Chapter 14 – A Union Summer

podcast artworkDuring the summer of 1947, Richard works for the Dress Joint Board in New York City’s Garment District. The experience heightens his liberal sensitivities toward the issues of working people. His fellow student summer workers clue him in on the ideological struggles within the union, including the affiliation between some garment manufacturers and the mob in an effort to control the union. Richard listens to the stories of hardship of the garment workers applying for unemployment benefits.  The stream of people he interviews resembles the cast of characters  in Leo Rosten’s  The Education of  H*Y*M*A*N  K*A*P*L*A*N, with their unique accents and their creative and amusing way of speaking the English language. Richard also learns more about the the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) from his co-workers. The summer experience affirms his growing support for organizing a liberal  student movement.

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One thought on “Chapter 14 – A Union Summer

  1. avatarRichard Poethig

    The recent catastrophic loss of life in the Bangladeshi garment industry (April 2013) harkens back to the historic struggles which have been plagued garment workers back in the 19th century in the U.S. In his recent April 29th article in the N.Y.Times “Clothed in Misery”, M.T. Anderson describes the 1860 collapse of the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Mass which took the lives of 88 women and young children. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan got better press and more immediate action through the organizing of the workers themselves. Action needs to happen at the base itself against the political dealing and the corruption which is endemic in the highly competitive and small scale shops which are natural to the industry.
    The trade union movement took up the battle after the Triangle disaster and began a drive to organize the garment workers. Today this is a world issue, which has to take place in the developing world, against the entrenched interests of both local and international capital.

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