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April 2: Sol Stetin vs. J.P. Stevens

April 2, 2014

solstetinSol Stetin, the president of the Textile Workers Union of America who led a 17-year struggle to unionize J.P. Stevens in the anti-union American South, was born in Poland, near Lodz, on this date in 1910. As a textile worker, he was active in the nationwide American textile strike of 1934, which involved half a million millworkers. Stetin became the head of the TWU in 1972 and took on the seemingly impossible task of organizing in a region in which one a tenth of 575,000 textile workers belonged to unions. In the middle of the J.P. Stevens campaign, Stetin engineered a merger with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union — “not for himself — he got nothing out of it,” notes labor leader Bruce Raynor, “but because the deal called for the new union to expend considerable resources on the Stevens campaign and finance a national boycott.” Stetin co-founded the American Labor Museum, housed in the Botto House National Landmark, a meeting place for over 20,000 silk mill workers during the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. After his death at 95 in 2005, the Sidney Hillman Foundation inaugurated the Sol Stetin Award for Labor History.

“J.P. Stevens, the notorious violator of human rights, has been found guilty of racial discrimination, which it has used cynically in an attempt to pit white workers against black workers in an attempt to defeat the union.” -Sol Stetin, Black Enterprise magazine

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