Mazur, Jay

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MAZUR, JAY (1932– ), U.S. labor leader. Mazur was born and raised in the Bronx, the son of immigrants, and spent his professional life in the organized labor movement. He became president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, spearheaded its historic merger with the Amalgamated Clothing … Textile Workers Union, and was elected first president of the merged group, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (unite). Mazur, whose father was a coat presser, joined the ilgwu when he was 18, focusing on organizational and educational efforts for Dressmakers' Local 22. He graduated from the ilgwu's Training Institute in 1955 and became director of organization and education for Beltmakers' Local 40. While rising through the ranks, he resumed his formal education at night, earning a B.A. in Industrial Relations from the City University of New York in 1965 and an M.A. in Labor Studies from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1977. He was appointed managing secretary of the Blouse, Skirts … Sportswear Workers' Local 23–25, then the union's biggest local, in 1977, embarking on a hard-fought campaign to organize workers in New York City's Chinatown. In 1983 he was named general secretary-treasurer of the ilgwu. He succeeded Sol C. *Chaikin as president in 1986, inheriting a union with a declining membership. Increased competition from low-wage countries, a surge of imports, and the growth of multinational apparel and textile firms had further depressed membership in the two leading garment unions. From a combined peak of almost 1 million in the 1960s, membership tumbled to about 355,000 by the mid-1990s. In 1995 Mazur and actwu president Jack Sheinkman were able to merge both unions and Mazur was named unite's first president. Even though membership kept shrinking, falling to 250,000 in the next decade, the merger helped both unions survive at a critical time. It gave them a greater voice in government and social affairs and a stronger negotiating position with management. Mazur, who was on the executive boards of the afl-cio and the Central Labor Council, retired from unite in 2001 and was succeeded by Bruce S. *Raynor, but his efforts on behalf of workers did not stop. He was a vocal opponent of free trade, and a passionate lobbyist for anti-sweatshop legislation, a higher minimum wage, and the right of workers to organize. A leading advocate for the rights of immigrants, he was named to the boards of the Work in America Institute and the International Rescue Committee and appointed a vice president of the National Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Forum. In 1999, President Clinton appointed him to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He was on the presidium of the International Textile, Garment … Leather Workers Federation, president of the National Committee of Labor Israel-Histadrut, and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. He was also a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and the U.S.-South Africa Business Development Committee.

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]