By David Brand
Labor leader Kevin Lynch, a longtime Queens resident, has passed away.
Fellow labor organizers and community leaders honored Lynch with touching messages and inspiring memories of his commitment to workers’ rights and his efforts to uplift low-income and working class people in New York City and around the world.
“Rest In Peace brother Lynch. You will be missed, your contributions to the House of Labor are many, our sympathy to your family, friends and comrades. Seguiremos en la lucha!,” said 32 BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa on Twitter.
In 2012, the Working Families Party honored Lynch with an award for “lifetime service to the labor movement” during the party’s annual Progressive Leadership Conference.
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Political Director Ademola Oyefso introduced Lynch that night and congratulated him for starting an organizing drive at a chain of supermarkets. The employees negotiated a contract just a day before the ceremony.
“That’s the story of Kevin’s organizing: always working to better the lives of working people everywhere he goes,” Oyefso said.
WFP Deputy Director Bill Lipton presented the award to Lynch at the ceremony.
“Let’s stand united and we can accomplish great things together and build a better world,” Lipton said. “That’s what Kevin Lynch taught us and that’s why we want to honor him tonight.”
Lipton expanded on that sentiment in a statement to the Eagle on Tuesday.
"What made us loyal Kevin Lynch followers was what he taught us in words and deeds nearly every day,” Lipton said. “Kevin loved working people — it was that simple. Long after labor leaders his age had retired, Kevin was out every day early in the morning talking to workers in sectors and communities that others had overlooked.”
“It was always clear to me that it gave him great joy to go out and organize — to listen to working people and help them build power and strategize,” he continued. “More than anyone, he taught me and so many others the power of solidarity. He taught us how power and wealth will try, in so many different guises, to divide us from each other. He was one of the people I admired most in this world."
Lynch’s life and work affected New Yorkers of all backgrounds, including Irish-Americans and South Asian-Americans in Queens.
“Lynch, a Bronx born son of Irish Republicans, was taught from a young age that a person can live a happy life by recognizing early on that he was born into a life of struggle," said The James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition. "Lynch was always on the right side of working people and devoted his life to organizing workers globally."
Attorney Ali Najmi recalled Lynch’s efforts on behalf of cab drivers.
“I will remember him as a champion of workers, especially his work unionizing black car drivers and helping the South Asian American community,” Najmi said.
Lynch is survived by his wife, the Hon. Bernice D. Siegal and his daughters.
A memorial to Lynch’s life and legacy will take place on April 27 and his family plans to honor him again on May 1, International Workers Day, according to the Queens County Bar Association.
The QCBA encourages donations to the organizations that Lynch supported throughout his life, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, St. Helena School in the Bronx and the United Farm Workers or by paying dues to the Working Families Party.