[On Friday LNS co-founder Tim Costello passed away at his home in Cambridge, MA. Tim left us a powerful legacy and was central in shaping LNS’s focus and strategy. He is dearly missed. We are inviting Tim’s friends and colleagues to send in their thoughts and memories to the Tim’s memorial page, available here: http://laborstrategies.blogs.com.]
Tim Costello, an architect of innovative strategies for the labor movement and the author of numerous articles and books on labor and globalization, died at home on December 4, 2009. The cause was pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Costello was born in Boston on June 13, 1945 to Thomas and Claire (MacPhee) Costello, and raised in Dedham, MA. As a teenager he worked with his father as a construction laborer and learned from him the value of worker organization, often typing the correspondence of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, the union for which his father served as president for many years.
As a young man, Mr. Costello went to work as a fuel oil delivery driver and became active in the Teamster’s union and the union reform movement. Always an avid reader and writer, he set up an office in the back of his truck where he spent many hours in self-education. He also studied at Goddard College in Vermont, the New School in New York, and the University of Massachusetts-Boston, from which he graduated. He gradually came to be recognized in the Boston area as an unusual combination of worker and intellectual. In his book Taking History to Heart, James Green described Mr. Costello as “`Cosmic’ Tim, who seemed to have trucked everywhere and read everything.”
Mr. Costello’s lifelong work in the labor movement included work as a union representative for Local 285 of the Service Employees International Union, as well as positions with the Commonwealth Institute and Campaign for Contingent Work. He became convinced of the importance of labor cooperation with other social movements, and edited with Mr. Brecher the book Building Bridges: The Emerging Coalition of Labor and Community.
In the 1990s, Mr. Costello became acutely aware of the growth of contingent work and the elimination of the secure jobs that had been the mainstay of working class lives and communities. In response he helped organize and served as Coordinator of the North American Alliance for Fair Employment, a network of 65 unions and community-based organizations in the US and Canada, including groups as diverse as college teachers and day laborers.
Mr. Costello also became increasingly concerned with the impact of globalization on workers and the labor movement. He authored two books on the subject, Global Village or Global Pillage with Mr. Brecher and Globalization from Below with Mr. Brecher and Brendan Smith, a policy analyst and labor activist. He also co-produced the Emmy-nominated documentary Global Village or Global Pillage?
In the 2005, Mr. Costello left the North American Alliance for Fair Employment to found the international network-building organization Global Labor Strategies, which he ran in collaboration with Mr. Brecher and Mr. Smith. He travelled extensively to Europe, Latin America, India, and China, helping link labor movements and their allies to better address the problems they faced in a globalizing economy.
Long a committed environmentalist, Mr. Costello was a founder of the organization Save Open Spaces on Cape Ann, where he lived for many years and worked intermittently as a lobsterman. In 2009 he helped found the Labor Network for Sustainability.
A lifelong resident of the Boston area, Mr. Costello was a well-known figure in the Boston labor movement, including not only the Teamsters and Service Employees, but also such venues as Jobs with Justice, the Harvard Trade Union Program, and the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Mr. Costello is survived by his wife, Susanne Rasmussen, an environmental planner with the City of Cambridge, MA; his brother, Sean Costello of Belmont, MA; two daughters, Gillian Costello of Brooklyn, NY and Pia Costello of Cambridge, MA; his grandchildren Evan and Cathryn Sherman of Brooklyn, NY; nieces and nephews; and many beloved friends.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: VNA Care Network & Hospice, Development Office, 5 Federal Street, Danvers, MA 01923-3687.