In memoriam: George Strauss, 1923-2020, an icon in the field of industrial relations

A professor at the Haas School of Business, Strauss’s professional life centered around the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. He was involved with the Berkeley Coop.

George and Helene Strauss in 2001. Photo: Strauss family.

George Strauss, age 97, passed away peacefully on Nov. 28 from non-COVID-19 causes at home in Berkeley. Raised on Staten Island, George was deeply affected by the hardships of the Great Depression and the plight of the working man, a lifelong concern that shaped his professional choices and his outstanding career at the University of California at Berkeley.

George and Helene, his wife of 55 years who passed away in 2012, were known affectionately as “The Poodles”—a joke initially sparked by Helene’s sister’s poodle, also named George. Helene was a passionate and knowledgeable gardener, and George claimed that during their earliest courtship his interest in my mother was sparked especially by the fact that she knew the name of all the upstate New York wildflowers. The Poodles were a devoted couple who loved reading and visiting California’s wildlands. George also loved maps, hiking, history, trains, architecture, and conservation. They traveled extensively, which was memorialized by Helene’s meticulous journals and excellent photography.

In the early 1960s, George and Helene moved from Buffalo, NY to Berkeley. After a period of adjustment, both grew to love Berkeley. They enjoyed walking tours of Berkeley and Oakland architecture, loved exploring the many and varied Asian restaurants that were so exciting after the blander fare of upstate NY, throwing faculty parties, and introducing visiting scholars to the beauty of the Bay Area. Both loved visiting museums. George was notorious for reading every museum sign thoroughly and retaining the information. As George’s daughter, I was influenced by George’s authoring of many letters opposing destructive environmental issues.

Although George taught at Haas School of Business, his professional life centered around the IRLE (Institute for Research on Labor and Employment) office on Channing near Telegraph. He experienced the 1960s era and the excitement of being in Berkeley and California during the anti-war and free speech movement, riots, tear gas, and the struggle to save People’s Park.


George was a professor emeritus at the Haas Business School, University of California, Berkeley, teaching there for 30 years (1961 – 1991). He was the recipient of an honored University Citation.  Prior to that, he taught at the University of Buffalo from 1954 – 1961, after earning his Ph.D. from MIT in economics. He was a visiting professor and scholar at various universities in the US, Europe, and Australia. George had many friends and former students around the world who treasure having crossed paths with him. He authored or co-authored several successful textbooks, 12 books, 150+ journal articles, and edited 12 additional books. He was the editor of the journal “Industrial Relations” for many years. More details about George’s career can be found in this UC Berkeley obituary.

George volunteered for the influential Berkeley Coop personnel review committees. Last year, George was pleased and honored to learn that a book on the history of the Coop was dedicated to both George and Helene (Innovative Consumer Co-operatives-The Rise and Fall of Berkeley by Greg Patmore). George and Helene’s Coop number was 19986. In later years, George was a docent for open house events held by Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and served on the Chaparral House Family Council.

Besides his daughters, Emilie and Elizabeth and son-in-law Mark Hughes, George is survived by his sister Miriam Rosenthal.

Donations in honor of George can be sent to IRLE at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, or the Sierra Club.