Chaikin, Sol C.

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CHAIKIN, SOL C. (1918–1991), U.S. labor leader. Chaikin, born in Harlem and the son of immigrants who were garment workers, was the ninth president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. He was the first to be born in the 20th century and the first to be born and educated in the U.S. Chaikin graduated from the City College of New York and joined the ilgwu in 1940, the year he received his degree from Brooklyn Law School. His first job with the union was as an organizer in the New England area. He served with the U.S. Air Force in Southeast Asia during World War ii, then returned to the union, establishing a reputation as a skilled negotiator. In 1955, he was made a director of the Lower Southwest Region, consisting primarily of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 1959, he was made assistant director of the Northeast Department, whose 430,000 members made it the union's biggest unit. Chaikin was named an international vice president in 1965 and general secretary-treasurer in 1973. When Louis *Stulberg retired as president in 1975 because of illness, Chaikin was named to fill the remainder of his term. He was elected president in 1977 and reelected twice more before stepping down in 1986, when he was succeeded by Jay *Mazur.

When Chaikin became president, the ilgwu had some 400,000 members. Faced by an increasing number of non-union shops, many in the South, and a flood of imports from low-wage factories in Asia, South America, and Europe, membership dwindled to 220,000 by the time Chaikin retired. His biggest battles as president were to heighten public consciousness of the loss of jobs to competition from overseas; to eliminate sweatshops, especially in New York City's Chinatown; and to fight the legalization of "homework," a practice that encouraged women to subcontract garment work at home but which unions believed fostered abuses in child-labor and minimum-wage laws.

Chaikin was also a vice president and member of the executive council of the afl-cio. In 1977, he was appointed by President Jimmy *Carter to the U.S. delegation to review the Helsinki Agreement on human rights at meetings in Belgrade and Madrid. He helped plan the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan's West Side and became acting president in 1989. He was part of afl-cio delegations to Egypt, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, and Spain and represented the U.S. at labor summits in London in 1977 and Tokyo in 1979. He was the first chairman of the afl-cio's American Council of Education, a trustee of Brandeis University, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.


New York Times (May 30, 1975; April 3, 1991); Women's Wear Daily, (April 3, 1991).

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]