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‘Working class hero:’ Former WSLC VP Don Houtchens dies

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BELLINGHAM (Nov. 30, 2018) — Don Houtchens, retired USW leader and longtime Vice President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, passed away on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22 at the age of 69.

A resident of Bellingham, Houtchens graduated from Kelso High School and received his Bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University. He worked in oil refineries during summers while he was attending high school and college, and ultimately worked in that industry his entire career before retiring in 2013 as a Pipefitter from Phillips 66 in Ferndale.

Houtchens was always active in his union, eventually serving as President of Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) Local 1-590 in Ferndale, Wash., which later became United Steelworkers (USW) 12-590. He was also one of the longest-serving Vice Presidents in the history of the WSLC, serving from 1986 until his retirement in 2013.

Upon his retirement as senior WSLC Vice President, Houtchens was presented a Working Class Hero award at the WSLC’s 2013 Convention by the WSLC’s Lynne Dodson and Jeff Johnson.

“Don Houtchens was a working class hero,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Soft spoken and humble, but rock solid in fighting for the rights of working people and their unions. Don was one of the founders of the Jobs with Justice Chapter in Whatcom County, he chaired the WSLC Workers’ Compensation and WISHA Monitoring Standing Committee for years, and he was a Democratic activist. Don truly believed that the labor movement had duty to make a better world for all workers and their communities. Don and I both joined the WSLC in 1986. He was a mentor and a friend. He will be missed by us all.”

At Don’s request, there are no memorial services planned.

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