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United Hebrew Trades, an association of Jewish labor unions in New York that boasted some 250,000 members at its height in the 1930s, was founded by the Socialist Labor Party’s Yiddish Branch 8 and Russian Branch 17, in coordination with New York Jewish labor unions, on this date in 1888. By 1910, according to the New York Times, “General Organizer Benjamin Weinstein” would report that “there are now 106 unions in the United Hebrew Trades, with an aggregate membership of 150,000 men and women,” including thousands of Italians and other nationalities. They participated that year in thirty strikes, including the 50,000 members of the Cloakmakers Union, as well as strikes by “neckwear workers, knee breeches makers, boys’ suit makers, trouser makers, cake bakers, kosher butchers, retail clerks, vest makers, glaziers, overall makers, tinsmiths, [and] trunkmakers . . .” The United Hebrew Trades also formed 30 new unions that year, reported Weinstein, including a “union of bottle sorters and cleaners,” and unions for “wrapper and kimono makers,” umbrella makers, furniture polishers, cloak buttonhole makers, and Jewish bookbinders. An effort to organize “outdoor salesmen,” i.e., storefront barkers who try to pull customers in off the street, had failed, however. To read a July, 1954 article from our Sid Resnick Archive about Jewish labor in the decades before the United Hebrew Trades was organized, click here.
“Even in the making of pill boxes there are enough people to form an organization of fair size known as the Pill Box Makers’ Union.” —New York Times