Ron Blackwell (1946–2018)

Ron Blackwell, a friend to EPI since its early days, died on February 25.

Ron had a long career in the labor movement, starting with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in New York, moving to the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. until he retired in 2012.

Raised in Alabama, he was a steadfast defender of the rights of working people and a life-long enemy of economic injustice in its many forms.

He pioneered in the design and management of campaigns to use the financial and pension assets of labor unions as a tool of organizing and collective bargaining.

Having studied economics and political economy at the New School, he understood how elite decisions hidden from the public can destroy efforts by ordinary people to better their lives. His was a relentless voice urging the labor movement to demand a seat at the table of economic policy. He also played an important role in efforts to create international labor solidarity in a world of globalizing capital.

Above all, Ron Blackwell was the rare man of principle who actually had the courage of his convictions. As a young man, he chose to go to prison rather than submit to those who were waging the unjust and terrible war in Vietnam. In his years as a labor advocate, he was quick to spot hypocrisy among political leaders, who—as the late mineworkers’ leader John L. Lewis once put it—“supped at labor’s table and sheltered in labor’s house” but then, “cursed with equal impartiality both labor and its adversaries.”

Ron told it like it was.

EPI, the labor movement, and the country have lost a valiant warrior in the struggle for justice.