The Stand

Former WSLC staffer, state leader, pension chief Joe Dear dies at 62

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UPDATE — The friends and family of Joe Dear invite the community to a celebration of his life from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Evergreen State College Library, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW in Olympia. A reception will follow the celebration on the 4th floor of the library.


dear-joeSACRAMENTO, Calif. (Feb. 27, 2014) — Joseph A. Dear, former Research Director of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, died Wednesday surrounded by family and friends after a battle with cancer. He was 62.

Joe Dear was hired as an intern for the WSLC by former President Marv Williams in 1980. He had been Founder and Director of a non-profit called People for Fair Taxes and was brought on to work on tax policy. In 1981, Dear was named WSLC Research Director, a position previously held by Larry Kenney, and his expertise shifted to unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation issues.

In 1984 and 1985, Dear served on a Joint Select Legislative Committee on workers’ compensation that dealt with an actuarial crisis caused in part by the recession of 1981-83. He distinguished himself on this committee and was asked by then Gov. Booth Gardner to serve as the Deputy Director for workers’ compensation at the Department of Labor and Industries in the Fall of 1985.

Dear went on to become Director of Labor and Industries and then Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA in President Clinton’s administration. He returned to Olympia and served as Gov. Gary Locke’s Chief of Staff before being appointed by Locke to be the Executive Director of the Washington State Investment Board from 2002-2009. Joe finished up his career at CALPERS, the California public pension system that is the nation’s largest, as its Chief Investment Officer.

WSLC President Jeff Johnson released the following statement today:

I had the pleasure of working with Joe when he was the Director of Labor and Industries as we pushed through some significant benefit improvements for injured workers in the late 1980s and in 1993. Joe’s advocacy for injured workers will not be forgotten. Under Joe’s leadership we were also able to significantly reform the child labor standards in Washington state, recognizing that school work was the primary job of minors.

The labor movement owes a debt of gratitude to Joe for helping to reform our Department of Labor and Industries and to keep a state system competitive in a world of rapacious private insurance companies. Thank you, Joe, you have helped untold numbers of injured workers make the best of their circumstances.

The Stand will post more information, including about any memorials, as it becomes available.

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