Morris P. Glushien, 96; Labor Lawyer

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 26, 2006

Morris P. Glushien, 96, a labor lawyer who was a key figure in the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, died May 19 of a series of strokes at Arbor View, a hospice in Santa Monica, Calif. A resident of Washington and New York City during his legal career, he lived in Los Angeles for the last decade.

As general counsel of the ILGWU for 25 years, Mr. Glushien worked alongside legendary union president David Dubinsky in efforts to improve conditions and compensation for workers in the U.S. garment industry, which changed dramatically during his tenure. Over the years, Italian and Jewish sewing machine operators, sweepers and cutters, mostly on Manhattan's Lower East Side, were joined by Latino, African American and Chinese members in cities across the nation. He was deeply involved with the union's effort to organize the new workers and to prevent the re-emergence of sweatshop conditions.

In 1958, he won the landmark Supreme Court case of Staub v. City of Baxley, Ga. , establishing that a town could not use an arbitrary permit requirement to forbid union organizers from contacting workers at home. He told the justices that city officials wielding such a permit could prevent even his 10-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the audience that day, from going door to door to recruit new members for the Girl Scouts.

The court ruled that the town had violated the First Amendment by assuming for itself unchecked power to decide who could solicit people for political, union or charitable causes.

"This is one of those small cases that carry large issues," wrote Justice Felix Frankfurter.

A child of Russian immigrants fleeing a pogrom, Mr. Glushien was born in Brooklyn in 1909. He received a bachelor's degree in 1929 and a law degree in 1931, both from Cornell University, where he was a member of the Cornell Law Quarterly. He was a co-founder of Curia, an alternative luncheon circle for Jewish law students who were excluded in that era from other campus social clubs. The Curia later became Cornell Law School's official alumni organization.

He was in private practice in Brooklyn from 1932 to 1938 and then taught for a year at Cornell Law School, where he offered one of the first courses on labor law.

In 1939, he became associate general counsel for the newly established National Labor Relations Board and led the board's Supreme Court litigation on the Wagner Act, which legally established labor's basic organizing rights.

During World War II, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps and trained as a cryptanalyst in Japanese code-breaking at Arlington Hall, Va. He served with the intelligence corps in India.

After the war, he resigned his NLRB position in protest of the Taft-Hartley Act, legislation passed in 1947 over President Harry Truman's veto that restricted labor's ability to engage in secondary boycotts.

Mr. Glushien was mild-mannered and collegial, a daughter recalled, but Dubinsky, who had assumed leadership of the union in the early days of the Depression, was fiery and at times autocratic. Despite their personality differences, the two men worked together during a time of great change for the garment workers union, and for organized labor in general.

From 1947 until his retirement in 1972, Mr. Glushien was in the thick of numerous heated battles, among them countering Communism in western European democracies and, closer to home, opening the shop floor and union membership to minorities. He helped craft the position of the social democratic movement in the United States on the Vietnam War, and he helped organize union support for social programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

He also was involved in efforts to staunch losses inflicted by nonunion manufacturing shops, mostly in the South initially and then in Asia and South America. He called them "runaway shops."

In retirement, he served as an arbitrator in disputes involving hospital workers, building inspectors and police unions. "He was a very successful arbitrator," said Samuel Estreicher, a professor of labor law at New York University. "For someone coming out of the labor movement, it's very rare to be able to do that."

He was a longtime member of the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress and chair of the Labor Law Section of the American Bar Association. The Morris P. Glushien Prize was established at Cornell Law School to recognize the best student writing on topics of social concern.

His wife, Anne Sorelle Williams Glushien, died in 1989.

Survivors include two daughters, Minna Taylor of Los Angeles and Ruth Wedgwood of Washington; and two grandchildren.

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