Lynn Lehrbach, a longtime representative of Teamsters Joint Council 37, died Jan. 5 from liver cancer. He was 79.
Lehrbach served as political director for the Joint Council from 2005 until his retirement in November 2012. He also was the construction representative for the Teamsters international union. He held the seat of first vice president of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council for many years. After retiring, he served as president of the Teamsters Retirees Club.
Lynn Roger Lehrbach was born on Sept. 22, 1937, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. His two brothers and sister grew up in a union family. As a young boy Lehrbach delivered sandwiches that his mother and other volunteers made, to workers on strike at International Harvester. Lehrbach witnessed confrontations between thousands of striking workers and the police during the strike. It was a moment in his life that he said inspired him to stand up for what he knew to be right.
Following a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Lehrbach began his union career in 1959 in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, with the United Auto Workers (UAW). In the eight years that he worked there, Lehrbach was a chief steward and a member of the Executive Board. He helped negotiate contracts, sitting alongside UAW President Walter Reuther and across the table from American Motors President George Romney. In 1961, Reuther assigned Lerhbach to the UAW’s Fair Employment Practice Committee. Following that, Reuther assigned Lehrbach to work as a UAW representative to the civil rights movement. In that capacity Lehrbach assisted in the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. During that time he met Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, and he worked closely with Ralph Abernathy.
After moving to Portland, Lehrbach became a line driver for Crown Zellerbach and a member of Teamsters Local 162. He served as president of the local from 1983-86. From there he became a business representative for Local 582 in Spokane (now Local 690), and three years later he was hired by Local 58 in Vancouver, Washington, as its business rep.
In 1995, then-president Al Panek hired Lehrbach as a union rep for the Teamsters Joint Council No. 37.
Lehrbach was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to the Tri-Met board of directors. He served one term, from 2011-15. In 2015 he was the lone “no” vote on the seven-member board when the transit agency ended Fareless Square in downtown Portland.
Lehrbach was married three times. He is survived by seven children and numerous grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Teamsters Joe Edgar Hall, 1870 NE 162nd Ave., Portland.