Labor Rights

Content type
Collection

Jill Jacobs

Jill Jacobs, the executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, has pushed for Jews to take an active role in social justice, from supporting health care and environmental reform to condemning torture and human rights violations.

Frances Kroll Ring, 1916 - 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald asked if she knew anyone in Hollywood. She didn't. He told her to open the top drawer of his dresser, where there were dozens of half empty gin bottles. She shrugged. Satisfied that Grandma wouldn't rat him out to tabloids or judge his drinking, Fitzgerald hired her that day.

Naomi Weisstein, 1939 - 2015

Naomi sometimes described herself as a female Lenny Bruce. But she was not an imitation anything. She was pure Naomi.

Melissa Gilbert

After a highly successful decade as the lead on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert defied the odds for child actors by becoming a Hollywood power-broker as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001–2005.

Rose Finkelstein

A lifelong labor activist, Rose Finkelstein organized pay raises and better hours for women workers throughout New England.

“The Factory Girl’s Danger” published in The Outlook

April 15, 1911

“No, we've got to keep on working, no matter what the danger.  It's work or starve.  That's all there is to it."

Stosh Cotler

An unconventional CEO with tattoos, a black belt, and a reputation as a radical social activist, Stosh Cotler has mobilized Jewish Americans to fight for immigration reform, racial equality, and workers’ rights.

Death of social activist Sophie Gerson

March 20, 2006
Sophie Gerson was a legendary figure in the history of textile union organizing in the South.

Leslie Feinberg, 1949 - 2014

And in the reflection of the glass, finally, literally and metaphorically, I could see myself, and Leslie, at once. I think I started to understand what I could be in that moment, that I belonged to a proud tradition of Butch women. That there was a place for me in this world. That I could grow up. For the first time, I understood that I was looking at who and what I would become as an adult. It was breathtaking.

Labor Demonstration, 1915

Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca: The People's Voice

Ilana Goldberg

Dorothy Jacobs Bellanca was not a women’s rights activist. She was a people’s rights activist.

She understood the problems of the working class—people of all genders, ages, and backgroundsand sought to improve conditions for workers.

It just so happened that along the way, she became a leader in a way that was unprecedented for women of her era.

Vivian Leburg Rothstein

Vivian Leburg Rothstein’s early experiences fighting for civil rights led her to a long career advocating for peace, women’s rights, and the labor movement.

Rose Finkelstein marries in true union style

December 25, 1921

Union organizer Rose Finkelstein Norwood said, "When I saw a detective coming, I’d hide in the coats."

Meredith Tax

It was too good a story to leave in a history book.

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz

Though the content of our mission is not specifically feminist, we have modeled feminist activism...

Collective Action: Lessons from the Labor Movement

What is the meaning of work? What conditions cause workers to suffer and what inspires them to take action to improve their lives? What can Jewish history teach us about contemporary labor issues and our responsibility towards workers around the world? Watch interactive activities and see an experienced facilitator model investigations of several historical artifacts you can put to use in your classroom.
National Federation of Temple Youth at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

50 Years On: 5 Things I Learned About the March on Washington

Etta King Heisler
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March tomorrow, I would like to share 5 things I have learned about the March on Washington that you may not already know—one for each decade. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to check your assumptions and look more closely at this monumental, game-changing event.

Birth of Vera Weisbord, Radical

August 19, 1895

Birth of Vera Weisbord, Radical

Elissa Froman, 1983 - 2013

She didn’t want to be known as the girl with cancer. She wanted to be known as a social justice activist, as someone working to repair the world.

Laurel Parade, Mount Holyoke

Still Fighting for Bread & Roses

Miriam Cantor-Stone

It’s been two weeks since our New York Educator’s Workshop, and I am still amazed at the places we visited and all that was taught by Etta, Ellen, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, and all the participants and presenters in attendance. It occurred to me recently how connected I feel to the labor rights movement, which we discussed as we stood in the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Of course there’s the Jewish connection: Jews made up a large percentage of the population of advocates and protesters in the fight for labor rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America. Jewish teachings and Yiddish phrases were often incorporated into the battle cries of the rioters. For me personally, there is much more to it than that.

Topics: Labor Rights
Triangle Factory Fire, March 25, 1911

Tragedy in Bangladesh

Jordyn Rozensky
Etta King Heisler

Although the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took place in 1911, sweatshops and unsafe conditions are not a thing of the past. 

Topics: Labor Rights

Butchers, Babushkas, and Consumer Activism

Learn about the 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott in New York City and listen to a discussion of how consumer activism relates to Jewish values.
One Hundred Dollar Bill

Wage and Worth

Gabrielle Orcha

Equal pay for equal work—an all-too familiar demand. Last week the Forward published its annual survey of salaries in Jewish organizations, and yesterday the New York Times published a piece by Jessica Bennett calling on women to ramp up their negotiating skills.

Triangle Factory Fire Victims at the 26th Street Pier Morgue, 1911

Why history is not just about the past

Judith Rosenbaum

A fire blazes through a garment factory. The building has too few exits and not enough fire escapes. Fire equipment cannot reach the fire. More than 100 people—many of them young women—die. Bodies, burnt beyond recognition, line the floor of a government building, awaiting identification.

If you’re thinking, “I know that story—it happened at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1911,” think again. Though the details fit the Triangle tragedy, the scene I’ve just described is the deadly fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this past Saturday night.

"Living the Legacy," Institute for Educators

JWA Spotlights Jewish Women's Activism

Sarah Seltzer

Like all large groups of people, American Jews are complex and irreducible despite some aspects of shared culture. Recently, the Jewish Women’s Archive made an interesting choice to focus a new curriculum on Jewish involvement in the labor and civil rights movements — without cheerleading or focusing solely on women’s involvement — thereby shining a probing light on that very complexity.

Freelancers Union Logo

Building a new social safety net: Sara Horowitz and the Freelancers Union

Judith Rosenbaum

In 1909, Jewish women revolutionized the American labor movement. Before the huge garment industry strike known as the “Uprising of the 20,000,” union leaders saw women workers as irrelevant to the labor movement because they did not fit into the model of the traditional male union member. But these garment workers, many of them young Jewish women, proved that women could, in fact, organize effectively and challenge working conditions, and in doing so, they expanded the definition of worker and union member.

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