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Reconstructing a Multicultural Union, 1927–1933

Reconstructing a Multicultural Union, 1927–1933

(p.98) 4 Reconstructing a Multicultural Union, 1927–1933
All Together Different
Daniel Katz
NYU Press

This chapter discusses political, economic, and ideological developments in the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) that influenced the progress and direction of union building. On the one hand, ILGWU activists faced new obstacles. Stalin's accession to power in the Soviet Union led to an open dual-union movement in the United States and to splits in the Communist Party. The Great Depression that began in the winter of 1929–1930 ushered in new depths of privation for garment workers. Manufacturers stepped up the hiring of non-Jewish and non-Italian workers, partly because the new restrictions on immigration dried up the usual source of cheap labor and partly in the hope of keeping workers divided along language, racial, and ethnic lines. On the other hand, the more moderate administration of Benjamin Schlesinger and David Dubinsky tolerated and at times encouraged Fannia Cohn and other activists to develop multicultural programs of education and to reach out to new constituencies, especially African American workers.

Keywords:   International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, ILGWU, Fannia Cohn, education programs, Benjamin Schlesinger, David Dubinsky

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