May 5, 2017
By Jeffrey Lewis
Everyone knows or has met a hero. That person who has done something extraordinary things to change the lives of many or just one. They are selfless, caring people with huge hearts and generally go unrecognized except to a few.
That was Lou Gordon, the Executive Director of BALCONY — the Business and Labor Coalition of New York. An exceptional professional with the spirit of pride and kindness wrapped into one amazing man.
Lou, along with Alan Lubin then President of the NY State Teachers Association, launched BALCONY to bring business and labor to the table for the single purpose of talking to each other so that they could learn from one another, and most important, listen to the other’s viewpoint. It was a unique organization that provided incredible value to New Yorkers, and to every working woman and man.
But Lou Gordon was not just about BALCONY. What separated him from everyone else was his unique combination of tenacity, fairness and an insatiable desire to change the workplace. He worked tirelessly to ensure that working men and women understood what the law said, how it impacted their daily lives (today and tomorrow). He also worked hard to ensure that employers were not over burdened with unnecessary regulations that would impede their ability to grow, diversify and continually create more jobs.
That was Lou, also known as Dr. Gordon to some of us. Because in his own way, he was a professor of the people, for the people and in tune with the people. You’d often find Lou sitting in cigar bars, union halls or business meetings always listening to understand the “why” and the “why not” from those around him. These conversations granted him a greater insight into what really worried working families and employers. He would spend time — often hours — with some of us, discussing solutions. Always concluding discussions with a poignant question, like “why can’t we change this?”
The lion that lived inside Lou Gordon took the form of a relentless professional who not only wanted to understand all the issues, but was also fearless in his efforts to create change. He always think of new ways to charm the doubters and eventually convince them that one small step forward was often better than three steps backward.
Lou was not afraid to step on toes in his pursuit of fairness for both workers and businesses. His courage was undeniable. His empathy for working families was second to none, but his relentless efforts to help business and labor grow together—to talk across the table to each other not at each other—gave him tremendous satisfaction.
Lou Gordon’s death leaves a large hole in the hearts of many, and the souls of many more. He was a gift. A quiet giant whose voice will be missed but whose memory will live in our hearts forever.
Jeffrey Lewis is the President and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment (firstname.lastname@example.org). The views expressed are his own.