Last month Kenny Jacobs left for the big union hall in the sky. He died on March 18, 2017.
Some members still remember Kenny, the Fry’s meat cutter who had two things on him always: a smile and his union button. He even wore his button on the day of his funeral.
Kenny joined the union in 1968 and stayed a member more than 40 years.
I met Kenny nearly 25 years into his Local 99 membership. He was a big man who never missed an opportunity to strike up a conversation and get to know you, no matter who you were. Everyone who talked with him left feeling good about it — and felt good about him.
If you worked with Kenny, you knew where he stood and you knew he had your back.
Kenny served as a union steward and on the local’s Executive Board. He was on bargaining committees for the meat contract — there are still provisions in the contract that Kenny helped write.
He was a mentor for many leaders who work for Local 99 today. And at his store he helped many apprentices who later moved into management at Fry’s. That’s the kind of man he was.
If you worked in his store, Kenny would sign you up as a member of the union and train you to be a steward. He would bring you to union meetings and discuss the contract with you.
Kenny would make sure that you met your rep, and if you had a problem he would personally dial the number to the local so you could talk to a rep.
He cared. He felt he had a responsibility to make his union stronger. He belonged and knew that for the union to work, its members had to be engaged.
He was a great example for all of us.
Kenny was proud of his work and proud to be a worker. Even after he retired, if you asked him what he did for a living he would say, “I’m a union meat cutter.”
When people like Kenny pass away, you miss them. You miss talking to them, seeing them and learning from them.
In death, Kenny wouldn’t want to be missed. He would want to be remembered for the way he helped people. He would want to be the man who encouraged men and women to pick up where he left off building a union and making it stronger.
If anyone wants to know what they can do to help their union, look no further than the example set by Kenny Jacobs.
And don’t miss him. Remember him.
Keep our union strong.