By Lisa Phillips
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Additional info for A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism
For Osman, the for-profit system necessarily encouraged the Organizing on New York’s Lower East Side · 27 creation of a boss-worker hierarchy that then also promoted the exploitation of workers. Whether he, as a member of the CP, had organized Eckstein’s Wholesale Merchant as a way to help the Communists “bore from within” the wholesale industry is also likely. In the 1930s, Communist labor organizers were dedicated, as was Osman, to putting an end to the owner-worker relationship. 30 Accounts of the origins of other left-leaning unions that began in the period 1932–33 describe the ways in which the Communist Party’s Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) spearheaded organizing efforts in various industries that later became, like Local 65, a part of organized labor’s left wing.
Most had emigrated a generation or more earlier than the men who worked as sales and shipping clerks, who were also Jewish but usually younger and more likely recent immigrants. In the 1920s, thousands of Jewish immigrants, like the Eckstein brothers, had opened up wholesale shops without needing much capital investment. Many of them were still in too precarious a position to survive the Depression (almost half of the wholesale furniture shops closed during the Depression). To make matters worse, wholesale shop owners complained that the new “chain” stores, like F.
A definite shift had occurred by the first two decades of the twentieth century. The children of German and Irish immigrants left the less-skilled work their parents and grandparents had done to the Jewish and Italian immigrants who were just arriving. 11 Not many African American men and women, less than 2 percent of New York’s population in the years before World War I, worked in the garment industry before the 1930s. The few African American men who had found jobs in New York’s various industries as skilled, semiskilled, or unskilled tradesmen or as waiters in the 1870s and 1880s were pushed out of these jobs by upwardly mobile German and Irish immigrants and their children and by newly arriving Jewish and Italian immigrants.
A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism by Lisa Phillips