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Labor mourns the passage of Larry Kenney, Will Parry

SEATTLE (May 15, 2013) — On Tuesday, the labor movement in Washington State lost two prominent and influential leaders with the passings of Larry Kenney, former President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and Will Parry, President Emeritus of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action. Both died Tuesday after lengthy illnesses.

UPDATE — A public memorial service for Kenney will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 at the Mountaineers, 7700 Sand Point Way N.E., in Seattle.

A memorial for Parry is planned for Saturday, June 29, 2-5 p.m. in Hall 1 of the Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 First Avenue. Donations in his name may be made to Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action at 2800 1st Ave. #262, Seattle, WA, 98121, to continue his work.

kenney-larry-obitLawrence Kenney, former president of the Washington State Labor Council, passed away Tuesday at his home in Seattle after a long illness. He was surrounded by his wife, former Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, and his children. He was 82.

Born May 15, 1930, in Chicago, Kenney was raised in the Bremerton area, where he graduated from Bremerton High School in 1947. He worked for 17 years as a newspaper and job shop printer. He was an activist in his union, the International Typographical Union. He served a six-year apprenticeship at the San Francisco Chronicle and worked in Seattle at The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. While working at the P-I, Kenney attended the University of Washington where he earned his degree in economics. After graduation, he worked as a certified public accountant.

Kenney was hired by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in 1969 to serve as Research Director. He was elected to serve as Secretary-Treasurer from 1980 to 1986, serving with then-President Marvin Williams. In 1986, Kenney was elected WSLC President, a position he held until 1993, working alongside Secretary-Treasurer Al Brisbois. After retiring from the WSLC, Kenney served on the Washington State Board of Tax Appeals from 1993-99 and on the Executive Board of Energy Northwest since 2000.

WSLC President Jeff Johnson called Kenney “mentor”

I first met Larry Kenney in 1986. I had just moved to the state, was looking for work and thought it would be a good thing to pay a courtesy visit to the President of the WSLC. That visit turned into the first of two interviews, a consulting project, and then the offer of Research Director and lead lobbyist position for the Council. Larry was smart, articulate, did not suffer fools lightly, could not do small talk to save his life, was rough around the edges, but he was endowed with a sharp intellectual curiosity and a penchant for problem solving. Larry always said to look at the assumptions, the argument hangs together or not right there. Larry’s analytical acumen made him one of the best I have ever seen testifying before a legislative committee.

And Larry was a trade unionist through and through. Larry committed the moral support and resources of the WSLC to the emerging farm workers movement in Washington State in 1987 even though some affiliates, at the time, saw no particular value in these activities. Larry was committed to doing the right and just thing.

Larry Kenney was a boss, a mentor, and most importantly he was a friend. I last spoke to him six weeks ago when he called me to lobby me to support an individual for state government board position — I agreed. Larry Kenney’s work and life made a difference to the labor movement whether it was through strengthening the workers’ compensation system, running the first minimum wage initiative in 1988, which included farm workers and tipped employees, or reminding us of the importance of the judicial system on working peoples’ lives. I will miss Larry Kenney. He will be missed.

A longtime member of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, Kenney previously served on Governor Gardner’s Council of Economic Advisors, the Governor’s Commission on Accountability and Efficiency in State Government, the Economic Development Alliance of Washington, and many other boards, commissions and civic organizations. He was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Point of Personal Privilege — Larry Kenney was WSLC President when The Entire Staff of The Stand was first hired in 1992. Larry was always kind, gracious and patient with us, despite our limited experience and knowledge of organized labor. And Larry always remembered to inquire about our beloved Baltimore Orioles whenever we saw him, including in recent years as he enjoyed retirement with his wonderful wife, Phyllis. We will always remember him for his commitment to working families, to effective government, and to his community.

parry-will-obitWill Parry, President Emeritus of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action and longtime editor of the Retiree Advocate newsletter, passed away Tuesday in Seattle after a lengthy illness. He was preceded in death in 2006 by his companion over several decades of labor and social justice activism, his dear wife Louise Parry.

“Will Parry epitomized the best of the labor movement,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council. “He believed in collective bargaining rights, but he also believed in our obligation to fight for social and economic justice for all people and all communities. Will was soft spoken but his words resonated loud and clear. I will remember his sense of humor, his sense of dignity, and his music. Will’s spirit remains with us each day we continue the good fight for the working class.”

A child of the Great Depression, Parry attended Washington State College (now Washington State University) and became active in the Communist Party. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, he lived in the Puget Sound area working as a journalist for progressive and Communist newspapers until he was driven out of the business as part of the Red Scare in the 1950s.

Parry then went to work at Longview Fibre’s corrugated box factory in South Seattle. Bill Farris, President of the Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers Local 817, said Parry became a leader in the union during his 21 years working for Longview Fibre, eventually serving as the AWPPW’s first elected lobbyist in Olympia.

“He was an advocate for people who needed help, an advocate for the union,” Farris said in a 2010 interview. “I’ve lost count of the number of picket lines I’ve walked with Will.”

Parry later shared his experience and wisdom with future generations when he taught in the Shoreline College Labor Studies Program. In recent years, Will has worked tirelessly as the Editor of the Retiree Advocate, the monthly newsletter of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, an organization for which he also served as President.

“Will was a warrior for working people for more than seven decades,” said Robby Stern, President of PSARA. “His leadership, compassion and deep commitment to economic and social justice was an inspiration to several generations of labor union and progressive activists in the Puget Sound region. He was a highly skilled journalist whose passionate and entertaining writing reached across the country. In recent years he was not only a fierce voice for justice for working people but also became deeply concerned with the threat to our planet posed by the fossil fuel industry. He was an emotional and intellectual leader of PSARA and will be deeply missed.”

Parry was honored in 2002 with a special lifetime achievement award from the Washington State Labor Council for his continuous activism on behalf of working families. In 2010, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Parry was celebrated as a “hero of organized labor,” with more than 400 turning out at the Seattle Labor Temple to wish him a happy birthday. See a profile of Parry published in Real Change in 2010.

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