Good-bye, Jim


Our Point of View
By MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver

September-October 2012

 Jim McGarvey and his wife, Suzanne


I’ve lost family and friends before. Rode each event out pretty much whole.

But losing Jim McGarvey has been a hard ride, maybe not yet over.

Jim was my friend.

And I was his.

Jim was a comrade in arms. 

Right now, losing Jim, I feel empty . . . somewhat the way I felt another raw moment 43 years ago on a godforsaken LZ hard by the Ho Chi Minh trail.

A huge part of MEA-MFT has died.

At first Jim and I warred against each other as MEA and MFT competed for members and affiliates . . . sometimes oblivious to the wreckage we left around and the outside,
predatory, anti-union dangers our warfare invited.

But once we figured out our respective union interests were better served united than not, we built one hell of a union.

Then we warred together, joined at the hip in common cause, for the best things good government exists to provide: public schools, public health and human services, public safety, minimum wage, universal health care . . . and against right-wing, libertarian, political evil that would destroy the social compact, drown government in a bathtub, privatize public schools, sell out Social Security and pensions, and prohibit workers from organizing to bargain collectively for competitive salaries and benefits — the stuff that makes the American middle class.

The war continues. It is a war, you know.

Now without Jim.

And I have other memories:

Decoding Jim’s history lessons and instructional stories. He was a book of infinite chapters, and he never began a story on the first page. 

Fishing Jim out of truly dangerous rapids in the Alberton Gorge. 

Jim painstakingly ordering dinner a la carte and not eating most of it. 

Jim and his damned tea bags.

Jim calling whenever and demanding, “Tell me what I don’t know.”

Jim’s three cell phones buzzing at once, one in his ear.

Jim and his fat, beat-up book of multi-colored note pages that he carried everywhere but rarely opened in my presence. Each color meant something to Jim. I don’t know what.

Jim forcefully calming troubled waters between MEA-MFT and the governor’s office setting the stage for successful legislation creating state-funded quality educator payment,
education loan repayment, and full-time kindergarten. 

Jim and the iron-clad friendships he built, nurtured, and never forgot.

Jim and the implacable enemies he made, nurtured, and never forgot in the rough-edged world of union organizing...because, well, because he was Jim . . . and he despised jealous competitors who failed to grant or even acknowledge his success. They gave it back in kind.

Jim and Butte, the sacred city of his birth.

Jim, a Montana organizer, without peer.

Jim’s funeral was Monday, Labor Day, as it should be.

Goodbye, Jim.

Eric Feaver

P.S. Despite rumors to the contrary, I don’t believe Jim ever really fished with dynamite.