A letter from the chair on the retirement of Steven Pitts

Ken Jacobs

It is with mixed emotions that I write to let our friends know that our longtime colleague and Associate Director Dr. Steven Pitts retired last month.

Steven is known to many across California and nationally in the labor movement. He came to the Labor Center in 2001 from Houston, Texas, where he had received his Ph.D. in economics with an emphasis on urban economics from the University of Houston and had been active as an organizer, activist, and professor.

When I arrived at the Labor Center in 2002, he told me that his ambition was to build a national Black worker center. Eighteen years later, he helped the UC Berkeley Labor Center incubate the National Black Worker Center Project; he has also provided technical assistance to affiliate local groups across the country from Baltimore to Mississippi to Los Angeles to Oakland. Along the way, he also produced a series of data reports on the state of Black workers in the Great Recession; helped create a curriculum for unions to help foster solidarity between Black and Latinx immigrant workers; founded our own C.L. Dellums African American Union Leadership School, now more than a decade old; led our leadership and training programs; provided technical assistance and support to numerous union locals and leaders; and served as our Associate Director.

Steven is a keen analyst and wise observer of worker movements. He has also been a wonderful colleague and mentor to all of us; his door has been wide open and he has helped us all grow in our work and as human beings. We will miss hearing his beloved jazz, his riffs on local sports teams, and most of all his unselfish presence among us.

In honor of Steven’s work, and in support of the Black Lives Matter uprising, we would like to invite you to help continue his legacy at the Labor Center with a contribution to the Center’s Black Worker Program. The program will continue to provide research on Black Workers, technical assistance to Black Workers’ Centers, and labor education for unionists active in the Black community. Donations can be made at this link: Friends of the Labor Center; please note there is a place on the donation page to indicate that this a gift in honor of Steven Pitts.

In Solidarity,
Ken Jacobs