Sigman, Morris

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SIGMAN, MORRIS (1880–1931), U.S. labor leader. Born near Akkerman, S. Bessarabia, Sigman left Russia for England in 1901 and settled in New York two years later. He worked as a cloak presser in the needle trades and joined the Jewish labor movement, leading a cloak pressers' revolt against the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union (ilgwu). The cloak pressers formed an independent union affiliated to the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance and later to the radical labor organization, Industrial Workers of the World (iww). However, the iww had little appeal to the Jewish workers of New York and in 1907 Sigman's union rejoined the ilgwu. Sigman devoted his energies to the creation of effective and stable trade unions in the needle trades. He organized the successful shirtwaist workers' strike (1909–10) and managed the picket committee during the cloakmakers' strike (1910). He was elected secretary-treasurer of the ilgwu in 1914 only to resign a year later, but after managing the New York Joint Cloak Board (1917–20), he was elected a vice president of the ilgwu in 1920. He retired in the following year but was recalled from retirement in 1923 to serve as ilgwu president in the face of an impending union split under pressure from the Communist Trade Union Education League. Sigman succeeded in defeating the communist challenge during his five years of office but on his resignation in 1928 he left the union a smaller and impoverished organization.

[Melvyn Dubofsky]