George Bucher, 82, Longtime Labor Leader

Posted: March 29, 1993

George Bucher, 82, a Philadelphia labor leader for 40 years and a former chairman of the Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, died Saturday at his home in Coconut Creek, Fla.

Mr. Bucher, a product of the Depression who had to quit school after the sixth grade in order to go to work, became a labor leader at the age of 22 when he was working as an apprentice cabinetmaker at the Henry H. Shiep Co., at Sixth Street and Columbia Avenue, which produced radio cabinets for RCA and Philco.

"The company was replacing more senior employees with people like my father, and my father felt that wasn't fair to the employees who helped build the company and he took a stand with it," said Mr. Bucher's son, Howard, yesterday. "He always took up the cause of the little people against the establishment."

Mr. Bucher organized a meeting to protest the plan to dismiss the older employees, cut wages and speed up production. He was elected spokesman of the 350 men in the plant and met with company officials. When the company announced it was going ahead with its plan, the employees went on strike. After two weeks, the company relented and Mr. Bucher and the other employees formed Local 37 of the CIO. He became its president.

Mr. Bucher worked at Shiep for a short time, but the remainder of his career was as a union leader. He took Local 37 to the Upholsterers International Union of the AFL when John Lewis, the CIO president, tried to force him to support Wendell Wilkie against Franklin Roosevelt.

"My father was a strong supporter of Roosevelt. He went in to see Lewis with a big FDR button on and said he wasn't going to do that," Howard Bucher said.

Later, in 1964, Local 37 members voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

In 1969, Mayor James H.J. Tate appointed Mr. Bucher chairman of the city's Civil Service Commission, which also made him chairman of the city's Board of Ethics. He resigned in 1976.

In 1974, he retired from the union, which honored him at a dinner at Palumbo's Restaurant. In the late 1970s, he moved from Northeast Philadelphia to Florida.

In addition to his union and city work, Mr. Bucher was involved in numerous civic affairs, raising money for Israel bonds and working with youth athletic organizations. He also was a member of the NAACP.

Mr. Bucher is survived by his wife, Lillian Plafsky Bucher, two sons, Howard and Donald, two stepdaughters, Ronnie Berns and Eilene Julian, 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. at the Joseph Levine & Son Memorial Chapel, 7112 N. Broad St. Interment will be at King David Memorial Park in Neshaminy. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or American Heart Foundation.

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