Jews in the American Labor Movement: Past, Present & Future
by Bennett Muraskin
Review prepared by Keith Danish of the NYLHA.
Bennett Muraskin has issued an updated version of his survey of the history of Jews in the American labor movement, in the form of an illustrated 54-page booklet. (Mr. Muraskin is a staff representative for the Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT, AFL-CIO.) He reviews the birth and growth of the movement during the era of mass Jewish immigration late in the 19th Century, and highlights leading Jewish labor leaders of the time, starting with DeLeon and Gompers. In the early 20th Century, conditions in the “needle trades” brought forth the best-known “Jewish” unions (the ILGWU, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the Hatters and the Furriers), institutions that introduced “Social Unionism” and gave their members health clinics, pensions, co-op housing, adult education, labor banks and other benefits beyond the pay envelope.
The leading institutions supporting and complementing the Jewish unions in uplifting the immigrant masses are recognized, including the Workmen’s Circle, the Forverts and other Yiddish press organs, the Jewish Labor Committee and the Amalgamated Bank.
Yiddish actors and New York City bagel makers also were players in the world of Jewish unionism, and more recently Jews have been prominent as leaders of teachers’ and other public employees’ unions. Marvin Miller, who led the baseball players’ association (union) to unimaginable heights of prosperity, gets his due.
Weaving in American political and cultural developments, as well as the extensive history of support from the American Jewish labor movement for refugee, civil rights and Zionist causes, the author touches on many aspects of Jewish accomplishment in America, their “goldineh medina”, and provides a bibliography so that one can pursue any topic in greater depth.
Finally, Muraskin attempts to account for the “especially large role Jews have played in the progressive wing of the American labor movement,” and to answer the question: “How Jewish were Jewish labor leaders?”
A copy of the booklet can be obtained by sending a check for $5.00 to the author: Bennett Muraskin, 31 Holly Drive, Morris Plains, NJ 07950.