Jane LaTour: Warrior for Work Equality

Then-PEP Associate Editor Jane LaTour covering the 2009 Labor Day Parade.


Jane LaTour, retired Public Employee Press Associate Editor, long-time union activist, and author of the seminal work Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City, a book documenting the personal stories of women breaking into the construction trades and firefighting, died in the Bronx on April 3 from lung cancer. LaTour was 76.

Born on May 3, 1946 in Burlington, Vermont, the third of five children, LaTour cited that her Roman Catholic upbringing led to her views that reform at the workplace and the union movement must come from the inside.

After leaving college in her first year, LaTour worked in Philadelphia and New Jersey factories, including an assembly line at Hewlett-Packard. She learned to be a spot welder, drill press operator and was an apprentice in several other blue-collar fields.

This experience steered her toward labor activism. She led a walkout and participated in a wildcat strike while working at a UPS facility. Later, she would become an organizer, union staffer, labor educator, archivist, and writer, focusing on reforming labor and on women entering male-dominated blue-collar jobs.

District Council 37 hired LaTour on July 2002 as an Associate Editor at Public Employee Press (now PEPtalk). In her career as a reporter, she made an impact on the long-term editorial direction of the publication. LaTour won several labor press awards for her work, including two Mary Heaton Vorse awards for her series on DC 37 members fighting in the Iraq War and on the union’s role in assisting those in need.

After her retirement in late 2012, LaTour continued her activism and worked on a second book, Rebels with a Cause: An Oral History of the Fight for Democracy in New York City Unions, scheduled for publication next year.

LaTour is survived by her husband, Russel Smith; her son, Richard Heber; her sisters Mary Butler and Susie Morin; and three grandchildren.

Several years ago, on the way to a retirement party for a former PEP colleague, a construction sign was pointed out that stated, “Men and Women Working.” Excited, Jane pulled out her cell phone and took a photo.

The message symbolized the significance of her role in New York labor history.

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