William Wayne Onasch
William Wayne Onasch died peacefully on July 8, 2021, after a battle with cancer. Bill was born on December 8, 1942, in Kansas City, Kansas to William and Freida (McElyea) Onasch.
A simple obituary cannot fully describe his lifelong dedication to the improvement of working conditions. Following his graduation from Ruskin High School in 1960, Bill devoted his life to labor rights. As a young man he moved, worked, and organized working people in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. While working at Litton Microwave near Minneapolis from 1975 to 1985, he was active in his union, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), and held several leadership positions, including president of Local 1139.
Returning to his hometown in 1989, Bill began a fourteen-year stint as a bus driver for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. He soon started publishing a rank-and-file union newsletter, Transit Truth, headed a Community Outreach Committee and was elected to a term of vice-president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287.
Bill believed that workers should have their own party and participated in the 1996 Labor Party Founding Convention. Starting in 2000, Bill was the webmaster of the KC Labor website, which included the Labor Advocate news blog, as well as his own take on the news, Week in Review, until 2019. He sponsored and co-sponsored a number of local conferences including Workers Rights and Home and Abroad, and The Future of American Labor.
Bill was a lifelong learner, but also enjoyed traveling, cheering at Kansas City Royals games, and having good discussions with friends. In addition to Mary, his wife of sixteen years, he is survived by his sister, Nancy, along with cousins Dianne, Larry, and Galen McElyea.
A virtual celebration of life will be planned at a future date.
Donations in honor of Bill can be sent to the United Electrical workers union. The UE’s address is:
4 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2226
Checks should be made payable to UER&MWA