John Lindahl, 81, former labor union leader

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 8, 2007 - 8:37 PM

During his decades-long career, he was determined to preserve benefits for Minneapolis union members.

John (Bob) Lindahl, of Bloomington, a former president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, died on Jan. 3. The longtime Minneapolis resident was 81.

Lindahl, who started as a Minneapolis street and sewer worker in 1949, became an officer of Local 363 in 1957.

"Generations of city employees have a better quality of life and secure, bountiful pensions because of Bob Lyndahl," said Todd Pufahl, a union legislative director who once was the business manager of Local 363, which represents city laborers and Park Board workers.

As leader of the local in the 1980s, he sat across the negotiating table from Sharon Sayles Belton, a City Council member who later became mayor of Minneapolis.

"In spite of our differences, I had a lot of respect for him," said Sayles Belton, who added that Lindahl "really [believed] in his mission as a representative of his union."

From 1985 to 1990, Lindahl served as president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union, where he was savvy in labor-management relations and grass-roots politics, said Louise Sundin, vice president of the Central Labor Union, an umbrella organization for 125 local trade and professional unions.

"Bobby was a little bulldog for the workers he represented in Minneapolis and in the west metro area," Sundin said. "He had a huge heart and a fiery determination."

Sundin said that Lindahl was masterful at getting union members out and working for a cause, and that he taught her about grass-roots politics.

In 1979, Lindahl was defeated in a bid for a seat on the City Council.

Lindahl, the longtime former president of the Minneapolis Municipal Retirement Association, was the group's secretary-treasurer when he died.

Lindahl was awarded the Joe Virgilio Award by the Laborers' International Union of North America in 2005.

Lindahl served on a dozen boards and committees and was also a Boy Scouts of America leader and American Red Cross lobbyist.

The Minneapolis South High graduate served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II and studied politics and history at what is now the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Joyce, of Bloomington; sons, Kerry, of Gaithersburg, Md., and David, of Marietta, Ga.; daughter, Marie, of Plymouth; brothers, Jerry and Richard, both of Minneapolis; sister, Mary Ellen, of Minneapolis, and three grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Church of the Annunciation, 509 W. 54th St., Minneapolis.

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