Encyclopedia

ILGWU

the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

The Union was formed in 1909 in response to a strike in New York when 20,000 women shirtwaist makers protested sweatshop conditions. In 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory killed 146 workers, many of them young girls. An inquiry revealed that the fire exits had been locked to prevent the girls from taking long work breaks. The tragedy gave an impetus to the movement for laws to protect workers.

In 1931, because of the Great Depression Union membership fell. David Dubinsky, who was elected president in 1932, boosted Union membership from a low of 24,000 to 217,000 in just three years.

Just before America's entry into World War II the ILGWU and its president, David Dubinsky,was instrumental in creating the Jewish Labor Committee(JLC). The JLC publicized the plight of European Jewry, raised emergency funds for partisan forces and ghetto fighters, rescued over a thousand political and cultural leaders.

After the war, the Jewish Labor Committee was actively involved in relief and rehabilitation work for the survivors. A special program entailed so-called adoptions, wherein American groups such as the ILGWU, other unions, and branches of the Workmen's Circle, a social democratic Jewish fraternal organization, sponsored the cost of sustaining child survivors in the aftermath of the war.


Sources: ILGWU web site, JLC web site.



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