Theodore Kheel, NYC labor negotiator, dead at 96

By Deepti Hajela

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 15 2010 2:48 p.m. MST

NEW YORK — Theodore Kheel, a labor mediator who helped end major union disputes in New York City from the 1950s to the 1980s and national impasses in the 1960s, has died. He was 96.

Family spokesman Edward Nebb confirmed Monday that Kheel died Friday in Manhattan. He had been hospitalized for an infection.

Kheel, a New York City native with a law degree from Cornell University, helped end New York City newspaper, subway and teachers' strikes. At the behest of President Lyndon B. Johnson, he took part in labor negotiations on the national level in the 1960s, involving groups like longshoremen and railroad workers.

Kheel got his start in labor relations at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington. After World War II, he moved back to New York City, where he worked an attorney and in the city's Labor Relations Division.

In the 1960s, Kheel was involved in several high-profile labor negotiations in the city. They included a 1962-63 strike that affected seven newspapers and involved 10 unions, a 12-day transit strike in 1966, and a 35-day strike by city teachers in 1968.

Born in Brooklyn, Kheel graduated from high school in the Bronx before attending Cornell, first as an undergraduate and then a law student.

He married Ann Sunstein, a fellow Cornell student, and the couple had five daughters and a son. His wife died in 2003.

Kheel also had a long-standing interest in social issues. He was president of the National Urban League for four years and was part of the Gandhi Foundation, which helped support the efforts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was also concerned about the environment, founding the Nurture Nature Foundation.

Along with his children, Kheel is survived by 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A private funeral was held over the weekend, and a memorial is planned.

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