Cosmopolitan Unionism and Mutual Culturalism in the World War II Era
This chapter discusses the transformation of the radical political and social agenda of the Jewish labor movement into a more liberal agenda beginning around 1937 and accelerating through World War II. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) began promoting a singular American working-class identity at the expense of multiple cultural identities. With the advent of World War II, Local 22 and the International drastically changed the focus of their educational programs toward inculcating patriotism and reinforcing more restrictive gender roles. As ILGWU leaders moved closer to the center of political power in the United States, they alternately encouraged and dismissed the critical importance of social and recreational activities emanating from the lower ranks of the union. Mutual culturalism persisted at the grassroots, not only as an alternative to liberal cosmopolitanism but also as a militant, democratic challenge to cautious, top-down leadership.
Keywords: International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, ILGWU, social unionism, Jewish labor movement, mutual culturalism