Honored by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Old Pueblo Lodge No. 933
Grace Carroll, also know as Gracie, is a celebrated labor, social, and political activist whose influence has extended beyond national boarders. She has been credited for altering the demographics of a once male-dominated labor world and has been paid tribute for her efforts in the community. 'She was never concerned with the status quo,' which for her never held any depth, stated her proud son Michael Hess. What was more important than the status quo was ensuring the dignity of all.
The foundation of Carroll's Labor career emerged when aiding in the development of Tucson's Women's Auxiliary of Operating Engineers Local 428. From here she went on to be a secretary for the Iron Workers Union and advocated for the Sheet Metal Union. Not long after these endeavors, Carroll was named director of S.A.B.A.S. While active in her duties as director, Carroll assisted in secretarial work for the Office of Professional Employees International Union, but refused compensation for her time and effort.
By 1973, Carroll established an annual summer program officially endorsed by executive affiliates of the AFL-CIO. The founding mission and objective of this program was to develop new union activists by educating students on labor history and law issues while providing tools to improve union organizing and solidarity. Carroll directed this annual curriculum from its formation until the 1990's. The school is still in existence and serves as one of the leading programs of labor education in the Western United States. In the late 1990s the school was named the Grace Carroll Rocky Mountain Labor School.
In 1975, Carroll became the first women field representative for the AFL-CIO. Responsibilities included overseeing operations of the AFL-CIO in multiple states, leading negation talks, and lobbying state legislatures. Having such a profound impact on labor rights, Carroll became the first woman elected to the AFL-CIO executive board. By 1986, Carroll was named the Assistant Regional Director of the AFL-CIO, a position she held until she retired in 1996. In addition to the demanding responsibilities Carroll within the AFL-CIO, she also served as an Executive Officer for Southern Arizona Central Labor and the International Machinist and Aerospace Workers Union. At a labor conference in 1999, Carroll joked about how glad she was to see lines in the women's bathroom during the conference. She went on to explain that in early years the number of women in Labor was relatively nonexistent.
Carroll's labor accomplishments were not confined to the United States. She executed important labor activity in Israel. She had made such an impression within labor circles, when Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated; his granddaughter called up Carroll to let her know the devastating news before it became public. In addition, an Israeli scholarship was created in her honor.
Carroll was a political activist, serving on various boards, committees and commissions in Arizona. While serving on the Board of Directors for the Keno Hospital, she was the initial proponent of turning all operations of this board to those best fit to make decisions, the actual physicians. In the 1990s, Carroll was selected to the United Way Board of Directors. She was also elected Vice Chairwoman of the Arizona's Democratic Party and worked on many Democratic senate campaigns. A woman true to her beliefs, she refused an offer to become Dennis Deconcini's Chief of Staff. Though friends, Carroll did not exactly agree with all of his views and objectives.
Grace Carroll passed away June 3, 2003 from breast cancer. Upon her passing and throughout her life, her achievements did not go unnoticed. Former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford officially declared June 3rd, 1989 Grace Carroll Day. It was a holiday for city, county and state employees and Carroll was given the Arizona flag that was raised at the State Capitol that day. Carroll has been honored with a Women On The Move Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the YMCA and is an exceptional member of Tucson High School's Walk of Fame.
Grace Carroll has secured her place in Labor history and has made her mark in the community. This is due to her persisting efforts, extraordinary devotion, and unmatched passion. Those who had the privilege of knowing Carroll maintain that she befriended everyone she met even despite battling cancer, Carroll still spent most of her evenings preparing food boxes for individuals who were in need.