Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

Nov. 13 - Ben Fischer Obituary

Contact: Teresa Thomas

Longtime Labor Expert Ben Fischer Dies at Age 93

PITTSBURGH—Ben Fischer, Distinguished Public Service Professor of Labor Studies and Public Policy Emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, died on Sunday, Nov. 12. He was 93.

Prior to 1980, Fischer served as an official of the United Steelworkers of America for 37 years, starting in economic research and then as assistant to four union presidents. Throughout his career he was active in many phases of community life on a local, state and national level. He led national major labor negotiations involving the nation's metal industries, including the establishment of programs to alleviate worker problems during the restructuring of the steel industry during the '60s, '70s and '80s.  Ben FischerFischer served as a major architect in developing the system of labor arbitration, including expedited arbitration of grievances and the no-strike Experimental Negotiating Agreement in the basic steel industry. He helped develop comprehensive and enduring civil rights programs in the metal industries, including the development and administration of the landmark consent decree in the steel industry. 

During the period of Walter Reuther's presidency of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Fischer was the housing director of the CIO and an organizer and leader of ACTION, initiated by President Eisenhower's housing advisory committee.  He and R.K. Mellon co-founded Action-Housing of Pittsburgh, and Fischer served as its president.

Upon his retirement from the United Steelworkers in 1979, he served as chairman of Governor Thornburg's Employment and Training Council.  He joined Carnegie Mellon University in 1981, where he organized and directed the University's Center for Labor Studies.  He served as consultant to the Inner Circle Group, an organization of chief Human Resource executives of major U.S. corporations and was a trustee of Point Park University for 15 years.  In 1984, he was honored as Pittsburgh's Man of the Year in Labor.

Fischer continued writing, consulting and teaching at Carnegie Mellon's Academy for Lifelong learning until his death.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Sylvia Felser Fischer; son Fred Fischer and his wife Uschi; daughter Suzan Wynne and her husband Ron; daughter Elise Fischer; daughter Kari Uman and her husband Larry; the late Mark Fischer; stepson Gary Randal and his wife Patricia; stepdaughter Jill Carnig and her husband Don; six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Visitation is from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Avenue in Oakland. A memorial service will follow visitation at noon. Interment will be at the West View Cemetery of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Contributions may be made to Senior Rabbinic Discretionary Funds at Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.