Paul Schrade may be better known in American history because he was severely wounded when his friend Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 in Los Angeles. Why he was with Kennedy that night is much more important to him than what happened to him there.
He was there because in the sixties their agendas merged in civil rights, the farm workers struggle, building community unions in the inner cities and the effort to end the war against the people of Viet Nam. They were both activists. Robert Kennedy was his hope for a better and more peaceful world. He served as Labor Chair and was elected as a convention delegate in Kennedy’s California campaign,
A college dropout in 1948, Schrade found the excitement of re-organizing the new post-war factory workforce at North American Aviation in Los Angeles most fulfilling. He was president of United Auto Workers Local 887 during the strike of 16,000 workers in 1953. Major gains in wages and benefits were won for the first time for all aerospace workers paid far less than autoworkers in the same union. He then served four years as United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther’s administrative assistant in Detroit.
As the UAW’s elected Western states director in the 1960’s traditional organizing and bargaining were high priorities as the union grew to 90,000 members in California but social movements were supported too.
In 1965 he joined with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the farm workers struggle. He helped arrange for Robert Kennedy’s two visits to Delano to support the farm workers, who became his winning margin in his 1968 campaign for the presidency
He initiated the formation of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC) and the East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU in 1965. Robert Kennedy, when Senator visited Watts and used the WLCAC as a model for the Bedford Restoration Project.
He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma and Los Angeles and with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. He joined the anti-war movement and the UAW provided draft counseling for union members and their sons.
In 1975, as one of the shooting victims, he filed lawsuits with a team of lawyers and Kennedy supporters to re-open the investigation of the fatal shooting of Robert Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel. They confirmed that a second gunman was involved. Their work continues with new forensic evidence discovered in FBI files in 2005.
In 1987 LAUSD President Jackie Goldberg proposed building a school on the abandoned Ambassador Hotel site owned by Donald Trump. She agreed that the school curriculum would be one that would carry on the peace and social legacy of Robert Kennedy.
He coordinated the RFK-12 Community Task Force based at CARECEN with parents, students and community organizations. MALDEF became the primary organizer of legal and political strategy and support. Big supporters were the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Chavez Foundation and the AFL-CIO.
In 2011 the RFK Community Schools were opened to 4000 children from the neighborhood now able to walk to their own schools freed from forced bussing and overcrowded schools. This new school campus has five high schools, three middle schools and three elementary schools with six different curricula and a peace and social justice component. Several members of the Robert Kennedy family attended the opening. For his work his name is on the RFK school library.
He is a charter member of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the WLCAC and received the Chavez Legacy Award on behalf of the United Auto Workers union’s support of the farm workers struggle starting in 1965.
Paul is married to Monica Weil formerly an attorney and mediator. For many years Monica also worked in opera production and recently as president of the LA Opera League. She also partners with him on peace and social justice actions and on the strategy to solve the Robert Kennedy case.
His love of good food has sent him to cooking school with Guliano Bugialli, and home-test breads for Nancy Silverton’s BREADS of LA BREA BAKERY. He supports growers at local farmers markets and cultivates his own vegetable and herb garden at their home. This was the work of his ancestors who were farmers and bakers not into progressive political and social action.