Interviewed By: Traci Drummond
Date: December 7, 2011
Accession number: L2012-11
Lee Pearson was born in San Diego, CA on February 14, 1946 to Ed and Ruth Pearson. His parents met in Texarkana, TX, where his father entered the Navy during the Second World War. At the conclusion of the war, they settled in San Diego, CA, where Lee was born. His father worked many jobs, primarily as an upholsterer, which led Lee to his first job with as a concessionaire in the Bartenders and Confectionery Workers Union for the (then minor league) San Diego Padres. Pearson joined IAMAW local 685 in 1966 when he was hired on as a metal cutter at Solar Turbine in San Diego, a closed shop. Following his involvement in a 1975 strike at Solar Turbine, Pearson received a reputation throughout the International lodge when he filed a lawsuit after the International lodge disqualified him from nomination as a business representative to district lodge 50 due to a clerical error associated with his strike loan repayment. Pearson would eventually earn the position of business representative, and he would ultimately join the International lodge staff as a special representative in 1981. At the end of his probationary period, Pearson would be subject to layoff from the international staff, where he would return to the shop floor on behalf of local lodge 685 for almost two years to the day before his position in the International lodge was restored. Pearson went on to become the administrative assistant for the General Vice President of the Western territory before he was selected to become the General Vice President himself. During his time as GVP, Pearson oversaw a number of mergers of local and district lodges in order to maintain the financial stability of his territory. Since his retirement in 2008, Pearson has remained active in IAMAW and labor ventures, and he serves on the board of trustees of Guide Dogs of America and the Worker’s Compensation Board of the State of California.
Pearson provides his family background and his early work experience with the San Diego Padres adn other odd jobs, leading to his involvement with the IAMAW with his employment at Solar Turbine. Pearson describes the political environment of the 1960s in his area which was largely skeptical of union. Peason recalls a 1975 strike at Solar Turbine primarily over the companies retraction of its voluntary overtime policy and the right to conduct union business during company time. Pearson recounts the lawsuit that he filed against the international union that prevented him from being nominated for business representative following the 1975 strike. Pearson discusses the impact of the PATCO strike on the labor movement, and in the aftermath of the PATCO strike, the reorganization of the Western territory that occurred during his time as the General Vice President. Pearson discusses the diversity of the Western territory, and as a result, the environment of racial discrimination that IAMAW workers often encountered, particularly against Hispanic workers.