Rose Schneiderman’s Women’s Trade Union League Report
I commenced my work as East Side organizer on the 1st of April, 1908, and for a period of four months felt that I had attempted one of the most difficult industrial problems, in a most critical time of the struggle of the working class. For a time I felt that all was hopeless and dark, and that it were better for me to return to the factory. It is a very difficult thing to tell people who are starved for the lack of work, “Organize now as you never did before and endeavor by the might of your numbers to prevent industrial panics in the future!” The answer comes, “I am hungry! Give me work, and then we will speak of what is to be done.” I therefore began to visit East Side unions which had women in them and simply stated that the Women’s Trade Union League had put an organizer into the field and that she was always ready to do all in her power to help to bring the girls of the trade into the organization; also, that the League was prepared to open English classes, where trades-unionism would be taught together with the English language.
The White Goods Union
I visited the White Goods Union which, twenty-eight months ago had a membership of three hundred, and found that all that they were left with, were the officers. We conferred together, and they asked whether the League would assist them financially in holding mass-meetings. I said that it would, and we decided that a concert be arranged. This was a failure, as very few of the girls attended. We then decided to have a May Dance for the East Side women unionists, and invitations were distributed among the unions…Thought the attendance was not as large as we anticipated, good work was done, as those who came listened to the gospel of trade unionism from the lips of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, John Dych and Jacob Pankin, and when the girls left, they were much wiser as to woman’s place in industry….
The Dress Makers’ Strike
In the beginning of November last, the League was called to assist the dress makers of a Fifth Avenue shop, who were striking to resist a change of system from “piece work” to “week work.” The girls were alone, inexperienced and without any reserve funds. Brother Pine of the United Hebrew Trades, to whom they applied for assistance, was not in the position to give them all the aid they needed…The first thing we did, was to organize the girls into a Union. We found that the girls of other factories understood that the fight was theirs as well, as a principle was involved which would have a vital effect upon them. They, therefore, responded to an appeal for assistance by making collections among themselves…Little by little the girls found employment at other shops and the strike gradually dwindled away. At present, we have a Dressmakers and Costumers’ Local #60 of the Garment workers, of which I have the honor of being president, and there is good promise for the development of a big, strong organization in the near future….
In conclusion, I would say that the organization of women with its many difficulties – the different nationalities and the passive toleration of many wrongs – is a great problem, which requires constant vigilance and attention besides personal labor of everyone interested in the movement, for its solution. I would also suggest that perhaps, we, who are trying our best to solve this problem, have not considered seriously enough the joyless life of the working woman, and that, perhaps, wee have not done all that is necessary to make the labor organization a social as well as an economic attraction. We have insisted on the business-side of labor organization, forgetting the while, that women are not as yet wholly business-like, thank goodness! Let us idealize more the trade union movement, show that it is the way towards the emancipation of the worker, and with that aim in view and a great deal of hard, earnest, perservering [sic] work, the victory will be ours. Respectfully submitted, Rose Schneiderman