Former union leader, Mundelein trustee Ronald Powell dies

  • Ronald Powell

    Ronald Powell

Updated 3/24/2020 8:39 AM

A longtime union leader and former Mundelein trustee is being remembered for his work on behalf of laborers in the grocery industry.

Ronald E. Powell, 84, of Mundelein, died Monday.


Powell was the former president of Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He also had served as the union's international vice president.

A Wisconsin native, Powell served in the Army as a young man and then studied at Northern Illinois University, graduating in 1960.

That same year while still in college, Powell began working at what was then the Jewel Tea Co. in DeKalb. He was a service clerk, bagging groceries for customers, said his daughter, Kelly Morrissey.

Early on, Powell led a strike to force the company to recognize an employee union. He subsequently joined the Local 881 staff.

Powell rose through the union ranks and was elected president of the local union in 1983. He held that post until retiring in 2018.

Working for the union was important to Powell because "he (felt) he could make a difference in his members' lives," said Brad Powell, one of his sons.

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Powell also was elected vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO executive board in 1986.

He served on the Mundelein village board in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, and he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1996, 2000 and 2008. He supported many philanthropic causes and community groups, including the Little City Foundation and United Way of Illinois.

Another of Powell's children, Steven, also served as a Mundelein trustee.

The elder Powell's survivors include four children, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A private graveside service for family is planned. A celebration of Powell's life will be held at a later date.

Memorials may be sent to: Local 881 UFCW Charitable Foundation, 1350 E. Touhy Ave., Suite 300 E, Des Plaines, IL, 60018.

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