On November 20, 2022 IBEW 1245 organizer Fred Ross, Jr., passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. He died at home surrounded by his family and friends.
A legend in labor organizing circles, Brother Ross began his organizing career with the United Farm Workers (UFW) and later continued it with SEIU where he organized hospital workers, at UNITE HERE where he supported hotel workers, and ultimately with IBEW 1245.
Organizing was in Fred’s blood.
His father, Fred Ross Sr., was an acclaimed organizer who developed multi-racial Community Service Organizations (CSO) and mentored Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla, as they built the United Farmworkers’ Union (UFW). Brother Ross followed his father to the fields and quickly steeped himself in the struggle for farm worker rights.
Fred’s mother, Frances Lillian Gibson Ross, organized support systems for Dust Bowl refugees and refugees of the Spanish Civil War. She helped resettle Jewish physicians fleeing Nazi Germany and pioneered community mental health and independent living.
Fred’s life-long partner and labor lawyer, Margo Feinberg, wrote living wage laws and was instrumental in developing the political strategies to deliver living wage ordinances across California and later the United States.
Brother Ross joined IBEW 1245 in 2009, leading the successful campaign to restore retiree medical benefits that had been unilaterally slashed by NV Energy. The battle took more than two years. “It had all the elements,” Ross declared, including a plan, staff, member leaders, an 80+ members organizing committee, solidarity, action, media, back channels, and the extraordinary bargaining skill of 1245 leadership.
After the NV Energy victory and at the behest of former Business Manager Tom Dalzell, Brother Ross and his long-time organizing partner Eileen Purcell conceived and implemented IBEW 1245’s Organizing Steward program – an intergenerational, multi-racial leadership development program that promotes hands-on learning. From contract fights to political fights in 1245’s jurisdiction and across the United States, Organizing Stewards build and lead campaigns, learning-by-doing.
Brother Ross and the organizing team trained hundreds of IBEW 1245 members on the importance of organizing, solidarity, and political action, from the picket line to getting out the vote. Over the last ten years, IBEW 1245 has dispatched hundreds of Organizing Stewards to work campaigns, honing their skills and returning ready to fight the good fight at home.
After thirteen years with IBEW 1245, Brother Ross retired in February 2022. On his last day at the hall, he passed the torch to the Organizing Team with great pride and gratitude.
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean and the Executive Board have continued to invest in the organizing work as we build the Brotherhood and Sisterhood.
In the recent 2022 midterm elections, IBEW 1245’s organizing team – led by Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Rene Cruz Martinez and Organizers Charlotte Stevens, Rick Thompson, and Melissa Echeverria – oversaw the field operation of more than 100 Organizing Stewards, staff and volunteers who worked with Central Labor Councils across northern California and Nevada to safeguard working families’ interests at the ballot box.
Brother Ross’s lasting impact on IBEW 1245 will benefit our membership and the labor movement for years to come.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Ross family.
–Updated Statement by Business Manager Bob Dean with contributions from Sr. Advisor Eileen Purcell
Photos by John Storey
Words of Remembrance
Since his death, tributes have poured in, detailing the countless organizing feats Brother Ross undertook in defense of workers, refugees, and the underdog and the many lives he touched as an organizer, a friend and a mentor. Here is a selection of the remembrances from IBEW 1245 by Staff, Organizing Stewards, active members and retirees:
Fred’s incredible dedication to our cause, his energy and desire to mentor his brothers and sisters helped to take 1245 in a new direction with the creation of our Organizing Steward program. He was a true believer and will be missed. -Bob Dean, Business Manager
Fred loved life! He loved organizing! He cherished his family. He bristled at injustices anywhere and everywhere. He reveled in the Organizing Stewards of 1245 – hope for the present and the future. He was and remains my brother, friend and organizing partner. Thank you, Fred, for a lifetime of ‘good trouble.’ ¡Fred Ross, presente! – Eileen Purcell, Senior Advisor/Organizer
Fred knew how to bring people together. He was always behind me, pushing me out of my comfort zone to make me a better organizer. I am a better organizer because of Fred. I will continue to honor his work by passing on what I learned and help develop new leaders within our union. Rest in peace brother! You will be deeply missed. With much love and respect. -Rene Cruz Martinez, Assistant Business Manager/Organizer
I am extremely honored to have sat at his feet and learned the art of organizing, developing relationships, and fighting the good fight. That day I accepted the torch that was placed in my hand and I vowed to run the race with passion and dignity for the people we serve. Thank you, Fred, for your mentorship and friendship. I will remain Fired Up and Ready To Go! Rest in Power Brother! – Charlotte Stevens, Staff Organizer
Fred’s impact on my life was both direct and profound. Fred showed me the meaning of brotherhood…I didn’t just find my calling in life through Fred’s encouragement, he personally saw to it that I became an organizer. I was facing an uncertain future and he helped me weather that difficult time with dignity. His effort wasn’t charity: it was solidarity. And even though he holds a very personal significance to me, I know I am just one of countless people who had the honor of knowing Fred as a mentee, as a colleague, and as a brother. I will treasure his memory always. – Rick Thompson, Staff Organizer
I’m so fortunate and humbled to have been mentored by one of the best, Fred Ross, Jr. I’ll never forget my first out of state campaign and the day Fred arrived, he gave an astounding speech at the Denver Area Labor Fed and the animo he filled us with was infectious, it fired everyone up that early morning. That’s the way Fred was – always lighting a fire in us that we didn’t know we had. It was an honor and privilege of my life to have been your friend and your sister in labor. – Melissa Echeverria, Staff Organizer
We have lost a truly great union brother. Fearless yet kind. Rest in Peace Fred. – Cecilia De La Torre, Executive Board President
Fred was instrumental in the fight with NV Energy for retiree’s benefits. Rest in peace Fred. – Thomas Cornell, Executive Board Treasurer
To say he changed all of our lives would be an understatement. He certainly changed mine in ways I never thought would be possible…Fred showed me skills and the power we all have within ourselves to work for a cause to help change in our communities. His legacy is all of us and in the work we do! – Rita Weisshaar, Lead Organizing Steward/Retiree
Fred truly motivated so many and had a huge impact on so many of us! I am honored to have known him and will forever keep his memory alive in all the sacred organizing work I do for years to come! Rest in Power brother. – Brenda Balcazar, Lead Organizing Steward
What a great man! I learned a lot from him. To never give up and fight till the end. To have perseverance no matter what. To be a Social Arsonist. To always be ready to fire up! It was a great pleasure to work along with you. The labor movement lost a great organizer. – Arnaldo Lizzarraga, Lead Organizing Steward
With a heavy heart, I bid my comrade Fred farewell, and quote the great Irish dramatist William Butler Yeats, who perfectly sums up my feelings toward Fred, ‘and say my glory was I had such friends.’ – Kevin Krummes, Lead Organizing Steward/Retiree
Fred didn’t care whether it was a small election or high profile, I believe he just loved the fight. – Rodrigo Flores, Lead Organizing Steward
I met Fred at my first organizing meeting. I was so impressed and proud that my union had found a passionate Irish man, full of life and guided by principles that are nothing short of saintly. He will always be with us in spirit every day and for every fight. Love this man. Love this patron saint of organizing. – Steven Marcotte, Lead Organizing Steward
I could always count on him for wisdom, knowledge, and motivation. I miss him so much. – Kurene ‘KT’ Turner, Lead Organizing Steward
I am inspired by Fred for contributing to our Organizing Steward program as a teacher, leader, and forever mentor…You are well known in the labor world and your name will always be a part of IBEW 1245. I aspire to be an innovator like yourself in the future. You have made your mark in the world. – Alvin Dayoan, Lead Organizing Steward
I learned from him how to energize, educate, and agitate others. The love and passion he had for labor was so infectious. Icons like him never die, we multiply ¡Viva Fred Ross, Jr, Que Viva! – Nilda Holguin, Organizing Steward
He was such an inspiration and was fearless. He was proudly arrested multiple times for standing in solidarity with workers. I fortunately witnessed one of those arrests, it was so cool. When I thought I couldn’t do things, Fred was always there to tell me I can. I am so honored to have known this selfless man, who taught me so much.” – Georgette Carrillo, Organizing Steward
I feel honored that I met you, one-of-a-kind man who will never be forgotten. – Dorine Shaner, Organizing Steward
Fred Ross was the gold standard in his relationships, whether personal or professional. In my association with Fred, he was an incredibly wonderful person who always made me feel special. I will miss him with his positive forward-looking approach to life. May Fred’s family buffer their sadness with the knowledge that Fred was truly, a great person. – William ‘Bill’ Wallace, Retiree/Organizing Steward
My late husband Ron, with his strong voice and his conviction to ‘do the right thing,’ was recognized by Fred, Eileen, and Tom Dalzell. With Fred’s leadership, he taught us how to organize and stay strong. I will miss his hug and the solidarity chants whenever I attend the Organizing Stewards gatherings. Gone to soon brother Fred Ross, Jr. You are deeply missed. -Vickie Borst, Organizing Steward/Retiree
I remember traveling to Reno and carpooling with two of my union brothers to attend a very important rally to fight for the 1245 retirees who were battling for their benefits. Fred was there together with us to fight the good fight. We’ll miss you brother. – Ken Rawles, Organizing Steward/Retiree
He was a very inspirational and fearless leader of our movement and was a champion in our efforts to keep retiree medical benefits. He was so kind to me when I was struggling with cancer a few years ago. Fred called took the time to counsel and encourage me. Fred was not only great with our union, but he was great with many of us personally! – Jim Lappin, Organizing Steward/Retiree
I met Fred at a Local 1245 retirees meeting in 2019. I loved his energy and he persuaded me and a few others to join the Organizing Stewards. We worked on many projects, including several trips to the state capitol. I will miss my dear friend, he will always be an inspiration for me to continue my work with our union IBEW 1245. – Ruth Bailey, Organizing Steward/Retiree
As great as an Organizer as he was, I think he was a better person. It was a privilege to know him and I will miss him. – Dan Dougherty, Organizing Steward/Retiree
Fred came to an East Bay retiree’s meeting to talk about the Organizing Stewards. Well next thing I know, I’m an Organizing Steward…He was able to get me out of my comfort zone and got me to go to a couple of rallies in San Francisco and Oakland. I’m going to miss Fred. The world is a better place because of him. – David Palmer, Organizing Steward/Retiree
Fred will be missed by so many, especially the IBEW retirees whom he was instrumental in making their lives so much better. – Sue Bird, NV Energy Retiree
I have told so many people how Fred and IBEW 1245 helped save the NV Energy retirees medical on so many levels. What Fred personally gave me is a part of his heart and knowledge…Fred, you were and always will be an inspiration. – Thomas ‘T-Bird’ Bird, NV Energy Retiree and President of NV Alliance of Retired Americans
There was no conversation with Fred that didn’t leave me pondering his insights for long after we parted ways. He will be sorely missed. – Alexander Pacheco, General Counsel
It was not until I came on staff that I really realized the impact of the organizing group and what they do and how vital of a program it is, that was built by Fred and Eileen. Such a powerful yet soft spoken gentle and kind man that will always be looked up to. He set an example of a man that was selfless in the entirety of his life. – Fred Aboud, Business Rep
In solidarity with deepest condolences for the Ross Family and to All of you who knew this great man. Sending positive vibes of love, peace and understanding. – Mark MauMau, Business Rep
For those of us who were lucky enough to have you as our mentor, may we keep your memory alive and pass on what you’ve taught us all. Thank you for that my dear friend. Rest in peace. – Kim Camatti, Business Rep/Former Lead Organizing Steward
I loved being part of the organizing family and working with him on all our campaigns. I learned a lot from him and what it meant to organize. I will never forget to be fired up, ready to go! – Mark Goodwin, Business Rep/Former Lead Organizing Steward
Thank you for all the help you provided me when I needed it. And thank you for all you did for labor and humanity ¡Si Se Puede! – Jaime Tinoco, Business Rep
A public memorial will be held Feb. 26 at Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco. RSVP is required at FredRossJrMemorial@gmail.com. In lieu of flowers, the Ross family asks that contributions go to the Fred Ross Project. Condolences to the family may be sent to FredRossMemories@gmail.com.
For further reading on Brother Ross’ lifelong service to the labor movement:
Rest in Power, Fred Ross Jr., 1947–2022 (AFLCIO.org)
Remembering Fred Ross Jr., legendary farmworker organizer (berkeleyside.org)
Fred Ross Jr.’s matchless organizing talents empowered farm and other workers (UFW.org)
Fred Ross, Jr.: An Appreciation (captialandmain.com)