Gus Tyler, a longtime labor activist and a Forward contributing editor, who wrote the newspaper’s “Der Yiddish Vinkl” column well into his 90s, died June 3 in Sarasota, Fla. He was 99.
Tyler worked for more than 40 years for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union — serving in various capacities, including as political director, director of education and assistant president. A 1988 Newsday profile of Tyler said that his tenure at the ILGWU “helped make the union one of the most progressive and enlightened in organized labor,” and his prolific writing gave “labor and democratic socialism a cerebral underpinning that speaks louder than rants and posturing.”
Tyler began writing for the Yiddish Forward in 1932, leaving a few years later to take a job at the ILGWU; he started writing for the English edition of the Forward when it launched in 1990. Tyler penned “Der Yiddish Vinkl” — billed as “a weekly briefing on the mother tongue” — until 2006. He continued to publish opinion columns and “Tyler, Too” blog posts until 2008. Tyler was also a longtime commentator on WEVD, the radio station that was owned by the Forward Association.
Commemorating the Forward’s 110th anniversary in 2007, Tyler, in this column, recalled his mother’s anger when a fishmonger handed her a purchase wrapped in the newspaper. “My mother literally threw the package back at the fish handler. Startled, he said, ‘What’s the matter, lady?’ ‘It’s the Forward,’ she shouted. `If you have to wrap the fish in a paper, use The Times.’”
In addition to his work for the Forward, Tyler authored more than a dozen books, including a history of the ILGWU, and contributed to such magazines as The New Leader and Dissent.
Born Augustus Tilove to immigrant parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., he would change his last name to Tyler — in honor of Wat Tyler, the leader of a 14th-century English peasant rebellion.
Tyler, who lived for many years in Great Neck, N.Y., is survived by two children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; he was predeceased by his wife of more than 60 years, Marie Tyler.