International Ladies Garment Workers Union

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International Ladies Garment Workers Union

(ILGWU), former U.S. labor union, formed in 1900 by the amalgamation of seven local unions. At the turn of the century most of the workers in the garment industry were Jewish immigrants, whose attempts at organization were hampered by clashes between anarchists and socialists; this heritage of strife was carried over into the ILGWU, and in its early years many members were sympathetic to various radical movements. Despite these conflicts the union grew rapidly in its first years. However, the depression of 1903 and the open-shop campaign launched by the newly formed National Association of Manufacturers wiped out many hard-won gains.

By 1908 it appeared as if the union might be merged with the United Garment Workers, then the American Federation of Labor (AFL) union of men's tailors. At that point the union launched two spectacular and successful mass strikes (1909–11) in the garment district of New York City. As a result of the strikes, the dress manufacturers agreed to deal with the ILGWU and its affiliates. That settlement also embodied the famous Protocol of Peace, which was proposed by Louis D. BrandeisBrandeis, Louis Dembitz
, 1856–1941, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1916–39), b. Louisville, Ky., grad. Harvard law school, 1877. As a successful Boston lawyer (1879–1916), Brandeis distinguished himself by investigating insurance practices and by
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 and was based on the concept of perpetual economic peace in the union. Although that concept was in sharp contrast to the radical trade-union philosophy then prevailing among garment workers, it served as a model of cooperation between labor and management.

The Communists' drive for control of the union during the 1920s was defeated by moderates under the leadership of David DubinskyDubinsky, David
, 1892–1982, American labor leader, president (1932–66) of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), b. Brest-Litovsk, Poland. He was a baker in his father's shop in Lodz (then in Russian Poland), and after becoming active in the bakers'
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. Although the struggle seriously hurt the ILGWU, the union benefited from the labor policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and membership rose to 300,000 in 1942. In 1937 the ILGWU briefly joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO); it then temporarily became an independent union and finally rejoined the AFL in 1940. Under the presidency of Dubinsky, the ILGWU grew into one of the nation's most powerful and progressive unions, with a wide range of member benefits. The ILGWU gained the respect of the manufacturers by its willingness to assist employers in the industry with loans and technical assistance. Dubinsky retired in 1966. The following year a $1 million Dubinsky Foundation was established, with the goal of making grants to causes and institutions in line with ILGWU objectives.

From 1968 to the early 1990s the union lost more than 300,000 workers as a result of low cost imports and the transfer of factories overseas. In 1995 the 125,000-member ILGWU merged with the 175,000-member Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). UNITE merged in 2004 with HERE (the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) to Unite Here. Five years later union officials largely representing the former UNITE voted to secede from the larger group and, as Workers United, affiliate with the Service Employees International UnionService Employees International Union
(SEIU), labor union representing U.S. and Canadian workers in health care (doctors, nurses, health technicians), public services (government workers, school employees), building services (janitors, elevator operators, security officers) and
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.

Bibliography

See L. L. Lorwin, The Women's Garment Workers (1924); B. Stolberg, Tailor's Progress (1944); M. D. Danish, The World of David Dubinsky (1957); G. Tyler, Look for the Union Label (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
References in periodicals archive ?
From its inception, the Communist union had been waging war with more bureaucratically organized, international unions such as the international Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. The ILGWU, affiliated with the craft-based American Federation of Labor (AFL), rejected radical organization and sought collective bargaining between centralized union leadership and manufacturers.
Workers' desires to improve their lives and working conditions often fell victim to nasty infighting among politically, ethnically, and organizationally diverse unions--the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Unions (ILGWU), the International Fur Workers' Union (IFWU), the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), and the United Garment Workers (UGW), in particular--whose leaders tended to focus more on competing with one another for the loyalty of workers, usually by launching smear campaigns against the other unions, than on ameliorating the exploitation of labourers by the capitalist system.
However, after 1930 the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, embraced new forms of trade unionism that stressed tripartite cooperation among labour, capital, and the State.
For two decades, the battle raged--first within the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union; then, within the American Labor Party; and finally, on the world stage in the post-world War Il days, as the Communists hoped to make their World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) the voice of world labor.
Believing that the Department of Labor's action lifting the total ban in the five industries was arbitrary and capricious, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union filed suit challenging the regulations.
This paper studies changes in the size of one specific industry and union, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
Whether or no these women received their just due from the male leadership of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) or the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), they developed their own powers, won the confidence of their coworkers, and provided role models for succeeding generations of women.

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