And the BCTGM and is the new ILGWU.
I was going to try and write something clever about the Hostess closing but when I read the company FAQs to their employees who find themselves screwed out of job thanks to their own union, it reminded me of the last day that my mother went to work. After 40 years of doing piece work in a dress factory, she arrived one morning to find the doors chained and padlocked. During the remaining years of her life, she would often mention that her good scissors were in there and she never saw them again.
She worked at Plymouth Dress Company for 38 of those years, and when they went out of business, she was one of the lucky ones who was able to find a spot in another union shop. Even then, she only did finish work on garments that were cut and started in the Dominican Republic. When the second factory closed, there were no more union shops around and it was a situation thatt was repeated nationwide.
The ILGWU put their own industry out of business in America. The BCTGM has only closed down one business. So far.
This made me tear up a little today:
They aren’t kidding about feeding the kids. At time that her factory doors were shuttered in 1989, when she was earning more than she ever did previously, my mother was getting 10¢ a collar.
UPDATED: Mercy me – we almost forgot to do an LBJ tie-in to this story. From the Cripes Suzette archives: Look for The Union Label
Luci’s getting married
LBJ reaches out to old pal and campaign contributor Stanley Marcus, president of Neiman-Marcus
Marcus taps his pal Priscilla of Boston to design gowns for Luci and the bridal party because who wouldn’t? Priscilla remains the unsurpassed rock-star of bridal design even after she was strangled to death by David’s Bridal.
Situation! Priscilla of Boston was producing 2,000 dresses a month in a non-union shop.
Money quote: When Louis Stulberg and David Dubinsky, president and president-emeritus, respectively, of the ALF-CIO International Ladies Garment Workers Union learned that non-union Priscilla of Boston was to design and make the dresses, they got in touch with their friend Mr. Johnson. And we all know what happens when the union puts the touch on you.
Priscilla took a look, recognized big trouble and tried to get out of the whole thing.
In the end everyone was happy, with the possible exception of the non-union seamstresses who had the work taken right out from under them. The Priscilla designs were made by 150 union seamstresses, a union label was sewn into the gowns, there was some plummy unionized factory overtime and the bosses got to hold a press conference to announce the union triumph over independent self-actualizers.
This is the kind of history that I love. The kind that involves watered silk and a five miles of hot pink tulle.