Norman David Malbin JD ’85 died of heart failure on October 1, 2017, at the age of 68.
A Portland labor lawyer who served for more than two decades as general counsel for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48, Norman was an influential and highly respected figure in the Oregon labor movement. Hundreds of union activists were trained at the annual Oregon Labor Law Conference, which he founded in 1996 and directed until his retirement three years ago. He wrote a pamphlet while still in private practice, explaining wage and hour law in layperson’s language. It is still widely read by workers of all trades who deal with wage theft and other abuses of nonunion contractors.
Norman inherited a passion for social justice from his parents, both of whom paid a price for their convictions during the McCarthy era. His father, Dr. Morris Malbin, treated workers in Portland’s shipyards during World War II and was instrumental in setting up Kaiser’s pioneering group health insurance plan for union members during and after the war. Dr. Malbin also passed along a passion for sailing to his son, who always joked that he wanted to be a tugboat captain when he grew up.
Norman studied psychology at the University of Denver, planning to be a child psychologist. He took a series of jobs with nonprofits dealing with youth unemployment and delinquency, but a stint as director of research for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries sparked an interest in labor law, and he began taking night classes at Lewis & Clark Law School.
Norman spent three years with two different firms before opening his own office. He served both unions and individual workers without union protection. At IBEW Local 48 Norman provided free legal services at the union hall, where union members could get advice on a wide variety of legal problems. Though he formally retired in 2014, he continued to do work for IBEW. Two of the last projects Norman worked on were union research on job discrimination against women electricians and a grant proposal for FASCETS, a pioneering nonprofit founded by his sister Diane Malbin to educate people about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and other neurobehavioral conditions.
Behind Norm’s take-charge personality and booming voice was a caring and sensitive man with a big heart and a wonderful sense of humor. He was skilled at conflict resolution and generous in spirit and deed, extending himself time and again to people needing help. He loved a good argument, not just for the thrill of competition but out of genuine curiosity and confidence that his adversaries had something to teach him. He took pride in the fact that his children were both union members and politically active. He was most in his element sailing the Columbia River and the San Juan Islands, coaching his sons’ soccer teams during their respective middle school years, and gathering with family and friends on the Washougal River. If people were singing, he could be counted on to join in with his deep bass voice.
Norman is survived by Wendy Temko, his wife of 38 years; sons Ben and Zak; daughter-in-law Nicole; grandchildren Remy and Tessa; two sisters; and a large family of close relationships and deep friendships.