Turning Points: Local Labor Leader Memoir
Reviewed by President Emeritus Bill Moore
Turning Points: Never give up on anyone, especially yourself is a new book by St. Paul labor leader, educator and peace and social justice advocate Greg Poferl. It’s a memoir of growing up, of people, places, events and spiritual experiences that became meaningful touchstones in his active and interesting life.
The book reads easily: stories of playground adventures in St. Paul’s Groveland neighborhood, family summer vacations up north, hunting with his mom and dad, school days and military service, union organizing, teaching high school, justice education trips and serving time in Federal Prison for civil disobedience. Poferl recounts his struggles with alcoholism and the serenity and joy he has drawn from living with his wife Mary Beth during 36 years of sobriety.
Poferl began his union career as a postal worker in St. Paul. Elected president of his APWU (American Postal Workers Union) local in 1978, he went on to election as National Business Agent for Support Services, negotiating contracts, arbitration advocacy and training stewards and local officers. He headed the National Private Sector Organizing Committee, leading organizing drives and strikes at private sector trucking firms and mail transportation equipment centers.
Upon retirement from APWU, in 2004, Poferl returned to school, finished his BA and became a teacher at San Miguel Middle School and then at his alma mater, Cretin-Derham High School. There, he worked with Macalester College History Professor Peter Rachleff to develop a focus on Labor History and encourage students’ participation in the National History Day program. Poferl’s work as an educator has ranged well beyond the classroom, to education trips to Guatemala and El Salvador and the U.S./Mexican border, organizing the Solidarity Kids Theatre with the U of M’s Labor Education Service’s Howard Kling and volunteering at the East Side Freedom Library.
He’s a good storyteller. And the last half of Turning Points is a collection of poignant and funny stories written over the years at Christmas as gifts to his nine children.
Poferl, Greg. (2020). Turning Points: Never give up on anyone, especially yourself.
A publication of East Side Freedom Library. 165 pp.