CRANBERRY, Pa.—John Sellers, a longtime union official with first the United Rubber Workers then the United Steelworkers, died April 1 after a lengthy illness. He was 75.
Sellers joined URW Local 639 at the AMF Voit plant in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1966. He served that local in a number of roles, including vice president and president. He was appointed to the URW International's staff in 1991 and served as organizing director, education director and political education director, as well as participating in master contract bargaining.
After the URW merged with the Steelworkers in 1995, Sellers was appointed in 1996 as the union's executive vice president overseeing the Rubber & Plastics Industry Conference that consisted of the former URW members. He was re-elected to that post in 1997 and 2001 before retiring in 2005.
A Marine Corps veteran, Sellers said in an interview in 2000 that he never intended to stay long-term at the Voit plant or be a career labor leader. “I got involved in the union probably for many of the same reasons other people do,” Sellers said. “I didn't like the way things were in my plant. Maybe dignity is an overused word, but to me it was really an issue of dignity. I just don't think that people were treated the way that they should be treated.”
In a USW resolution upon his retirement, the USW noted his leadership during the “War of '94,” and coordination of successful campaigns and negotiations with the major tire companies.
“John was as equally comfortable and effective talking to rank-and-file members as he was talking to company top management,” said URW International President Leo Gerard.
Stan Johnson, current USW International secretary-treasurer, called Sellers “an amazingly dedicated trade unionist and political activist who maintained those commitments throughout his entire life. His leadership benefitted thousands of USW members and their families, especially through the protracted struggles against the tire industry in the mid-1990s.”
He is survived by daughter Cynthia Warner; stepson Jerome Pipitone; sister Joan Fiola; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horn Road, Pittsburg, Pa. 15237.