Blanche Bebb

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Blanche Bebb

Blanche Bebb ... (1934-2018) was the mother of Karen Stilwell. Blanche was born and grew up in New York City on the Lower West Side, the only child of Irving Broadwin, of Russian Jewish heritage, and Ruth Elton. of British and French heritage. Her mother was lost to mental illness while Blanche was still in just her first year of life. Her father had a hat shop on Fifth Ave catering to the wealthy ladies who walked the Easter Parade and dined out in the high-end places, and also made costume hats for Broadway shows. While still a youth, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, she was drawn to the theater world that permeated lower Manhattan and studied acting there with great ardor.

Blanche found herself in Las Vegas while still in her early twenties; she hoped to make money and go back to New York to have her own theater. She and first husband, Hewing Brunson, had three daughters, but his gambling addiction made the relationship impossible and they divorced, making Blanche a single mother for a few years. She fell in love with Douglas Bebb, also a casino worker (she was a cocktail waitress), and had a son with him once they moved to San Francisco in the ’60s, drawn by this city where they could protest the Vietnam war and have a better life by the ocean in a more progressive city.

(L-R) Activists Essie Mormen, Blanche Bebb, Margaret Block, Shirley Enomoto

From early on, in the ferment of the 1960s and on through the next several decades, Blanche was a union and social justice activist and advocate. She put herself through night school to become an xray technician and started working at Kaiser SF. She soon became an SEIU union representative and helped many people get their jobs back and led many a strike. She was on the committee to get safer needles and helped start the first AIDS ward at Kaiser. She also joined the Fort Point Gang, a union leaders group, and became a proud member of Grandmothers for Peace, protesting with Martin Sheen and others to stop The School of the Americas and more. She was a member fighting on the South Africa divestment campaign, went to South Africa and heard Nelson Mandela speak. She was there for the first black vote.[1]

CoC National Conference endorser

In 1992 Blanche Bebb, SEIU, San Francisco, California, endorsed the Committees of Correspondence national conference Conference on Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s held at Berkeley California July 17-19.[2]

Rank & File Activists Talk About the Kaiser Strike

"The strike slogan was 'Kaiser Don't Care' and they don't care about the patients. We care about the patients and that's how they get the work out of us and that builds resentment in us... They [Kaiser] know we'll get in there and work our butt off." --Blanche Bebb, X-ray technician, Committee for a Democratic Union (CDU), negotiating committee member, SEIU Local 250.

"Kaiser is the perfect example of waste because every time a problem comes up, their solution is to hire a new supervisor--I've worked at Merrill Lynch and American Express. They are huge, totally worthless corporations and Kaiser is more top-heavy with supervisors than they were."--Denny Smith, Nurse's Aide, Committee for a Democratic Union (CDU), SEIU Local 250 member.

From October 27 to December 13, 1986, 9,000 Kaiser Hospital workers through-out northern California were on strike. The strike's key issue was Kaiser's goal of imposing a two-tier wage system (i.e. where new hires are paid less than current workers), a goal they ultimately achieved in spite of workers voting it down: at first by a 4-1 margin and then by 55-45% after nearly six weeks on strike. The rank and file members of Local 250 bitterly resisted two-tier, rejecting Kaiser's contention that the company needed it to remain competitive. "If they wanted to do something about their so-called competition, they wouldn't have patients waiting three months to see a doctor," said Bebb.

-Interview conducted by Lucius Cabins.[3]

Southern Africa conference

In 1986 organizers of the West Coast Conference in Solidarity with the National Liberation Movements of South Africa (ANC) and Namibia (SWAPO) included Blanche Bebb, Service Employees International Union, Local 250 Southern Africa Liberation Committee.