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Morris Glushien, champion of fair labor practices; at 96

LOS ANGELES -- Attorney Morris P. Glushien died of natural causes in a Los Angeles hospice May 19, said his daughter, Ruth Wedgwood. He was 96.

In June 1947, just days after Congress voted to weaken the power of labor unions by passing the Taft-Hartley Act, Mr. Glushien resigned his position at the National Labor Relations Board.

Years earlier, Mr. Glushien had been appointed associate general counsel of the board, a seemingly ideal position for a lawyer who was concerned about fair labor practices.

Mr. Glushien ``had serious doubts concerning the wisdom, the fairness, and the practicability of the Taft-Hartley Act," he wrote in his resignation letter. In good conscience, he could not help administer a law in which he did not believe.

Mr. Glushien spent the rest of his life immersed in labor issues, serving as general counsel of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, then having a career as a labor arbitrator.

After resigning from the labor board, Mr. Glushien accepted an invitation from labor leader David Dubinsky to head the legal department of the garment workers union.

``Over the next three decades, he helped the American labor movement define its stance on key issues," said Wedgwood, a professor of international law at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore.

During his time with the union, it became racially integrated, fought the relocation of garment factories outside the United States and advocated programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

In 1957, Mr. Glushien took union concerns to the US Supreme Court when he argued the case of Staub v. City of Baxley.

In 1954, two garment workers union employees went to the Georgia town of Baxley to organize the workers of a nearby manufacturing company.

The women met with employees in their homes and discussed their joining the union, paying union dues of 64 cents a week, and signing membership cards to petition the labor board.

But the act of meeting with employees eventually won the organizers a summons for violating a city ordinance that prohibited the soliciting of residents to join any ``organization, union, or society" which required dues without first obtaining a permit from the mayor and City Council.

The workers had not received a permit and were convicted. An appeals court upheld the conviction, but Mr. Glushien argued before the Supreme Court that ``such a standardless ordinance could prevent even his 11-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the audience of the court, from going door to door to recruit new members for her Girl Scout troop," Wedgwood said.

In 1958 the Supreme Court, on a 7-to-2 vote, sided with Mr. Glushien in a ruling that holds significance for political organizers, religious groups, and charity workers who seek to solicit door to door.

Mr. Glushien was born in New York on Oct. 15, 1909, to immigrant parents who had fled Russia in 1905.

The family, including two other children, settled in Brooklyn, where Mr. Glushien's father worked as a tailor and his mother labored in the fur industry.

He earned a scholarship to Cornell University, where he received his undergraduate and law degrees. In the early 1940s at a labor movement party in San Francisco held by Jessica Mitford, Mr. Glushien met Anne Sorelle Williams, an artist and a former music editor with Columbia Pictures. They eventually married; she died in 1989.

During World War II, Mr. Glushien volunteered for the Army Air Forces and was trained to decipher Japanese codes.

When he disappeared one day after KP duty at a base in Virginia, fellow soldier Wilfred Feinberg suspected Mr. Glushien of spending the day ``goofing off." Later he learned that his friend had hopped a bus to Washington and spent the day at the Supreme Court.

``They were arguing a case in which he had written a brief," said longtime friend Feinberg, who is a senior judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. ``I thought to myself: `That's the best story I ever heard about the United States Army in World War II, a real citizens army.' "

In addition to Wedgwood, Mr. Glushien leaves a daughter, Minna Taylor, and two grandchildren.

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