United Food and Commercial Workers’ Ronald E. Powell, former president of Local 881 and International Vice President of the UFCW, passed of natural causes March 22, 2020.
Brother Powell retired on December 1, 2018, after 57 and a half years of faithful and dedicated service to the working families in the retail grocery industry and the American Labor Movement.
Brother Powell was born on April 5, 1935, in rural Wisconsin, and served his country in the U.S. Army, and studied at Northern Illinois University, graduating in 1960.
In 1960, he started work at the Jewel Tea Company in DeKalb, Ill., where he successfully led the first and only recognition strike against the company; after which he joined the staff of Local 881 as a field representative in 1961. He was later promoted to director of field operations, vice president of the executive board and secretary-treasurer, In 1983, he was elected to the office of President. At his retirement he became the longest-serving constitutional officer of Local 881. As President, he built Local 881 into the largest local in the UFCW.
Brother Powell was elected vice president on the Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board in 1986, and remained a leading voice in its governance under six Illinois AFL-CIO presidents.
Throughout his life and career Brother Powell vigilantly fought to strengthen the rights of union members throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana in the workplace and in the halls of government. He mentored and helped countless workers find their voice on the job and steered Local 881 through periods of challenges and growth while providing guidance to the broader Labor Movement as the most senior UFCW International vice president.
In addition to his work in labor, Brother Powell committed himself to many educational, philanthropic, and community endeavors, including: the Better Boys Foundation, Little City Foundation, United Way, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America, and the UFCW Local 881 Charitable Foundation. He served the Village of Mundelein as a Trustee for many years, the Illinois State Board of Investments, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Illinois Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board, Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Board, and was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1996, 2000, and 2008.
Brother Powell’s unwavering commitment to UFCW and the Labor Movement only matched his dedication to his family. His beloved wife, Lois, preceded him in death on November 15, 2018. He is survived by children Kelly (Mark) Morrissey, Brad (Joanne) Powell, Steven Powell, and Kerry Fisher; grandchildren: Nicholas (fiancé Patricia Kutrumanes), Mark (Amanda), Michelle, Matthew, Ronald, Camille, Michael, Tyler (Koni), Trevor (Jasmine), Sean and Rachel, great-grandchildren: Braylon, Jaylen, Rylee and Jax, and Ron and Lois’ dear friend Penney Wyman. He was preceded in death by his grandson Ryan Fisher.
Due to current circumstances, a private family graveside service will be held, and a celebration of Ron’s life will be held at a later date.
Memorials in Ron’s memory may be made to the Local 881 UFCW Charitable Foundation, 1350 E. Touhy Ave, Suite 300 E, Des Plaines, IL 60018.