Tom Gallagher grew up in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, in what is now the poorest congressional district in the United States. He attended St. Athanasius Elementary School, followed by Regis High School, an all-scholarship Jesuit school in Manhattan. His father, James, immigrated from Tubbercurry, County Sligo, Ireland when he was seven years old, along with his father and brother. He loaded trucks for the Railway Express Agency and was a member of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks. His mother, Marion, descended from earlier Irish immigrants and worked in the home. He has one older brother, James, who is developmentally disabled and was a resident of the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, until Geraldo Rivera’s expose of the institution’s conditions led to its dissolution. He currently lives in a group home in upstate New York.
A scholarship to Boston College took him to the city where he would live for the next twenty-five years, with the exception of a brief stint in San Francisco immediately after college. A lifelong involvement with the antiwar movement began in college and he attended the final convention of the Students for a Democratic Society, at which the Weathermen and the Progressive Labor Party destroyed the generation’s most important student organization. After graduation he worked as a full time organizer for the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Indochina Peace Campaign, serving as a regional organizer in upstate New York and central Pennsylvania for the latter organization.
His first involvement with the labor movement came as coordinator of table grape, lettuce, and Gallo wine-boycott activities for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union in the Allston/Brighton/Brookline area. He subsequently organized a free monthly community newspaper, the Allston Brighton Community News. In 1978, he narrowly missed unseating a 14-year incumbent State Representative and succeeded in that two years later, representing the Allston Brighton section of Boston for six years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and serving as chair of the body’s Progressive Caucus. In 1983, he was a recipient of a Swedish Bicentennial Fund grant to study Swedish social systems in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Orebro. Following his term in office, he chaired the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Moving to San Francisco in 1994, he worked on the staff of Proposition 186, the initiative that would have created a California single-payer health care system. Ahead of its time, Proposition 186 was overwhelmingly defeated, carrying but one county — San Francisco. Working on a variety of issues, including support for fulfillment of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, Tom has primarily been employed as a substitute teacher for the San Francisco and South San Francisco school districts because of the flexibility it gave him to work on political projects. He is a member of the United Educators of San Francisco, and has served as a representative of substitute teachers on the union’s Executive Board.
In 1997 and 1998, Tom worked as a Voter Registration Supervisor in Sarajevo, Bosnia, following that country’s civil war, under the auspices of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1999, he was a United Nations Election Officer for the plebiscite on independence in East Timor. He has subsequently observed elections for the OSCE in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia and Ukraine.
Back home in San Francisco, he served as president of the Bernal Heights Democratic Club for over a decade and a half. He participated in the creation of a San Francisco chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America — an organization distinguished for its efforts to engage people in national and international issues, on the local level — and served as its chair for a decade.
In 2008, Tom initiated and organized the successful campaign for Proposition U, a San Francisco ballot question declaring that the city’s “elected representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives should vote against any further funding for the deployment of United States Armed Forces in Iraq, with the exception of funds specifically earmarked to provide for their safe and orderly withdrawal.”
In 2017, as a delegate to the California Democratic Party, he successfully introduced an amendment to the party platform calling for “ending air strikes in Afghanistan, … a timetable for the withdrawal of all American military forces and military contractors” and opposing “further appropriations for such operations except those necessary for safe and orderly withdrawal of our troops.”
Over the years, he has introduced and successfully argued numerous resolutions before the city’s Democratic Central Committee including ones that have urged Pelosi to vote against Afghanistan War funding, and to cosponsor Oakland Representative Barbara Lee’s Prohibit Expansion of Combat Troops Into Syria Act. He has also written and successfully argued one opposing “any military intervention in Venezuela; all covert interference in that nation’s affairs; the use of economic sanctions and assets seizures designed to further immiserate its people; and all further measures designed to impose so-called ‘regime change’ from Washington.”
This year he has started a petition asking Pelosi to join the other 91 House co-sponsors of the Green New Deal. (The petition currently has 9,300 signatures and you may sign it here.)
Tom has written a book, ” The Primary Route: How the 99% Takes On the Military Industrial Complex, that made the case for a Sanders-like presidential candidacy in the Democratic primaries, and has written articles and reviews for publications including the Berkshire Eagle, Boston Business Journal, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Phoenix, CommonDreams, Dissent, East Bay Express, In These Times, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Review of Books, Moscow Times, The Movement, the Nation, National Catholic Reporter, The National Pastime, The Old Mole, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Independent, Slate, Socialist Review, Social Policy, Urban Ecology, and Z Magazine.