The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) was founded to provide a presence for Jewish labor in the councils of the American trade-union movement and in the Jewish "establishment," and to mobilize labor in the struggle against fascism.

Its founding meeting, at Central Plaza on New York's Lower East Side, on February 25th 1934, brought together more than a thousand delegates representing the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), Amalgamated Clothing Workers, United Hebrew Trades, Workmen's Circle, Jewish Daily Forward Association, and a number of smaller groups. Baruch Charney Vladeck, general manager of the Forward, was chosen president; David Dubinsky of the ILGWU, treasurer; Joseph Baskin of the Workmen's Circle, secretary; and Benjamin Gebiner, also of the Workmen's Circle, executive secretary. Holding that only a broad-based workers' movement could overthrow Hitlerism, the JLC emphasized its labor orientation and nonsectarian philosophy. Its aims were to support Jewish rights everywhere, support all progressive and democratic anti-fascist groups, aid refugees, and educate the American labor movement (and the general public) about the Nazi threat.

The JLC was the brainchild of B.C. Vladeck, a brilliant writer and organizer who was known for the elegance of his Yiddish oratory and who was adept at navigating the perilous waters of New York immigrant politics. Vladeck, like most of the early generation of Jewish American labor and socialist leaders, had served his political apprenticeship in the famous "Bund" or General Jewish Workers' Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.

The Bund was a Jewish social-democratic party (legal in Poland, illegal in Russia), which sustained its own network of schools and cultural/fraternal institutions devoted to the strengthening of Yiddish culture and socialist values. Generally hostile to both Zionism and Communism, it was associated with the social-democratic Second International. In many areas, the founders of the JLC were translating and adapting lessons learned in the ranks of the Bund for use in the very different social milieu of America.