Ross Kenneth Rieder, a steadfast champion of Pacific Northwest labor history, died Dec. 14 at the age of 81 from complications from emergency surgery and progressing dementia.
Born April 19, 1940, in Yakima, Washington, Rieder attended public schools, and received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon in 1962.
That year he began teaching music and eighth grade chorus at Evergreen Jr. High School in Everett, Washington, where he became a member of the Everett Federation of Teachers, Local 772 of the American Federation of Teachers. In 1968 he was elected president of the Washington State Federation of Teachers (WSFT), and served until 1975.
His union career continued as a negotiator and organizer for IFPTE Local 17 from 1977 to 1979; as political action coordinator for Washington State Labor Council from 1979 through 1986; and as an organizer for the Snohomish County Labor Council from 1992 to 1997.
Rieder was passionate about preserving the history of working people, especially in the Pacific Northwest. He served as president of the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) from 1977 until 2015. There he produced the organization’s newsletter, helped present labor concerts and arts festivals, oversaw annual conferences, produced an annual labor history wall calendar, and created labor union walking tours in Seattle and Tacoma. He also hosted Everett radio station KSER’s “Part of the Union” program from 2000 to 2012, and he worked with the Washington Federation of State Employees filming a monthly public television segment called “Our View” that reflected on labor history.
In 2003, he became a charter member of the Washington Federation of Teachers Retiree Chapter, Local 8045R AFT, and served on its executive board from then until 2017, and as chapter president from 2009 to 2015.
Ross is survived by his wife Brenda Doolittle, sons, Stephen (Mary) Rieder and Michael Rieder, grandchildren, and former wife Evelyn Gershen.