Tributes are pouring in around the state and around the country to honor the legacy and tenacity of Wisconsin labor leader Marty Beil. Beil passed away peacefully in his sleep in his home in Mazomanie on October 2, 2015.
One of Wisconsin’s most influential and memorable labor leaders, Beil recently retired after more than 40 years as a prominent leader of AFSCME, the public service employee union that was founded in Wisconsin and has grown to 1.6 million members nationally.
Beil served as executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, since 1985. He was a member of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO Executive Board, working with labor leaders from all sectors of the economy to shape and guide statewide policy and initiatives to build worker power in Wisconsin.
Beil, who was 68, began his career in 1969 as a Wisconsin probation and parole officer. He quickly became active in the union. In 1973, he became president of his statewide Local and a member of its bargaining team. In 1978 he was elected Council 24 president, a position he held until being selected as the Council’s executive director.
“I was one of the fortunate, whose job was really my passion,” Beil wrote in an email to AFSCME members announcing his retirement in the June of 2015.
Seen as a forceful and dynamic leader, Beil wrote that he understood the union’s victories and accomplishments were never his alone.
“All of you and the thousands of workers who went before you were able to make life a little better for themselves and their families through the union, and I like to think that I played some role in that,” Beil wrote.
“Marty Beil was a giant in the labor movement,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. “He was a brother in the struggle for worker rights and a better Wisconsin. He was a friend and he had one of the biggest hearts around. His passion and his energy in helping people, helping people make ends meet, be safe on the job, have decent healthcare, and get a fair shot at a better life was undeniable.”
“I’ll never forgot Marty. His larger than life presence will leave a deep and meaningful impact on each and every person that his life has touched," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. "For me, I have so many memories both professional and personal. My kids always loved hanging out with Marty weather it was during Act 10 in the Rotunda or on the streets at Walkerville. His courageous and feisty leadership mixed with his deep dedication to worker rights fueled a career that will forever impact workers across our great state.”
Tributes have poured in from local, state and federal representatives including U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Russ Feingold and AFSCME International President Lee Saunders. Wisconsin Representative Mandela Barnes has introduced legislation in honor of Marty Beil. Dubbed “The Marty Bill” the bill seeks to strengthen and preserve integrity in Wisconsin public service.