Mills, Saul, 1910-1988
Saul Mills (born Solomon Schneidmill) was born to Isidore and Celia Schneidmill in Manhattan, New York, on May 10, 1910. After his mother's death, Mills, age five, entered an orphans' home. Just prior to the completion of his elementary school education, Mills left the orphanage and returned to his father's home, which by then provided for nine other children. While attending high school Mills worked full time as a copy boy, first for the Associated Press, and later the United Press. Mills left high school during his senior year after being offered an opportunity for advancement working as a wire-filler at United Press.
Between 1927 and 1936 Mills worked in varying capacities on a wide range of newspapers which included The Long Island Press, The New York Daily News, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, The Brooklyn Standard Union, The Monmouth County Record (NJ), and The City News Association . Mills' experiences while employed at the Press and at the Eagle provided the impetus toward full time union work. Mills' association with the noted newspaper columnist, Heywood Broun, further shaped his burgeoning interest int he labor movement. When in December 1934 Broun called for the establishment of the Newspaper Guild, Mills, then a reporter on the Eagle, became one of its charter members. Mills' subsequent union activity led to his dismissal at the Eagle . It was at this time that Mills came into contact with left-wing and Communist activists within the labor movement.
1936 was a pivotal year for Mills. He left the newspaper business, married the artist Agnes Karlin, and began his association with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Between 1936 and 1940 Mills worked - often without pay - as a public relations representative for many burgeoning trade unions, both CIO and AFL affiliated. When, in 1940, the National CIO established the Greater NY CIO Council, Mills, at the request of John L. Lewis and Allan Haywood, assumed the position of Secretary-Treasurer, a post he was to keep for the duration of the Council's existence.
With the United Sates' entry into World War II, Mills participated in numerous CIO Council war relief programs, was appointed by President Roosevelt to the Greater New York Regional War Manpower Commission, and as an advisor to the New York Regional War Labor Board; the War Production Board; and the Office of Price Administration. He was Secretary of NY-CIO War Chest, and Co-Chairman of the Joint AFL-CIO Industry Relations Committee. In the early 1940s Mills was elected, but served only for a short time, as vice chairman of the American Labor Party. In June 1942 Mills participated in organizing the Central Park meeting, "Labor Salutes the Armed Forces," one of the largest gatherings of its time; he later supported the Communist-affiliated "Open the Second Front," movement.
Mills contributed to the creation of what later became the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (HIP). In 1946, he served as vice-president and chairman of HIP's administrative committee, and later became a member of the HIP Board of Incorporators. From 1943 to 1948 Mills served on the Board of Directors of Associated Hospital Service (New York Blue Cross).
With the dissolution of the CIO Council in 1948, Mills entered private business. Between 1948 and 1950 he was an associate member and account executive with Goldby, Byrne, and Associates, Inc., a business involved in fund-raising and public relations for health and educational institutions. Mills later had his own public relations form, Mills Agency, which specialized in direct-marketing for mail-order and insurance companies. In 1949, as a representative of the Seacoast Export Corporation, Mills embarked on a six-month trip to China. After his return home, Mills entered into a business arrangement with the American-Chinese Export Corporation (owned by Frederick Vanderbilt Field). When his business enterprises in the Orient were curtailed by the Korean War, Mills returned to fund raising and the health insurance field. From 1950 to 1952, Mills directed capital fund campaigns for the Hebew Home and Hospital for the Aged in Brooklyn, and the citizen-sponsored Bayonne Community Center in Bayonne, New Jersey.
In 1956 Mills was subpoenaed to appear before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Committee. He was questioned regarding his activities while an executive member of the Greater NY CIO Council, his association with the Chinese Communists (U.N. delegates) in 1945, his 1949 trip to China, and his business affiliations with Communist sympathizer, Frederick Vanderbilt Field. Mills testified that he was not a Communist Party member, nor had he ever been, and that his relationship was as a representative of CIO Council. His 1949 trip to China was based on private financial interests, as was his business association with Frederick Fields and the American-Chinese Export Corporation.
Between 1953 and 1963, Mills was Director of Development for the Long Island Jewish Hospital. In 1963 Mills became a partner with E.D. Rosenfeld Associates, Inc., a hospital and health services consulting firm. His work with the Human Resources Center during the 1960s resulted in the opening of a school for physically-challenged children. During the mid-1960s Mills participated in fund raising for two organizations associated with Martin Luther King: The Voter Education Fund, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Gandhi Society fir Human Rights. Throughout his life, Mills was actively involved in various political causes. Mills died on 26 November 1988 after a long illness. His obituary recorded his request that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Amnesty International.
Brief History of the Greater NY CIO Council:
The Greater New York CIO Council was the central body of the CIO unions in the greater New York area. Established by the national Congress of Industrial Organizations in July 1940, the Council represented, during its eight year history, approximately 200 CIO local unions (400,000 workers). The Council's Digest Minutes reflect a history of commitment to a broad range of activities and interests. The Council was active in price and rent control, combating racial discrimination, and campaigning for a raise in workers' wages. The Council, as a conduit for labor solidarity, assisted union organizing drives through the provision of funds, and contributed to union strikes by swelling the numbers behind the picket lines. During 1941 the Council was active in supporting the department store strikes, such as those at Gimbel's, and Macy's. It supported the Transport Workers Union bus negotiations, launched a legislative campaign against the Dies Committee, participated in the Madison Square park demonstration to stop Hitler, and organized a joint union campaign for War Aid. In 1942 the Council supported President Roosevelt's Seven-Point Anti-Inflation Program, broadcasted "Win the War Programs", and participated in the "New York at War" parade. The Council in tandem with the American Labor Party, with which it was affiliated, played a major role in the reelection of Franklin D. Roosevelt to a fourth term.
With the United States' entry into the war, the Council contributed toward Victory efforts by mobilizing its affiliate union members in a variety of activities, such as blood donor drives and civil defense projects. To ensure the production of war goods during this period, the Council supported Roosevelt's "no-strike" pledge.
After the war, the Council addressed the problem of returning veterans, and post-war concerns of housing and mass employment. It continued its campaign for health insurance benefits, fought the Taft-Hartley bills and other anti-labor legislation. Although the Council organizationally never endorsed Henry A. Wallace for president, the Council claimed that a majority of its delegates favored his candidacy, supported the Progressive Party, and opposed the Marshall Plan. In deference to national CIO policy, the Council tabled action on all three issues; but their position regarding these issues remained clear. It was the Council's unofficial position on these last three issues, plus its advocacy of freedom of expression for political differences, which brought the Council into conflict with the State CIO Council's reiteration of national CIO Political Action Committee's resolutions regarding opposition to a third party in 1948 and support of the Marshall Plan.
Cold War reaction to left and Communist activists within the labor movement significantly modified the national CIO leadership's earlier tolerance toward diverse political philosophies. Political differences polarized when John Brophy, Director of State CIO Councils, issued his dictum (the Brophy letter) regarding the adoption of national CIO policy by all city councils (of which the Greater NY CIO Council was one). The Council interpreted the demands for political conformity as an attack on the principles of trade union democracy. The ensuing internecine quarrels between the state CIO leadership and the Council led directly to the latter's dissolution.
On September 27, 1948, a committee of the New York State CIO Council requested that the Greater New York CIO Council's charter be revoked. Among the charges levied against the Council were: violation of CIO constitution and its rules, and, "through disruptive and irresponsible actions [promoting] disunity and discord within the ranks of CIO unions." Further, the Council was charged with "aiding and abetting...enemies of labor" and publicly "slandering, vilifying and libeling the CIO" More specific charges included the Council's opposition to increases in New York City's subway fare and its interference with the transport Workers Union's efforts to achieve higher wages. Moreover, it was charged, that the Council had engaged in political activities which were contrary to New York State CIO PAC programs. The formal complaint, addressed to National CIO President Phillip Murray, was signed by State CIO Council members Michael Quill (former Council president), Joseph Curran, Norma Naughton, Jack Rubinstein, and Jack Altman.
In response to the charges, Murray appointed a three-man investigatory committee which conducted closed hearings at CIO national headquarters on October 14 and 15, 1948. Although the committee found the Council guilty of the charges, its recommendations were not made public until the following month, when at the Annual CIO Convention the findings of the hearing committee were affirmed by a vote of 38 to 5; Louis Hollander, president of the New York State CIO Council, was instructed to assume administrative responsibility for the Council. The executive officers of the Council, James Durkin and Saul Mills, accepted the verdict in the interest of CIO unity.
- New Yorkers at Work(oral history interviews and study guides), Wagner Labor Archives.
- Foster, James Caldwell. The Union Politic: The CIO Political Action Committee.(University of Missouri Press, 1975).
- Foner, Henry. "Saul Mills and the Greater New York Industrial Union Council, CIO." Labor History, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1990.
From the guide to the Saul Mills Papers, 1935-1989, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)
|referencedIn||Max M. Kampelman Research Files on Communist Influence in the Labor Movement, 1941-1951||Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives|
|creatorOf||Saul Mills Papers, 1935-1989||Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|China |x Politics and government.|
|New York (N.Y.)|
|Anti-communist movements--United States|