NORTH BERGEN, NJ – Robert E. Gleason, who served as Secretary-Treasurer of the International Longshoremen’s Association, for over 20 years, passed away in his hometown of Warwick, New York. He had just celebrated his 82nd birthday last month on August 8th.
Robert Emmet Gleason followed his father, legendary ILA President Teddy Gleason, into the ILA and while the elder Mr. Gleason may have been a tough act to follow, Robert Gleason made his own mark on the ILA and earned the respect of officers and members from Maine to Texas, the Great Lakes region, Canada. Teddy Gleason led the ILA through containerization and won landmark contracts for his members, but Bobby (as he was known around the ILA) Gleason expanded the ILA’s role in legislative issues and public policy.
His usual workweek at the International saw him shuttle between the ILA’s legislative office in Washington and the International’s offices in Downtown Manhattan. He helped win major legislative victories for longshore workers and enjoyed close relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle from Congressmen Jack Kemp and Richard Gephardt to Senators Robert Dole and Ted Kennedy. He was instrumental in encouraging former President Ronald Reagan to address the ILA’s Quadrennial Convention in July 1983.
“Bobby Gleason was an ILA legend in his own right,” said current International President Harold J. Daggett. “Throughout his stellar career, he worked harder than anyone I know. He made Teddy Gleason proud. Bobby’s accomplishments were great, and his memory will endure.”
In 2012, a year after his sixth consecutive election to a four-year term as International Secretary-Treasurer in 2012, Gleason retired from the ILA. In total, Robert Gleason devoted over half a century working for the longshore union, which was headed for 24-years between 1963 and 1987 by his father, Thomas W. (Teddy) Gleason.
Prior to his international post, Robert Gleason previously served as Secretary-Treasurer of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast District for eight years. Gleason was the fourth-generation family member to work in the longshoring industry. His entrance into the union came in 1957 when he worked as a checker with Sea-Land in Port Newark as a member of Local 1, ILA.
Between 1961 and 1963, Gleason served in the U.S. Army and was stationed with the Transportation Corps in the Panama Canal region. After active duty, Gleason first worked with Seatrain and later with the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington. Gleason was elected to a four-year term as secretary-treasurer of the Atlantic Coast District at the District’s 1983 convention. He was re-elected to another four-year term in 1987.
In 2006, Gleason was honored by the Seafarers & International House in New York City, one of the industry’s top maritime organizations. Also in 2006, Mr. Gleason was invited by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to serve as a member of the Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) as an employee representative. Mr. Gleason was a Vice President and Board member of the DC Friends of Ireland and he served as a Vice President and Executive Board member of the New York State AFL-CIO.
At the time of his passing, Robert Gleason resided in Warwick, New York and his wife, Judy. The couple have two grown daughters, Lauren and Erin.