I have known Bruce since I started my career as a union organizer and rep with 1199. He did not typify those of us who worked for 1199. He was modest, friendly, humble, well mannered, and extremely helpful. Specifically, he was extremely helpful to me when I was new to bargaining — explaining patiently and clearly, the steps he took to get the excellent contracts he got for his members. He prepared a binder for all of the many things he did to prepare for bargaining. I still have it, use it, and share it with my colleagues— 37 years after receiving it from Bruce. “Bargaining by the Numbers”.
Bruce will remain for all time a model of an 1199 warrior, teacher, and leader. We have lost a lot in his passing. But, fortunately, he leaves behind a legacy that is eternal.
I believe that Bruce would be embarrassed by all the eulogizing, he'd shake his head and quote Joe Hill, "Don't mourn, organize." Even so, I imagine Bruce arrived at St. Peter's with a request for information, a list of grievances and the names of his bargaining committee. We all experience forces in our lives that move us in one direction or the other, for me, Bruce was one of these forces. I was honored to learn from Bruce and have him as a mentor, but more so, a friend. I could always count on Bruce for advice, direction, counsel and honest feedback. His generosity was matched only by his fierce loyalty to his family, working folks, his team, and the movement. I was a direct care worker and member of 1199 RC at CDS when my first daughter was born. Waiting there in our private room at the newly constructed birthing center at Genesee Hospital, I was terrified that we would be overwhelmed by the bill. But when it came, our portion was less than $20.00--a co-pay and the cost of the phone calls we made from the room. When I shared this with colleagues, and asked how our benefits could be so good, one of them tossed me the collective bargaining agreement and said that I should probably read it. I did. On the signatory line for Chief Negotiator for the union was Bruce's name. That was thirty years ago but I remain grateful and always will, not only for Bruce's labor, but, like so many of us, for organizing me into the struggle. Echoing Brother Broadhurst, deepest condolences, gratitude and love to Barb and Deedee for sharing Bruce with us all. Thank you, Bruce.
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." Bruce Popper, quoting Frederick Douglass.
"Great results can be achieved with small forces." Bruce Popper, quoting Sun Tzu.
"Do the work, organize, and put your faith in the workers." Me, quoting Bruce Popper.
My deepest condolences to the Popper family on the passing of Bruce. He was a special person; a fierce defender of the working people and an important personality in the Upstate New York labor movement. His contributions were extraordinarily meaningful. He will be sorely missed.
My name is Ryan Bruckenthal, I graduated from the U of R in 2013 and I had the opportunity to know Bruce during my time as a student activist there. Although I never told him this, meeting Bruce changed my life and helped me determine my life long dedication to the labor movement.
I went to college knowing that I wanted to study history and that I would eventually become a teacher, but during my sophomore year I met a group of students organizing under the (historically borrowed) name of Students for a Democratic Society. I soon found myself spending all of my free time talking about politics and trying to find the best ways to fight for social justice and change the world.
During my senior year, when the cafeteria and campus workers and their union SEIU 200United began a contract fight with the University, I found the answer I was looking for. After a shop steward asked us for solidarity, we were soon all in for their struggle. I remember Bruce coming to an SDS meeting to tell us how much it meant that we were willing to organize student support for the workers and their fight for a living wage and maintaining healthcare benefits.
Soon after Bruce's visit, we were organizing multiple actions in support of the campus workers. We held petition drives, marched on the president's office to deliver the petitions, spoke out to masses of students in front of lectures, and even made a banner drop over Elmwood Ave. The workers were ultimately able to settle their contract without the proposed cuts to their healthcare, and I got a first hand lesson in how workers taking action on the job can make a huge impact on their lives and communities. I remember soon after this victory, a friend of mine in SDS told me that he could see me being like Bruce Popper one day, and I guess this really stuck with me until now.
After graduating from the U of R, I decided to enroll in a Labor Studies program at CUNY in New York City called Union Semester, I got a job as an organizer at the Communications Workers of America and helped groups of workers form unions at various airlines, nonprofits, and other industries. When I finally became a teacher some years later, becoming active in my union was a given. I am currently a United Federation of Teachers Delegate for my school, a member of our bargaining committee, and a general member activist in the union. I dedicated my life to the fight for a better world during my time as a student in Rochester, and partially because of meeting Bruce I found the labor movement to be my home for doing so.
May Bruce's memory live on and inspire the next generation to continue the fight, and my love to his family, friends, and union siblings. Solidarity Forever.
The last time I saw Bruce and Barb he looked well. The Doctors had him passing months before, but with continued and new treatment he had stabilized, was functioning, and there was hope. Alas, it was not to be. We served together on the Labor Council Board 32 years ago where Bruce was a Vice President.
Several years later the late Ron Pettengill retired and several unions nominated me for President. I told Bruce I was withdrawing and nominating him for President. We were the same age and the next generation and on the same page. Bruce would not have it. He said he would not take the position and some unions would not support him, as he was a troublemaker and bombthrower. He said to me, you have to be the good cop and keep them together. What he really seemed to me to be was the conscience of the local labor and justice movement. He did not back down, or hesitate to churn the waters when necessary.The number of strike lines, pickets, demonstrations, and speeches we made together are too numerous to recount here, but Bruce could move people toward justice.
When we were young we heard the great Cesar Chavez say the measure of a life is what you give, not what you take. A mentor of mine also said people are judged by what and who they leave behind. Bruce succeeded on both counts.His family, especially Barb and Dee Dee for starters,prove that. My condolences.The same for the friends he worked with and the younger ones he mentored in SEIU 1199.I know Denise Young, Zola Brown, Tracy Harrison,Larry Knox, Assemblyman Demond Meeks, and so many others from 1199, Labor Council, CBTU, and the community are saddened today, but we are better and so is our movement and community, because of Bruce. Rest In Peace Brother.
I was so sorry to hear that Bruce has left us. I have known Bruce since he arrived at 1199 SEIU in 1978. We had been friends while serving on the Labor Council Executive Committee until I retired in 2002. I, for the teachers and school support workers and Bruce, for the health care workers. We had always supported each other on the many projects impacting our members and the overall labor movement. Bruce had always been the ultimate ADVOCATE on behalf of the workers he represented. He was respected in the labor community as well as within the wider community. He was a fighter for social justice and racial equity and fought against poverty. My condolences to his entire family. The labor movement and the people he represented will all miss him. Bruce, you made the world a better place! Thank you! God bless you! Rest in peace.
Your old friend,
I had the privilege and honor to have known and serve with Bruce for nearly
30 years with the Rochester Labor Council. We had hundreds of intense conversations pertaining to Labor issues when I sat next to Bruce during our Executive Board and Delegates meetings. Bruce was undoubtedly the most Devoted and Involved Labor leader I had the privilege of serving with. Bruce always put the needs of the people he represented first and foremost. SEIU1199 and the Rochester Labor Council were very fortunate to have Bruce as one of their leaders.
Thank you Bruce for all your tireless work on behalf of all our union brothers and sisters.
You will be sorely missed by all who had the privilege of crossing paths with you.
Rest in peace Brother!
Former Financial Officer
Rochester Labor Council
My dear friend, Barbara, so sorry to hear of your loss of Bruce . Hoping all your happy memories will help you get through, thinking of you now and always.Fondly, Nancy Bostick
My deepest condolences to the family. He was a very kind gentlemen that always greeted you with a smile, and a hand shake with a hug. I've learned a lot over the 33 years of knowing Bruce how to fight for what we deserve in union negotiations at the University of Rochester. He will definitely be missed by all of us. We appreciate the family for sharing him with us over the years. I would like to say a job well done r.i.p Bruce
I will be forever fortunate to have Bruce as a friend. He was a great resource and mentor as I started in the labor movement. I told him he was a walking encyclopedia because he knew so much about a vast array of topics. Bruce was very kind and caring. My heartfelt sympathy to his family. We are all better people for having known him. Rest in Peace My Friend!