NEW YORK — Jack Sheinkman, the personable labor leader who was the last president of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union, died Thursday morning of pneumonia at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. He was 77.
This story first appeared in the January 30, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sheinkman, whose soft-spoken style contrasted with his firm commitment to organized labor and its role on social issues, retired in 1995 upon the merger of the ACTWU and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union into UNITE. ILGWU chief Jay Mazur became the first president of UNITE.
Bruce Raynor, who succeeded Mazur and is UNITE’s current president, said Sheinkman stood out for understanding that the head of a union has to know when to be scrappy and when to be “statesmanlike.”
“He was also a guy that understood the relationship between progressive companies, manufacturers and the union, and the fact that it was important to make alliances with progressive companies,” Raynor said. “On the other hand, he was a tireless fighter against bad companies.”
Under Sheinkman’s leadership, the ACTWU signed a groundbreaking cooperation agreement in June 1994 with San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. He was also instrumental in the union’s battle to organize the Southern textile giant J.P. Stevens & Co. in the Seventies.
Sheinkman was ACTWU president from 1987 until 1995. When he retired, he continued to serve as chairman of the Amalgamated Bank of New York, which was founded by the union in 1923 and remains the only union-owned bank in the country. He stepped down from that post in July 1997.
Sheinkman began his union career as an organizer for the International Pulp, Sulphite & Paper Mill Workers, before joining the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1953. The ACWA was a predecessor union of the ACTWU.
In June 1987, Sheinkman was first appointed to the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He was reappointed in 1990, and again in 1994 by President Clinton. In 1986, he was appointed by then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to the Governor’s Industrial Cooperation Council and to the Commission on Competitiveness.
He is survived by his wife, Betty, and three sons, Michael, Joshua and Mark.