New Jersey labor leader dies at 32

(AP) - Richard F. Cunningham Jr., a dynamic New Jersey labor leader who helped found an organization for low-wage,immigrant workers and started a punk rock record label, has died.He was 32. Diagnosed

News 12 Staff

Sep 7, 2009, 11:32 PM

Updated 5,432 days ago

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(AP) - Richard F. Cunningham Jr., a dynamic New Jersey labor leader who helped found an organization for low-wage,immigrant workers and started a punk rock record label, has died.He was 32.
Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, Cunningham succumbed to thedisease on Friday. His death was confirmed by the Crabiel Home forFunerals in Milltown.
The Rev. Joseph Kerrigan, a New Brunswick pastor who officiatedat Cunningham's Labor Day funeral service, says the Livingstonnative combined his strong Catholic faith and family's union rootsto build the New Labor organization into a group of more than 1,500dues-paying members.
"The thing about Rich is that he was very much the charismaticfigure you want to see at the founding of an organization,"Kerrigan said. "At the same time he was also someone who wouldn'tbring a lot of attention to himself; it was always the struggle,the battle, that was more important."
Cunningham graduated with a labor studies degree from RutgersUniversity in 1999 and help found New Labor in 2000. The group'sorganizational model garnered national attention by unionizingmostly young, low-wage immigrant workers while offering themcommunity services such as English-as-a-second-language classes andcomputer training.
Cunningham founded the punk rock label Happy Days Records in2005 while still in college, naming the company after the popular1970's sitcom whose lead character shared his name.
Cunningham lived in Milltown with his wife, Heather, and twin2-year-old daughters Lily and Reese.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Cunningham is survived byhis mother, Karen Gebhardt Cunningham and his sister, MelissaCunningham.


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