the Alleyway Theatre. Last year, he was instrumental in establishing the annual Labor in Literature competition, co-sponsored by Just Buffalo and the Buffalo AFL-CIO Council, to encourage workers to write about their lives.
The competition currently is being held again this year with additional sponsorship by the United Steelworkers of America.
Fried, a former union organizer for the United Electrical Union, came under fire from the House Un-American Affairs Committee and from many area union leaders in the 1950s and early 1960s. During the period, the UE was expelled from the CIO for pro-communist activities and Fried later was forced out of the International Association of Machinists on similar charges.
A yellowed newspaper clipping names him as one of the escorts of Earl Browder, then general secretary of the Communist Party U.S.A., at a communist rally here in 1943. He was denounced by Unionists Against Communism and, at one time, was unwelcome at Buffalo AFL-CIO Council meetings.
But that was more than a generation ago. Fried had red hair then, and passions were higher on both sides of the Cold War struggle.
Today, he chairs the Buffalo AFL-CIO Council's Labor Arts Committee and is a member of the advisory board of the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County.
Urges neutrality on abortion
Erie County Legislator Raymond K. Dusza, president of Local 1581 of the International Union of Electrical Workers, has written a letter to the AFL-CIO leadership asking it to remain neutral in the sensitive abortion issue.
The AFL-CIO is being pressured by activists within the federation to come out strongly in favor of legalized abortion. A recommendation is expected to be presented to the AFL-CIO's 35-member Executive Council when it meets in Chicago July 31-Aug. 2.
In his letter, Dusza said that, as a unionist and a member of the executive board of the Greater Buffalo AFL-CIO Council, "I vehemently oppose any union support for abortion and I firmly believe that the AFL-CIO should stay miles away from the abortion issue."
Dusza adds, "It's common knowledge that pro-choice advocates couldn't care less about complicating the problem for labor unions. They want quick action to 'make support for abortion a litmus test for labor endorsements of political candidates.' "