By Lynda Yanz, Maquila Solidarity Network
Like all of you who knew and worked with Stephen, we at the Maquila Solidarity Network were shocked when we got the news on Tuesday morning about his death. I still can’t believe it is true; nor can I imagine the next few years (and the challenges we face as a movement) without him.
Over the past almost 20 years of MSN’s existence, Stephen has been the friend and colleague we always turned to for advice before contacting brands or launching a campaign about another case of worker rights abuses or a government or corporate policy issue. In recent years, we managed to cajole Stephen into involvement in garment cases, despite the fact USLEAP wasn’t making the garment sector a priority any more. Stephen was one of our heroes.
Stephen was always brutally honest about any campaign’s chances of success, and for him that meant, will this result in worker organization and improvements in workers’ lives. He seemed to embody that Gramscian dictum of pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will – the challenge of fighting for workers’ rights in a difficult historical period without illusions and without becoming disillusioned. Stephen was a thoughtful steady hand in the labour rights movement. He was also a special friend and a kind and generous man, generous with his time, his thoughts, and his advice. We will miss him dearly.