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October 25, 2002 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Jewry's Role in
Human Affairs

GIANTS OF AMERICAN LABOR
Before and after the century's turn, the industrial revolution brought great
wealth to business and industry, which in the minds of workers in the
country's mills and factories, was not fairly shared. Labor grew restive,
fanning the flames of unionism. Meet several of its most visionary
crusaders.

SAMUEL GOMPERS
(1850-1924) b. London, England The father of
our nation's labor movement, and its chief
spokesman for a generation, also prompted
Congress to make the first Monday in September
a legal holiday to honor working people.
Emigrating to the U.S. in 1863, Gompers was
employed as a New York City cigar maker, and
joined the profession's national union; within
three years he assumed its leadership and steered it into the American
Federation of Labor (AFL) which he had helped establish. From that point
on, Gompers devoted a purposeful lifetime, as AFL president, to building
the country's largest and most effective labor organization.
Conservative in nature, he was opposed to political, governmental
and employer controls over his craft union members. He advocated
collective bargaining, as well as strikes and boycotts, to secure better
wages, shorter hours and improved working conditions. Rejecting social-
ism and radicalism, Gompers was a steadfast believer in workers'
democratic rights to shape their own destinies through economic action. A
man of great personal integrity and patriotism, he was later approached by
Woodrow Wilson in a successful bid to win AFL support for the President's
World War One policies.
Determined to promote stability in the workplace, Gompers also
served as vice president of the National Civic Federation (since 1900)
through which industrialists, bankers and labor leaders could air and
reconcile disagreements to minimize labor unrest. More than any other
pioneer in the cause, he forged relationships between unions and
management that helped guarantee an adequate standard of living for
America's working men and women.

SIDNEY HILLMAN
(1887-1946) b. Zagare, Lithuania The Yeshivah-
trained grandson of an orthodox rabbi experienced
an early taste of union activity and conflict three
years after his arrival here. Hillman joined
coworkers in organizing a 1910 strike against the
Chicago plant of Hart, Schaffner & Marx which
also crippled the city's massive garment industry.
, He had brought from his homeland a record of
persistence and courage in struggling for the rights of workers--having
spent nine months in a Russian prison for proposing labor reforms.
Relocating to New York City, lie was elected president of the
Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a post in which he served
from 1915 to 1946. During these years, Hillman preached moderation
through- "constructive cooperation" which brought employers and
employees together in a heightened spirit of understanding and harmony.
The union thereby won sweeping and historic • benefits for its greatly
expanded membership: a 44-hour week, employment insurance and
affordable housing, and it established several banks which, through loans
and stock purchases, helped a number of clothing firms weather the Great
Depression.
In 1938, the widely respected labor figure was a founder of the
nation's other major trade union--the Congress of Industrial Organizations
(CIO) to which he was elected vice president. As lie rose in political
prominence, Hillman became a trusted confidant of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and his chief labor advisor during World War Two. "Clear it
with Sidney," was the oft-quoted remark by FDR to his party faithful during
the 1994 Democratic nominating convention; Following the war and until
his death, Hillman appeared on the global stage as a leader of the World
Federation of Trade Unions.
- Saul Stadtmauer

.ni

10/25
2002

22

Visit many more notable Jews at our website: www.dorledor.org
COMMISSION FOR THE DISSEMINATION OF JEWISH HISTORY
Walter & Lea Field, Founders/Sponsors
Irwin S. Field, Chairperson
Harriet F. Siden, Chairperson

The World Must Know

Survivors brave the cold to place ceremonial bricks
at the new Holocaust Memorial Center.

DIANA LIEBERMAN
Copy Editor/Education Writer

T

he air was chilly and the
sky gray on Oct. 17, as
some 75 aging men and
women gathered at the site
of the new Holocaust. Memorial
Center in Farmington Hills.
Sonia and Nate Nothman of West
Bloomfield drew their coats more
tightly around them as the wind
whipped through the steel skeleton of
the HMC's future home.
"So many have spoken about what
happened — but any speaker can tell
only 10 percent," said Nate Nothman,
who survived the Holocaust as a mem-
ber of Oskar Schindler's famous list.
It was not the
groundbreaking for
the new building —
that took place on
June 23. Instead, it
was a day for the
survivors to add
their own symbolic

Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig-: "Today you will
place a brick for a new kind of building"

touch, a touch that will make a memo-
rial from a tower of bricks and steel.
Addressing the group was Rabbi
Charles Rosenzveig, HMC's founder
and executive director.
He said, "You who have witnessed
the construction of buildings for the
destruction of human beings; you who
have witnessed the building of gas
chambers for men, women and chil-
dren; today you will place a brick for a
new kind of building."
The new building rising on Orchard
Lake Road north of 12 Mile Road repre-

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