|by Tony Holtzman, M.D.|
His probing cost him his job in both the factory and the university. As one who did not teach what the system demandedhe was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war and of hypocrisy on and off campusPfeffer was denied tenure by Johns Hopkins despite protests by students and faculty. During his stay he was twice chosen by graduating students to speak at commencement.
After leaving Hopkins, Ric again used himself a probe. He chose to work as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor. Having experienced working conditions first hand, he had written in Working for Capitalism, "the poor performance record and political constraints placed on the operation of agencies like the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] are nothing less than a typical capitalist scandal."
Remarkably, Ric was able to strengthen OSHA regulations to protect workers from exposure to several potentially toxic substances and to improve sanitation facilities for farm workers. One of his colleagues at the Labor Department told the Baltimore Sun "Hundreds of workers go home safe and healthy every night because of his work."
Ric had no illusions about the difficulty of changing the system. As many commented at the memorial service at Stony Run Friends Meeting on May 28, he worked passionately and intensely for what he believed right. Society's destination, he wrote, "must be of our own conscious, active, and collective creation. Mere onlookers will not arrive."
Friends of Ric have established The Ric Pfeffer Memorial Lecture Series. Tax-deductible contributions (designated for the Series) can be made payable to Research Associates Foundation and sent to 1443 Gorsuch Avenue, Baltimore MD, 21218.