Reader Comments: Trump's Kidnapping, Concentration Camps and Resistance; Albert Einstein and Racism; Nicaragua and the Left; Study Medicine in Cuba; First Black-Led Union; How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World; Barbara Hillman; and more

 



Portside
Reader Comments: Trump's Kidnapping, Concentration Camps and Resistance; Albert Einstein and Racism; Nicaragua and the Left; Study Medicine in Cuba; First Black-Led Union; How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World; Barbara Hillman; and more

Tidbits - Reader Comments - June 21, 2018, Portside

 

Re: Governors Refuse to Send National Guard to Border, Citing Trump’s Child Separation Policy (Jay Schaffner; Lisa Bilander-Gray; David Frazer)
Re: Will ICE Agents be Able to Live With What They are Doing to Migrant Children? Will You and I? (Daniel Millstone; Sonia Collins)
Immigrant Children - cartoon by Rob Rogers
It's World Refugee Day, But Do not be Fooled, Asylum Seekers Will Still Be Jailed (First Friends NJ, NY)
Ripping Children from Parents: Torah vs. Trumpery (Rabbi Arthur Waskow)
Children in Rail Cars, Where Did We See This Before - cartoon by Chris Britt
This Summer's Hottest Item - cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz
Re: Why Juneteenth Should Be a National Holiday (Henry Lesnick)
Einstein and Racism, and The New York Times (Rodger Taylor And Fred Jerome)
Re: Was Albert Einstein a Racist? (Ken Lawrence; Ethan Young; Bob Supansic; Daniel Millstone)
Re: Trumpism Before Trump (Luís Torres)
Re: Trumpism, Realized (Laurel MacDowell)
Re: Corporate Wage Theft (Domingo Soto)
Re: Oilcan” Ed Sadlowski, 1938-2018 Midwestern Grit (Rich Gibson; Michael Munk)
Re: Former Prisoner of Conscience Condemns Amnesty International (Dianne Feeley; Joan Vermeulen; Moderator's Note; Stan Nadel)
Re: Choosing to Study Medicine in Cuba (Charles Courtney; Moderator's Note; Bruce Smith; Aida Rivera; Vicky Rosado)
Re: The First Black-Led Union Wouldn’t Have Existed Without this Woman (Daniel Mays; Otoniel Figueroa-Duran; Melinda Chateauvert; Tom Gogan)
Re. Recalling Pete Seeger's Controversial Performance on the Smothers Brothers Show (Bill Meyerson)
Re: How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World (Ed Griffin; Om Williamson; Craig Carl; Wendi Galczik)
Remembering Barbara Hillman (Graydon Megan - Chicago Tribune)

 

Re: Governors Refuse to Send National Guard to Border, Citing Trump’s Child Separation Policy

Yes! Now this gives folks in other states something to press their governor on. Go to it.

Jay Schaffner
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Gov. Murphy of NJ has joined this as well.

Lisa Bilander-Gray
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Other states mentioned including Colorado. New Mex is real conflicted about it, Susana Martinez notwithstanding.

David Frazer
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: Will ICE Agents be Able to Live With What They are Doing to Migrant Children? Will You and I?
 

We are the 99%. Lawrence Wittner https://business.facebook.com/larrywittner?fref=mentions reminds us that the rich are getting fabulously richer while the rest of us? Not so much."America’s richest 1 percent... possess nearly 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

But a great many Americans are not doing nearly as well as the nation’s super-wealthy. That 40 percent of the wealth, in fact, constitutes twice the total wealth held by the bottom 90 percent of the American public (about 294,000,000 people)." Tax the rich. Create good green jobs, good schools with smaller classes, affordable housing and good transit. Thanks to Portside  for the link. https://portside.org/2018-06-13/will-ice-agents-be-able-live-what-they-…

Daniel Millstone
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

The ICE employees' union might want to challenge that ripping children from their parents and sending them off to "whatever" is not part of the job description their members signed up for. Also that the crying, begging and screaming children are creating psychological stress and PTSD for members. ICE is not nice to begin with, but this steps way over the line. And then there is Nuremberg.

Sonia Collins
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Immigrant Children - cartoon by Rob Rogers
 

Rob Rogers
June 1, 2018
RobRogers.com

[Rob Rogers was for 25 years the editorial cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This year 19 of his cartoons were pulled prior to publication. On Friday, June 15, Rogers was fired for cartoons like this one.]

 

It's World Refugee Day, But Do not be Fooled, Asylum Seekers Will Still Be Jailed
 

This executive order does little to fix the humanitarian crisis, continuing the practice of detaining families who are seeking refuge. Family detention centers are not the answer. Putting families behind bars and giving them no real chance to pursue their asylum case goes against the American tradition of welcoming migrants and refugees.

First Friends NJ, NY
53 South Hackensack Avenue
Kearny, NJ 07032

 

Ripping Children from Parents: Torah vs. Trumpery
 

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

June 15, 2018
The Shalom Center

Dear friends,

Last night I took part in the coming-together of about a thousand people, jamming both sides of the street for a city block at the local ICE office in Philadelphia.  (“ICE” = “Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”)

On barely 24 hours notice, all of them were protesting the actions of ICE to disrupt families on the southern US border, to traumatize distraught kids and parents.  I’ve been to dozens of vigils, rallies, and whatnot in Philadelphia, and there were hundreds of people at this one whom I had never met. There were two hours of home-made signs, chants, songs, tears, many many very short speeches by people who came up from the crowd. I've never before seen people cry at such a gathering. (This sign, "You've got ICE Where Your Hearts Should Be," was made and carried by Rabbi Phyllis Berman.)

People are outraged by what has been happening. It’s the highest level of outrage I’ve seen this whole 18 months. People can identify with what it’s like to have children ripped away from their families. 

And the outrage comes from a very deep gut level. The “prime directive” for every species, including the human species, is to make sure the next generation thrives. The children. You can only rip children away from their families by dehumanizing the people you are facing. Down that path lies genocide.

There is a reason that one of the key moments in the story of Pharaoh is when he orders babies killed. And in the Christian story, when Herod orders children killed. That is the moment when a tyrant becomes a monstrosity. 

--- All the atrocities we are facing, all the issues in the "Fusion Politics" of the "Call for a Moral Revival" put forward by the Poor Peoples Campaign, come to a head in this moment.  The cruelty we are witnessing is being blatantly exposed as integral to racism & militarism. It is like a blood poisoning that at first is hidden and then breaks through into the bright red streak of inflammation that signals extreme danger.  And for the sake of traumatized children who,  we now know, actually have their brain structures damaged by trauma, it is urgent to act.

Clear demands: 1) The immediate end of all separations of families and the immediate admission to probationary asylum of families from Honduras, El Salvador and other Central American countries that are under extreme pressure of  violence, while their cases are investigated; (2) Immediate impeachment and removal of the head  of ICE and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

This is what a true morality looks like:

Effective moral politics is always about knowing where the cutting edge is in which our side of the slice is much bigger than the other side of it. I think this is it. The Trumpist behavior is absolutely consistent, and I think they have gone too far. 

Yesterday an organizer asked me  --

"What would you say to [ICE agents]  if you could talk to them directly. Not the bosses, but the line workers. What would you say to them?"

My answer: 

Do you have children? Grandchildren? How would you feel if they were ripped away from you or from your kids, if it’s grandchildren we are talking about,  and sent to a fenced-in jail? No contact with their parents, no information on what happened to them? Who is feeding the baby who was literally yanked off his or her mother’s breast, nursing? Who is changing diapers, holding them when they cry?  

Could you bear it if you were the target, not the enforcer? Can you bear it if you are the enforcer? Could you read Exodus I: 15-22  (about Pharaoh’s order to kill children, and how a couple of women resisted.) Could you read Matthew 2:16 (about Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents)? Could you read Deuteronomy 23: 15-16 (about welcoming runaway slaves to live wherever they want in the land)? What could you personally do to stop it? Could you talk with your co-workers? Could you get five or six of them, along with you, to simply stop doing it?

Attorney-General Sessions has just defended his actions by citing biblical passages that counsel obeying the law. But first of all, he and ICE have construed the law so as to prohibit asylum-seekers from making their case. He has invented the law that he then insists that refugees obey. Indeed, his behavior itself violates the law – the Treaty on Asylum and Refugees carved out after World War II and the experience of Jews who were denied asylum.  And there is no law requiring ICE to rip children from their families.  

For the Bible, laws imposed by an unjust and unaccountable government are not the standard for behavior.  Isaiah (10:2) cried out, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

What is more, out of exactly that outlook, Jesus broke the law, nonviolently.  That’s why he was crucified. Does that mean it’s OK for the United States to destroy the lives of children and parents because Rome crucified Jesus? Or does it mean exactly the opposite?

Moreover, if Mr. Sessions wants to quote the Bible, let us quote him this:

"You shall not hand over to their masters slaves who have escaped from their masters to you. They may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which they choose within your gates, wherever it seems best to them; you shall not maltreat him.”   (Deuteronomy 23: 15-16)

We might call this to the attention of his down-home folks in Alabama and to his church in Washington DC  And in letters to our Members of Congress and Senators and to the editors of our newspapers. And to sermons  and discussions in our synagogues, our churches, our mosques. In talking with the workers at ICE offices all across America. We might – and we should.

For if the present government of the United States has chosen to become the Pharaohs of old and the Roman Caesars of old --  tyrants, murderers, and monsters --  then it is time for a new Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority.

Among national organizers of the protests are Families Belong Together  https://www.facebook.com/pg/familiesbelong

And we do not need to wait for a national plan to respond to Pharaohs and Caesars on our own.  ICE exists everywhere.  And so do we.

 

Children in Rail Cars, Where Did We See This Before - cartoon by Chris Britt
 

Chris Britt
June 11, 2018
Illinois Times (Springfield, Illinois)

 

This Summer's Hottest Item - cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz
 

Lalo Alcaraz
June 15, 2018

 

Re: Why Juneteenth Should Be a National Holiday
 

A national celebration of Juneteenth, long overdue, must also recognize the unsung heroes of the Civil War and the fight for emancipation, the “United States Colored Troops.” Let us work to destroy the white supremacist, dominant historic narrative that passive slaves had emancipation bestowed upon them by the emancipation proclamation and the presumably lily white Union Army. 

The USCT, nearly 200,000 African-American volunteers—freedmen and escaped slaves, who, along with volunteers from Canada, the Caribbean and Africa, made up ten percent of the Union Army. They helped save the Union and fought bravely to end slavery. Forty thousand gave their lives, suffering the highest casualty rate of any group in the war. 

Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist and writer, himself an escaped slave, said, “He who would be free must himself strike the first blow.” The USCT was the heroic embodiment of that philosophy. 

All honor, respect and gratitude to the USCT. Remember the USCT. 

Happy Juneteenth.

Henry Lesnick

 

Einstein and Racism, and The New York Times
 

We have sent the following letter to the NY Times.

We assume they won't print it, and will say (if anything) that it's too long.

Please feel free to send it around and urge others to do the same.

TO THE EDITOR:

Einstein’s racist description of people he observed while visiting China and the Middle East in 1922 definitely needs to be reported and criticized {“Einstein Travel Diary Teems With Racism and Stereotyping” - June 15, p. 9). There is no excuse for ignoring such racism -- especially today as right-wing ("populist") parties throughout Western Europe and Trumped-up U..S. A. are whipping up anti-immigrant racism -- the old divide-and-conquer technique used so often by fascist parties in the past, showing again and again that a frightened population is an easily-controlled population. At the age of 42, Einstein certainly should have known better.

But the whole truth is a much bigger story that should receive -- but so far has not received -- at least as much media coverage as Einstein's travel diary. Here's a 4-question Einstein-quiz for *Times* readers and reporters (and editors) that might help:

   1. True or False?: In 1937, when the great diva Marian Anderson was invited to give a concert at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, but The Palmer House Hotel refused her a room, Einstein invited her to stay with him, his step- daughter and housekeeper. The great diva and the great scientist became good friends, and whenever she returned to Princeton she stayed at Einstein’s house on Mercer Street. ( SEE: Marian Anderson’s autobiography “Lord, What A Morning!” )

   1. True or False?  In 1946, a wave of lynching in this country, targeting especially black GI’s returning home from World War II, killed 56 African Americans. More than a million African Americans had risked their lives in the war to defeat fascism abroad and were now returning home, many to Southern States where fascism remained undefeated. (SEE: the movie “Mudville.”)

On July 27, 1946, the *Times*’ lead story reported: *Georgia Mob of 20 Men Massacres 2 Negroes, Wives, One Was an Ex-GI.*   The next week, Einstein agreed to co-chair (with Paul Robeson) the American Crusade to End Lynching and to organize a protest in Washington, DC to demand a federal anti-lynching law. Thousands attended the Washington protest and a delegation met with President Truman in the White House.  (Einstein‘s illness prevented him from traveling, but he sent a letter (with Robeson) to Truman.

   1. True or False? In 1951, when W. E. B. Du Bois was indicted by the Federal Government for “failing to register as a foreign agent,” Einstein publicly offered to be the first defense witness for the great historian. When Judge Mathew McGuire heard that, he looked around at the reporters from all over the world who were covering the trial, and then dismissed the case.  (SEE: Du Bois biographies by Shirley Graham Du Bois and David Levering Lewis.)

   4. Select one: All of the above events were a) widely covered; b) partially covered; or c) not at all covered by the *NY Times* and most other mainstream media. (SEE: Reports on each of the above events in several African American newspapers.)

Rodger Taylor And Fred Jerome
New York, NY

The writers are co-authors of Einstein on Race and Racism, Rutgers University Press, 2005

 

Re: Was Albert Einstein a Racist?
 

It isn't sufficient merely to declare that there are no saints, that all of our heroes and we ourselves are in some respects flawed. Don't we regard it as praiseworthy that a person not only abandons racist and white-supremacist attitudes and behavior but also proudly and publicly takes up the anti-racist struggle as his or her cause and proclaims solidarity with the oppressed? Isn't that why we engage in political activity, to encourage people to transcend or overcome their reactionary beliefs and to join with us?
 
Ken Lawrence
Spring Mills, Pennsylvania

        =====

The summary of the shortcomings of so many of the great progressive figures in American history reminded me of one figure left out.  John Brown was the only figure I know of whose belief in equality was both uncompromising and complete.  John Brown believed in equality for African Americans, Native Americans, and women long before such beliefs became widespread.

Bob Supansic

        =====

The great scientist was a radical egalitarian—but subject nonetheless to some of the biases of his time.

In this article, 6 Ways Albert Einstein Fought for Civil Rights, Becky Oskin writes:

    'For decades, Einstein offered public encouragement to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its founder, W. E. B. Du Bois. And in 1951, when the federal government indicted the 83-year-old Du Bois as a "foreign agent," Einstein offered to appear as a character witness during the trial. The potential publicity convinced the judge to drop the case...

    'In January 1946, Einstein published an essay, "The Negro Question," in Pageant magazine in which he called racism America's "worst disease." Here is an excerpt from that essay.

    '"There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the "Whites" toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out…

    'Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man's quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition."'

Ethan Young

        =====

Via Portside, is Peter Dreier's useful article which is only in part about Einstein. Many writers, thinkers, artists, and more have given voice remarkably anti-women, anti-Semitic, anti-Black, anti-gay ideas. We need to see these ideas clearly, condemn them. We also need to see what's useful, important, beautiful in their work. (My favorite author, Anthony Trollope, for example, wrote some really ugly things. I don't skip those parts.

Daniel Millstone
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: Trumpism Before Trump
 

Solid piece by Tsai and TerBleek. Good research. Focused perspective. Important stuff for all to know. Thank you for the piece.

Luís Torres

 

Re: Trumpism, Realized
 

Trump’s policy is barbarism pure and simple. The Conservative pundits have shown themselves to be stupid, cruel and vindictive. How has this happened? The American people elected this awful man as President and now they are seeing what he is really like. Shame on you! The world is both angry and shocked at this new America.

Laurel MacDowell
Toronto, Canada

 

Re: Corporate Wage Theft
 

Has this investigation included Puerto Rico and other territories? I believe wage theft could be rampart in these places.

Domingo Soto
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: Oilcan” Ed Sadlowski, 1938-2018 Midwestern Grit

(posting on Portside Labor)

This is the reality of the US "Labor Movement" 

[see: Counterfeit Unionism in the Empire]

Rich Gibson

[Dr Rich Gibson is a co-cofounder of the Rouge Forum, an organization of school workers, students, and community people whose only line is: Class is important. He is an emeritus professor of history education at San Diego State University. With perhaps ten others, he is primarily responsible for organizing what is now the largest local in the UAW, local 6000, not auto-workers but Michigan state employees. For his efforts, he was repeatedly fired and jailed attempting to build a union that recognized that workers and bosses have opposing interests. He also served on the staff of several unions including AFSCME and the NEA.]

        =====

Steve Early writes "Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie" in* MRonline:*

"[Edward Eugene Sadlowski] was a really big name in the United Steelworkers (USW), well-known throughout organized labor, and a hero of the labor left. As director of USW District 31, covering Chicago and Gary, Ed Sadlowski was the elected leader of 130,000 blue-collar workers, part of a USW membership then totaling 1.4 million, about twice what it is today.  In a challenge to authority rare among union officials of his rank, Sadlowski broke with top USW leaders in Pittsburgh who were too cozy with management. In 1977, backed by a campaign network called Steelworkers Fight Back (SFB), he ran for international president on a controversial platform calling for greater union democracy, shop floor militancy, protection of black workers’ rights, and the right to strike."

Read it all here.

Michael Munk

 

Re: Former Prisoner of Conscience Condemns Amnesty International
 

I read this post with sadness because the truth is that Daniel Ortega and his vp wife have left the Sandinista spirit behind many years ago.

Probably a section of the right is involved in the demonstrations calling for the resignations of the Ortegas, but the dynamic is a unitarian one that the left supports. (The business elite is very happy with Ortega, who pursues a neoliberal and authoritarian rule with a leftist rhetoric.

I have followed Nicaragua since the revolution but have not been there since 1984, when I was on a month-long tree-planting brigade. However I follow envio, a monthly magazine put out by the left-wing Jesuits. Here is a link to their article in English about the demonstrations in the streets, and the motives behind it:

April 2018: An insurrection of the nation’s consciousness
envio digital

Dianne Feeley

        =====

I think you should consider sending this out as another perspective on the recent posting about Nicaragua and the Amnesty report.

Deciphering the Nicaraguan Student Uprising

Joan Vermeulen

        =====

Moderator's Note: Portside did run a different perspective to this posting (our moderators have different opinions), also from NACLA:

Unexpected Uprising: The Crisis of Democracy in Nicaragua

        =====

So Amnesty International has no credibility when it comes to Nicaragua, but is an indisputable source when it comes to Israel and Gaza? We can't have it both ways, either AI is always a credible source or it isn't.

Stan Nadel

 

Re: Choosing to Study Medicine in Cuba
 

Why no mention of IFCO that coordinates enrollment of US students at ELAM?

Charles Courtney

        =====

Moderator's Note: THere was no mention because information about IFCO was not included in the original The New Yorker article.

You are right - Portside should have added information about IFCO at the bottom.

Here is the link for an application for ELAM.

        =====

Excellent story with lots of info I was unaware of, and I think I know a lot about Cuba and its revolution.

Bruce Smith

        =====

They are doing a public service allowing poor students study medicine which has skyrocketing prices in USA.

Aida Rivera
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Allá no te regalan las notas. Allá tienes que aprender de a verdad. Y sales siendo tremendo doctor!

[Google translation: They don't give you the notes. You have to learn from the truth. And you're a hell of a doctor!]

Vicky Rosado
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: The First Black-Led Union Wouldn’t Have Existed Without this Woman

(posting on Portside Labor)

How is the pullman porters (1919) the first if the Colored National Labor Union was founded in(1869) the CNLU precedes the AFL.

Daniel Mays
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Rosina’s husband Berthea Tucker was a Pullman porter. In the 1920s, the Pullman Palace Car Company was the nation’s largest single employer of black men. Pullman porters formed the first black-led union to be formally recognized by the American Federation of Labor, and eventually led the charge on civil rights — and Rosina Tucker became one of the most influential female labor and civil rights organizers in American history.

Otoniel Figueroa-Duran
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

This article is only generally correct. Lots of factual errors. (Mrs Tucker’s first husband, James Corrothers, was one of the early Harlem Renaissance poets; maybe she confused him with Randolph’s father who was an AME minister.) Sloppy and superficial research. Too much about George Pullman.

Basically if it were turned in as a paper for my labor history seminar I would give it a C-

Melinda Chateauvert
Author, Marching Together Women of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (University of Illinois Press 1996)

        =====

Thanks so much for this fantastic and revelatory piece!   I'll bet 99% of longtime American leftists, much less unionists and black activists, know much or anything about this amazing labor hero and giant of a woman.  Inspiring!!

Tom Gogan

 

Re. Recalling Pete Seeger's Controversial Performance on the Smothers Brothers Show
 

Just a footnote to Peter Drier's excellent piece on the role of the Smothers Brothers in breaking the blacklisting of Pete Seeger on Network television: Thirteen years later in 1981, Pete sang to nearly a half a million union workers and others at Solidarity Day in Washington, DC organized by the labor movement and the NAACP against Reagan's anti-union and anti-civil rights agenda. Pete was introduced by another blacklisted performer and activist Ossie Davis. The AFL-CIO had finally ended its own decades-long blacklist against this great American.

Bill Meyerson

 

Re: How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World

(posting on Portside Culture)

They didn't do so well by the New World either.

Ed Griffin
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

On the other hand, the Roman Empire was not exactly loved, by anyone except the Emperors and aristocrats that is. The phrase that best describes them is "The HATED Roman autocracy," and that's why the slaves, peasants and commoners took every opportunity they had to collaborate with the Goths, Huns, Slavs, Germans and other "barbarians" against their Roman overlords. And as to the New World, the Aztec Empire was even worse (ever had your heart cut out w/a stone knife?) and that's why the other tribes and nations flocked to the Spanish banner, and to Christianity. Christians were far from perfect, but the old, old accusations of being civilization-wreckers is thoroughly bogus.

Om Williamson
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Let's hope the Dubya Crusade will be the last crusade.

Craig Carl
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

        =====

Organized religion destroys everything in it's path, then turns on itself when no other targets are presented...Sly fairies are enormously bloodthirsty bits of some sick imagination.

Wendi Galczik
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Barbara Hillman, labor attorney who represented wide range of workers, dies

By Graydon Megan
June 15, 2018
Chicago Tribune

From farmhands to ballet dancers, labor attorney Barbara Hillman fought for the rights of workers with keen legal skills and an overarching concern for issues of social justice.

Eliseo Medina, now with the Service Employees International Union, met Hillman in 1968 when he was sent to Chicago to work on the grape boycott for the United Farm Workers union.

“She became our pro bono attorney,” he said in a phone message. “She helped us get out of jail whenever we had nonviolent sit-ins at the chain stores to get them to stop selling grapes. She was a real champion for the farm workers, but then I know that she was a real champion for every worker. That was her life as a labor attorney.”

Hired out of the University of Chicago Law School in the mid-1960s by the Chicago labor law firm of Cornfield and Feldman, Hillman spent her career working on behalf of public employees, teachers, steelworkers, coal miners, university professors and retail workers among others, according to her friend Melody Heaps. Later, as chief counsel for the American Guild of Musical Artists, she represented dancers of the Joffrey Ballet and chorus members of the Lyric Opera.

Hillman, 75, died of lung cancer June 5 in the Lakeview home where she lived for more than 40 years, Heaps said.

Born in 1942, she was related to Sidney Hillman, who had headed the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Michael Holland, former general counsel for the United Mine Workers of America, credited family influences for guiding Hillman into labor law.

Holland, who met Hillman in 1971, said she encouraged him to become a labor lawyer on the side of unions.

Hillman received a bachelor’s degree and later a law degree from the University of Chicago. During her time as a law student, she was part of an effort that included civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael to register voters in Mississippi.

With Cornfield and Feldman, she worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965.

Heaps was working for the SCLC and met Hillman around that time. Heaps went on to found TASC Inc. of Illinois, originally Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime. The nonprofit aimed to relieve the burden on the courts by diverting people charged with nonviolent offenses into supervised community drug treatment.

Hillman was Heaps’ choice to assist in that: “When I founded TASC in 1976, I knew I needed an attorney who understood social justice issues.”

It is now the largest TASC program in the country and is involved not only in direct services to clients as alternatives to incarceration but to advocating for criminal justice reform, said Heaps, now president emeritus.

Judy Scott, former general counsel for the SEIU, was in the 1970s a new lawyer with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She was in Chicago at a hearing where Hillman was representing the union.

“I remember being stunned watching this woman as a fierce and articulate advocate for the workers and the union she was representing,” Scott said. “She stood out as someone who would go toe-to-toe with anybody.”

In fact, Scott said, “for a young lawyer (watching), she was a little scary.”

The two later worked together, and while Hillman was always a strong advocate for her clients, Scott said she was also very funny, possessing a dry wit. “She put things in perspective and wasn’t afraid to tell the truth about how we were doing or whether we had a winning case or not,” Scott said.

Holland and Heaps said Hillman loved to cook and gather her friends in her Lakeview home for holidays, special occasions or for no reason other than to be together.

Hillman’s husband, Arnold Charnin, died in 1979. She was also preceded in death by her sisters, labor attorney Peggy Hillman and activist Carol Hillman.

She leaves no direct survivors.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, in the Lyric Opera Graham Room, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago.

[Graydon Megan is a freelance reporter.]

 

 
 

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