Hillman, Sidney

Hillman, Sidney,

1887–1946, American labor leader, b. Lithuania. He emigrated to the United States in 1907. Beginning as a garment worker, he became a union leader after his key participation in a successful clothing workers' strike (1910) in Chicago. In 1914 he began his long tenure as president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. He promoted union-management cooperation and started many novel union practices, such as cooperative housing and banking. One of the founders of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), he was its vice president from 1935 to 1940. A moderate, opposed to labor schism, he directed the labor sections of the Office of Production Management from 1940 to 1942. Through the CIO Political Action Committee, which he headed from its start (1943) until his death, he sought labor support for political programs favored by unions. His strong support of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies made him influential in the Democratic party. He was also a founder of the American Labor party and its chairman (1944–45). As CIO delegate at world labor parleys, he helped create (1945) the World Federation of Trade Unions.


See biography by M. Josephson (1952).

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Hillman, Sidney

(1887–1946) labor leader; born in Zagare, Lithuania. A labor activist in Russia, he was imprisoned for participation in the abortive revolution of 1905. Upon his release, he emigrated in 1907 to the United States, settling 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 labor-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); he 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 backer of the New Deal, he was appointed as a labor adviser to the National Recovery Administration in 1933, and to several war production boards during World War II. A founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), he was the first chairman of the CIO's Political Action Committee (1943–46), and a vice-chairman of the newly founded World Federation of Trade Unions (1945–46). As an advocate of cooperation instead of confrontation between labor 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 labor movement had suffered an irreplaceable loss.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.