Wendell W. Young III, longtime leader of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents thousands of retail employees/ food processing workers/ healthcare professionals, office and administrative employees/ and employees of Pennsylvania’s Wine & Spirit Shoppes throughout Pennsylvania, died last Wednesday, January 2, 2013 in his home in Lafayette Hill, surrounded by his family, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.
One of America’s most progressive labor leaders, Mr. Young dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of social justice and the interests of working men and women. At age sixteen, while a sophomore at Northeast Catholic High School, he began working as a part-time clerk at an Acme Markets store in Northeast Philadelphia. After being encouraged by his father to get involved in the union, Mr. Young’s co-workers elected him as shop steward.
At the age of 23 in 1962 Mr. Young successfully ran for union executive office, and eventually became the youngest labor leader in Pennsylvania. During his 43 years as President, Mr. Young expanded the union to include more than 24,000 members. He was nationally recognized as a job creator and as an innovative negotiator. He supported the creation of Super Fresh Markets and the creative employee stock ownership bid that saved Acme Markets and thousands of jobs throughout the region.
Under Mr. Young’s leadership. Local 1776 won national acclaim for negotiating innovative employee benefits, including comprehensive healthcare coverage, pension plans, childcare benefits and higher education assistance. In 2004, his son, Wendell W. Young, IV was elected President of UFCW Local 1776, taking office in January 2005.
Throughout his career, Mr. Young built community alliances to provide a voice for the underprivileged. He was active in both the peace and civil rights movements. From 1995 to 2005, he hosted a popular weekly radio talk show program, “Talking Unions,” on WHAT 1340-AM.
Beginning with John F. Kennedy’s Presidential campaign in 1960, Mr. Young was active in Democratic Party politics throughout Pennsylvania, serving as leader of Philadelphia’s 35th Ward, and as a delegate to eight Democratic National Conventions. In 1972 he headed U.S. Senator George McGovem’s presidential campaign in Philadelphia, winning the City by 80,000 votes.
Mr. Young was a St. Joseph’s University classmate of Mayor William J. Green. Both classic row-house Philadelphians, in 1986 they joined in support of Governor Robert P. Casey. Mr. Young was the first Pennsylvania labor leader to support Robert P. Casey, Jr. for Auditor General in 1996, his first run for public office. He was a trusted advisor to both Governor and U.S. Senator Casey.
An early backer of Jimmy Carter, Mr. Young served on the President’s Citizens’ Panel on the Panama Canal. He pioneered a labor alliance with the environmental movement as a leader of the Citizens’ Labor Energy Coalition that early advocated for green energy and consumer rights.
Throughout his life, having recognized the impact of the global economy, Mr. Young was committed to establishing and expanding relationships between the American labor movement and workers’ advocates throughout the world. In carrying out his mission, he went to Brazil, Great Britain, Cuba, Bulgaria, Ireland, Russia, Eastern Europe and Togo, among other nations. In 1979, believing that adversaries should dialogue, he was among the first U.S. labor leaders to visit China. In the late 1990s, Mr. Young played an instrumental role in establishing the Pennsylvania Welcoming Center, an organization supporting immigrant rights.
For many years, Mr. Young was active in fund raising activities for his alma maters, Northeast Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s University, and for St. Patrick’s Seminary, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland, where he worked with Ireland’s Cardinals Tomas O’Fiaich, Cahal Daly, and Sean Brady. He served on the Board of Directors of Northeast Catholic High School’s Alumni Association, and was involved in numerous charitable and civic activities, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Peggy Browning Fund, the Variety Club, and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Proud of his upstate Pennsylvania anthracite roots in Centralia, Mr. Young was a longtime member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians John Kehoe Div. # 1, Girardville, Pa.
Mr. Young is survived by his wife Katherine, and sons Wendell IV, Brian, Scott, Eric, Brendan, Matthew, thirteen grandchildren and legions of friends.
Relatives and friends are invited to Mr. Young’s viewing on Sunday, January 6 from 4 to 8 PM at the Boyd-Horrox Funeral Home, 200 West Germantown Pike, Norristown, PA. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 AM on Monday, January 7, at St. Philip Neri Church, 437 Ridge Pike, Lafayette Hill, PA, where friends may visit from 9:30 to 10:45 am. Interment will be private. To share your fondest memory of Mr. Young, please visit www.lifecelebration.com. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, 1663 Bristol Pike, Bensalem, PA 19020 and the Medical Mission Sisters, 8400 Pine Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19111.