PEPPERCORN, BERYL (25 Apr. 1887-28 May 1969), was a founder and longtime head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) in Cleveland and one of the city's most influential labor leaders.
Born in Austria, Peppercorn began working as a tailor's apprentice at age 9 and came to the U.S. with his parents in 1899. When his family settled in Cleveland in 1902, Peppercorn worked at the Douglas Tailoring Co. where he became union steward and was a founder, with Frank Rosenblum, of the ACWA here in 1914. At that time, the work day was often 19 hours and weekly pay ranged from $1.25 to $14 per week. In recognition of his organizing efforts, Peppercorn was elected manager of the Cleveland Joint Board of the Union in 1922. Under his leadership, contracts had been negotiated between the ACWA and most of the local men's clothing companies by 1935, making it one of the area's largest industrial unions. In the mid-1930s, Peppercorn, who endorsed the concept of unions organized by industry rather than craft, became involved in the local wars to recruit members for the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO). In 1937, he was one of the organizers and first president of the CLEVELAND INDUSTRIAL UNION COUNCIL, the CIO's local affiliate.
An honest and dedicated unionist, Peppercorn opposed the radical socialists and communists infiltrating the CIO and worked for their exclusion. He also encouraged CIO unions to enter politics by forming Labor's League for Political Action. In 1958, he resigned as manager of the ACWA's Cleveland Joint Board.
He and his wife Margaret had two sons, Leonard and Howard, and a stepson Bernard Matthesen. Peppercorn died in Cleveland.
Last Modified: 21 Jul 1997 02:48:32 PM
Beryl Peppercorn Papers, WRHS.