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In Memoriam: FLA Senior Advisor Eric Biel

We are heartbroken to share news of the death of our friend and colleague Eric Biel. He was an integral part of our lives and our work, and his contribution to improving the lives of millions of workers worldwide will never be forgotten.

Headshot of Eric Biel smiling while wearing white button down and navy checkered sports coat

Eric Biel passed away at home on November 27. He was the beloved husband of Dana Rosenfeld, father of David and Josh, brother of Steven, and son of the late Claire (Diamond) and Morton. Born in Cleveland in 1959, Eric was a long-suffering fan of the Browns, Cavaliers, and especially the Guardians, who never failed to disappoint him. After graduating from law school, he embarked on a road trip to see a game in every major league baseball stadium. He received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and a joint J.D.-M.P.A. from Yale Law School and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

Eric’s life was one of purpose, dedicated to advancing human rights and worker rights. As a US government official, labor rights advocate, and law professor, his legacy is reflected in government policies and corporate practices that have improved workers’ lives around the world. His colleagues admired his innate ability to deal with complex situations with unlimited patience, displaying finesse and compassion in negotiations between factory management and trade unions in pursuit of improved working conditions. He uplifted everyone he interacted with – colleagues, friends, and students. Eric’s wisdom and mentorship also inspired a generation of Georgetown Law students to make their marks in the field of business and human rights.

Eric joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as Senior Advisor in January 2018, where he led initiatives to promote and protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions through adherence to international labor standards.

“Eric was a dear friend and mentor to all of us at the Fair Labor Association. He was a giant in the human rights field. His heart was as big as his incredible intellect. I am blessed to have worked with him, and I know all of my colleagues feel the same. We will miss Eric dearly.”
FLA President and CEO Sharon Waxman

Since 2009, Eric taught a business and human rights course at the Georgetown University Law Center addressing key issues of corporate accountability in the global economy, the intersection of trade and labor standards, and supply chain management and responsibility. He also helped found the Business & Human Rights Teaching Forum, and served in other volunteer capacities, including during the 2020 presidential campaign.

During his five years as Associate Deputy Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), Eric coordinated the Bureau’s work on private sector engagement, supply chain issues, and labor rights in a range of countries and under trade preference programs, and on key issues in the International Labor Organization, G-7, and OECD. “Eric dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of workers and their families, with a tenacious and generous spirit and dogged determination. He was a beautiful person with a heart of gold and will be deeply missed,” said Tom Perez, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President and former Secretary of Labor under President Obama. After leaving government at the end of the Obama Administration, Eric served on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force on the Future of the U.S. Workforce.

From 2000 to 2011, he worked outside of government, including as: Managing Director for Corporate Responsibility at Burson-Marsteller; Deputy Washington Director and Senior Counsel at Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights); and Senior Vice President and General Counsel at the Fontheim International law and consulting firm. Government service from 1990 to 2000 included serving as: Deputy Undersecretary for Trade Policy and head of the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning at the U.S. Department of Commerce; Executive Director of the bipartisan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy and Senior Policy Advisor to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; and International Trade Counsel at the Senate Finance Committee. Before entering government, he worked as an attorney at Arnold & Porter and Mayer Brown & Platt.

Eric lived fully and well. He went to every one of his sons’ games from rec to varsity and was head of the chain crew for Walt Whitman High School football when Josh played. He texted constantly about sports and current events, obsessively played the online trivia game Immaculate Grid with David and Josh, and wisely counselled David on his career path. He was a foodie whose tastes ranged widely and eclectically, from Corky & Lenny’s corned beef sandwiches in Cleveland to Michelin star restaurants in every city he visited with Dana. He loved Broadway musicals, New Orleans jazz, watching Jeopardy with his mother, and the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. But most of all, he loved his family, friends, students, and his hometown of Cleveland.

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