Gold, Benjamin

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GOLD, BENJAMIN (1898–1983), U.S. labor leader. Gold, who was born in Bessarabia, Russia, was taken to the United States in 1910. In the following year, he started to work in the fur industry. Gold joined both the Socialist Party and the Fur Workers Union, where he became identified with the union's left wing. During the 1920s a struggle took place between the union's left wing led by Gold (who had joined the Communist Party by 1925) and the more conservative wing. Gold, who became the general manager of the union's New York joint board in 1925, led a bitter strike in 1926 that lasted 17 weeks. The strike ended with the union winning only one of its major demands, a 40-hour work week. The American Federation of Labor then investigated the joint board and charged it with being Communist-controlled and corrupt. As a result of these charges, the union's executive council expelled Gold and his fellow officers. Gold and other left-wing needle trade unionists then formed the Needle Trades Industrial Union and the Fur Workers Industrial Union.

During the Depression, Gold attended the Lenin School of Moscow. In 1935 the Fur Workers Industrial Union was disbanded and its members joined the new cio International Fur Workers Union (which later became known as the International Fur and Leather Workers Union). In 1937 Gold became the union's president, while continuing to play an important role in the Communist Party. Regarded by many as the most incorruptible figure in the needle trade, Gold was held in high esteem by the manufacturers because he brought reliable production as well as high wages and good benefits to the industry.

In 1948 the union was forced to leave the cio as a result of that organization's investigation into Communist influence in a number of its member unions. Shortly afterward, Gold, in order to be eligible to sign the Taft-Hartley Act's loyalty pledge which, in turn, would provide his union with the legal protection afforded by the act, resigned from the Communist Party. Gold continued as union president until he resigned in 1954. After resigning, he worked as a fur cutter until his retirement.

Gold wrote Avreml Broide (1944), Mentshn, dertseylungen fun Ben Gold (1948), and Memoirs (1985).

[Albert A. Blum]