Ken Spray, retired director of collective bargaining for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, passed away at his home in Beaverton on Sept. 20, after fighting a long battle with brain cancer. He was 64.
Kenneth W. Spray was born in Heppner, Oregon, on Oct. 8, 1947 to Richard and Esther Spray. He was raised in Spokane, Washington, where he graduated from high school and met and married his childhood sweetheart, Georgia Williams. They were wed on Feb. 26, 1966.
Spray served in the United States Navy. After a medical discharge he went to work as a union organizer for his father-in-law, the late Bill Williams, who was secretary-treasurer of Spokane Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 202.
Spray worked for a myriad of union locals throughout his career.
In 1972, SEIU sent him to Vancouver, Wash., to fill a vacancy at Local 92. There, he helped with an organizing and contract campaign that led to the first unionized hospital in Washington under a new law covering hospitals.
The following year he was in Seattle working at SEIU Local 6, and in 1975 he was off to Alaska to represent members of Public Employees Local 71 and the Alaska Public Employees Association. While there, Spray also worked as a wage and hour investigator for the state, helping recover millions of dollars for mistreated workers.
In 1988, Spray moved to Las Vegas to take a position as international rep for SEIU Local 1107, and later as executive director of the SEIU Council in Orange County, Calif.
He worked for SEIU Local 503 in Oregon starting in 1990.
In 1992 he was hired by Oregon AFSCME Council 75, and in 2003 he worked at UFCW Local 365 in Olympia, Washington.
He started work as a union rep for Tigard-based UFCW Local 555 in August of 2004, covering Southern Oregon. His family resided in Medford.
Shortly after Dan Clay was elected president of Local 555 in 2008, he named Spray director of collective bargaining for the local.
“Ken led the department through some of the most difficult and challenging times most workers have ever seen at the bargaining table or in workplaces across the country,” said Clay. “Wherever he went, whatever he did, Ken believed in workers. He fought for workers and he sacrificed for workers.”
Spray’s illness caused him to retire in December 2011.
Spray is survived by his wife, Georgia; son, William; daughter, Yvonne Fink; four grandchildren, one great-grandson; brother, Dick Spray; sister Judy Hoferer; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Contributions may be made in his memory to the American Cancer Society. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.