Remembering Barbara Hillman

Friday, June 15th, 2018

The Chicago Labor Community has lost a prominent labor attorney in the passing of Barbara Hillman. She dedicated her life to social and economic justice.

Barbara Hillman, a prominent Chicago labor attorney, and friend of the Peggy Browning Fund, passed away at her home on Tuesday June 5th of lung cancer. During her last days, Ms. Hillman was surrounded by the love and care of her extended family which included her close friends and colleagues.

Born to Anita and James Hillman in 1942, Barbara was related to prominent labor leader Sidney Hillman, founder of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Barbara received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. She went on to study labor law at the University’s law school. During her time as a law student, she joined civil right leader, Stokely Carmichael registering voters in Mississippi.

After law school, Ms. Hillman joined the labor law firm of Cornfield and Feldman. As a representative of the law firm, she worked with SCLC during Dr. Martin Luther King’s Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965. As a fierce and tenacious advocate for workers rights, Ms. Hillman represented public employees, teachers, steelworkers, coal miners, singers, university professors, ballet dancers, truck drivers, and retail workers.

In the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami, she joined progressives in successively challenging the credentials of the Richard M. Daley Illinois delegates to the convention, which nominated George McGovern.  During the latter part of her career, Ms. Hillman was chief counsel for AGMA, the American Guild of Musical Artists representing dancers of the Joffrey Ballet Company and the chorus of the Lyric Opera.  In 1976, Ms. Hillman became a founding member of the Board of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), an organization offering diversion to community treatment in lieu of incarceration for persons with substance use or mental health disorders.

Ms. Hillman was married to Arnold Charnin, a labor attorney at Cornfield and Feldman, who pre-deceased her in 1979. 

Barbara Hillman was a brilliant attorney. Those whom she represented were inspired by her dedication, intellect and passion for worker’s rights and confident that their interests with regard to a fair wage, salary, benefits and working conditions were both protected and advanced by her dedication, fervor and tenacious negotiating skills.  She was presented the Peggy Browning Award in Chicago in 2011.

The family has directed contributions to the Peggy Browning Fund by going to our Donate page above and to TASC.

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