Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

The Passing of Leo Panitch

The Passing of Leo Panitch

Dear GLRC Community,

As we collectively reflect on the sudden passing of Professor Leo Panitch, even those of us who knew him well can’t help but be struck by the outpouring of public testimonies attesting to the depth and reach of his work as an activist intellectual.

Among his contributions, for many years Leo helped to build and sustain a space for the study of work and labour at York University. It was nearly a decade ago that we began a collaborative effort – with Leo deeply involved – to develop a proposal for what would become York’s Global Labour Research Centre (GLRC). As we envisioned a research centre that would have a global focus, bridge academic and activist communities, and focus on equity issues in and at work, Leo gave inspiration and clarity to our project. Leo’s institutional knowledge, tenacity of character, and international reputation and connections were key to gaining institutional traction for our proposal.

Once the GLRC was launched, his steadfast support was essential in sustaining its work. He did this in ways that pushed others onto the stage, always using his influence and reach to create opportunities for new generations of scholars. In addition to helping us navigate the many obstacles of building a research centre in a challenging university climate, Leo’s scholarship gave inspiration to the intellectual orientation of the Centre itself and to the many faculty members and graduate students who would ultimately affiliate with the Centre and participate in its activities.

Leo’s groundbreaking writings on trade unions and the state, working-class politics, and global capitalism are touchstones in the study of work and labour in Canada and internationally. His volumes Working Class Politics in Crisis and From Consent to Coercion: The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms, written with Donald Swartz, remain foundational texts in the field of Work and Labour Studies. Essays in the annual Socialist Register regularly offered deep and critical insight into the dynamics of working-class organizing around the world. His work with labour movement activists at home and abroad was the epitome of a publicly engaged academic dedicated to social justice. All this was done with a sense of humour and a commitment to the long haul in the struggle for a just world. Perhaps over and above it all, Leo’s generous spirit, always both supportive and productively critical, was a constant source of energy for those of us trying to build a better world both within and beyond the university. His friendship meant more than we can truly say.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Leo's family, close friends, and loved ones and we look forward to celebrating his legacy and continuing the work that he inspired.

Global Labour Research Centre Founding Committee Members

Pat Armstrong
Stephanie Ross
Mark Thomas
Leah Vosko