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Lloyd Ulman, Class of 1936

April 22, 1920-September 17, 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. 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. He 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, devising methods to link pay increases with increases in productivity and ensure price stability. He served as consultant to the Federal Reserve Board (1966-67), as a member of the National Manpower Policy Task (1966-68) and National Manpower Advisory Committee (1970) and Carter’s Wage and Price Board (1979). 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.

Dr. 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. Ulman 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.

Ulman’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 – notably in The Rise of the National Trade Union (1957), 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).

Ulman lived, both intellectually and personally, through the rise—during the New Deal—of national trade unions, 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, Ulman 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 Ulman’s work focuses on the nature of the relationship between employer associations and national labor federations. Neither group was monolithic, affected by internal conflicts between its own local and national organizations as well as by the structure of its nation state. 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.

Ulman 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. Ulman established the Center for Labor Research and Education (“The Labor Center”) in 1964, and then the Labor and Occupational Health program, which has had lasting influence on workplace safety regulations and practice). 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.”

Although Professor 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 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.

Professor Ulman is survived by his wife and lifelong partner Lassie.