Wendell W. Young III, 74, president emeritus of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 and an influential labor leader in Pennsylvania for many years, died of liver cancer January 1.
Young got his first job at age 16 as a part-time clerk at the Acme Market in Philadelphia. He later joined the union and was elected shop steward.
By age 22, Young had become business agent of Retail Clerks Local 1357 and a year later was elected president of the 5,000 member local, making him one of the youngest labor leaders inPennsylvania.
During Young’s 43 years as union head, the bargaining unit grew from representing clerks in Philadelphia and the close-in suburbs to advocating for 24,000 workers in the region and across Pennsylvania. Over the years, the union experienced growth through expansion, company mergers and, in 1979, a merger with a meatcutters union.
Young was also instrumental in preventing the sale of Acme markets by presenting management with a plan to have employees buy the company. The plan was rejected, but the stores were taken off the market. When A&P stores were about to go out of business in 1981, he helped to develop a plan that led to the creation of the SuperFresh chain. He also was a leading advocate for the retention ofPennsylvania’s state liquor store system, whose employees are members of Local 1776.
Young held various positions in the AFL-CIO’s state chapter and from 1995 until his retirement in 2005 hosted a weekly talk show, “Talking Unions,” on WHAT-FM 1340 that discussed activities of the American labor movement.
Local 1776 now includes workers in retail, food processing and healthcare as well as office and administrative workers and employees of Pennsylvania’s state liquor stores. Young III was succeeded as president of UFCW Local 1776 by his son Wendell Young IV and continued as chairman emeritus of the organization.
Young had served an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s University, where he graduated in 1960 with a degree in political science. He later received a master’s degree in business administration from Rutgers University.
In addition to his son Wendell, he is survived by his wife, Katherine; sons Brian, Scott, Eric, Brendan and Matthew, and 13 grandchildren.