Bernard Kleiman Remembered For His Achievements
With The United Steelworkers
Bernard Kleiman, a
leading American labor lawyer who was the United
Steelworkers’ chief negotiator with the steel
industry for many years and a close advisor to five
international presidents of the union, died
Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006, of cardiac arrest.
Kleiman, 80, of
Pittsburgh, had a distinguished 46-year career with
the USW. He was General Counsel from 1965 through
1997 and was most recently Special Counsel to the
union’s international president, Leo W. Gerard.
He officially retired
from the union this past summer, but continued to
report to work and was involved in the union’s
current strike against Goodyear as recently as last
“It is difficult to
overstate his impact on the union,” Gerard said.
His role with the
union was much broader than the typical duties of
General Counsel. In addition to his legal work, he
was a respected contract negotiator, labor
strategist and counselor.
In essence, he was
the union’s chief contract bargainer along with the
USW Presidents he served over the decades, said USW
Secretary-Treasurer James English.
He created the
union’s well-respected legal department in 1965, and
played a key role in the April 1974 federal Consent
Decree that brought the steel industry into
compliance with the Civil Rights Act. That agreement
opened mill jobs to African Americans and women.
Kleiman was also the
principal negotiator and designer of the 1973
Experimental Negotiating Agreement with the steel
industry, which barred strikes in return for
contract arbitration when there was a dispute.
The ENA was designed
to persuade domestic steel users not to buy foreign
imports every three years when union contracts were
up for renegotiation and product stockpiling
The agreement was in
place for nearly a decade and is credited with
raising the average wage of steelworkers from $2.50
an hour to $12.50 an hour, English said.
When the 1980s
brought a downturn in steel, he pioneered strategic
approaches to bargaining that were aimed at saving
the industry while preserving employment
By the late 1980s and
early 1990s, under the leadership of retired USW
President Lynn Williams, he led the union to win
contract gains in areas involving employment
security, job protections from contractors,
neutrality and successorship. He also helped to
establish the union’s Institute for Career
Development, which provides life-long learning
opportunities for members of the union.
During his tenure as
General Counsel, the union had 18 cases before the
U.S. Supreme Court. The union won 13 of them and
lost five. One was the Weber case, which affirmed
the legality under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of affirmative action plans in employment.
He was known for
marathon bargaining efforts and worked with
companies including U.S. Steel, Newport News
Shipyard, Warren Consolidated Industries, Kaiser
Aluminum, Continental Tire, Bridgestone/Firestone,
Goodyear Tire, International Steel Group, and many
Born in Chicago,
Kleiman grew up in Kendallville, a small town in
northeastern Indiana where his father was a scrap
dealer. In that basketball-crazy state, Kleiman
played center on his high school varsity team.
Kleiman enlisted in
the U.S. Army after graduation from high school just
after the end of World War II and served in Korea.
After the service, he returned to Indiana and
attended Purdue University, majoring in
metallurgical engineering. He then enrolled at
Northwestern University School of Law, where he was
awarded a law review position.
In 1960, he became
counsel to the Steelworkers’ former District 31
covering Illinois and Indiana. As District Counsel,
he brought a successful lawsuit to force the state
of Illinois to reapportion the state legislature on
a one-vote basis, thereby giving urban,
predominantly working-class voters a much greater
voice in the election of lawmakers.
Word of his talents
spread through the union and in 1965 he was named
General Counsel of the entire union by the third
International President of the union, I.W. Abel. He
also served USW Presidents Lloyd McBride, Williams,
George Becker and Gerard.
Outside of the union,
he was active in the Democratic Party, the Americans
for Democratic Action, and the American Civil
Liberties Union. Survivors include his wife, Gloria
Funeral arrangements are