Correction: Obituary Omitted Key Facts On Labor Organizer

New York Times/March 21, 1995

An obituary of Eugenio Perente-Ramos yesterday gave an incomplete and partly inaccurate account of his activities and life. The article, based largely on information provided by two associates, noted that he was an organizer of migrant and seasonal labor, but omitted the fact that he was also the leader of a group that has been characterized as a cult.

The article noted that Mr. Perente-Ramos, who died at age 59 on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn, founded the Eastern Farm Workers Association on Long Island in the early 1970's, led migrant workers in a strike against potato processors in Suffolk County in 1972 and helped organize workers and boycotts for the United Farm Workers.

Dan Fiske and Christopher Day, the associates who provided much of the information for the article, also said Mr. Perente-Ramos had earlier helped to organize miners, machinists and other workers in Texas and California and characterized him as a close associate of Cesar Chavez and an innovative leader who organized cadres of volunteers to aid the poor.

But experts on cult activities, a former wife of Mr. Perente-Ramos and several parents of his followers said yesterday that his labor activities and association with Mr. Chavez had been exaggerated, and that for two decades, he had been the leader of a cult that recruited troubled young people, housed them in communal quarters and "brainwashed" them into believing they had committed their lives to social justice by collecting food and clothing for the poor.

Chip Berlet, who has written extensively on cults and is a senior analyst for Political Research Associates in Cambridge, Mass., which studies extremist and authoritarian movements, said that Mr. Perente-Ramos's followers had been "mesmerized into believing they are the true underground," but actually were trapped in a mindless internal bureaucracy of forms, reports and meetings.

Mr. Berlet said the group called itself the National Labor Federation, had many subsidiaries, including the Eastern Farm Workers Association, and operated in New York, Massachusetts and California. The groups have been the subject of numerous articles about cults. The parents of several followers told of losing contact with children after they came under Mr. Perente-Ramos's influence.

Ruth Mikkelsen, who was married to Mr. Perente-Ramos from 1960 to 1962, said he was born Gerald William Doeden, grew up in Idaho and Northern California, attended Yuba College, was a disk jockey and ran a San Francisco book store that sold communist literature in the 1960's. She said he had changed his name several times, and she described him as unstable.

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