Paul Booth, an influential Illinois labor leader who helped organize the first big march against the war in Vietnam, died Wednesday at a hospital in Washington at 74.
Mr. Booth, who’d been a protege of Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky, was affiliated for more than four decades with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the country’s biggest labor unions. In the early 1970s, as assistant director of AFSCME Council 31, he helped negotiate the first contracts for Illinois state workers.
Mr. Booth died as a result of complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, according to the Washington Post.
At the time of his death, he was working on an article that since has been published by The American Prospect magazine on “Building an enduring Democratic majority.” In it, he wrote that the Democratic Party and union backers needed to take major steps to win so-called swing voters this year to “win back power in a majority of states.”
Mr. Booth became the international union’s area director in Illinois in the 1980s. He later was AFSCME national organizing director in Washington, D.C., and was chief assistant to then-president Gerald McEntee until 2012.
Before joining the union, Mr. Booth was a national leader of Students for a Democratic Society and in 1965 helped SDS organize the first major march on Washington, D.C., to oppose the Vietnam war, drawing about 15,000 students.
He also was an environmental activist in Chicago.
According to AFSCME, Mr. Booth helped spearhead passage in 1983 of the Illinois Public Employee Labor Relations Act, guaranteeing government workers a right to union representation.
“Paul Booth spent every day fighting for the right of public service workers to have dignity, security and a better life,” AFSCME Council 31 leaders said in a written statement.
Survivors include his wife Heather Booth, sons Gene and Dan and five grandchildren.