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All Together Different

All Together Different

Social Unionism and the Multicultural Front, 1933–1937

(p.123) 5 All Together Different
All Together Different
Daniel Katz
NYU Press

This chapter examines the complexities of social unionism in the mid-1930s, particularly in the Dressmakers' Local 22. Social unionism in the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) reflected the sensitivity of Yiddish socialists to the linkages between Jewish identity, revolutionary political organizing, and mutual ethnic cultural celebration among union members and comrades. As in Russia at the turn of the century, for Jewish garment workers, the face of capitalist exploitation in the American sweatshop was most often Jewish. When the union was nearly mortally wounded at the onset of the Great Depression, young Jewish women had to suppress their ideas and even their Jewish identities to get jobs with Jewish bosses. But the revival of the ILGWU and the surge of radical movements ushered in a shining moment of Jewish cultural pride predicated on mutual culturalism. With the ladies' garment industry almost completely unionized, expressions of ethnic Jewish cultures mingled prominently with expressions of African American, Hispanic, and Italian cultures in the ILGW.

Keywords:   social unionism, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, ILGWU, Dressmakers' Local 22, Jewish culture, Yiddish socialists, garment industry workers

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