Chicago Tribune


By Marla Donato, Tribune Staff Writer.

Sherman M. Carmell, 67, a premier labor-union lawyer who was known for his cool style, impeccable dress and razor-sharp mind, died Saturday at Hospice of the North Shore at Evanston Hospital after a long illness.

The list of clients of Mr. Carmell's law firm, Carmell, Charone, Widmer, Mathews & Moss, read like a who's who of Chicago labor groups, including CTA bus drivers, the Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 and the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization for labor unions in Chicago and Cook County that has 500,000 members.

Mr. Carmell was involved in major cases dating to the late 1960s when he helped negotiate a contract for Chicago truckers that won them wages that surpassed those that Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa had negotiated on a national level, according to Bill Widmer, one of Mr. Carmell's partners. "In 1970 he forced Hoffa to reopen the national freight settlement to match the money truckers got in Chicago," said Widmer. "It's an enormous void to fill, a major loss to the labor movement," said Don Turner, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. "Sherman had a subtle but precise mind. He knew every major player in the city, not just in the unions but the politicians as well."

Born in Chicago, Mr. Carmell received a bachelor's degree and later a law degree, in 1953, from the University of Michigan. He decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Carmell, who was one of the city's first labor lawyers, known for his flamboyant style. But unlike his father, the younger Mr. Carmell had a style that was low-key. "He had a tendency to lull witnesses in a quiet, cerebral way and then he would quietly shred them to pieces," said Widmer.

Mr. Carmell argued and won one of his most famous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979. The Teamsters vs. Daniel case involved the way pension funds were governed. Mr. Carmell, who represented the interests of the pension fund for a Teamster's local, argued that the funds fall under labor rather than security laws. Mr. Carmell was the lead attorney for the Chicago District Council of the Laborers International Union in its current fight to prevent a takeover by the Washington-based International, which had charged the Chicago council with corruption and mob influence. At the time of his death, Mr. Carmell was preparing a legal brief asserting that the Washington group's motives were strictly political, according to union sources.

Survivors include his wife, Bonnie; two sons, David and Gary; two daughters, Jamie Hyman and Jill Dimidrief; and 10 grandchildren.

Services will begin at 1 p.m. Monday in Weinstein Family Services Wilmette Chapel, 111 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette.

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