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In Memoriam

March 15, 2010

Robert Cooper
Cooper, who died of leukemia on Feb. 24 at the age of 65, was born and raised in Riggtown, Penn. He began his association with AFSCME in 1972 while working as a plumber in the maintenance department at West Chester University. (Photo credit: Robert Cooper)

Robert Cooper

Cooper, who died of leukemia on Feb. 24 at the age of 65, was born and raised in Riggtown, Penn. He began his association with AFSCME in 1972 while working as a plumber in the maintenance department at West Chester University.

After his retirement from the university in 1989, Cooper became the business agent for District Council 88, which represents more than 13,000 workers in Southeastern Pennsylvania. He became the director in 2002 and held the post until his death.

“He was passionate about the rights of workers,” says his daughter, Beth. “We grew up believing in what unions stood for.”

“Bob was a courageous advocate for workers, a compassionate family man and a true and loyal friend,” adds Pennsylvania Council 13 Exec. Dir. David Fillman, also anAFSCME International vice president. “All of us in his extended AFSCME family will miss him very much.”

Read more about Cooper in this Philadelphia Daily News story, and also in the Patriot News.

Howard Deck
Howard Deck (Photo credit: Family Photo)

Deck passed away on Feb. 15 at the age of 70 following a heart attack at his Philadelphia home.

He first demonstrated a commitment to working for the rights of workers while employed at the University of Pennsylvania Library. There, after a two-year effort, Deck helped his fellow employees win the right to bargain collectively.

AFSCME Local 590 was recognized in 1969. As its founding member and its only president for more than 43 years, Deck immediately proved his skill as lead negotiator during the union’s very first bargaining effort. President McEntee, with whom Deck would maintain a life-long friendship, later called it the “best ever” first contract that he had ever seen.

“Howard built a small but effective union at Penn that cemented his record as one of the true pioneers of the labor movement in Philadelphia,” notes McEntee. “He set patterns that were followed all across the country in successive organizing campaigns. His good works on behalf of working people will be long remembered and appreciated.”

Deck went to work for District Council 47 in 1982, and served as treasurer from 1986-1992. “Howard was a much cherished member of the AFSCME District Council 47 family and he will be greatly missed,” says DC 47 Pres. Cathy Scott. “He has been a true trade unionist.”

Learn more about Deck in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Lettie Oliver
Lettie Oliver (Photo credit: AFSCME Education Department)

Lettie Oliver

Hospitalized after suffering an asthma-related attack, Oliver succumbed to her illness on March 1, with family members by her side. She was 58.

Oliver was associate director of AFSCME Council 62 and president of the Marion County Central Indiana Labor Council. She also was associated with the Indiana Pay Equity Coalition, which pushed legislation requiring a study to determine if women and minorities employed by the state were being paid the same as men for the same or similar jobs.

She also worked to improve the pay of janitors who work in downtown buildings, and to better the working conditions of hotel workers. For her commitment to improving the lives of others, she was honored in 2008 by the Indiana Commission on Women with its Torchbearer Award. The commission observed, in its award announcement: “She has made it her life’s work to educate the women of AFSCME Council 62 in the areas of politics and organizing and has been a powerful force in sharing her knowledge with others for the betterment of all.”

In addition, she also was deeply involved with improving her community through her service with the Marion County Democratic Party as a precinct committeeperson and ward leader in Warren Township.

“Lettie never stopped – she was an activist 24-7,” says Council 62 Exec. Dir. David Warrick, also an AFSCME International vice president. “She totally believes in the labor movement and civil rights, and she lived her life that way. There is no one I know of who has been as active as Lettie. She will be very much missed and it will be impossible to fill her shoes.”

“I think her legacy will be the aid she provided no matter who you were,” adds Joanne Sanders, an executive board member of the Labor Council and minority leader of the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Read more about Oliver in the Indianapolis StarIndy DemocratIndianapolis Recorder and this blog.

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