John Robert Reid, Jr., retired 1199SEIU Executive Vice President, died of heart disease and complications from diabetes on August 31 in Baltimore. He was 68.
A strong and deeply respected leader in the labor movement, Reid will be remembered as a champion for working people and social justice. Hundreds of people came to Baltimore on September 19 from New York, Philadelphia and all over the Mid-Atlantic region not only to mourn his loss, but also to celebrate his life and legacy.
Reid was drafted into the US Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam. He was wounded, honorably discharged and awarded a Purple Heart. In 1975, he was hired as a Psychiatric Technician at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University. His talent for healthcare and passion for civil rights led him to become a union organizer for Philadelphia-area hospitals in 1979. For the next 26 years, he served as a Vice President and then Executive Vice President in various areas throughout 1199. In 2005, Reid relocated from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland, to take on the challenge of reorganizing 1199SEIU.
Reid worked tirelessly to expand 1199SEIU’s spirit of partnership and political action to help solve the problems brought on by our nation’s economic and healthcare crises. He oversaw the union’s efforts to expand healthcare access for thousands of Maryland residents, raise wages and improve benefits for hardworking families, and bring good jobs to the Maryland-D.C. region. For example, he led the fight for an historic union contract at Johns Hopkins Hospital, raising standards for healthcare workers in Baltimore and throughout the state. In December 2014, Reid retired from 1199SEIU after 39 years advocating for workers in the labor movement.
“He was a true gentleman, a great leader and just a wonderful person to be around,” said SEIU 32BJ Capital Area Director Jaime Contreras. Many times speaking before a crowd of workers, he was known to survey the gathering before him, pause thoughtfully, and declare “Standing tall, lookin’ good, you oughta be in Hollywood!”
Reid was memorialized in the late-October conventions of the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO and the Maryland/DC Alliance for Retired Americans, and earlier by the 1199SEIU Retirees Chapter, of which he was a new member.
John Reid is survived by his mother, his partner, his two daughters, a son-in-law, two sisters, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many other family members and friends.