Gillian Furst: A warrior for workers

On July 20, I lost a friend and the Teamsters Union lost a warrior for workers and women’s rights when Gillian Furst passed away.

I met Gillian and her husband, Randy Furst, at the 1989 TDU Convention in Pittsburgh. That convention was the kick-off of Ron Carey’s campaign, and where TDU voted to endorse Carey. Gillian had worked as a Teamster for years at the Honeywell instrument factory in Minneapolis, but had no contact with TDU.

As soon as she joined, she was fully committed.

Gillian and Randy had activist experience, and when they got excited about TDU, they never looked back.Gillian was elected a delegate from Local 1145 to the 1991 IBT Convention. She rose to second a nomination for VP at-large: “When I think of fearlessness, I think of Diana Kilmury. When I think of honesty, I think of Diana Kilmury…it is with joy in my heart that I second the nomination of Diana Kilmury.”

Gillian Furst at the 1991 IBT Convention

Kilmury was the first woman ever elected to the General Executive Board, on the Ron Carey slate. Carey appointed Gillian to be a member of the IBT Ethical Practices Committee.

Gillian and Randy became key organizers for TDU in Minnesota, and she served for a time on the TDU International Steering Committee.  She has long been retired, but stayed active, until recently, when her failing health made that impossible.

She was always ready to support a strike and to help workers organize. Her home was frequently a center of activity.

As recently as this April, we held a fundraiser at Gillian and Randy’s home, where she delighted in teasing me about various things. I had a lot of fun with Gillian over the years.

Randy, true to form, remains active in TDU in Minnesota and in supporting the Teamsters United campaign.

Gillian passed away peacefully at home, at the age of 81. Our thoughts go out to Randy and Gillian’s three children.

We will try to live up to the high standard that she set for us.

Ken Paff, National Organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union

Click here to read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Obituary: Gillian Furst was a warrior for workers, women's rights.

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