The Women's Clothing Industry
There are many parallels in the history of labor organization in men's and women's garment manufacture during the period with which we are concerned. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, like the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, seized upon the NRA code system, which brought some measure of stability to a chaotic industrial situation, to extend its organization in several swift strokes. Membership rose from 40,000 in 1932 to 200,000 in 1934. The union itself has described this era in the follow ing terms:
The historian of our Union, in viewing its life and progress, will doubtless reach the conclusion that the period of mass-campaigns, of organizing movements which carried in their sweep scores of thousands of workers into our organition, reached its peak in 1933 and 1934, when, under the momentum of the new industrial policies of the first Roosevelt administration, we carried out gigantic drives and established our organization as one of the foremost labor unions in this country.... The great crusade of the first NRA year brought into our fold more than 125,000 new members, a new working population, with a psychology, work conditions and industrial surroundings materially different from the older groups in our Unions. 1
During the following years, membership expanded, but the basic organizing job had been done before the inauguration of the great CIO drives in the mass production industries, permitting the ILGWU to play an important role in the CIO. This is not to say that by 1936-1937 the ILGWU had completed its organization; like the Amalgamated, it faced some peculiarly difficult problems in the cotton garment industry, as we shall see. However, it was in a position, together with the Mine Workers and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, to plow back the financial resources accumulated from 1933 to 1936 into organizational work in other industries.
As in the case of the Amalgamated, the ILGWU devoted a major part of its efforts during the period 1936-1941 to industry stabilization. The women's clothing industry was even more competitive and more specula
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Publication information: Book title: The CIO Challenge to the AFL:A History of the American Labor Movement, 1935-1941. Contributors: Walter Galenson - Author. Publisher: Harvard University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, MA. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 300.
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