Carmen Samuel Papale, a former marker and cutter of men's suits who later headed a union representing thousands of area clothing workers, died of cancer Friday at his home in Harford County. He was 61.
Before his retirement last year, Mr. Papale was international vice president of UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, and chief principal officer of the Baltimore Regional Joint Board, an organization representing 4,000 union workers in a four-state area.
As the union's highest ranking Maryland official during a time of declining membership, he earned a reputation as a skilled negotiator and tough but realistic labor leader.
"Carmen dedicated his life to protecting workers' rights and vigorously fighting for their causes," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called him a "visionary" and "one of the most sensitive and caring labor leaders I have ever met."
Mr. Papale was similarly praised by Maryland's U.S. senators.
Mr. Papale also became a political force by working to get his members registered to vote and informing them about politicians who supported issues that affected working families.
One of Mr. Papale's greatest concerns was the detrimental effect of imports on workers in the local clothing industry, said Ernest R. Grecco, president of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council of AFL-CIO. "He was always educating other labor leaders and the membership on the need to purchase products 'Made in USA' and requested them to always 'Look for the Union Label.' "
Mr. Papale came by his strong sense of unionism growing up in his native West Baltimore. His father was a shop steward at the Westinghouse Electric Corp. radar plant in Linthicum, and many of his relatives were involved in unions.
After graduating from Mount St. Joseph High School in 1954, he went to work on the assembly line at Westinghouse. But by 1962, he left the factory floor for the stage as a saxophone player for a Baltimore band, the Headliners.
By 1965, tired of life on the road, he began working in the men's clothing industry in Baltimore as a cutter and marker for Haas Tailoring Co. -- and joined the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers union.
Three years later, he was elected a shop steward there. In 1973, he went to work full time as a union organizer for the Baltimore Regional Joint Board, which represented workers in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. In 1982, Mr. Papale was elected manager of the regional board and international vice president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, positions to which he was re-elected every three years after that through the mid-1990s.
In 1995, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers merged with the International Ladies Garment Workers to form the Union Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. Mr. Papale remained manager of the Baltimore Regional Joint Board and became vice president of the merged international union. He retired last year and became an adviser to the local board.
At his death, he was a vice president of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO.
Mr. Papale's 1967 marriage to the former Linda Cavey ended in divorce in 1980.
He is survived by his wife of six years, the former Christine Szewczyk; two sons, Michael Papale of Miami, Fla., and Daniel Papale of Baltimore; three stepchildren, George Seaton IV, Scott Seaton and Tina Seaton, all of Bel Air; two sisters, Phyllis Krider of Bel Air and Connie Allen of Virginia Beach, Va.; and three grandchildren.
A mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 533 E. Jarrettsville Road in Hickory.
Pub Date: 12/07/98