Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United Hall
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United Hall (1928) Walter W. Ahlschlager, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1928, the Chicago Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America moved into their brand new headquarters on Ashland Boulevard, and they became part of a growing group of other labor organizations who were establishing offices in the neighborhood, which came to be known as Union Row.

  [Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United Hall, 333 S. Ashland Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Designed by Walter Ahlschlager, the structure contained offices, a large meeting hall, a library, gym and a dental clinic. The building became, and remained, the most prominent union hall structure in the area, which grew to include over 30 labor unions and locals by the 1950s. The clothiers union had been founded in Chicago in 1914 after a split with the more conservative, New York-based United Garment Workers. It all started in 1910 when a group of women walked out of the factory they worked in, after their wages were cut by the floor manager. As word spread, the walkouts increased, and soon over 40,000 workers in Chicago's garment industry were asking for stable wages and better working conditions. The men and women of the city's garment labor force worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week. They were paid by the piece, and were required to produce a specific number of pants, or coats, or whatever article of clothing they were sewing, per day. A coat took at least one-and-a-half hours to complete, and a worker was required to finish 10 coats a day, or they were fired. Floor managers also set rates on a daily basis, one day your pair of pants would earn you 6 cents, then the next day they were worth 5 cents, then 4 cents. When the women in Shop No. 5 at Hart, Schaffner & Marx arrived at work at 7:30 a.m. one morning, and were told they going to earn 3 3/4 cents for each pair of pants (which by the way included a new pocket design) and that they had to complete 14 pairs by 6:00 p.m., they walked out.

  [Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United Hall, Near West Side, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sidney Hillman was a young cutter at  Hart, Schaffner & Marx, the city's largest garment worker employer. Hillman became one of the leaders of the fair labor practices movement in the U.S., and as a result of his participation in the Chicago walkout, negotiated a contract with Hart, Schaffner & Marx that became the ideal of collective bargaining and voluntary arbitration agreements thereafter. Hillman went on to become the president of new Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America when the Chicago group left the UGW in 1914. The new union organized workers around the country, and Chicago became local number one of the expanding organization.
Through years of mergers and splits, Amalgamated Hall is now home to the Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United, which represents workers in the clothing manufacturing and hospitality industries.

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