Labor Mourns Another Leader: Inez McCormack

Inez McCormack, an influential trade unionist in northern Ireland, has passed away. Inez was a dedicated campaigner of women’s rights, and was considered a friend by notable female leaders such as Hilary Clinton and Meryl Streep, who portrayed Inez in a 2010 play about influential women.  In 2011, she was also featured in Newsweek‘s “150 Women Who Shake the World”.

Among the many contributions Inez made to society in her lifetime, are her activism in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in northern Ireland, her work for The National Union of Public Employees and Unison, and her achievements as the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). Her position here enabled her to make “unequaled” progress in the women’s and human rights, according to her peers, including getting higher wages for women in low-paying jobs. In fact her work towards social justice and labor rights has effected people around the globe.

In the 1980’s, she was a signatory to the historic MacBride Principles, a corporate code of conduct for US companies investing in Northern Ireland which demanded outcomes to address religious inequality in employment. She was also the founder of the “groundbreaking” Participation and the Practice of Rights organisation (PPR), which provides support to local disadvantaged communities and groups in using a rights based approach to change the social and economic inequalities and deprivation they face.

What made Inez so successful in her role as a labor leader and activist was her “unstinting passion”. When, after portraying Inez in the play “SEVEN”, Meryl Streep asked her why she did the work she did, Inez replied, “at the heart of everything, I desire to see the glint in a woman’s eye who thought she was nobody, when she realises that she is somebody.” The many people who’s lives were made better by the work that Inez did are saddened by her death, but know that her spirit will forever remain among workers and union members.

Hilary Clinton noted that in one of their last conversations, Inez had “wanted to talk about how we had to keep working to bring people together so that they would recognize the common humanity and experience in the other; the fact that they want to be part of a family and a community; have a good job and a livelihood; a chance to learn and try to make sense of the world; to seek meaning and fulfillment in their choice of religious faith and practice” and that she said “there are so many more ties that bind us than divide us.”

For more information about the impact that Inez had on the labor world, click here.