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Lloyd Ulman

Professor of Economics, Emeritus

UC Berkeley

1920 - 2014


Lloyd Ulman, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of California, Berkeley and a long-time director of its Institute of Industrial Relations, died on September 17, 2014 at the age of 94. Professor Ulman, who taught at Berkeley from 1958 until his retirement in 1990, was a leader of the postwar institutional school of labor economics. His landmark works cover the rise of the national trade union, the relationships between union structure, wage inflation, and macroeconomic outcomes—in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, and in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout his career, Professor Ulman had an impact on a wide range of people—students, colleagues, trade union leaders, presidents—because his brilliant mind was backed by kindness and a deep understanding of human nature.


Ulman served as a key senior economist in 1961-62 on the Council of Economic Advisers, providing guidance to President John Kennedy on wage price policies and on Kennedy’s relations with organized labor. Professor Ulman’s government service continued after he returned to Berkeley, where he continued his research on policies to link pay increases with increases in productivity to ensure price stability. He served as consultant to the Federal Reserve Board (1966-67), and as a member of the National Manpower Policy Task Force (1966-68), the National Manpower Advisory Committee (1970), and President Jimmy Carter’s Wage and Price Board (1974). He was awarded an order for excellence by the King of Sweden in 1978 and elected President of the Industrial Relations Research Association in 1986.


Lloyd Ulman was born and raised in New York City, obtained a Bachelor’s degree at Columbia, a Master’s at the University of Wisconsin and a Doctoral degree from Harvard. He joined the Department of Economics at the University of Minnesota in 1950 and was recruited to the University of California, Berkeley in 1958. He was awarded the Berkeley Citation, the campus’s highest honor, when he retired. Lloyd’s work recognizes 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 in many journal articles and in books, including The Rise of the National Trade Union (1957), Challenges to Collective Bargaining (1967), Unionism, Economic Stabilization, and Incomes Policies (with Flanagan and Soskice, 1983), and Work and Pay in the United States and Japan (with Brown, Reich, and Nakata, 1997).


Lloyd lived, both intellectually and personally, through the rise of national trade unions during the New Deal, followed by their subsequent decline. Aware that trade unionism’s goal of economic justice could conflict with macroeconomic instability under conditions of free collective bargaining, Lloyd turned abroad, searching for institutional alternatives that might reconcile social justice with economic stability – first to the UK, then to continental Europe, finally to Asia.


Much of Lloyd’s work focuses on the nature of the relationship between employer associations and national labor federations. Neither group was monolithic; both were affected by internal conflicts between its own local and national organizations as well as by the structure of its national organization. Wage Restraint: A Study of Incomes Policies in Europe (with Flanagan, 1971), showed that even strong unions would often want to moderate their demands. This volume remains relevant to understanding today's ongoing conflicts between Germany and the other countries of the European Union. The follow-up 1983 volume (with Flanagan and Soskice) examined the conditions under which wage moderation would break down.


As co-author David Soskice, of Oxford and then LSE, explained, “Lloyd was the major intellectual influence in my life. He made me understand that it was critically important to ground macroeconomics in institutions, politics and history; but if one was to understand institutions, politics and history, one had to have a good analytical understanding of economics.”


Paul Ryan of Cambridge University spent many hours discussing industrial relations with Ulman, both in Cambridge, England and Berkeley. Ryan recals Ulman as “a scholar of industrial relations who valued trade unionism not as a source of economic efficiency, but rather of industrial democracy and industrial jurisprudence; and as a gifted, flowing writer, who with seeming ease deployed an abundance of original metaphors and delightful turns of phrase.”


Lloyd applied his economic expertise and goal of economic justice as the Director of the Institute of Industrial Relations (now known as the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment) from 1963 through 1981. He was a close friend of Clark Kerr, a fellow labor economist and the founder of the Institute of Industrial Relations. Kerr later served as Chancellor at Berkeley and President of the University of California, and he continued to turn to Lloyd for advice and moral support.


Clark Kerr and Lloyd Ulman were leaders of what came to be known as the “California School” of industrial relations in the 1940s, which emphasized labor-management cooperation and a commitment to dialogue as the key means to forestall labor unrest. Kerr frequently turned to Lloyd for extended discussions of subjects ranging from California’s dynamic post war economy and the accompanying rise of the labor movement’s influence to the student activism of the 1960s.


It was this spirit of cooperative problem solving that led Ulman to establish the Center for Labor Research and Education (“The Labor Center”) in 1964, and then the Labor and Occupational Health program in 1974 to train workers on how to understand and enforce workplace safety regulations and instill safe practices at work. Under Professor Ulman’s leadership the Labor Center launched many forward-looking projects, including a Minority Union Fellowship program, which trained an entire generation of minority union leaders. Lloyd always returned to the methodology and analysis of how to balance competing interests—notably labor and management—for the public good. Michael Reich, the current Director of the Institute, recalls, “Lloyd Ulman played a key role in the late 1990s in expanding the Institute’s state-wide role.”


Over the course of his career Ulman had a clear sense of the vital nature of the University’s role in society. During the Free Speech Movement, he was personally engaged in the explosive and wide-ranging debates about the University’s role, and he never hesitated to encourage what he saw as productive, or criticize what he deemed as foolhardy. It came as no surprise that he was asked to serve on the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Policy, which was charged with the task of responding to student activism—the definitive challenge facing higher education during the 1960s. As a member of the committee he encouraged a serious review of student demands, but never at the cost of scholarship and study. Once again, his voice was a moderating influence, taking seriously the key issues of the day, but also arguing that social activism should not supplant serious teaching and scholarship as the University’s primary mission.


Lloyd practiced what he preached about the importance of undergraduate education. He prepared his lectures with care, and wanted to link economic theory to real world problems so that students would continue to analyze social and economic problems throughout their lives. He believed that office hours provided an important link to his students, and he would sympathetically listen to student’ problems and patiently explain detailed points from lecture.


Although Ulman will be remembered for his scholarship and government service, his most influential legacy consists of the generations of graduate students who continue to work in the field of industrial relations and labor economics. Lloyd guided students along in their research without imposing his own ideas. He taught through a well-told story, and with cryptic thoughts that students wrote down quickly to think about for weeks.


As former student Harry Katz, Dean of the ILR School at Cornell, recalls, “I have vivid memories of Lloyd’s special knack for brilliant seminar comments through which he quickly went right to the bone of any argument that was being presented. I also took to heart Lloyd’s modesty.” Another former student, Teresa Ghilarducci, Economics Chair at the New School, writes, “I am kind to students because Lloyd was kind to me. I am realistic with students because Lloyd was a straight shooter. He was a perfect teacher.”


“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,” says Professor Clair Brown, a colleague who taught labor economics with Lloyd.


Lloyd Ulman is survived by his wife and life partner for 60 years, Lassie.


Clair Brown

Terry Huwe