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Longtime legislator, former WSLC staffer Wojahn dies at 92

(Oct. 16) — Longtime state legislator R. Lorraine Wojahn, a former union officer and Washington State Labor Council staff member, passed away Saturday, Oct. 13 in Tacoma at the age of 92.

In the News Tribune’s report of Wojahn’s passing, former legislative colleagues described her “as a fierce legislator who pioneered the way for women in both chambers.” She served as one of seven women in the House starting in 1969, and one of seven women in the Senate starting in 1977, serving 32 years total.

She was also a fierce advocate for working people, particularly in her former union, Retail Clerks (now United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 367 in Tacoma. In 1954, she began working at Rhodes Department Store and became active in her union, eventually serving several terms as Local 367’s Recording Secretary. In 1964, Wojahn became a Field Agent for the Washington State Labor Council and served as Western Area Coordinator for COPE (Committee On Political Education), where she coordinated voter registration drives, among other things.

She left the WSLC when she was elected to represent the 27th District the State House of Representatives in 1968. She served four terms in the House before being elected to the State Senate in 1976, where she served through 2000.

“Lorraine Wojahn was always a good vote for labor,” said former WSLC President Rick Bender, who served alongside her as a state legislator from 1973 to 1991. “She could always be counted on to support working men and women.”

Said current WSLC President Jeff Johnson: “While I did not have the pleasure of working with Lorraine at the WSLC, I did lobby her for years in the Washington State Senate. We also knew we could count on Senator Wojahn, she was a fierce advocate for working families and for consumer rights.”

Wojahn played an instrumental role in establishing the University of Washington-Tacoma. In lieu of flowers and to honor her commitment to UW Tacoma, her family asks that memorial gifts be made in Lorraine’s name to the UW Tacoma Scholarship Fund, c/o the University of Washington Tacoma, 1900 Commerce Str., Box 358432, Tacoma, WA 98402. For more information, call 253-692-5641.

Private family services will be held.

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