DAVID DUBINSKY: A Life with Labor by David & A. H. Raskin Dubinsky
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DAVID DUBINSKY: A Life with Labor

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For 34 years, that model of a stable, moderate, socially progressive union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, was led by Dave Dubinsky, a quickwitted scrapper who can't understand, even now, how he was cheated out of five rubles back in Brest-Litvosk when he was fifteen. It's about the only mistake he admits to making, as collaborator A. H. Raskin, New York Times labor expert, notes in the introduction. So what is Dubinsky if not a true pragmatist? Make yourself comfortable and listen to him tell about his experiences as a greenhorn Socialist in the Tsar's prisons where ""even the bedbugs. . . were intelligent""; his exultation, on arriving in New York, at seeing people walking about freely, ""not being molested, not fearful""; the family decision that he become a cutter in a coat-and-suit house, ""the equivalent of a physician, a genuine aristocrat."" Fifty years later, when he escorts V-P Lyndon Johnson through the garment center lunchtime schmooze, the question is, ""Who is that tall guy with Dubinsky?"" On the substantive side, you'll hear D.D.'s version of the Communist take-over of the ILGWU in the Twenties (back to back with the recollections of a then-Communist) which made him suspicious of Communists forevermore; the fight against labor racketeers in the garment industry and corruption in other unions; the big split between trade and industrial unionism that--fanned by the intransigent John L. Lewis, supported but regretted by Dubinsky--led to formation of the CIO; and, in the ILGWU's bailiwick of New York, the founding of the American Labor Party so old-line Socialists could vote for FDR--followed, when the ALP went Communist, by establishment of the Liberal Party (which, Dubinsky discloses, considered going national under Willkie in 1944). But Dubinsky's greatest pride is his stewardship of the ILGWU: ""What I brought you is not wages but a union,"" he once told disgruntled Philadelphia workers--with the promise, redeemed, that higher wages and other benefits would follow. Immigrant biography, labor history, liberal-left politics--it's the rare reader who won't pick and choose, but the voice has an edge and the life-story holds firm like a union label.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Simon & Schuster