Abelson, Paul

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ABELSON, PAUL (1878–1953), U.S. labor arbitrator. Abelson, who was born in Kovno, Lithuania, immigrated to the United States at the age of 14. He studied at the City College of New York and Columbia University and in 1906 published The Seven Liberal Arts: A Study in Medieval Culture. Abelson was deeply interested in adult education for immigrants. He lectured in Yiddish for the New York City Board of Education (1902–09), headed programs for adult education at the Educational Alliance, helped establish the Madison House Settlement (1899), and edited the English–Yiddish Encyclopedic Dictionary (1915). Abelson's career as a labor arbitrator began in 1910. He was appointed to the staff established by the agreement that settled the New York cloakmakers' strike of that year. The settlement introduced the concept of arbitration into the ladies' garment trade, and a form of impartial adjudication subsequently marked labor-management relations in much of New York City's apparel industry. Abelson later held posts as an arbitrator in the fur, millinery, men's hat, hosiery, Jewish baking, and jewelry trades, among others. After the passage of the National Recovery Act (1933), Abelson was appointed by President Roosevelt as government representative on seven apparel trades boards. He often served as impartial chairman in early stages of arbitration agreements, and his decisions built the precedents and procedures that became the customary law in these industries. His impartiality and mastery of the detailed situation within each industry were instrumental in his success.

[Irwin Yellowitz]