Ben Stahl, early civil-rights activist

By Jim Nicholson, Daily News Staff Writer

Philadelphia Daily News, October 27, 1998, page 20


Ben Stahl, a field representative for the CIO and AFL-CIO for more than 40 years and an early civil-rights activist, died Sunday. He was 82 and lived in Center City.

Stahl worked as a national field representative in regions that included the Middle-Atlantic states, New England, the West Coast, South and Midwest. From 1969 to 1982, when he retired, Stahl served as regional director of the AFL-CIO Human Resources Development Institute, focusing on employment and training programs.

From 1962 to 1965, he directed the organizing drive of the AFL-CIO for collective bargaining rights for Philadelphia teachers, which resulted in an election victory Feb. 1, 1965, that created the largest local union in the state.

Active in the civil rights movement since the 1960s, when he was secretary and consultant to the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Human Rights Committee, he was appointed by Mayor Wilson Goods to serve on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

He was treasurer of the Fellowship Commission, chairman of the Council on Equal Job Opportunity and a member of the Pennsylvania Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Stahl worked closely with the student movement of that period, participating in the first sit-in against hiring discrimination at Horn & HardartÕs, as well as the Woolworth lunch-counter picket lines. He also took part in the 1963 civil-rights march on Washington and its 20th anniversary march in 1983. A graduate of Central High School, he attended Gratz College and graduated from Temple University. His first job was as a teacher with the Philadelphia WPA WorkerÕs Education Program.

He conducted classes for new members joining labor unions during the rise of the CIO in the late 1930s. He was a strong advocate of vocational training and became chairman of the Philadelphia Advisory Committee on Vocational and Career Education for the school district.

At age 22, he became secretary of the WPA teachers AFT local of about 1,000 members. In 1943, he joined the national CIO staff as a field representative in the Delaware Regional Office.

He remained with the national CIO after the AFL-CIO merger, except for a three-year period—1959 to 1962—when he served as Philadelphia area regional director of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Always interested in political action, he was a vice president and board member of the Southeast Pennsylvania Americans for Democratic Action and for a time served in ADAÕs national board.

Stahl was on the board of the PeopleÕs Emergency Center, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Negro Trade Union Leadership Council, the Sylvis Society, Offenders Aid and Restoration.

He was on the board of directors of the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition from its early days and recently served on that groupÕs advisory council. He helped the Philadelphia Unemployment Project and served on its board and was active with the United Way.

His union activities took him all over the country organizing, negotiating, serving unions and central labor bodies and working on job training and community and public relations.

He retained his membership in the American Federation of Teachers Local 3 in Philadelphia and membership in Workers Education Local 189 of the Communication Workers of America. He was vice president and editor of the 6,000-member PFT Retirement Chapter.

Stahl was the author of numerous articles on labor, civil rights and employment subjects and contributed a regular column to the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Philadelphia Independent.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Evelyn Miller; two sons, Dr. Gerry Stahl and Dr. Alan Stahl, and two grandsons.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 5 at UNITE, 22 S. 22nd St.

Contributions may be made to the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, 1221 Broadway, Toledo, Ohio, 1221 Broadway, Toledo, Ohio, 43609, or to the United Farm Workers of America, La Paz, Calif.