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Obituary: Evy Dubrow, Garment Worker Advocate

Evy Dubrow, a longtime advocate for garment workers who retired as political director of UNITE in 1997, died here Tuesday night. She was 95.

WASHINGTON — Evy Dubrow, a longtime advocate for garment workers who retired as political director of UNITE in 1997, died here Tuesday night. She was 95.

Dubrow was short in stature at less than 5 feet tall, but she was long on grit, more than holding her own in Washington’s corridors of power. She earned a reputation as a hard-nosed lobbyist who never gave up.

“It is true that when she lobbies you, you know you’ve been lobbied,” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), at a luncheon in 2002.

The daughter of socialist immigrants from Belarus, Dubrow was surrounded by the labor movement as a child in New York and in her early working life, eventually moving to Washington in 1956.

At age 47, Dubrow feared that she would be considered too old to be hired as a union organizer at the ILGWU, which preceded UNITE and UNITE HERE as the main garment workers union. So she claimed to be 40 and got the job in 1957. Age, however, proved to be a scant obstacle to the lobbyist, who finally confessed her true age 45 years later.

“She cast a giant shadow in Washington,” Bruce Raynor, general president of UNITE HERE, said Wednesday.

Raynor said Dubrow fought against the North American Free Trade Agreement and for the rights of women and immigrant workers, but he identified her most with the minimum wage issue. During one push in the Nineties, Dubrow successfully fought to raise the federal hourly minimum. Raynor remembered how she used her long history in Washington to her advantage.

“She reminded [vice president] Al Gore that not only had she been friends with his father [Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee] for many years, but she had baby-sat for him when he was small and that he needed to listen to someone who was older and wiser about what was best for workers,” Raynor said. “The vice president’s reaction was, ‘Yes, ma’am.'”

A memorial service will be held in Washington this summer or in early fall. She is survived by five grandnieces.