Published 11 Mar, 2014
Bob Crow, the fighting leader of the United Kingdom’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), died unexpectedly early on Tuesday morning at the age of 52. This tragedy comes just weeks after Crow led Tube workers in a successful two-day strike over the London Underground’s plan to cut 1,000 jobs by closing the system’s ticket offices. The TWU mourns the passing of a true working class hero. He is remembered as a man of deeply held convictions and an unshakable ally of all working men and women.
“Bob was a tireless advocate and crusader for workers across the globe,” said TWU International President Harry Lombardo. “This is a great, great loss—and not just for his members and working people in the UK, for workers everywhere.”
Crow’s death closely parallels the death of TWU Founder Mike Quill, who died in 1966 just days after he took members at the New York City Transit Authority out on a 13-day strike, in spite of his failing health—breaking Mayor John Lindsay and winning a historic contract.
“The British papers are telling us that Bob had been ill for a long time,” said Lombardo. “He never sat back, he never shied away from a fight.
“At every turn, he acted in the best interest of his membership. A few months ago he came to the United States to support TWU Local 577 members in our contract fight, and then he went toe-to-toe with the head of one of the largest transit systems in the world, weathering vicious attacks by the conservative media day in and day out.
“Bob was a true fighter and a legend.”
Back in September, Crow brought TWU delegates to their feet at our 24th Constitutional Convention, calling for an end to artificial divisions within the global labor movement.
“[Mike] Quill understood that all that prejudice must go away,” said Crow. “We’ve got more in common with a Chinese laborer than we have with a Wall Street stock broker because our problems are their problems.”
Crow regularly attended Local 100’s annual Quill-Connolly Day, a celebration of the contributions made to our union by workers of Irish descent, inspired by the legacy of Mike Quill and great Irish patriot and leader James Connolly.
He was also a personal friend of TWU International Executive Vice President and Local 100 President John Samuelsen. He was to be an honored guest at the 2014 Quill-Connolly Day celebration, being held this Saturday.
“Bob’s death is a crushing blow to Britain’s and the world’s labor movements,” said Samuelsen. “He was without question the most important and profound voice for industrial unionism and the working class in the world.”
Crow was elected as General Secretary of the RMT in 2002, after serving as Assistant General Secretary since 1991. Under his leadership, the RMT grew by more than 20,000 members, embracing workers ranging from Seafarers and Rail Staff to Cleaners.
He built a reputation not only as a fearless fighter for better wages and working conditions, but also as a champion of safe, affordable public transportation.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the UK’s TSSA rail union, who stood beside Crow on the picket line during last month’s Tube strike, said: “Bob Crow was admired by his members and feared by employers, which is exactly how he liked it. It was a privilege to campaign and fight alongside him because he never gave an inch.”
Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone told the The Independent, “I assumed he would be at my funeral not me at his. He fought really hard for his members. The only working-class people who still have well-paid jobs in London are his members.”