ILGWU. Unity House Records, [1971-1993]

Collection Number: 5780/122

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


DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY

Title:
ILGWU. Unity House records, 1971-1993
Collection Number:
5780/122
Creator:
Unity House.
Quantity:
.5 linear feet
Forms of Material:
Records
Repository:
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Abstract:
This collection includes files on the renovation of Unity House. Also included is a 1993 article on the history of the ILGWU in Northern Pennsylvania.
Language:
Collection material in English


ILGWU ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was founded in New York City in 1900 by mostly Socialist immigrant workers who sought to unite the various crafts in the growing women’s garment industry. The union soon reflected changes in the sector and rapidly organized thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled women, mostly Jewish and Italian young immigrants. Exemplifying the “new unionism,” the ILGWU led two of the most widespread and best-known industrial strikes of the early Twentieth Century: the shirtwaist makers’ strike of 1909 in New York City and the cloak makers’ strike of 1910 in Chicago. The union also tried to adapt to the fragmented and unstable nature of the industry. It adopted the “protocol of peace,” a system of industrial relations that attempted to ensure stability and limit strikes and production disruption by providing for an arbitration system to resolve disputes.
The ILGWU exemplified the European-style social unionism of its founding members. They pursued bread and butter issues but provided educational opportunities, benefits, and social programs to union members as well. In 1919, the ILGWU became the first American union to negotiate an unemployment compensation fund that was contributed to by its employers. The ILGWU also pioneered in the establishment of an extremely progressive health care program for its members which included not only regional Union Health Centers but also a resort for union workers, known as Unity House. The Union also had an imaginative and pioneering Education Department which not only trained workers in traditional union techniques, but provided courses in citizenship and the English language.
David Dubinsky, an immigrant from Belarus who came to the US in 1911, provided strong leadership that led to unprecedented growth in the union during his presidency from 1932 to 1966. He led the union through successful internal anti-communist struggles, built on the ascendancy of industrial unionism by encouraging the formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization, and helped the union become an important political force in New York City and state politics, and in the national Democratic Party and Liberal Party as well.
In the period following the Second World War, the union suffered a decline in membership as manufacturers avoided unionization and took advantage of less expensive labor by moving shops from the urban centers in the northeast to the south, and later abroad. The ethnic and racial character of the ILGWU also changed as European immigrants were supplanted by Asians, Latin Americans, African- Americans, and immigrants from the Caribbean.
In July 1995 the ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) at a joint convention, forming UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees). At the time the new union had a membership of about 250,000 in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

Unity House was a resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, operated by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and used as a vacation destination and educational center for its members. It was purchased by Locals 22 and 25 in 1919, and consisted of a lake and 750 acres of land. In the 1920s the locals sold the resort to the international organization. Unity House prospered after World War II, but attendance dropped throughout the 1960s and continued to dwindle in the 1970s and 1980s. The ILGWU closed the resort in 1990. In 2000 it was purchased by a subgrantee of the Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts.

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

This collection includes files on the renovation of Unity House. Also included is a 1993 article on the history of the ILGWU in Northern Pennsylvania.
SUBJECTS

Names:
Unity House.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
Unity House.

Subjects:
Women's clothing industry--United States.
Clothing workers--Labor unions--United States.
Clothing workers--United States.
Industrial relations--United States.

Form and Genre Terms:
Records


INFORMATION FOR USERS

Access Restrictions:
The ILGWU Records, except for publications and materials produced for publication, are restricted. Materials created prior to twenty years from the current date are open to researchers only with prior written permission from the Director of the Kheel Center; materials created during the past twenty-years are closed; the minutes of the General Executive Board are closed. For more information contact the Kheel Center.
Cite As:
ILGWU. Unity House records. 5780/122. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.

RELATED MATERIALS

5780. ILGWU records
5780/122 MB. ILGWU. Unity House memorabilia

NOTES

"Permanent deposit"
COLLECTION ARRANGEMENT

Arranged in chronological order.

CONTAINER LIST

Container
Description
Date
Box 1 Folder 1
Unity House. Proposed changes to lighting.
1971
Box 1 Folder 2
Unity House. Specifications for dormitory alteration.
1973
Box 1 Folder 3
Pennsylvania History. Vol. 60, no. 4. October 1993.
1993
Includes article "Min Matheson and the ILGWU in the Northern Anthracite Region, 1944-1963," by Robert P. Wolensky and Kenneth C. Wolensky.