Seth Rosen, a old friend and a great organizer, died tragically on Friday July 20th. Seth drowned off Ocracoke Island in North Carolina while vacationing with his wife Kathi Thomas Rosen. Seth was only 55 and was a long time organizer and leader for the Communications Workers of America. He was the CWA Vice President for the midwest region including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin leading the 75,000 CWA members of District 4.
Seth was not a parlor general. In 2004 I spent a week with Seth working on behalf of John Kerry and other progressives and he had me out leafletting in front of a CWA workplace in downtown Cleveland at 7AM and phone banking in Akron at 8:30PM the same night. Seth recently led the successful negotiation of a new contract with AT&T for the CWA. Seth served as board chair for Policy Matters Ohio, a progressive coalition in Ohio. He played a leadership role in many progressive fights in Ohio including the recent successful referendum rolling back anti-union legislation in Ohio. Seth also played a leadership role in the national Jobs with Justice campaign, building labor community alliances.
Seth was a grounded progressive who spent more than thirty years in the labor movement, working to both develop leadership and to make people's lives better by winning better contracts. He attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a degree in Latin American History but instead of heading off to Central America or to graduate school as some of our friends did in 1979 when he graduated, he went to work for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company and started his career as a rank and file activist in the Communication Workers of America local. Within a couple of years Seth and Kathi moved to Cleveland, Kathi's hometown, and Seth went to work for Ohio Bell and continued his union activism, gradually assuming greater leadership roles first in his local and then in the District.
I got to know both Seth and Kathi as campus activists and apartment mates at the University of Chicago in the late 1970s. We organized for the University to divest from South Africa and to support a clerical union organizing effort on campus. Seth had a great sense of humor and though he took organizing and politics seriously, he never took himself seriously and was always with a joke or a witty comment or his guitar to break the tension.
He had a great sense of humor and was a fine musician; playing mandolin and spending part of every summer with Kathi at a folk music camp teaching music and playing. Seth and his wife Kathi are the parents of two grown children, Amanda and Josh. Please keep his family in your thoughts.