The offices of union boss Bruce Raynor were, until recently, a physical testament to the Jewish labor movement’s enduring power.
Nearly six years after the housekeepers and dishwashers at the Congress Plaza Hotel first went on strike, the enormous hotel here on Chicago’s lakefront shows the marks of being a battle zone in America’s labor wars.
Recent controversies about labor issues in the Jewish community have often become battles between non-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews. At the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago, this paradigm seems to hold, with rabbis from more liberal denominations protesting the Orthodox Jewish owners of the hotel.
Since retiring from his position as CEO of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus has become one of this country’s most vocal opponents of organized labor, criticizing unions in the media and on Capitol Hill. That is a long way from Marcus’s beginnings in a Newark, N.J., tenement some 80 years ago.
A group of contemporary labor leaders are at the head of a new Jewish labor movement, recalling an era before World War II when Jews were leading some of the most progressive, innovative unions in the country.
The annual commemoration of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire has long been a chance for the leaders of the old Jewish garment unions to come out and memorialize the Jewish roots of the labor movement.
Listen to a podcast featuring Andy Stern speaking about his Jewish and labor roots.