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In 2008, I hit genealogical pay dirt at the Chicago History Museum and Archives. Their holdings included boxes of material from the Amalgamated Clothing Workers union, for which my grandfather, Benjamin Chernorudsky (aka Ben Share), had been an organizer back in the 1920s. One box contained an old fashioned telephone directory, about 4” by 8” with a blue paper cover, the kind that the phone company used to give out to customers for their personal use. It belonged to a union official whose name was not recorded, but it was tossed into ACWA Box 1 and forgotten. But I haven’t forgotten bursting into tears when I opened the cover, and found B. Share’s name on the inside flyleaf. I’d always been told that he was a member of the negotiating team that established the first 40 hour work week for the Amalgamated – back when standard work weeks were 6 days, 48 hours per week.  This item is the first historical documentation of the family stories about grandpa’s role in that union.

B. Share entry in personal phone book of unknown Amalgamated official

The penciled notation included his address (3706 W Ainsle St) and phone number (Keystone 0384). (Who remembers telephone numbers that started with an exchange, not an area code?)  The entry had been crossed out, perhaps because not long afterward, Grandpa Ben started his own installment dealership, and no longer worked as a cutter for Hart, Shaffner, and Marx, a major manufacturer of men’s suits in that era.

4 Responses to “My Grandpa, the Union Organizer”

  1. Beth Zare says:

    That is so cool. The 20′s were big union days. Labor is fighting an uphill battle these days. Thanks to your ancestors for getting us started.
    Beth (president of a local union)

  2. Adam Share says:

    Awesome Jane. Really cool.

    • Jane Neff Rollins says:

      Hi Adam,

      So glad you’re enjoying my blog. I keep meaning to contribute more to it, but life gets away from me.

      I’m going to be giving a webinar about researching ancestors who are midwives (like great-aunt Clara was) next June — haven’t found anything out specifically about Clara as a midwife, but I’ve learned tons about midwives from locations that did a better job of educating and monitoring the practice.


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