US labour union leader. From 1965 to 1987 he was president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 37, New York's largest public employee union. He built the AFSCME into the largest municipal employees union in the USA. He gained a reputation as a forceful yet responsible advocate for his union's members and helped create New York City's Office of Collective Bargaining. On retiring from the union in 1987, he went on to teach, research, and consult on labour-management policies and related social issues at the City University of New York. In 1993 he was selected by Mayor David Dinkins to serve on New York City's Board of Education.
Gotbaum was born in New York City. He became involved in union activities while working as a teenager, and by age 19 was working as a pressman in a printing shop owned by an uncle. He was drafted into the US Army and served in World War II. After the war he secured a BA from Brooklyn College and an MA from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University. He briefly taught government studies at Brooklyn College, then worked in the US State Department and Department of Agriculture, before moving into union work from 1955, initially with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters in Chicago. He returned to New York City to organize the hospital workers and in 1965 became head of District Council 37 of the AFSCME. Gotbaum's wife, Betsy Brearley, was New York City's Public Advocate 2002–09, the second-highest ranking elected post in the city.