Harry Black was a member of the union for more than half a century. His contribution to both the union and international transport workers was unsurpassed. He remained a committed activist for peace, justice and human rights.
One of 11 children born at Rylstone, Harry left school at 14. He fought against fascism in the Middle East, Palestine and Syria, was injured and repatriated to Australia. After recovering, he returned to the battle-front in Borneo and New Guinea and again was wounded and repatriated to Australia.
He joined the Waterside Workers Federation and became a wharfie in 1951.
Harry was Sydney's most loved wharfie and this was confirmed in In July 2009 when he joined MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, NSW Premier Nathan Rees and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore to unveil the stretch of land with a rich history for waterside workers now officially known as The Hungry Mile. He attended local primary schools to pass on his wisdom and stories of the Hungry Mile to the next generation.
Harry served in the union as a rank and file activist on the Sydney docks, as a rank and file wharfie, a delegate, a vigilance officer, vice-president, senior vice-president Sydney branch and as a rank and file representative on Federal Council of the Waterside Workers Federation, then as a union elder leading the MUA National Veterans Association as Secretary from 2002 - 2009. Harry, despite failing health, remained an active member to the end.
Harry described himself as a unionist, an internationalist and since 1953, a communist. Harry was unique in that he was loved by all and never had any enemy in the union. He led the way in his political activity over many years.
Harry played a leading role as an activist in both the successful 1954 and 1956 national waterfront strikes. He was immensely proud of this period of his life and of the union's success in those strikes.
Like many war veterans, Harry became a peace activist. He was the delegate when the gang voted to ban the loading of bombs onto the Jeparit during the Vietnam War. He was suspended for a month for his stance and activities in solidarity with Vietnam.
Harry also took pride in being part of the wharfies and seafarers' rolling bans against South African shipping during the apartheid years.
Harry remained an active member of the Waterside Workers and a voice of the MUA. He played a part in all the major industrial disputes of the day and, when his health allowed, could be found in the union rooms which became his second home.
Filmed & Produced by Jamie McMechan Maritime Union of Australia - Film Unit.
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)
Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU)
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF)
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Loading more stuff…
Hmm…it looks like things are taking a while to load. Try again?