PBF Mourns the Passing of Marvin Gittler - A Great Champion for Labor & Social Justice

Monday, September 19th, 2016

It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Marvin Gittler, a champion for labor and social justice and a good friend to the Peggy Browning Fund who passed away on September 8th.

Marv was a major influence in the success of our programs in Chicago serving as a liaison with the Chicago labor community.  He always offered sage advice and guidance over the years and worked hard to gain support for our programs throughout the region.

He received the Peggy Browning Award at our first Awards Reception Chicago in 2003, recognized for his work on behalf of workers and their families.  Marv served on PBF’s Advisory Board until 2014 and as Master of Ceremony at all Peggy Browning Awards Receptions in Chicago. He was Senior Shareholder in the firm Asher, Gittler & D’Alba, Ltd.

Marv’s humor and intellect will be missed by all who knew him.  We celebrate his life with an excerpt from an article in the Chicago Sun Times from Sept. 9, 2016.

“Attorney Marvin Gittler, who fought for unions and workers with power, intelligence and wit in some of Chicago’s biggest, toughest labor-management battles, died Thursday morning at 77.

He represented organized labor for half a century, including the Teamsters, the building trades and Chicago cops. In the early 1980s, Mr. Gittler helped negotiate the historic first contract between the city and the police, giving officers the right to overtime and establishing due process in internal investigations and arbitration for grievances, according to his law partner, Joel A. D’Alba.

“He was an enormous presence,” said a frequent legal opponent and good friend, attorney James C. Franczek Jr. “He was charming, bright, bold. He captured a room when he walked into it, but he was also incredibly committed to his clients. It’s the passing of one of the true legends of labor law in Chicago.” Franczek first faced off against Mr. Gittler in the 1970s when doctors and nurses went on strike at the old Cook County Hospital.

“He was the go-to guy for Chicago unions,” D’Alba said. “He could take a very complex problem, reduce it through wit and make sense of it for hardworking people and unions.”

Once the negotiating was done, opposing lawyers “would come up to him afterward and say, ‘It was great working with you,’ ’’ D’Alba said. “He trained us to be respectful of the lawyers we worked against.”

“Regardless of which side you were on, he was always collegial, civil, and frequently, downright funny,” said attorney Lawrence Weiner of the firm of Laner, Muchin.

And Mr. Gittler never lost touch with working people, D’Alba said: “He understood what people had to pay for a gallon of milk.”

A native New Yorker, Marvin Gittler studied at Syracuse University and attended law school at the University of Chicago. As a young man, he gained insight into labor issues when he worked as a banquet hall waiter in big hotels.

At Syracuse, he met Carol Spear, his wife of 56 years. They raised five daughters in Hyde Park. “Other families play sports, soccer,” his daughter said. “We played arguing at the dinner table,” where they debated ethical issues and current events.

Mr. Gittler started his career at the National Labor Relations Board. Later, he worked on behalf of the Illinois AFL-CIO. He represented many locals of the Teamsters union, including during times the city sought concessions designed to entice trade shows to Chicago. And Mr. Gittler was longtime counsel for Teamsters Joint Council 25, which represents workers throughout the city, Illinois and northwest Indiana.

He put together the first collective bargaining unit for Chicago Police Department sergeants, lieutenants and captains, D’Alba said, and, in 1986, he helped win a $2.7 million settlement for 488 retired police officers who had been forced to leave the department at 63 in violation of federal age-discrimination laws.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Gittler, who represented Mailers Union No. 2, stopped his home delivery of the Chicago Tribune because of the newspaper’s tactics in disputes with production workers.

His clients also included the roofers, carpenters, electricians, bricklayers and others in the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades & Construction Council. At the Chicago Board of Education, he represented custodial staffers and stationary engineers. And he worked for SEIU Local 1 and SEIU Local 783, whose members clean offices and public buildings. In 2015, he helped negotiate a settlement in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians strike.

Mr. Gittler is survived by his wife of 56 years, Carol Spear, and his daughters, Dr. Michelle Gittler, Susie Wexler, Dr. Mandy Gittler and Debra Gittler; a sister, Phyllis Robinson; a brother, Lou; a stepbrother, David; and eight grandchildren.”

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