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Gotbaum was head of New York City’s largest public employees union, AFSCME District Council 37. For more than two decades, starting in 1965, Victor Gotbaum built DC 37 into a powerful organisation of more than 110,000 members, up from the 36,000 when he first became its executive director. Gotbaum was also International vice president of AFSCME from 1975 until 1988.
When Victor was elected as President of Public Services International during the PSI Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1985, he’d already been a representative of one of PSI’s affiliated unions in the USA for many years, so becoming PSI President seemed natural for him. He took an active role in all the meetings, events and decisions of the International. He was there during the creation of PSI’s Women’s Committee in 1986, which he actively supported. He played an important role in ensuring public sector matters were taken into account by the International Labour Organization. He played a very active role in organising the membership of PSI’s first South African trade union affiliates in 1988, when he also organised a conference for all South African public sector unions - this had to be held in Botswana as trade unions were still heavily constrained during the apartheid era.
Those who knew Victor Gotbaum remember a great trade unionist and a kind, smart man who stood by his beliefs and was an inspiration to many.