ILGWU Cleveland Office Records

Collection Number: 5780/174

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


ILGWU Cleveland Office Records, 1914-1929
Collection Number:
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU)
1 linear ft.
Forms of Material:
Records (documents).
Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
Contains reports on arbitration hearings and related material, as well as minutes of the Joint Board of Cloak and Skirt Makers' Unions.
Collection material in English


The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was once one of the largest labor unions in the United States founded in 1900 by local union delegates representing about 2,000 members in cities in the northeastern United States. It was one of the first U.S. Unions to have a membership consisting of mostly females, and it played a key role in the labor history of the 1920s and 1930s. The union is generally referred to as the "ILGWU" or the "ILG". The ILGWU grew in geographical scope, membership size, and political influence to become one of the most powerful forces in American organized labor by mid-century. Representing workers in the women's garment industry, the ILGWU worked to improve working and living conditions of its members through collective bargaining agreements, training programs, health care facilities, cooperative housing, educational opportunities, and other efforts. The ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in 1995 to form the Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). UNITE merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) in 2004 to create a new union known as UNITE HERE. The two unions that formed UNITE in 1995 represented only 250,000 workers between them, down from the ILGWU's peak membership of 450,000 in 1969.


Cleveland had a garment industry very early on, in fact, a Cloak Pressers' Protective Union was formed in 1899, before the founding of the ILGWU. The early Cleveland Joint Board consisted of Cloak and Suit Tailors 26, Skirt and Dress Makers 27, Women Garment Makers 29, Ladies' Garment Pressers 37, Ladies' Garment Cutters 42, Sample and Ladies Tailors 94.
Strikes and low membership decimated the union in Cleveland from the strike of 1911 until the near closure of the Joint Board in 1916. The union had a difficult time gaining a position in the cloak and suit trade of the city. By the summer of 1917, membership in the Joint Board had risen significantly and in 1918, the union and the Joint Board submitted demands to the Cleveland Garment Manufacturers' Association for a wage increase. After a strike, a Board of Referees was established to hear the controversy and render decisions. Relations between manufacturers and the Joint Board were strained, but in 1919, a collective agreement was signed by the manufacturers' associations and the Cleveland Joint Board finally and firmly establishing the union in Cleveland after a decade of struggle. During this time, Charles Kreindler was the manager of the Joint Board.
In the 1920s, Cleveland was one of the only large cities that did not subscribe to a 44 hour week and week-work in the garment industry. Instead, the shops that manufactured medium priced garments utilized the section system, which required less skilled labor and posed a challenge for the Cleveland cloakmakers. An investigation by Cleveland Joint Board and the Cloak Manufacturers'' Association established standards of production. In 1932, there was the Cleveland Cloak and Dress Strike. Hearings were conducted in 1938 before an impartial chairman to eliminate differences between the New York and Cleveland Cloak markets. By 1944, the Joint Board had established vacations with pay for all garment workers in the market, as well as adding a health plan with medical care, sick benefits and life insurance. The Joint Board was comprised of Locals 26, 27, 29, 37, 42, 44, 52, 207, 209, 211, 300, 358, and 368. The Joint Board and Ohio district were headed by Abraham Katovsky, who had been a business agent under Kreindler, and helmed the Cleveland Joint Board until his death in 1945. He was succeeded by Nathan Solomon as the new manager. Solomon had been serving as the secretary treasurer for many years. Approximately 1,000 knitgood workers in Cleveland were organized into four locals comprising the Cleveland Knitgoods Council. This Council was supervised by the head of the Cleveland Joint Board. During the early 1950s, Louis Friend managed the Joint Board, and Nicholas Kirtzman was the director of the Cleveland and Ohio-Kentucky Region.
A new headquarters for the Cleveland ILGWU Health Center and Ohio-Kentucky regional headquarters was dedicated in 1951. David Solomon manager of the Joint Board for many years after Friend, retired April 1956, and the organizer of the Joint Board, Julius Guralnik, took over duties as manager of the Cleveland Joint Board. From 1959 into the 1960s, with the Cleveland cloak market declining into insignificance, a shift in the Ohio-Kentucky Region took place from an emphasis on the cloak industry towards sportswear, knitgoods, and dresses. The Cleveland Knitgoods Council made significant membership gains. By 1962, Kirtzman became director and manager of the Joint Board, with Edward Milano the assistant director, and the steady decline in membership in Cleveland within the shrinking cloak and dress industry began to stabilize.
Kirtzman, an ILGWU vice-president and regional director since 1950, died in March 1963. Sam Janis, who was previously an assistant general manager of the Eastern Region, succeeded Kirtzman as the new Ohio-Kentucky Region director and was also elected manager of the Cleveland Joint Board. In 1968, Janis and the Joint Board were involved in the successful campaign for Carl Stokes election as mayor of Cleveland. Stokes was the first African American mayor of a large U.S. city, and Manager Janis was appointed to the mayor's commission as a labor representative to study the welfare crisis in the city. During the 1970s, the Joint Board was involved in community and political activities, including submitting a proposal to ease procedures for voter registration.
In 1978, there was a realignment of the Ohio-Kentucky Region and all Ohio locals became part of the Northeast and Western Pennsylvania Department, renamed the Northeast, Western Pennsylvania and Ohio Department. Sam Janis retired in May 1978 and Al Gargiulo, who had been the assistant regional director, became the manager of the Cleveland Joint Board, as well as the Knitgoods Council and the Ohio District.


The collection predominantly consists of the Cleveland Garment Industry Arbitration in 1919. The records contain transcripts of the hearings between the Cleveland Locals and the Cleveland Cloak, Suit, Skirt and Dress Manufacturers' Association. Manufacturers wanted a reduction in wages. The records begin in 1918, and by 1921 advances in the industry included the establishment of a standard wage scale affecting all shops and classes of workers, as well as an adopted standard of production. Also contained in the files are the award summary, memorandum, arbitration, back pay, wage adjustment, and wage comparisons. The hearings between union and manufacturers include exhibits showing increases in living, inflation, and wages and industry reports and wage studies for the Cleveland area.
Additionally, the collection contains early meeting minutes from 1917.

International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. -- Cleveland Office.

Women's clothing industry -- United States.
Women's clothing industry -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
Clothing workers --Labor unions -- United States.
Clothing workers --Labor unions -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
Clothing workers -- United States.
Clothing workers -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
Industrial relations -- United States.
Industrial relations -- Ohio -- Cleveland.

Form and Genre Terms:
Records (documents)


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:
ILGWU Cleveland Office Records #5780/174. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library.


Related Collections:
5780: ILGWU records
5780/048: ILGWU Cleveland Joint Board Records
5780/183: ILGWU Ohio Kentucky Region Records
5780/183 AV: ILGWU Ohio Kentucky Region Audio-Visual Materials
5780/183 P: ILGWU Ohio Kentucky Region Photographs


Box 1 Folder 1 1919
Box 1 Folder 2 1919
July 14-15
Box 1 Folder 3 1919
July 15
Box 1 Folder 4 1919
January 18
Box 1 Folder 5 1919
December 27
Box 1 Folder 6 1918
August 21
Box 1 Folder 7 1919
July 15
Box 1 Folder 8 1918
April 6
Box 1 Folder 9 1921
Cleveland, April
Box 1 Folder 10 1919
Box 1 Folder 11 1929
Box 1 Folder 12 1918
August 21
Box 1 Folder 13 1914-1919
Box 1 Folder 14 1917
Box 1 Folder 15 1917
Box 2 Folder 1 1918
October 19
Box 2 Folder 2 1918
August 12
Box 2 Folder 3 1919
Box 2 Folder 4 1918
November 7
Box 2 Folder 5 1921
Box 2 Folder 6 1920-1921
Box 2 Folder 7 1921