NEW YORK — Family, friends and former colleagues of Jack Sheinkman gathered Wednesday to remember him as a fiery labor leader and human rights advocate.

Sheinkman, who died of pneumonia in January at age 77, was the last president of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union. He retired in 1995 when the ACTWU and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union merged into UNITE.

While several at the memorial described Sheinkman’s passion, he was also remembered as a family man who cared deeply for the condition of workers everywhere.

William Englander, former attorney for the Textile Workers Union and a friend of Sheinkman’s since childhood, said the labor leader got his start early, organizing his first strike at the tender age of 10.

In protest of some long-forgotten wrong by a science teacher, the kids in Sheinkman’s class, in unison, produced newspapers and began reading when the teacher went to the board.

That first effort wasn’t a spectacular success, though, and the students eventually put away their papers to placate their angry teacher.

Sheinkman was more successful in his later battles, including a groundbreaking cooperation agreement signed between the ACTWU and San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. in 1994. He was also instrumental in the union’s efforts to organize the Southern textile giant J.P. Stevens & Co. in the Seventies.

Janet Shenk, special assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, recalled Sheinkman as he helped organize delegations to the turbulent El Salvador 20 years ago, noting he was “completely undaunted by the circumstances.”

After “interrogating” ambassadors, generals and other officials on the plight of the local workers, Sheinkman maintained that style of questioning and his composure when armed guerrillas stopped a delegation he was leading. The group eventually returned safely.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Sheinkman’s younger brother, Shepard Sheinkman, described his brother as someone who wielded power, but never abused it.

“You can’t be a leader without understanding the uses and misuses of power,” he said. “He was very purposeful, a very serious guy.”

However, Sheinkman said his brother had “a sweetness about him.”No matter how well the brothers, who shared a room, were getting along on a particular day, Sheinkman remembered, “When the lights went out, he would reach out his hand to me and I would hold his and he would say ‘Goodnight.’”

Other speakers at the memorial, held at 31 West 15th Street and featured a video of Sheinkman, were Rev. David Dyson, Homi Patel, Noel Beasley, Harry Katz, Marvin Rich, Ezra Cornell, Robert Kaplan, Michael Black, William Gould and Bruce Raynor.

To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

To Read the Full Article
SUBSCRIBE NOW

Tap into our Global Network

Of Industry Leaders and Designers

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus