Labor Rights

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Sandra Feldman

Sandra Feldman dedicated her career to protecting the rights of educators as the first woman president of both New York City’s Union Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Justine Wise Polier

As the first woman judge appointed in New York State, Justine Wise Polier focused on helping the most vulnerable population: children.

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman’s controversial beliefs made her many powerful enemies, but their attempts to silence her ironically led to greater protections of free speech in America.

Lillian D. Wald

Lillian D. Wald’s dedication to serving poor and working-class communities as a nurse and organizer transformed health care in America.

Gertrude Weil

A dedicated activist for women’s rights and racial equality, Gertrude Weil showed that local, small-scale political action could have far-reaching effects.

Bella Abzug

A formidable leader of the women’s movement, Bella Abzug fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and other vital legislation for the rights of women. During her three terms in Congress, she advocated for groundbreaking bills including the Equal Rights Amendment and crucial support of Title IX.

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

by 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

by  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

by  Jordyn Rozensky and 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

by  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

by  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

by  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

by  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.

"Don't Patronize Reds!" Advertisement by Anonymous

Dr. Judith Rosenbaum Talks Living the Legacy with Jewschool

by  Gabrielle Orcha

This fall, the Jewish Women’s Archive released its latest online curriculum in the Living the Legacy series, a Jewish social justice education project.

Marilyn Sneiderman Organizing with Labor circa 2008-2009

Understanding the Past, Imagining the Future

by  Marilyn Sneiderman

Images and scenes etched in the minds of generations of Jewish activists--immigrant workers marching, sitting in, and striking; tear gas filling the air as riot police attack, beat and arrest union protesters; and battles with gangsters to free unions of mob domination. Freedom rides across the South, rabbis and religious leaders arrested in protests, and a generation of Jews--rank and file workers, organizers, and emerging leaders--swept up and inspired by a movement to win economic, racial, and social justice.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions
Erica Concors

What’s in a name? Finding Solidarity in a Young Jew’s Herstory

by  Erica Concors

Yesterday, as Yom Kippur approached, social justice organizers and progressive Jews gathered in downtown Boston to not only "remember" often underseen and undervalued laborers but also to stand in solidarity with the current labor struggles of our day. Here is Erica Concors', one committed organizer's, powerful speech. 

Chicago Teacher's Strike, September 2012

What's With All The Teacher Hate?

by  Sarah Seltzer

Sarah Seltzer, contributing writer to the The Sisterhood, shares her thoughts on education, class, gender, unions, and workers' rights.

"The Return from Toil," July 1913

Labor Day and Leisure

by  Judith Rosenbaum

Labor Day. In America, this holiday is more often associated with barbeques, sales, and the farewell to summer and white linen than with the contributions of workers. By design, it’s a less overtly political holiday than the workers’ holidays in Europe—the U.S. intentionally picked a day other than the International Workers’ Day of May 1st to avoid any whiff of radicalism.

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