Larry Kenney, former president of the Washington State Labor Council, passed away May 14 at his home in Seattle after a long illness. He was surrounded by his wife, former Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, and his children. He was 82.
Lawrence Kenney was born May 15, 1930, in Chicago. Kenney was raised in the Bremerton area, where he graduated from Bremerton High School in 1947. He worked for 17 years as a newspaper and job shop printer. He was an activist in the International Typographical Union. He served a six-year apprenticeship at the San Francisco Chronicle and worked at The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. While working at the P-I, Kenney attended the University of Washington, where he earned his degree in economics. After graduation, he worked as a certified public accountant.
Kenney was hired by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in 1969 to serve as research director. He was elected secretary-treasurer in 1980, serving with then-President Marvin Williams. In 1986, Kenney was elected WSLC president, a position he held until 1993.
In June of 1986, Kenney and the WSLC voted to use the Labor Press as a source of communication for its affiliated local unions and trade councils. WSLC published a one- or two-page newsletter once a month in the Labor Press. The action resulted in a name-change for the newspaper — from Oregon Labor Press to Oregon/Washington Labor Press — to reflect the broader coverage. In 1987 the name was changed again to Northwest Labor Press.
After retiring from the WSLC, Kenney served on the Washington State Board of Tax Appeals from 1993-99 and on the executive board of Energy Northwest since 2000.
“Larry Kenney’s work and life made a difference to the labor movement whether it was through strengthening the workers’ compensation system, running the first minimum wage initiative in 1988, which included farm workers and tipped employees, or reminding us of the importance of the judicial system on working peoples’ lives. I will miss Larry Kenney. He will be missed,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson.
A longtime member of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, Kenney previously served on Gov. Booth Gardner’s Council of Economic Advisors, the Governor’s Commission on Accountability and Efficiency in State Government, the Economic Development Alliance of Washington, and many other boards, commissions and civic organizations.
He was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Kenney is survived by his wife, Phyllis; two children, Karen Brooks and Brian Kenney; eight stepchildren; 21 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
A public memorial service was held. June 1 in Seattle.