Labour leader, born in Zagare, Lithuania. A labour activist in Russia, he was imprisoned for participation in the abortive revolution of 1905. Upon his release, he emigrated to the USA (1907) and settled in Chicago. A garment worker, he emerged in the 1910 Hart, Schaffner and Marx strike in Chicago as one of the leaders of the United Garment Workers (UGW), and negotiated a new contract that was regarded as a model of labour–management relations. In 1914 he went to New York City, where he led a split from the UGW that resulted in the formation of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), and was elected its first president (1914), an office he held until his death. By 1940 his union dominated the manufacture of men’s clothing, and had pioneered such reforms as the 40-hour week and industry-wide wage scales. A strong supporter of the New Deal, he was appointed a labour adviser to the National Recovery Administration (1933) and to several war production boards during World War 2. A founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), he was the first chairman of the CIO’s Political Action Committee (1943–6), and a vice-chairman of the newly founded World Federation of Trade Unions (1945–6). As an advocate of co-operation instead of confrontation between labour and management, he pioneered in such advances as his union’s lending money to companies and providing research to improve efficiency. His premature death left many feeling that American society as well as the labour movement had suffered an irreplaceable loss.
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