Hundreds of thousands
had once been employed in the garment industry in America. Unions had
helped to establish a middle class. It seemed that everyone we knew was
responsible for making a different part of the clothing worn
by all of America.
My grandfather continued to work as a pocket maker and was also
the shop steward at Howard Clothes- he represented local 25, the overcoat
makers, and fought against “piecework”. His
son Murray was a fitter and became a vice president of his union.
His son-in-law, Norman, was a lapel maker, and son-in-law, Joe, a cutter.
My grandmother’s widowed sister, Yetta, went back to work on the
assembly line, where she struggled with the onslaught of garments that
way for finishing. Except for one summer, when Lillian and Norman’s
son Len unloaded dryers in a factory laundry, none of the grandchildren
would spend life working in a factory.
Many years later, at Empire State College, Murray’s son Donnie
taught labor history to members of the Electrician’s Union. (With
the demise of labor unions, the garment industry in America was history.)