Labor leaders from across the tri-state area will gather together later this month and celebrate the life of Kevin Lynch, a Glen Oaks resident and a towering figure in the movement.
Lynch was a longtime director of organizing and political action for major unions in New York and New Jersey. He died on March 8, at North Shore University Hospital. He was 73 years old.
Lynch is survived by his wife, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Bernice D, Siegal, and his daughters Rebecca Della Lynch, Deputy Director of the Working Families Part of Wisconsin and Sara Alexandra Lynch, a Fellow with the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
“Our father’s life’s work was to befriend, empower and honor the working people,” Lynch’s daughters said in a statement. From his early days as a teenager, working as a union longshoreman on the docks of New York, and his time as a young man serving in the Peace Corps in the mines of Bolivia, our father delighted in getting to know the lives and families of working people, and was energized by their struggle. A true organizer, he helped gather over a million people in Central Park at the United Nations Disarmament Rally, and over the last decade partnered with labor groups to bring back the May Day rallies to New York City. He was a devoted father, who took tremendous pride in our accomplishments big and small. He gave us a love of justice and family and the world around us. He will be missed by many, his family most of all.”
Among the trade unions to which he devoted his organizing, political and strategic skills were UAW District 65, AFSCME DC 1707, the Teamsters Local Union 840 IAM District 15RWDSU 338, CWA 1180 and the New York City Central Labor Council. Lynch stood for worker solidarity and immigrant rights and was a powerful speaker at airport workers rallies in the long campaign for dignity and economic justice.
“Kevin Lynch was a powerful champion for working people in Queens and across New York,” 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said. “He took so much joy in organizing and helping workers build power, especially in sectors and communities that were historically overlooked by the labor movement. I remember him as a powerful advocate for black, Irish and South Asian workers and his work will continue to serve as an inspiration to so many of us.”
As a founding member of the Working Families Party, Lynch was successful in partnering labor unions and refocus electoral politics, holding elected officials and politicians accountable to working families.
“What made us loyal to Kevin Lynch followers was that he taught us in words and deeds nearly every day. Kevin loved working people; it was that simple,” NY Working Families Party Executive Director Bill Lipton said. “Long after labor leaders his age had retired, Kevin was out every day early in the morning talking to workers in sectors and communities that others had overlooked. It was always clear to me that it gave him great joy to go out and organize, to listen to working people and help them build power and strategize. More than anyone, he taught me and so many others the power of solidarity. He taught us how power and wealth will try, in so many different guises, to divide us from each other. He was one of the people I admired most in this world.”
When Lipton awarded Lynch a lifetime achievement award at the WFP Progressive Leadership Conference, Lynch recalled growing up as a Bronx-born son of Irish immigrants, and paying union dues for more than 50 years.
“Growing up in my house, my mother used to say ‘If you leave the church you’ll break my heart, you cross a picket line and I’ll break your legs,’” Lynch said.
As a citizen of both the United States and Ireland, Lynch was a founder of the Irish Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen.
The Hon. Bernice D. Siegal, Lynch’s wife of 31 years believes, “Kevin’s determination came from fighting for Irish unification, to be free of political and capital oppression. That came in tandem with his Jesuit education and work as an advocate for working people, from the mines in Bolivia and rice paddies of Viet Nam ultimately to the streets of New York.”
She is organizing the celebration of his life which will be held on April 27 at District Council 1707 at 420 W. 45th St. at 2 p.m.