ACWA's Sidney Hillman Foundation Records 1955-1974

Collection Number: 5619/040

Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives
Cornell University Library


DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY

Title:
ACWA's Sidney Hillman Foundation Records, 1955-1974
Collection Number:
5619/040
Creator:
Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union
Sidney Hillman Foundation
Quantity:
2 linear feet
Forms of Material:
Correspondence, reports, publications.
Repository:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Abstract:
This collection consists of publications, correspondence, reports, and files from the Sidney Hillman Foundation of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
Language:
Collection material in English


ACWA/ACTWU ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, the most significant union representing workers in the men's clothing industry, was founded in New York City in 1914 as a breakaway movement from the United Garment Workers. Radical and immigrant workers in the tailors’ and cutters’ locals were the core of the seceding group, which advocated industrial unionism and economic strikes in opposition to the UGW’s craft organization, which they saw as conservative and timid. Their diverging views had come to the fore during the historic 1910 dispute at the Chicago firm Hart, Schaffner, and Marx. The opposition called the strike against the UGW leadership’s advice, and reached a path-breaking agreement with management that established an arbitration system to settle disputes.
Members flocked to the new union. Around 50,000 strong at its founding, by 1920 the ACWA counted about 170,000 members. Initially composed mostly of immigrants of Jewish European descent with Socialist leanings, the ACWA quickly welcomed members of a great number of nationalities and diverse backgrounds. Like in other garment unions, most workers and many members were women, but the leadership was predominantly male, a situation that did not change for many decades. Early on the union adopted a centralized administrative structure combined with industrial unionism, with the joint boards’ by-laws having precedence over those of locals.
Espousing a philosophy perhaps brought over by its early immigrant socialist members, the Amalgamated went beyond bread and butter issues and adopted a distinctive form of social unionism that was largely absent in the American labor movement. Starting in the 1920s, it provided educational opportunities and recreational facilities for its members, as well as services such as an insurance plan, banks offering personal loans at low interest rates, low-cost housing cooperatives, medical clinics, and even union-owned restaurants.
Sidney Hillman was the first president of the new union and the most important officer in its history. He applied his experience as bargaining representative in Chicago to the whole industry. Under his leadership the union made significant strides in securing better wages and working conditions for its members, and at the same time it consolidated gains and provided stability to the industry through the widespread adoption of the arbitration system tested at Hart, Schaffner, and Marx. Hillman paid close attention to industry issues, such as production, pricing, and marketing. In order to help management meet the competition of non-union firms, the union conducted studies of efficiency, work methods, and factory costs. Letters to the official publication of the union, Advance, document the controversy that ensued within the union over what was perceived to be collaboration with management.
Hillman also understood the importance of labor’s involvement in national affairs and political action. In the 1920s the ACWA sent delegates to the Conference for Progressive Political Action and to the Farmer-labor party conventions. Although many members and officers were Socialists, the union stopped short of officially endorsing the party. Communist attempts at gaining influence within the union were firmly curbed. Hillman’s participation in national affairs and politics became prominent during the New Deal, when he became a close advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt on labor and economic issues. He also served on the board of the National Recovery Administration. Later, during World War II, he helped establish the Labor’s Non Partisan League. He was also named associate director of the Office of Production Management, which assisted in mobilizing the nation's resources for the war effort. Hillman’s prestige perhaps reflected the healthy condition of his union, which by the end of the conflict was strong and stable.
During the post World War II period the union faced a number of significant challenges. Membership continued to grow (peaking at 395,000 in 1968), but the union’s political influence and visibility in national affairs declined. In their never ending pursuit of lower production costs, many firms relocated to the South, forcing the union to engage in large organizing efforts. Simultaneously, signs began to appear of changes that would lead to the almost complete demise of the domestic apparel industry and, ultimately, to the erosion of union membership. Foreign imports of cheap clothing goods steadily grew in the 1950s and 1960s, and mushroomed in the following two decades, plunging employment in the apparel sector into a steady decline. Union efforts to stem the tide included Buy American campaigns and extensive lobbying in Congress, but they were to no avail. In 1976, the ACWA merged with the Textile Workers of America to become the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Despite successful and much publicized nationwide actions such as the Farah boycott and the J.P. Stevens corporate campaign, the woes threatening the union’s existence continued unabated. The fate of the domestic industry was sealed in the late 1970s and the 1980s by the flight of firms chasing tax breaks and cheap labor abroad. By 1995, when ACTWU voted to merge with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, their combined membership was 350,000. The new Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE!) seemed poised to infuse new life in a troubled union.
SUBJECTS

Names:
Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America
Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union --Archives
Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America --Archives
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union --Archives
Sidney Hillman Foundation
Union of Needeltrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) --Archives
UNITE HERE (Organization) --Archives

Subjects:
Textile industry--New York (State)--New York
Textile workers--Labor unions--New York (State)--New York
Clothing trade--New York (State)--New York
Clothing workers--Labor unions--New York (State)--New York

Form and Genre Terms:
Correspondence
Publications
Records


INFORMATION FOR USERS

Access Restrictions:
Access to the collections in the Kheel Center is restricted. Please contact a reference archivist for access to these materials.
Restrictions on Use:
This collection must be used in keeping with the Kheel Center Information Sheet and Procedures for Document Use.
Cite As:
ACWA's Sidney Hillman Foundation Records #5619/040. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.

RELATED MATERIALS

Related collections:
5619: Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America
And all other 5619 collections.

CONTAINER LIST

Container
Description
Date
Box 1 Folder 1
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.1-6
1955-1956
Box 1 Folder 2
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.7. R. L. Neuberger
1955-1956
Box 1 Folder 3
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.8. Wayne Morris
1956-1957
Box 1 Folder 4
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.9. Edmond Cahn
1956-1957
Box 1 Folder 5
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.10. Charles Johnson
1956
Box 1 Folder 6
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.11. Edmund Muskie
1957
Box 1 Folder 7
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.12. Harry S. Ashmore
1957
Box 1 Folder 8
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.13. Sir Senerat Gunewardene
1957
Box 1 Folder 9
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.14. Lester Pearson
1958-1972
Box 1 Folder 10
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.15. Harry S. Commager
1958
Box 1 Folder 30
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Mailing List.
1966
Box 1 Folder 11
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.16. William Smith
1959-1962
Labor's Wrongs and Rights
Box 1 Folder 12
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.17. Paul C. Empie
1959-1960
Immigration: Moral Issues an the National Interest
Box 1 Folder 13
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.18. Charles Bowles
1960
Economics, Government, and Growth
Box 1 Folder 14
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.19. William Benton
1961
Education: Our Ultimate Weapon
Box 1 Folder 15
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.20. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
1959-1962
George Norris and the Liberal Tradition
Box 1 Folder 16
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.21. Adlai E. Stevenson
1962
Past, Present, Future of the U.N.
Box 1 Folder 17
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.22. Stuart Chase
1962-1965
Will Communism Conquer the World? A Balance Sheet
Box 1 Folder 18
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.23. Dwight McDonald
1963-1969
Our Invisible Poor
Box 1 Folder 19
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.24. Henry Steele Commager
1963
To Form a Much Less Perfect Union
Box 1 Folder 20
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.25. Stuart Udall
1963-1964
Conservation and the Future
Box 1 Folder 21
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.26. Francis Keppel
1964-1965
Freedom is More Than Academic
Box 1 Folder 22
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.27. Arthur J. Goldberg
1964-1967
The Court Sits in the Center of the Storm
Box 1 Folder 23
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.28. Nelson H. Cruikshank
1965-1966
The Consumer's Stake in Medical Care
Box 1 Folder 24
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.29. Paul Ylvisaker
1966-1972
The American City: Mirror To Man
Box 1 Folder 25
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.30. Henry Steele Commager
1967
How Not to be a World Power
Box 1 Folder 26
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. no.37. Selig Greenberg
1972
The Quality of Mercy
Box 1 Folder 27
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. U Thant
1966
Box 1 Folder 28
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Will Maslow and Richard Cohen
1958-1961
Box 1 Folder 29
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Miscellaneous
1958
Box 1 Folder 31
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Press Releases
1967-1968
Box 1 Folder 32
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Pending
1971
Box 1 Folder 33
Sidney Hillman Foundation Reprints. Bids
1968-1970
Box 1 Folder 34
Awards Dinner
1969
Box 1 Folder 35
American Federation of Teachers. United Federation of Teachers
1967-1968
Box 1 Folder 36
Edmund Muskie Lectures
1969-1970
Box 1 Folder 37
University of Tennessee
1969
Box 2 Folder 1
Grants. American University
1961-1970
Box 2 Folder 2
Grants. Irving Howe
1968-1971
Box 2 Folder 3
Grants. Awarded
1970-1971
Box 2 Folder 4
Grants. Refused
1972-1973
Box 2 Folder 5
General Scholarships
1967-1974
Box 2 Folder 6
Income
1971-1972
Box 2 Folder 7
Ten-Year Report
1957
Box 2 Folder 8
Twenty-Year Report
1967-1968
Box 2 Folder 9
1966 Prize Awards
1967
Box 2 Folder 10
1971 Prize Awards [folder 1 of 2]
1971-1972
Box 2 Folder 11
1971 Prize Awards [folder 2 of 2]
1971-1972
Box 2 Folder 12
1972 Prize Awards [folder 1 of 2]
1972-1973
Box 2 Folder 13
1972 Prize Awards [folder 2 of 2]
1972-1973
Box 2 Folder 14
Report for 1970
1970
Box 2 Folder 15
Committee on Discussion and Debate
1969
Regarding Reprint no.30.