Harold A. Katz, Longtime Chicago Labor and Safety Pioneer, Dies at Age 91

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Longtime Chicago Labor and Safety Pioneer, Harold A.Katz has passed away at the age of 91. Mr. Katz was one of three honorees to receive the Peggy Browning Award at our first awards reception in Chicago in 2003. Recognized with him were his former partner, Irv Friedman, and PBF Advisory Board member and Chicago Host Committee Co-Chair, Marv Gittler.

Excerpted from an article written by Jerry Crimmins in the December 12 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin:


Labor lawyer Harold A. Katz — who represented many unions including the United Auto Workers for five decades, spent nine terms as a state legislator and was a pioneer in the automobile safety movement — died on Thursday at the age of 91.

Katz, became a co-founder of the Chicago law firm today known as Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck P.C., with his close friend, the late Irving M. Friedman, in the early 1950s. Mr. Friedman passed away in 2004.

"With the passing of such staunch advocates for the cause of labor as Harold A. Katz and Irving M. Friedman, I fear that we shall not see their likes again," said Stanley Eisenstein, a member of the firm.

The firm still represents "a dozen or more" unions and union locals, Eisenstein said. Mr. Katz represented unions until his mid-80s.

In 2003, Katz told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that his proudest achievement was his 1956 article in the Harvard Law Review in which he proposed the Crashworthiness Doctrine. It said that automakers should be held liable for injuries and deaths caused by vehicle design.

The Harvard Law Review article, "Liability of Automobile Manufacturers for Unsafe Design of Passenger Cars," appeared in March 1956 while Ralph Nader was a Harvard law student and immediately fascinated Nader.

The next year, according to "Ralph Nader: A Biography" by Patricia Cronin Marcello (Greenwood Biographies, 2004) Nader's main course of study at Harvard Law School became automobile safety. Nader soon became prominent as a crusader on auto safety.

Katz was a legal consultant in the early 1960s to then-Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner and longtime member of the Illinois House of Representatives. 

In the House from 1965 to 1982, Katz became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee II for many years and got involved in the drafting of the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

He came to Chicago, from Tennessee, to attend the University of Chicago Law School where he got his law degree in 1948.

Katz and Friedman told the Law Bulletin in 2003 that they fought to wrest control of the Congress of Industrial Organizations from left-wing dominated unions; worked to organize farm-machine workers throughout Illinois; fought to end workplace discrimination against pregnant women; and worked to desegregate union halls in the South.

They also said they handled 40,000 workers' compensation claims.

Katz was managing partner of his firm until 2000 and co-managing partner with Richard K. Johnson until 2005, said Johnson, the firm's managing partner.

Katz is survived by two sons, Alan and Joel; two daughters, B.J. and Julia; and five grandchildren. A memorial service occurred last Sunday.

The Peggy Browning Fund is saddened by the loss and sends deepest condolences to his family.



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