By Bill Slater
Bill Slater was a long-time leader of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. He was a featured speaker at the memorial meeting celebrating the life of Bob Mattingly. Several of Bobs co-workers also spoke giving accounts of his leadership as a shop steward and as an elected officer of his local union.
Good afternoon, my name is Bill Slater. I am a long-time friend of Bobs and I am most proud to be here to say goodbye.
Let me start by saying a few words to Bobs family. We know that in all life-ending events the pain and agony is left to the living; I wish there were some magical solution that I could use to wipe away the Mattingly family tears, but, of course, there is no such magical bullet. I can tell you that, true to his character, his last thoughts to me were not of himself but of concern for his wif,e Ethel. He repeatedly spoke of concern for her well-being. I can only say as one who lost his only son back in 1991, that I am fully aware of the pain and anguish that comes with the loss of a loved one. I can say from that experience, that time will heal the wound, and, as long as he remains in your memory, he will live in your heart.
The first time I met Bob Mattingly was twenty years ago at a meeting that Ken Paff set up in St Helena. Ken Paff is the national leader of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). Bob came up from Oakland and I came down from my home in Lakeport. The purpose of the meeting was to get us together and see if we could put some life into the local TDU chapter. My first impression of Bob was that he was an educator of some sort. He had a professorial demeanor about him. Little did I know how inspirational this man was, a man with a deep social conscience whose dedication to the working class was a life-long passion.
One could go on for quite awhile extolling the good deeds of Bob Mattingly. He was always available to guide fellow teamster members through the grievance procedure. I remember once when he organized a few of us to accompany him to San Francisco so he could plead for some grant money for TDU. I believe he got five thousand dollars.
For me it was a great education in labor history and social movements, as well as a great traveling experience. From Las Vegas to Orlando, from the anti-globalization battle in Seattle, to the founding Labor Party convention in Cleveland, and then on to Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. We saw the rise and fall of the Carey administration and visited numerous picket lines in support of striking workers.
Through it all, Bob and I never had a cross word. To be sure we differed on some issues, but it never became personal or confrontational. In short, I do not regret one moment I spent with Bob. He always kept things in perspective and interesting, and while I miss our travels and the exciting events we witnessed, I think I will miss most our long phone conversations analyzing the events of the day. He always admonished me not to waste energy on things that we could not control. No matter how dark the day, Bob was always a reassuring positive voice. In the end I guess I can sum it all up by simply stating that he was my good friend and I will miss him.