Ron Blackwell, the retired chief economist of the AFL-CIO and pioneer in the labor movement, passed away on Sunday night.
From his Alabama roots to his role as chief economist at the AFL-CIO, Ron was defined by his unshakable courage and conviction. Whether it was his choice to go to prison rather than go to war in Vietnam or charting new paths for our economy while serving on the board of the Baltimore branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Ron was always true to himself and working people.
After teaching economics at the New School for Social Research in New York City, Ron began to leave his mark on the union movement. He joined the staff of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, where he quickly established his complete devotion to the rights of working people. At the AFL-CIO, Ron advised the leadership of the labor movement and fundamentally changed the way we thought about the economy. His legacy will live on through programs he created like Common Sense Economics—a radically different approach to economics that provides training and education for working people by working people—and that remain at the core of the AFL-CIO’s work.
In addition to his work in economics, Ron was a recognized leader on issues of trade, globalization and corporate governance. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Janet, and millions of working people around the world whose lives were improved by his decades of tireless work on our behalf.