Lenny Dick, a PSC executive council member known for his passion for organizing and representing workers and students at CUNY, died of a heart attack on August 27. He was 70.
An adjunct instructor in the mathematics and computer science department at Bronx Community College (BCC), Dick was a tireless advocate for anyone whom he believed wasn’t getting a fair deal. As a PSC executive council member, Dick highlighted the economic plight of workers and organized adjuncts, and pushed for better compensation – from health insurance to higher pay rates – and more job security from CUNY. BCC Chapter Chair Sharon Utakis said his death “leaves a gaping hole in our chapter.”
ALWAYS A FIGHTER
Dick died as he lived, spending his last days gearing up for campus organizing in the new semester.
“The day before he died, Lenny called me excited about a three-hour BCC executive board meeting he had attended on Thursday,” recalled retiree Glenn Kissack. “He was enthusiastic about the young leaders at his college and their plans to have a rally there when the contract expires in November. He told me of his plans to speak with other adjuncts and to invite students to the rally. He was ready to go. Lenny was never happier than when he was in the heat of battle.”
Allison Gorr, the PSC adjunct liaison for BCC who worked in Dick’s department, recalled, “Lenny was an outspoken, dedicated and optimistic leader, who always encouraged adjuncts to be more involved in union activities.” She told Clarion, “He helped organize chapter meetings, campus rallies and other actions. He introduced me to the PSC at BCC many years ago and often assisted me in my liaison work with part-time members.”
According to friends and family, Dick came of age during the movements for labor and civil rights. He was a member of the Students for a Democratic Society and part of the student uprisings at Columbia University in the 1960s. Before teaching at BCC, Dick was a New York City public school teacher, a career he risked by being a vocal advocate for students’ rights.
PSC Treasurer Sharon Persinger recalled how Dick was instrumental in her becoming active in the union when she joined his department at BCC. She noted how he always mobilized the chapter to get involved in broader social justice issues, such as protecting unionized cafeteria workers on campus who were facing layoffs.
“We put out leaflets at the cafeteria and with their union, UNITE HERE, organized a rally at the campus gate to educate students and faculty about their situation, and to pressure the administration to ensure the workers kept their jobs,” she said. “Lenny organized the BCC chapter to attend the rallies to support the family of Ramarley Graham, a young man from the Bronx killed in 2012 by a NYPD officer, in their fight to get some justice for him. He kept his eyes on workers’ struggles, especially in the Bronx, and organized the BCC chapter to act in support of those fights.”
RAISE A VOICE
PSC President Barbara Bowen told union delegates, “No rally was too small for Lenny, no effort of resistance was unimportant. At our next rally, coming soon, we should raise a loud shout on his behalf. I admired Lenny for his modesty, his relentlessness, his refusal to be diverted or discouraged.”