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Indie Excellence Award - Finalist - Regional Non-Fiction - 2009
“Imagine an environment dominated by men unconsciously comfortable with sexism, racism, and brute force. Further imagine a young working-class woman courageously embracing the principle of justice for all workers and compelled to navigate a terrain dominated by complex, flawed, sometimes deeply compromised and always powerful men. Such elements are typically the ingredients of wonderful fiction, but in Terry Spencer Hesser’s colorful and personal portrait of labor leader Regina V. Polk, we have a truly inspirational story for anyone who believes in fighting against the power of patriarchy and abusive employers. “I am a Teamster” is how Regina Polk defined herself and in the accounts of her tragically brief life, as told by Ms. Hesser, the reader finds an exemplary model of what the very best of union leaders can offer workers and society.”
—Robert Bruno, Director of Labor Education Program, University of Illinois
A Whole-Hearted Life
On Valentine’s Day, 1950, a beautiful and determined child was born with a birthmark between her eyebrows in the shape of half a heart. She spent the rest of her life living fully, caring deeply for those around her, and advocating for the things she believed in, particularly the dignity of all work and all workers. She recognized early the growing service and clerical sectors of the economy and the need to unionize this overlooked group of low-paid employees. An utterly compassionate and confident woman, she sparkled with excitement and mystery. Her intelligence and passion were formidable. She lived easily in a world of comfort and high culture as well as that of the streets, the workplace, and the tough, male-dominated union halls. Regina V. Polk was a Teamster. A warrior. A champion. A humanitarian. And the most remarkable American labor leader you haven’t heard of until now.
“After working in the cotton mills from 1956 until 1973 when I was fired from J.P. Stevens in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, for working to organize a union, I can appreciate the hard work and challenges that Regina Polk faced as one of the first woman Teamster leaders. It is sad that I had not heard about Regina Polk before reading I Am a Teamster. Polk was a woman with so much love, courage, and knowledge of labor laws. She was a woman as dedicated, as intelligent, and as tough as her idol Jimmy Hoffa. This is a wonderful educational book for anyone who wants to know about organizing the unorganized. It also does a wonderful job of honoring a woman who ‘felt that it was more important to actually help one person than to talk about saving the world.’”
—Crystal Lee Sutton, “The Real Norma Rae”
I Am a Teamster
Author: Terry Spencer Hesser
Imprint: Lake Claremont Press
Pub Date: 2008