The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union improved working conditions for garment makers, most of whom were immigrants. Under the leadership of David Dubinsky, himself an immigrant, the union became recognized as one of the most powerful labor unions in the United States.
The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), originally formed by the amalgamation of seven unions, at first consisted mostly of eastern European Jewish immigrants, although a few of the original two thousand members were of Irish descent. For years, the union was characterized by internal strife, mainly among the immigrants, many of whom were
Official seal of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
From 1909 to 1911, large-scale strikes occurred in the garment industry. Most of the people in the picket lines were
The ethnic makeup of the ILGWU changed over the decades. In 1919, many Italian women’s unions were chartered as part of the ILGWU, and an even larger number of Italian immigrants joined the union during the 1930’s. Also during that decade, immigrants from Asian countries such as
The union thrived under the leadership of
By 1995, the union had only about 125,000 members. That year, it united with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE!), representing more than 250,000 members. During its time, the ILGWU bettered working conditions for thousands of immigrants in the garment industry. It improved the sanitation, safety, and comfort of the workplace and won living wages and respect for workers.
Bender, Daniel E. Sweated Work, Weak Bodies: Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns and Languages of Labor. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2005. Danish, Max D. The World of David Dubinsky. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1957. Wolensky, Kenneth C., Nicole Wolensky, and Robert P. Wolensky. Fighting for the Union Label: The Women’s Garment Industry and the ILGWU in Pennsylvania. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
Industrial Workers of the World
Puerto Rican immigrants
Triangle Shirtwaist fire