Jack Rasmus

by Don Queen, OLLI member

For the Winter 2012 term, OLLI will be introducing a timely class dealing with the present economic crisis. It will be taught by Dr. Jack Rasmus, who has been teaching Labor Economics in for Summer Sessions at UC Berkeley and is professor of economics and political economy at Santa Clara University and St. Mary’s College. Since leaving the fields of union organizing and market research to teach, Dr. Rasmus has written at least three books, and authored over forty articles. He is a frequent public speaker and regular guest on KGO and other radio stations. He says, in the class "there will be a minimum of academic theory" with a focus on history as to what caused the crisis, the questions of why haven't we benefited from the Bush/Obama recovery programs, and how can we solve it.

He states he has been fascinated by economics since he was a freshman at UC Berkeley where he graduated. So it just was a natural thing to pursue graduate work in political economics. Jack Rasmus believes that he inherited his interest in labor issues from his family who were "working class" and activists with the union. He was the first member of his family to complete high school and attend college.

As it happened, the office of the United Steelworkers Union was located just a block from the University of Toronto where he was seeking his Ph.D. through a fellowship. They got together and the Union began providing him training and experience in labor organizing and contract negotiation in exchange for his doing economic research, which the union needed for contract negotiations. When he went to England to study for a year at the London School of Economics, the Union set up a similar arrangements for him with the British Union.

After finishing his doctorate, he was recruited by the Steelworkers Union, followed by the SEIU, Hotel and Restaurant Workers, and eight years organizing the California Local of the Communications Workers of America.

Dr. Rasmus states that after twelve years he decided that the eighteen hour day and evening meetings were incompatible being married with a wife, child, and house.

Dr. Rasmus then worked as an economist for several international corporations such as Siemens and some Silicon Valley start-ups doing strategic international marketing analysis.

After eighteen years, he decided that twenty-five years "in the trenches" was enough and he has since devoted himself full-time to teaching, writing, and speaking about his concerns about what has been happening to the economy and especially the decline of the middle and working class, and the labor movement. Interestingly enough, after writing some newspaper articles for the Longshoremen’s Union, he became an author, playwright, and even lyricist with Joyce Todd McBride for six produced stage plays and musicals which are described on his website, Kyklos.com. He also served as First Vice President of the National Writers Union.

Writing and speaking have been mainstays of Jack Rasmus’s careers as union leader, business economist, and teacher. He is able to describe the often arcane economic issues clearly and concretely in a manner non-economists can understand. In these chaotic times this promises to be an interesting class.