Gary Kirkland, a longtime member of Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 11, passed away Sept. 8, 2017, following a short bout with cancer. He was 70 years old.
Kirkland was involved with OPEIU for 40 years. At the age of 28 he was elected a vice president to the international union’s Executive Board, and he served as an international representative. Prior to that he was an organizer and business representative for Local 11.
He was appointed secretary-treasurer of Local 11 in January 1978, following the resignation of Stu Crosby. Eight months later, International President Howard Coughlin appointed him to be OPEIU’s regional director of organizing. The new responsibility came in addition to his duties as head of Local 11, and as an international vice president. He served as Local 11’s secretary-treasurer until May 2002, when he lost re-election. He then went to work for the OPEIU international union.
During his tenure at Local 11, Kirkland negotiated landmark “joint accords” with NW Natural Gas that guaranteed no layoffs. The last contract he bargained in 1997 was a seven-year deal. It was preceded by five-year and three-year agreements guaranteeing no layoffs.
During his career Kirkland also served on the Executive Board of the Multnomah County Labor Council (and later the Northwest Oregon Labor Council) as a representative of the Maritime Trades Council. He served for many years as president of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Board of Directors, and on the Executive Board of the Union Labor Retirement Association, which operates Kirkland Union Manors I, II, and III, Westmoreland Union Manor, Marshall Union Manor, and Kirkland Union Plaza. The federally-financed apartment buildings for retired workers carry the name of Kirkland’s father, labor leader Earl Kirkland, who was a founder.
Gary Dean Kirkland was born in Vancouver, Washington, on May 19, 1947, to Earl B. and Lois (Hash) Kirkland. After graduating from Columbia River High School in 1965, he attended Clark Community College while working at Alcoa Aluminum. Kirkland enlisted and served in the U.S. Army as a transportation rank staff sergeant. After the military he entered the apprenticeship program of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 36. Shortly after that he started his career with OPEIU.
Kirkland is survived by his wife, Nancy; son, Dean; daughter, Brandi M. Kirkland; their mother, Janice M. (Mahoney); two grandchildren; and three sisters. He was preceded in death by his son, Kristian; twin brother, Larry; and his parents.
A memorial service with full military honors was held Sept. 22 in Vancouver. Remembrances can be made to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation at www.rmef.org.