Obituaries: Local Spotlight

Sunday, Apr 06 2014 07:55 PM

Duane Moore, local Democratic leader and union organizer, dies

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Duane W. Moore's wife joked he was a paid troublemaker.

As an organizer first with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and later for the building and construction trades within the AFL-CIO, he traveled around the country as the boots on the ground for union organizing and negotiations.

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Oct. 3, 1955 -- April 2, 2014

Closer to home, he resurrected the somnambulant Kern County Democratic party central committee in the early 2000s, and was never shy about stepping into debates, believing the status quo existed to be challenged.

Moore, 58, died Tuesday of complications from cancer.

A born negotiator, he argued successfully against his parents when he dropped out of the veternarian program at the University of California-Davis to be a professional bull rider.

His wife, Cheryl, said their nearly 18-year marriage was the only place without debate. Moore's efforts at negotiation there always ended with "yes, dear," she said.

When Moore's bull riding days were over -- he had a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card -- he entered a four-year apprentice program to learn the electrician trade.

Moore was a long-haired, bearded and earringed Harley rider the first time a local union organizer decided he had the skills to be trained as an organizer in the early 1980s.

"We cut his hair and his beard, got rid of the earring and put him in a Chevrolet," said Mike Lucas, who as director of organizing for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers oversaw hundreds of organizers from more than 1,500 locals in North America, the Panama Canal and Pacific islands.

"I saw something in him," said Lucas, now retired and living in Florida. "He was very idealistic. He wasn't easily dissuaded. I just loved working with someone you don't have to kick in the butt all the time.

"Duane was just the opposite. You had to hold him back."

Moore was sent to the Carolinas, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida to discuss unionizing with workers contemplating it and the owners who were dead set against it.

Lucas and others said Moore's success lay with his honesty and integrity; he told people the truth whether they wanted to hear it or not.

"He believed in the union movement," said Danny Kane, the retired business manager of local IBEW Local 428. "He believed in the IBEW.

"If you ever told him he wasn't going to accomplish something in that regard, he became three times more determined to make it happen."

In Kern County as chairman of the Democratic party central committee, he convinced former Bill Clinton advisor James Carville to speak at the 2002 Dorothy Donohoe Awards Dinner, an event that attracted 400 people and raised more than $10,000.

"Somehow, he convinced (Carville) to come," recalled Candi Easter, who supplanted Moore as chairman in 2006. "Before that (dinner) we were begging and borrowing to have enough money.

"He was really instrumental in turning the committee around."

He also hosted a radio talk show on KGEO (1230 AM) in 2004 with Cal State Bakersfield political science professor Mark Martinez.

People who knew him said his loud voice masked a soft man. If you didn't know him, it was hard to miss him, with his loud Dragonfly shirts and even louder green-and-black Harley Night Train.

It was that Harley he laid down at 100 mph on the Gravevine in 2004, losing an index finger and having a metal plate inserted into an arm.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with liposarcoma cancer. Doctors found a 5-pound tumor in his abdomen the size of a football, but were unable to remove it completely. He believed he'd outlast the disease but he couldn't.

This March, he was able to attend the wedding of his son, Cody. He spent his final days at home.

In addition to his wife and son, Moore is survived by his father, Jack, of Venice, Fla.; a brother, Derek, of Bakersfield; two stepsons, Forrest and Samuel Lane, both of Bakersfield; and two grandchildren.

In lieu of a funeral, the family will celebrate a Happy Hour this Saturday in Moore's memory.

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