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International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) Project Files, 1914-1993
MSS 061  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) Project Files,
    Date (inclusive): 1914-1993
    Collection number: MSS 061
    Creator: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Extent: 4 boxes, 1 half-box, 1 half-box (legal), 2 tape boxes, and oversized material

    3 linear feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Los Angeles, CA 90044
    Abstract: Research files primarily consisting of photocopies of primary and secondary sources compiled by Mary Tyler during her research for the Library's conference on the Los Angeles ILGWU and subsequent book, co-authored by John Laslett. Also contains tapes and transcripts of oral history interviews by Dorothy Doyle and papers prepared for the conference.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Created as work product by Library staff.


    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) Project Files, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.

    Organizational History


    The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) was founded in New York City on June 3, 1900 by representatives from seven local East Coast unions. The union represented both male and female workers who produced women's clothing. Though affiliated with the more conservative American Federation of Labor for most of its history, the ILGWU was unusual in representing both semi-skilled and unskilled (or automated) workers. The first ILGWU local in Los Angeles was founded in 1907 and lasted only a few months. The first lasting local was founded in 1910 or 1911. By 1924 Los Angeles was the fourth largest garment center in the United States. Starting with the skilled Cloak and Suitmakers, primarily Jewish and Italian men, the union expanded into the largely female and Latina dressmakers. However, this expansion was rocky. In 1933, ILGWU President David Dubinsky sent Rose Pesotta to Los Angeles to organize the dressmakers. The union continued to grow and expand through the 1940s. Changes in the industry (the growth of the sportswear industry, the decline of the suit industry and the increase in the practice of section sewing where workers completed only a single portion of a garment) created increased challenges for the union. The failure to organize the mostly Latina swimsuit, sportswear and casual clothes workers and to make use of Spanish-speaking organizers came to a head in 1949, with a call for a Spanish-speaking local. The ILGWU also became involved in anti-Communism activities. The union went into a decline in the 1950s-1970s. In 1972 Miguel Machuca, who in 1981 became the Western States Organizing Director, began organizing his fellow employees at the California Swimwear Company. From the 1970s on, the union has had to face INS (the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service) raids, growing numbers of South and Central American and Asian workers, increasing union resistance by employers, the growth of small fly-by-night shops, and an increasing tendency for manufacturers to outsource (send garments to countries with cheaper workforces for completion).
    In July 1995 the ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU)) to become the Union of Needle trades, Industrial and Textile Employees or UNITE.


    In the mid-1980s, the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research (SCL) pursued a project on the history of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in Los Angeles. Library staff Sarah Cooper and Mary Tyler, in collaboration with John Laslett, a member of the SCL Board and a professor of history at UCLA, had decided that the Library's commitment to documenting labor history in Southern California could best be served by focusing attention on a very large (at the time) industry in Los Angeles and its union history. To that end, SCL applied for and received a grant from the California Council for the Humanities to research the history of and organize a public symposium about the ILGWU in Los Angeles. The symposium, co-sponsored by the ILGWU Western States Region, was held on June 6, 1987, at the ILGWU building at 675 South Park View (near MacArthur Park) in Los Angeles. Among the speakers were Professor Rodolfo Acuña of the Chicano Studies Department at California State University, Northridge, ILGWU Western States Region Director Steve Nutter, and local ILGWU organizers Miguel Machuca and Tony Orea. Dorothy Doyle, an SCL Board Member and ILGWU Project Interviewer, and Mary Tyler, whose SCL assignment for several months was researching and writing a preliminary sketch of ILGWU history in Los Angeles, presented a slide show on the union's history. Because of the success of the symposium, SCL expanded the project to include publishing a book on the ILGWU in Los Angeles, co-authored by Laslett and Tyler. Ten Star Press published the book, The ILGWU in Los Angeles, 1907-1988, in 1989.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains photocopies of research articles and correspondence, manuscript drafts, articles, flyers, pamphlets, grant applications, reports, correspondence, audiotapes, and photographs.
    This collection consists materials related to the research, preparation and holding of the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research's symposium, "Los Angeles Garment Workers: Past and Present," held June 6, 1987 and the subsequent book on the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The research materials in the collection consist primarily of photocopies and clippings, with only a small amount of original documents and items. Also included are administrative files, materials relating to the symposium, articles and notes written by Mary Tyler, John Laslett, and Dorothy Doyle (slide show with slides), drafts of the manuscript, and a record copy of the completed book, The ILGWU in Los Angeles 1907-1988.


    The collection is divided into 3 series: 1: RESEARCH FILES, 2: CONFERENCE AND BOOK FILES, and 3. ADMINISTRATIVE FILES.


    Box 6 contains legal-size documents; Boxes 7 & 8 are tape boxes and contain the audiotapes as well as the slides. Oversize materials are housed with oversize materials from other collections - ask archivist for assistance.

    Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

    Title: Abe Plotkin Papers (ILGWU),
    Date: 1924-1980
    Physical Description: 2 boxes
    Title: ACTWUA (Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union of America) Records
    Physical Description: [unprocessed]
    Title: ACTWUA - Ruth Miller Papers
    Physical Description: [unprocessed]