WVPA Sharing

Former WV AFL-CIO President Jim Bowen passes away

WV Press Release Sharing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former West Virginia AFL-CIO President Jim Bowen, who dedicated his life and career to the betterment of working men and women across the state of West Virginia and the entire country, passed away today at the age of 87.

Jim Bowen

“I struggle to put into words how important Jim Bowen has been to the labor movement here in West Virginia,” said WV AFL-CIO President Josh Sword. “He was a mentor to me and so many others who strive to help workers secure good paying, safe jobs and have a powerful voice in the workplace.”

Jim served as president of the WV AFL-CIO from 1997 to 2004.

West Virginia State Senator Mike Caputo, D-Marion, who served as WV AFL-CIO Vice President and was a longtime UMWA representative, issued the following statement regarding the passing of Bowen:

“The world is a better place because of Jim Bowen’s efforts for working people across West Virginia and the entire United States,” Caputo said. “Every day, whether it was on the picket lines at the steel mills and coal mines or in the halls of the Capitol, if it was your fight, it was Jim’s fight. He always put himself before others, and led by example.

“Jim’s passing leaves a tremendous hole in our hearts, and I will dearly miss his friendship, but he will continue to inspire all of us in the labor movement here in West Virginia and beyond to fight even harder to give working families a better way of life. He would expect no less.” 

Kenny Perdue, who was president of the WV AFL-CIO from 2004 until his retirement in 2016, was secretary-treasurer during Jim’s tenure as president.

“Jim Bowen was a force of nature,” Perdue said. “He was known for his booming, deep voice that would not only be heard loud and clear among the countless rallies and protests, but also in the halls of the Statehouse, where he tirelessly fought for laws to protect and respect working people.”

“Jim often cited ten two-letter words: ‘If it is to be, it is up to us.’”

Jim was an active member of the United Steelworkers of America for 42 years, a full-time International Representative for 32 years, and had been involved with the West Virginia AFL-CIO since 1965. Before becoming president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, Jim served as a vice-president, both for the West Virginia and the Ohio AFL-CIOs.

He also served on numerous committees in West Virginia government, including the Port Authority, Judicial Selection Committee, Labor-Management Advisory Committee, Children’s Task Force Committee, Hospital Finance Authority, Steel Advisory Commission, Kid’s Chance of West Virginia Committee, and Steel Futures Corporation. He also was a member of the Board of Directors of Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corporation and a National Committeeman from West Virginia on the Democratic National Committee.

Sword recalled recently discussing with Jim the 30-year anniversary of the nearly two-year lockout at Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation of the members of the United Steelworkers Local 5668, who won the long-fought dispute. Some 1,700 workers were locked out, after the company refused to listen to concerns over health and safety, despite the fact several workers at the plant had died from severe heat exhaustion during the summer of 1990.

Bowen was one of the main contract negotiators. “Jim said there are five qualities that led to their victory: labor solidarity, community support, bravery, creativity and perseverance. That sums up how Jim conducted himself throughout his career. He never gave up, and he inspires all of us to live up to his unwavering standards.”                

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