1199SEIU Mourns The Loss of National Labor Leader & Retired Vice-President Bruce Popper

November 24, 2022

Contact: AprilE@1199.org | Cell Phone: (716)449-1620


1199SEIU Vice-President, Retired fought for social and economic justice for workers from Buffalo to Rochester and across the state

Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 11.02.31 AM.pngRochester, NY - It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the passing of national labor leader, friend, co-worker, and retired 1199SEIU Vice-President Bruce Popper. Bruce passed away at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester yesterday afternoon at the age of 71. Bruce is survived by his wife of 36 years Barbara and his daughter Katherine Dee Popper.

A native of Buffalo, Bruce began his 45-year career in labor as a rank-and-file member of the union. As a Delegate, Bruce processed grievances and helped to negotiate contracts at the University of Rochester. In 1978, Bruce was hired as an organizer and rose up the ranks to serve as President of the local. As his career progressed, he later served as Area Vice-President for Hospitals in Buffalo, Corning, and Rochester helping to win contracts for workers at Kaleida Health in Buffalo and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. In more recent years, Bruce led strikes at Anthony Jordan Health Center in Rochester and helped workers to secure a fair contract following difficult negotiations.

Bruce served on 1199SEIU’s Executive Council, the union’s highest governing body. He sat on many different boards locally in Rochester, participated community groups and steering committees focusing on social and economic justice. He believed in the power of effective communication and created massive list serves to keep members and the community informed and educated on the labor movement. Bruce was a historian and could tell you the history of Frederick Douglas and his importance to the Rochester community. If you were lucky enough, you’d catch Bruce playing the harmonica.

Bruce retired as 1199SEIU Vice-President for Rochester/Corning in 2019. He received the key to the city of Rochester in recognition for his 45 years of dedicated service in the labor movement and fighting for worker’s rights.

“Bruce always fought for workers, to help them build power and to move workers forward in Rochester,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice-President. “He was very sincere and genuine human being who was all about what was right, didn’t matter what title you held or where you came from,” said Harrison.

“For those of us who have had the privilege of growing up under Bruce’s tutelages, it was an honor and privilege to work alongside such a dynamic individual who had a specific goal, to build a movement and to give workers a voice,” said Harrison. “His forward thinking, and compassion for workers helped to shape the labor movement in Rochester and many other locations across New York State. It could be argued and confirmed that his impact on the labor movement could be felt across the country,” said Harrison.

"While my heart is heavy with the passing of my labor brother, mentor, and friend Bruce Popper, I am truly grateful for the many life lessons I gained from him,” said Demond Meeks, New York State Assemblyman.

“As a labor organizer, Bruce recognized the importance of Union Sisters and Brothers taking a stand on issues of Social Justice in our communities. I can still hear Bruce say, 'There is still work to be done!' I would respond, 'You’re absolutely right brother. You’ve ran your race and those of us in which you have poured into over the years are humbled to receive the baton and continue to fight the good fight,’” said Assemblymember Meeks.

“Bruce was an icon in the labor movement and will never be forgotten, said Zola Brown, Outreach Coordinator, 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds. “Bruce was and will remain the conscious of working people’s power,” said Brown.

Funeral arrangements for the labor leader are still pending at this time.


1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all. https://www.1199seiu.org