The global labor movement lost a friend and advocate, and the Solidarity Center a dear colleague with the passing of Laurence “Laurie” Clements on April 19 after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. Laurie is survived by his wife, Inja, a son, two daughters and two step-daughters.

Before Laurie’s impactful tenure at the Solidarity Center, he was a respected figure in the academic and union spheres. Starting his career at the University of Iowa Labor Center in 1984, he rose to director in 1994. Simultaneously, he served as president of the American Federation of Teachers local union and secretary-treasurer of the Iowa State Federation of Teachers. He further honed his expertise and leadership by facilitating training programs, seminars and workshops in several Balkan countries from 1996 to 2000.

Laurie joined the Solidarity Center in 2001 as country program director in Serbia. His dedication and passion for our mission took him to the Middle East and North Africa region in 2005, where he ran programs in Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon.  His leadership and invaluable contributions to our work, which we remember with deep gratitude, are a testament to his unwavering commitment. 

Those fortunate enough to have attended Laurie’s training programs were witness to his unique ability to connect with participants. Our union partners, in particular, who engaged in his inspiring and thought-provoking sessions, left with a renewed sense of commitment to building union strength and solidarity. 

Laurie’s fervor for organizing to advance worker rights was not just a professional pursuit but a deeply personal one. It was ignited at a young age when he witnessed the plight of workers in his neighborhood, who often suffered from work-related injuries and deaths at the docks and shipyards in his hometown of Cardiff, Wales. This early experience instilled in him a profound commitment to occupational safety and health protections.

In his recently published autobiography, “A Poem on Life,” he wrote about his childhood growing up in a government-owned “council house” with his family of five, witnessing the solidarity of the working people in his neighborhood and the power of unions to improve their lives. 

These were families who had a strong understanding of collective action,” he wrote, “and they understood the bonds of solidarity that were expressed in the industrial action of the trade union movement. The improvements in their lives had come primarily from unionization.”

Laurie Clements was a great trade unionist and a wonderful person. It was a privilege to work alongside him and call him a colleague, friend, and brother.

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