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NFFE President Richard Brown Dies

By Ed O'Keefe

UPDATE: 2:14 p.m. ET:

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has replied to an e-mail requesting comment on Brown's death. Berry wrote that, "Rick was a 'Salt of the earth' guy and a giant who always defended the best interests of our federal employees. His passion and persistence were perfectly tempered with great good humor, which made him beloved by all. I am heartsick over this terrible loss and send my deepest and sincerest condolences to all of our brother and sisters at NFFE."

Richard N. Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees and a leading spokesperson for federal employee issues, died unexpectedly yesterday at his Arlington apartment, according to a statement released today by the union.

Richard Brown
NFFE President Richard Brown appeared last week at a meeting about the future of NSPS.

An NFFE staffer went to Brown's apartment midday yesterday when he failed to show up for work, according to a union spokesman. Police officers were called to the scene, entered Brown's apartment and found him unresponsive. A cause of death is still unknown.

"We’re just torn up about this, it was very unexpected," said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin. Brown was 47.

“Federal employees have lost a great spokesman who’s going to be difficult, if not impossible to replace," said Ron Ault, a veteran union leader and head of the AFL-CIO's Metal Trades Department. Ault called Brown his "little brother," saying they became fast friends after meeting in 2001.

"He was one of the guys who just didn’t bite his tongue. If he had something to say to you, you didn’t have to wait long for him to say it," Ault said.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry also weighed in, saying Brown “lived a life of service and leadership, and this is a tragic loss. I only knew Rick for a short time, but his dedication shone through in our work together on issues that matter deeply to federal employees and working people everywhere."

In recent days, Ault said Brown had expressed strong concerns that the Obama administration had yet to end the controversial National Security Personnel System. The two planned to meet next week with other federal union leaders to update their strategy to lobby against the program.

Brown appeared last week at a Defense Business Board meeting on NSPS. The pay-for-performance operation used to measure the work of approximately 211,000 Defense Department civilians has vocal critics and few defenders.

"Defense workers have already made up their minds on NSPS. They want it gone once and for all," Brown told the board. "I agree with this assessment. I believe that NSPS is unsalvageable and the best possible course of action is full repeal."

In addition to his vocal opposition to NSPS, Brown is credited with expanding NFFE's membership and increasing its presence on Capitol Hill. He became union president in 1998, having previously served as a national vice president and president of NFFE Local 2109 in Watervliet, N.Y.

Brown also served on several boards and working groups, including the Federal Salary Council, Employee Thrift Advisory Council, Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health and the National Partnership Council.

Brown was born October 22, 1961 in Schenectady, N.Y. He was engaged to Cate McGregor of Albany, N.Y. He is also survived by his father, two siblings and their families.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 1, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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To know and work with this Labor giant has been my good fortune and distinct honor.Those of us in the Federa Labor movement will have to work alittle harder, speak up for our Brother's and Sister's in Labor a little louder,and tilt a bit to the right as we will all be off kilter for a while.

Patricia La Sala RN, MS
National Vice President NFFE/IAMAW F.D. # 1
President NFFE/IAMAW Local # 1
San Francisco VA Medical Center

Posted by: patlasala | July 1, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

With the passing of Brother Rick Brown we have lost a truly great leader who has made our Union one that every federal employee can be proud of. Indeed, NFFE exists today only because of the hard work and leadership exhibited by Brother Rick during the darkest days of our existence. Under his stewardship, we have grown from a union whose very survival was at risk to become one on the strongest and proudest advocates for federal employees in the country.

Ron Thatcher
Council President

Posted by: federalemployee | July 2, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

When I heard the news of Rick's passing I was genuinely and deeply saddened. Rick was my close friend and confidant during my term as NFFE President. Rick Brown was a true unionist in every since of the word and truly loved what he did for the federal workers in his care.

My deepest sympathies to his family in New York and to all those who continue to benefit from the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Jim Cunningham
Friend and Former President NFFE

Posted by: texasjim3 | July 6, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

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