Labor economist Lloyd Ulman passes away at age 94

Lloyd Ulman, an emeritus professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, whose landmark work covered the rise of the national trade union, relationships between union structure, wage inflation and macroeconomic in the United States, Europe and Japan, died Wednesday (Sept. 17) at the age of 94.

He passed away at his Berkeley home following complications from a heart attack.

Ulman, a long-time director and leading figure at the campus’s Institute of Industrial Relations, also served as a key senior economist in 1961-1962 on the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) for President John F. Kennedy, sharing his expertise on wage price policies and relations with organized labor.

After his CEA stint, he continued in public service as he devised methods to link pay increases with increases in productivity and ensure price stability. Ulman also served as consultant to the Federal Reserve Board (1966-1967), and as a member of the National Manpower Policy Task (1966-68) and the National Manpower Advisory Committee (1970), and President Jimmy Carter’s Wage and Price Board (1974).

A pioneer in labor research

Ulman’s work recognized both the importance and the limits of traditional economic models for the study of labor issues. He made major contributions in applying economic reasoning to the analysis of institutions. Much of Ulman’s work focused on the nature of the relationship between employer associations and national labor federations.

He applied his economic expertise and goal of economic justice as the director from 1963-1981 of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Industrial Relations, now known as the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (ILRE).

Ulman established the Center for Labor Research and Education in 1964, and its labor and occupational health program, which is said to have had significant influence on workplace safety regulations and practice. Under his leadership, the Labor Center launched a minority union fellowship program that trained a generation of minority union leaders.

New Deal experience

Ulman was born in New York City, obtained a bachelor’s degree at Columbia University, a master’s at the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He joined the University of Minnesota’s economics department in 1950 and then became part of the UC Berkeley economics faculty in 1958.

Friends and colleagues noted that Ulman experienced the New Deal rise of national trade unions and their subsequent decline both intellectually and personally.

“Aware that trade unionism’s goal of economic justice could conflict with macroeconomic instability under conditions of free collective bargaining, Ulman turned abroad, searching for institutional alternatives that might reconcile social justice with economic stability – first to the United Kingdom, then to continental Europe and finally to Asia,” said Paul Ryan, King’s College Fellow in economics at Kings College at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

“Lloyd Ulman played a key role in the late 1990s in expanding the institute’s statewide role,” said current ILRE director and UC Berkeley professor of economics Michael Reich.

Ulman was awarded an order for excellence by the King of Sweden in 1978 and elected President of the Industrial Relations Research Association in 1986. He received the Berkeley Citation, the campus’s highest honor, when he retired in 1990. More information about Ulman’s life is available in an oral history at

Lasting legacy

His most influential legacy is said to be the generations of graduate students who work in the field of industrial relations and labor economics.

“Lloyd brought out the best in his students, and pushed their thinking to be more rigorous and creative. He deeply affected their intellectual and personal development,” said UC Berkeley professor emerita of economics, Clair Brown, who taught labor economics with Ulman.

Ulman is survived by his wife, Lassie.

A campus memorial service will be scheduled later this year. Contributions can be made to the UC Berkeley Foundation, University Relations/Gift Operations, 2080 Addison St., #4200, Berkeley, CA 94720-4200 or to the Lloyd and Lassie F. Ulman Graduate Student Support Fund online via Give to Cal.”