David Dubinsky Biography
David Dubinsky was one of the most prominent leaders of the United States. From being a baker he rose to the ranks of one of the most significant leaders of the Labor Party. His journey started as a leader, after he joined the ‘Baker’s Union’. His leadership qualities got noticed and he was then elected as a board of member of the ‘Local 10’ association of the ‘ILGWU’. From that time onwards he has held many posts in the ‘ILGWU’, operated in difficult situations and emerged successful in his undertakings. He has led the ‘International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union’ through upheavals and over the years proved his management skills by lifting the union from a deteriorated condition to one of the most influential associations of the United States. This leader understood the plight of the labourers and formulated reformative and innovative schemes to provide better working environment and benefits. These significant moves by the political leader in turn increased productivity. He was also politically active and his association with the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped him in reviving the desolate and debt stricken condition of the Union and overcome the aftermaths of the ‘Great Depression’
- David Dubinsky was born to Bezalel Dobnievski and Shaina Wyshengrad on 22nd February 1892 in Brest-Litovsk, Russian Empire (present day Brest, Belarus). The boy had five other siblings and he was the youngest of them all.
- His family moved to Lodz, Poland where his father established a bakery. At a tender age, he started helping his father with works at the bakery and also distributed bread to various shops. At the same time, he studied at a Hebrew school and learnt languages such as Russian, Polish and Yiddish.
- When he was a teenager, he became skilled at baking and even joined the ‘Bakers’ Union’ which was associated to ‘The Bund’, an activist union of Jewish labourers.
- In 1907, he was taken into custody for a brief period by the Czarists for his association with the political outfit ‘Bund’, following the ‘Russian Revolution of 1905’.
- After his release, he joined the union again and was instrumental in organizing a strike of the bakers in Lodz. This resulted in his arrest for a second time, after which he was sent to Brest-LItovsk. Dubinsky unlawfully travelled back to Lodz and resumed his association with the union.
- In 1908, he was again arrested and even asked to go to Siberia. David shrewdly escaped from this exile, returned to Lodz and continued his baking work by adopting a pseudo name.
- He moved to the City of New York in the year 1911, where he started working as a garment cutter, and also joined the ‘Local 10’ association of the ‘International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)’.
- He was engaged in socialist work until his marriage in 1914, but after that he decided to focus more on his work and be involved in the local activities of the union.
- In 1918, Dubinsky was included in the board of members of the union ‘Local 10’ and the following year he was appointed as the union’s vice-president.
- He was appointed as the President of ‘Local 10’ in the year 1920, and a year later, he was appointed as the General Manager of the union. This position earned him a lucrative salary and eliminated the need to continue with the garment cutter’s job.
- This great leader was elected as a member of the ‘International’s General Executive Board’ in 1922.
- Dubinsky worked as a campaigner for a former ‘Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)’ association member named Morris Sigman in the ‘ILGWU’ elections. David lent his full support to the latter, who earned the post of the President of ‘ILGWU’ in 1923.
- The leader was then appointed as the General Secretary-Treasurer of the same, in the year 1929, and he retained the position for the next thirty years.
- This leader was appointed to the position of the President of the ‘International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union’ (ILGWU) in the year 1932, after the death of the former president and he continued his office for more than thirty years. So, he simultaneously held two major positions in the ‘ILGWU’.
- In 1934, he became a member of the executive council of ‘American Federation of Labor’, but resigned from its membership due to difference in opinions with respect to providing support for organizing mass-production.
- In 1936, he established the ‘American Labour Party’ along with another labour leader named Sidney Hillman.
- He introduced the scheme of a death benefit fund for the members of the ‘ILGWU’ in 1937.
- As a president, he developed various departments in the ‘ILGWU’ such as the Management and Engineering Department in 1941 and also the Legal Department, Political Department, and ‘Investment Department’ in the consequent years.
- Dubinsky re-joined the ‘American Federation of Labour’ in the year 1945, as its vice-president and was also included in the executive council.
- The staff retirement fund of the ‘ILGWU’ was introduced in the year 1946, after a series of negotiations.
- During the 1950s, Dubinsky was actively involved with the ‘Liberal Party’ and continued to provide his support towards the party, till he retired from the ‘ILGWU’.
- In 1966, he retired from the post of President of the ‘International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union’ (ILGWU) and established the ‘ILGWU Retiree Service Department’ and also assumed the post of its Director.
- This leader penned his autobiography titled ‘David Dubinsky: A Life with Labor’, which was published in the year 1977.
- During his presidency of the ‘International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), Dubinsky brought a radical change in the union by increasing its number of workers from around 45,000 to about 450,000. He initiated many new schemes like the pension plans, housing and health centres in the union.
- He was instrumental in the amalgamation of the ‘American Federation of Labor’ (AFL) and the ‘Committee on Industrial Organizations’ (CIO) organizations in the year 1955.
- He was honoured with the highest civilian award of the United States, the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ in January 1969 by the President of the United States.
- He married Emma Goldberg in the year 1914, and after that he refrained from engagements with the ‘Socialist Party’ and the cooperative movements. The leader rather preferred to focus on his craftsmanship and local union issues.
- Max D. Danish wrote a biography about David Dubinsky in the year 1957 and named it ‘The World of David Dubinsky’.
- Another book based on the life of this prominent leader is ‘Tailor’s Progress: the Story of a Famous Union and the Men who Made It’, written by Benjamin Stolberg.
- Irving Bernstein’s a couple of books have a mention of this great leader. These are ‘The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920-1933’ and ‘Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941’, which were published in the 1960s.
- He is reported to have been unwell for a long time and on 17th September 1982; he breathed his last in Manhattan. His obituary was published in the newspaper ‘New York Times’ on the very next day.
- He enthusiastically supported US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic programs called ‘New Deal’
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