Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement - Chat Log

The following is the chat log from “Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement”, an online learning program for Jewish educators.


Marilyn Heiss: Greetings from San Francisco, where we could use some of your moisture.
Bonnie Cousens: Hi, from the Society for Humanistic Judaism in Michigan.
Harriet Shalat: Hi, Everyone. It's snowing/sleeting/raining in NYC at the moment...
Brittany Abramowicz: Hi I am Brittany Abramowicz, calling from Chicago
Miriam Cantor–Stone: Hi everybody! I'm Miriam Cantor–Stone, the Education Program Assistant here at the Jewish Women's Archive in Brookline, MA
Brittany Abramowicz: I work with Habonim Dror Camp Tavor
Marilyn Heiss: My main teaching focus is middle schoolers in supplementary synagogue environment.
Miriam S Jerris: Hello from Rabbi Miriam of the Society for Humanistic Judaism

Etta posted a photograph from the early 20th century of a tenement apartment, with two people working in the foreground. She asked the participants to list everything they noticed and what questions they had about the photograph. This activity is called the Photographic Impressions Document Study.

Harriet Shalat: Very cramped
Brittany Abramowicz: messy
Marilyn Heiss: clutter everywhere
Marilyn Heiss: look like a man and a woman working not a factory environment
Harriet Shalat: What's that thing hanging on the wall (likes like a handbag)
Marilyn Heiss: The windows look like they could be broken
Marilyn Heiss: When was this taken?
Harriet Shalat: How much do they get paid? I assume it's by the piece.
Bonnie Cousens: where are they? What’s the workday, hours?
Harriet Shalat: The LES Tenement Museum has an apartment devoted to these kind of places...
Miriam S Jerris: sorry not to be participating. Our system is having trouble keeping up with the technology so I'm getting only pieces of what you are saying.
Miriam Cantor–Stone: There will be a recording as well, so if you miss anything you'll be able to watch it in the recorded program afterwards

Next, Etta introduced two excerpts from Pauline Newman’s memoir, one about working conditions and another about organizing and striking. She asked: What were some of the reasons that workers would want to strike or organize to change their lot? Why might workers not want to strike or leave their jobs despite the terrible conditions?

Marilyn Heiss: So much of this can apply to today...
Marilyn Heiss: They would want to strike for better conditions and more for their family, but the downside is that they would lose their job and thus everything for their family. And I'm sure there were others who would take their place.
Michael Rothbaum: No privacy, no security, no dignity.
Bonnie Cousens: fight for a voice in their workplace; a say in improving the conditions they faced, especially after Triangle
Brittany Abramowicz: reasons to strike: pay was deducted for being a few minutes late. This meant workers had less to live off of. Risks they may be judges negatively for being disruptive not just by employer but by others in the community
Suzin Glickman: Suzin here`sorry for my tardiness` I use this document in class
Marilyn Heiss: Acknowledging that women do not get credit for their work in the movement
Marilyn Heiss: But it doesn't stop them from fighting and leading
Michael Rothbaum: Reminds me of beginning of Exodus. Without strong women—Shifra and Puah, Miriam, Pharaoh's daughter—there wouldn't be a Moses.
Brittany Abramowicz: highlights the major risks that were taken to make important changes
Marilyn Heiss: Where there are ways they could pool whatever resources they had to help them through thee strike time?
Suzin Glickman: and bail
Harriet Shalat: My mom had a friend who was fired for refusing to give a kickback of 5 cents to the foreman when they got paid on Friday, so missed being at work on March 11! She lived into her 90's and never stopped fighting for workers’ rights...
Miriam Cantor–Stone: what an incredible story, Harriet! Thank you for sharing!
Harriet Shalat: Her grandson wrote a novel about her life. “Bessie” by Lawrence Bush.

Next, Etta drew a contemporary parallel to the historical labor story with an article that describes the experience of “pickers” —employees who find and pack goods that are shipped from mail–order warehouses such as those run by Similar to the above photograph activity, she also presented a photo study of the Amazon warehouse to the participants. She asked: How is the experience of the author similar to or different from the historical examples we discussed? Do you think American Jews are responsible for protecting the workers that make our clothes, ship our packages, and prepare our food? Why or why not?

Marilyn Heiss: It similar as to the control the employer takes as to how long the work takes to get done, and the expectations that all can do it in that time
Michael Rothbaum: No privacy, no security, no dignity.
Harriet Shalat: Sounds like a horrible time–motion study.
Marilyn Heiss: I think my students would not see this as a Jewish issue, as opposed as to an issue for all.
Marilyn Heiss: I would need to find ways to make a stronger tie.
Bonnie Cousens: Sorry but I need to log out. I have another meeting. Thank you.
Miriam S Jerris: I would suggest that compassion for all human beings is a core value for every community.
Harriet Shalat: Many Jewish labor leaders worked for the betterment of all workers—not just Jews.
Michael Rothbaum: Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Eruvin 65b Rabbi Ilai say, “A person makes their character known in three ways: how they drink (“koso”), how they spend (“kiso”), and how they express anger (“ka'aso”).”
Brittany Abramowicz: I agree Marilyn, but I think that many children and teens would be proud to learn that these types of human issues are connected to Jewish history
Marilyn Heiss: Agreed as well, Brittany, which is why I teach it. But sometimes they see it as too tribal.
Marilyn Heiss: That's why it's good to point out that both Jewish workers and owners were involved
Miriam S Jerris: Thank you so much.
Michael Rothbaum: “A man may stumble over his brother” (Leviticus 26:37). One may come to sin because of his brother, teaching that all of us [Jews?] are responsible for each other. [The Talmud answers:] There [Torah] is referring to one who had the power to protest, and did not protest.—Sanhedrin 27b
Miriam Cantor–Stone: thank you all for coming!
Suzin Glickman: Michael thank you for the Jewish resources—I will use them!
Suzin Glickman: so if a Jew behaves badly we feel a sense of embarrassment—and often have been blamed as a group


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement - Chat Log." (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <>.