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Published: Monday, 6/9/2014

ROBERT J. CARRASQUILLO, 1948-2014

Labor organizer improved workers’ lives

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Carrasquillo Carrasquillo
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Robert J. Carrasquillo of Whitehouse, a long-time union organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers who was passionate about improving the conditions for workers, died on Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township.

Mr. Carrasquillo, 65, died from liver cancer, said his wife, Joanne.

Born on Dec. 13, 1948, in Albany, N.Y., to Felipe and Ruth Carrasquillo, he moved to Ohio in 1971 to attend Findlay College.

He left college and moved to Toledo, working for Russell’s Tuxedo and Formal Wear, where he met Joanne White, whom he married on July 28, 1973.

Mr. Carrasquillo took a stocking job with Kroger Co., working in various area stores.

During that time he became active in the Retail Clerks Union, now the UFCW.

The Carrasquillos would attend union meetings together, and at one point when Mr. Carrasquillo became unhappy over union issues, his wife challenged him to take the next step and work for the union.

“He was getting upset about things, and I said to him one day, ‘‍Why don’t you call the union and see if they’re hiring … see if you can make changes on the inside,’ ” his wife recalled.

He became a business agent, visiting union members in the stores, and later rose to be an organizer in the mid-1980s, she said.

The late Gene Kolkman, president of Local 954, arranged for Mr. Carrasquillo to head up organizing efforts in Indiana, where he worked until 1996.

He moved on to Grand Rapids, Mich, retiring in 2001 as the union’s organizing director.

In a 1980 interview with The Blade, Mr. Carrasquillo said that while the union tried to improve wages and benefits, it only made one promise: “We’ll work in their best interests to negotiate a contract that they can live with and the company can live with.”

His wife said Mr. Carrasquillo took particular pride in serving on a committee of unions that resurrected the Labor Day parade through Toledo in 1983.

He was a passionate advocate for the working class, his wife said, and Mr. Carrasquillo defended organized labor, writing letters to The Blade over stories or issues that met his disapproval.

His parents were born in Puerto Rico and at age 12, he returned to the island to visit family, his wife said.

Last year, as part of their 40th wedding anniversary, the Carrasquillos and their children visited Puerto Rico. Robert Carrasquillo’s father helped develop El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System, Mrs. Carrasquillo said.

“That trip was just such a highlight for him,” she said. “We all got to go back and see that. I was so thankful.”

Mr. Carrasquillo is survived by his wife, Joanne; daughters, Danielle Carrasquillo and Sara Atkinson; son, Andrew Carrasquillo; and a sister, Shirley Drozdiel.

Visitation will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday, with a memorial at 7 p.m., at Peinert-Dunn Funeral Home, Whitehouse.

Memorials are suggested to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the American Diabetes Association.

Contact Jim Sielicki at jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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