By Lisa Phillips
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Extra resources for A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism
38 Apparently Harry Eckstein’s brother, Teddy, attempted at least twice to stop union organizing by “cutting a deal,” first with some Eckstein employees and later, as Osman said, with the organizer sent by the UHT. ” Two more meetings and they signed that first contract with Eckstein. Consistent with Osman’s account, Karpe remembered that the first contract was signed without the help of the UHT organizer. Nevertheless, and despite Osman’s accounting of these early months, the WDGW seems to have maintained some relationship with the UHT.
The ILGWU and the ACWA had been organizing in the garment industry for decades by the time Osman and his co-workers began “talking union” at H. 21 Both the ILGWU and the ACWA unionized by first focusing on the men in the industry who held the most skilled and highest-paid positions, usually the cutters and tailors, the idea being that shop owners would be forced to negotiate better wages for them because they were such an integral part of the business. Once the ILGWU and the ACWA won gains for the cutters and other skilled workers and union recognition in contract negotiations, their organizers then tried to negotiate increases for semiskilled and unskilled workers, including Organizing on New York’s Lower East Side · 23 the subcontractors, or “sweaters” (the people who were paid a lump sum by the manufacturer for a specified number of garments), and the lowest-paid sweatshop workers, usually young, immigrant women, who produced garments by the piece for the subcontractors, earning only $3 to $4 per week.
Craft and occupational, or AFL-style, organizing was not appealing to Osman, despite the fact that it had worked well for service workers because wholesale clerks were deemed relatively unimportant within the AFL’s hierarchy in New York (taking a back seat to retail clerks). Osman was also dissatisfied with CIO-style organizing even though he and the union’s first group of full-time organizers were in effect organizing “CIO-style” when they brought all the workers in the shop, from “top to bottom,” into the union.
A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism by Lisa Phillips