djn-1986-12-05-0-001This past Nov. 29 marked 29 years since one of Michigan’s great labor leaders and member of Detroit’s Jewish community passed away: Sam Fishman.

In this age of declining union membership in the state and America at large, we sometimes forget that for most of the 20th century, Detroit and Michigan could rightly claim to be the capital of the nation’s labor movement. And, that people like Fishman, along with Michigan trade unionists like Walter Reuther and Irv Bluestone, did a lot of good for working folks, whether negotiating contracts or promoting civil rights, women’s rights and other progressive causes.

Fishman was a transplant from New York City, raised in a union family. When he died in 1986, Fishman was president of the Michigan AFL-CIO and a nationally known labor leader. Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a brash, defiant hard-nosed unionist, or an honest, outspoken and staunch defender of the rights of labor. Bland, however, was one term that was never used to describe Sam Fishman.

Shortly before his death, the JN did an extensive interview with him in its Dec. 5, 1986, issue. It is good reading, with great insights regarding labor and politics in Michigan and the United States. *

By Mike Smith I Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at




  1. I will be including Sam Fishman in a presentation that I am making with Hazon on January 6 ,2016 The material in the archive as well as the article in Michigan Jewish History ,Autumn 2015 will be of help to me in my presentation.

    Thank you

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