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Who’s Who » Biographical Sketches (1939) »

James B. Whittaker

A quiet-spoken man whose only complaint is that all he does is handle someone else’s money, is James B. Whittaker, secretary-treasurer of the Rochester Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers for the past ten years.

A native of Erie County, Whittaker came to Rochester when he was five years old and attended 3 and 33 Schools, East High and the R. B. I., where he took a special course in cost accounting. He got a job with Stein-Bloch soon afterwards in the production and planning department and joined the Amalgamated in 1917 when it was organized here.

In 1929 he was appointed to his present post in the Amalgamated and has collected along the way the offices of treasurer of the Amalgamated Credit Union, to which he was elected, and treasurer and executive committee member of the American Labor Party in Monroe County.

Politics beckoned last year, and Whittaker ran for county clerk on the Labor Party ticket. Lady Luck did not smile, however. He has also been county committeeman of the Democratic Party, and held the post of treasurer of the party for a year, before the Labor Party was formed.

Mr. Whittaker believes sincerely that we must have a wonderful country “to stand the strain of two political parties pulling in different directions while labor and capital are at odds.”

He says that, since we are not dependent on other countries, “labor and employers should get together and work out the unemployment problem, which is definitely the nation’s most serious problem.” Shorter working hours would help solve the situation, and the present Wages-Hours law is a good step in that direction, he claimed.

Another drawback to progress, in Whittaker’s opinion, is the CIO-AFL split. “If they (CIO and AFL) would get together, the differences we see in the press would all be worked out and all labor laws would work more harmoniously. We have enough laws, but too many factions pulling against each other,” he stated.

The outlook for the future of our country, Mr. Whittaker thinks, is not too dark. Labor laws and better business conditions have made employers better disposed toward labor; therefore, it should be easier for them to work in harmony. But “labor as well as industry must assume its share of responsibility,” he asserted.

Mr. Whittaker is married; says he finds recreation in golf during the summer and bowls in the winter season.