Tim Paulson on Belva Davis

Belva.PaulsonOn Monday Labor & Community honored Belva Davis at the annual Labor & Community MLK Day breakfast organized by the San Francisco Labor Council and the NorCal MLK Foundation. The last time Belva Davis interviewed me was at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte last fall. I was feeling guilty because she asked that I meet her early in the morning in the lobby of the hotel where the California delegation was staying so she could complete her “This Week in Northern California” special edition, but I later found out that AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka wanted all labor delegates to get together for breakfast in another hotel for a briefing and rally on the other side of town.

As a labor representative I rarely compromise the work I do in order to make statements to the press.  If we are smart we don’t “negotiate” through the press. We might “communicate” through the press, but if we are really doing our jobs we do them sitting at the table with unions and workers, where we build power and represent the positions our unions empower us to enjoin.

Belva Davis has been an exception. In her illustrious career she has worked her way through every job and avenue of journalism that you can imagine, from beat reporter to, probably, copywriter. But her legacy, in my opinion, rests with her roundtables of writers, pundits and policy experts discussing the important topics of the day in the Bay Area and California every week. No entertainment journalism and ideological baiting. No preconceived agendas. Just a place on Sunday morning where some knucklehead like me could flip on the TV and watch Belva Davis ask all the questions that I might have asked if I had the time that week to catch up on what was happening in Sacramento, San Francisco or DC.

Every time I talked with Belva she told me how much the union meant to her and her family. The security, the health care, the retirement benefits, the respect.  But you would never hear her pontificating about it on her shows – the way the anti-union pundits use it as a part of their reporting – because she was an objective journalist (remember them?). As a worker she knew which side she was on.

Belva has “retired,” but I know she will still be in demand and be called upon by many in the media to continue her work because the integrity of her life’s work is remarkable.

Her last interview with me took three takes because I’d run back to the California hotel after the AFL-CIO meeting in 99 degree heat and 99 percent humidity and I was a mess. I didn’t want to disrespect her and wanted to make sure she could ask the Labor Chair of the Democratic Convention a couple of questions. The producers gave me a couple towels. My glasses were fogged up. When I was done she said, “Great take, Tim, but you look like hell.”

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