- HILLMAN, SIDNEY
- HILLMAN, SIDNEY (1887–1946), U.S. labor leader. Hillman was born in the small town of Zagare in Lithuania, son of an Orthodox flour merchant and grandson of a rabbi. He received a traditional ḥeder education, and at the age of 14 was sent to study at a yeshivah in Kovno. There he rebelled against both religion and his father, and became involved in revolutionary socialist politics, spending six months in prison as a result of his participation in the abortive revolution of 1905. Soon after his release Hillman emigrated to England, then to the United States (1907), where, after a short stay in New York, he settled in Chicago. In 1909 he went to work in the Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothing factory and a year later he helped head a strike that spread from the plant to all of the city's 35,000 garment workers. For the next five years Hillman was active as a union organizer and was instrumental in getting the Chicago garment trade to accept the principle of the "union shop." This experience was fundamental in shaping his concept of "industrial constitutionalism," that is, the idea of a structured harmony between labor and management, that was to be his main contribution to the American labor movement. In 1914 Hillman returned to New York as chief clerk of the Cloakmakers Joint Board in the women's garment industry. Soon after, the United Garment Workers split in two and Hillman was elected president of one of the factions, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which in 1915 won recognition as chief bargaining agent of New York City's garment workers. As president of the Amalgamated, Hillman set out to achieve sweeping reforms in the industry, by negotiation where possible, through strikes where not. In 1918 the union won a 44-hour week, and in 1920 it was granted a contract that called for a union shop, guaranteed unemployment insurance, and the right to help set production standards. The union also pioneered by going into banking, by means of which it managed to tide many garment businesses through difficult times with loans and stock purchases. The period of the New Deal saw Hillman rise to positions of national leadership. He was appointed to the National Recovery Administration during President Roosevelt's first term and in 1938 he joined Philip Murray and Walter Reuther in forming the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), becoming head of the executive council of its Textile Workers of America. With the outbreak of World War II Hillman became Roosevelt's chief labor adviser. He was appointed labor member of the National Advisory Committee in 1940 and associate director general of the Office of Production Management in 1941. He also served on the Supply Priorities and Allocation Board and was director of the labor division of the War Production Board. At the same time he remained active in the CIO and helped found its Political Action Committee, which sought to commit the labor movement to increased political militancy. After the war his interest also turned to the international labor movement and he was vice president of the World Federation of Trade Unions at the time of his death. Throughout his career Hillman was sympathetic to the goals of the Jewish labor movement in Palestine. He was chosen one of the "non-Zionist" members of the Jewish Agency Executive in 1929 and as a confidant of President Roosevelt sought to win him over to a more pro-Zionist position. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Soule, Sidney Hillman, Labor Statesman (1939); M. Josephson, Sidney Hillman (1952); C.E. Zaretz, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (1934), passim; M. Epstein, Jewish Labor in U.S.A. 1914–1952, 2 (1953), 390–5; S. Perlman and P. Taft, Labor Movement (1935), 313–6.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.
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