Ruben Levin, 78, manager and editor of LABOR, a national newspaper published by 14 major railroad unions, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at Surburan Hospital. He lived in Chevy Chase.

Mr. Levin joined the newspaper in 1938 as an associate editor and became manager and editor in 1953. He had helped found and was chairman of Labor Press Associates, a cooperative news service for union publications.

He was born in Poland and grew up in Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wis. He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.Early in his career he worked for several papers in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States and Canada and Europe.

Mr. Levin's many honors included the Eugene V. Debs Foundation award in 1975, several awards from the International Labor Press Association, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award in 1956 and the University of Wisconsin School of Journalism award in 1965.

He contributed to many national magazines and railway labor publications.

He was a past president of the Association of Railroad Editors and a member of the Washington Histadrut unit of the Temple Sanai Brotherhood, the National Labor History Society, the Chautauqua Society, the Labor Relations Research Association, the National Consumers League, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Newspaper Guild.

Survivors include his wife, Berta of Chevy Chase; two children, David of Hong Kong, and Jonathan of Richmond, Va., and four grandchildren. A daughter, Hilda Tanenholtz, died in 1979.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Temple Sanai in Washington, or to a charity of one's choice.