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Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Philadelphia Joint Board Records: Part 1, Background and History, Etc.

Collection ID

Acc. 519

Related Subject(s)

Collecting Area(s)


The finding aid for this collection is in 6 parts:

  • Part 1, Background and History, Scope and Content, Organization, and Series Descriptions
  • Part 2, Series I
  • Part 3, Series II - V
  • Part 4, Series VI - VIII
  • Part 5, Series IX - X
  • Part 6, Series X: Phonograph Records


The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA) union was formed in 1914 in a split of more militant locals away from the conservative, craft-oriented United Garment Workers. ACWA concentrated on workers in the men's ready-to-wear garment industry. It grew rapidly through the 1920s, especially in New York, but from the beginning had difficulty in Philadelphia. For a decade and a half, the city was a center of non-union shops and subcontracting. Several Philadelphia locals had joined ACWA in 1915, and the union grew to 3,000 members in the city by 1919. But after a bitter struggle with the Kirschbaum Company between 1918 and 1923, the union entered a period of decline which lasted until 1929. In that year the national leadership decided on a major campaign to organize what was then the nation's second largest clothing center. Charles Weinstein was sent in as Manager of the Joint Board, and he remained in that position for thirty years as the guiding force of all Joint Board activities. Weinstein was active in many national ACWA and later, CIO campaigns, especially the union label campaign.

The organizing campaign begun in 1929 met with immediate success. Membership in Philadelphia locals rose from 700 in 1928 to 10,000 in 1930. After initially organizing the suit branch of the industry, ACWA went on to shirts, cotton garments and outerwear workers in the early thirties. Despite the Depression, it was able to begin city-wide bargaining in 1932. Two years later, national President Sidney Hillman inaugurated the Joint Board's new headquarters building at 2115 South Street, where the union would stay through the 1970's. By 1934, the standard industry work week was 36 hours and wages were up to $0.70 per hour. In the mid and late thirties, special campaigns fought sweatshops and the "home work" finishing industry. Organizing spread to allied areas such as work clothing, neckwear and children's clothing, so that in 1940 the Joint Board numbered 20,000 members in 14 locals. The coatmakers was the largest group, with English, Yiddish and Italian speaking locals. Given its size and tradition of political activism, the union worked closely with a variety of New Deal agencies, supported the Roosevelt administration and was an important force in the emergence of the CIO in the late thirties. Yet despite its size, its basic organization was simple. The union was essentially run by the Manager, the Secretary-Treasurer (for many years Jacob Feldman), and the Business Agents of the locals. This pattern persisted with little change through the 1970s.

After playing an active part in various war drives, the Joint Board emerged from World War II as the second largest component of the national union. In 1946 it engaged a full-time Education Director, Sara Fredgant. This symbolized the union's concentration in the decades after World War II on education, health and social welfare benefits. Strikes were virtually unknown, and there were only a few opportunities for major organizing drives. The union secured insurance and retirement plans in the forties, but its greatest innovation came with the opening of the Hillman Medical Center in 1951. This was the first attempt by a major industrial union to provide full, prepaid medical care to its members. Nine years later a center for retirees was opened, and in 1969 the Hillman apartment house for the elderly, a seventeen story building, was completed. The Philadelphia union also concentrated on Democratic Party politics, internal labor education and organizing drives in the South, Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. The leadership remained in the early seventies, as it was in the early thirties, predominantly Jewish and Italian. After Weinstein's death in 1959, the union was run by Thomas Dilauro (1969-1965), Anthony Cortigene (1965-1973), and then co-managers Joseph DiStanislos and Harry Goldsmith for the rest of the seventies. Anthony Russo had succeeded Jacob Feldman as Secretary-Treasurer in 1964. Under the changing leadership, the union maintained its involvement in local politics and as the membership aged was increasingly concerned with health care issues.

However, major changes were taking place within the union, if not within its formal structure. The membership was increasingly African American and Hispanic. The union had begun Spanish classes around 1955. But the years after 1951 also saw a drastic drop in membership, from 25,000 in 16 locals to 10,500 in 9 locals by 1980. The economic trends behind these figures became increasingly important to the union, with studies and campaigns proliferating on issues ranging from foreign imports to illegal sweatshops at home. In 1976, two years after the first national garment strike, the ACWA merged with the Textile Workers Union. The Joint Board became part of the Clothing Division of the new Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union.


The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Philadelphia Joint Board collection documents fairly completely the administration of the Joint Board from around the time of Charles Weinstein's arrival in Philadelphia in 1929, through the mid-1970s. The records reflect the Joint Board's relationship with manufacturers and clothing businesses in Philadelphia; union involvement in local, regional and national politics; services to members; support for local charitable organizations; and the operations of some locals. The Joint Board gathered a good deal of information concerning wages and production statistics, especially for the clothing industry. Membership material composes the bulk of the collection, though individual members are accessible only through shop and local number. There are detailed record books of the Employment Exchange in the Membership Records.


The collection has been arranged into ten series:

  • Series I: Administration
  • Series II: Arbitration/Grievances
  • Series III: Benefits
  • Series IV: Contracts/Negotiations
  • Series V: Conventions
  • Series VI: Education Department
  • Series VII: Hillman Medical Center
  • Series VIII: Local
  • Series IX: Membership Records
  • Series X: Miscellaneous

Series I. Administration. Contains the Constitution and By-Laws, Joint Board Meeting materials, Manager's and Secretary-Treasurer's files.

Series II. Arbitration/Grievances. Reveals numerous day-to-day and some longer term disputes involving workers, shops, and locals.

Series III. Benefits. Contains fairly routine correspondence about coverage and claims for members and staff.

Series IV. Contracts/Negotiations. Comprised of industry as well as individual shop agreements and related correspondence.

Series V. Conventions. Includes correspondence and reports for national ACWA conventions, and a small amount of meeting material for a number of other organizations.

Series VI. Education Department. Records contain general correspondence, subjects, Political Action Committee materials, and program files.

Series VII. Hillman Medical Center. Records include minutes of the Board of Trustees and various committees, general correspondence, and financial records.

Series VIII. Local. Materials range from complete sets of minutes and even some correspondence files (Locals 110, 122, 139), to a membership book or meeting notices for other locals.

Series IX. Membership Records. Records cover a forty-year period, 1930-1981, in varying degrees of detail.

Series X. Miscellaneous Materials. Includes a small group of undated yellow dog contracts, photographs, scrapbooks, clippings, phonograph records, and memorabilia.

Minutes and related materials from the Central Labor Union of Philadelphia, 1933-1935, the Philadelphia Industrial Union Council, CIO, 1938-1959, and the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO, 1963-1975, have been merged with the collection of the Philadelphia Council of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO records in the Urban Archives.


Series I -- Administration, [1926-(1929-1975)-1980], 29 cu. ft.

The Administration series is composed of the Constitution and By-Laws, Joint Board Meeting materials, Manager's Files, and records of the Secretary-Treasurer.

The Constitution and By-Laws of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers (1940-1976), are followed by those of the Pension Fund (1946), and of the Retirement and Disability Fund (1966, 1973, 1974).

The Joint Board Meetings contain minutes (1931-1975), followed by an index for meetings, ca. 1935-1975, Board of Directors lists (1939-1968), and miscellaneous notices and arrangements for meetings (1958, 1961-1980). The 1922 Strike folder contains a small amount of correspondence concerning the Kirschbaum strike, an injunction heard by Judge Joseph Rogers, and a blank agreement.

The Manager's general correspondence covers the years 1929-1943, 1950-1975, with material for the forties located in Weinstein's personal correspondence. The general correspondence is followed by correspondence with members (1954-1966) and locals and joint boards (1929-1966). Correspondence with ACWA (NY), (1929-1966), contains general correspondence and subjects, mostly with individuals and departments at the New York office. The manager's subjects files (1930-1974) include: the Clothing Manufacturers' Association (Philadelphia), (1934-1966); specific shops such as Botany Industries (1955-1957), Daroff and Sons (1931-1956), Friedman Marks (1937-1963), Merit Clothing (1949-1957), Steins Stores (1953-1959), and others; Labor's Non-Partisan League (1936-1946); and the organization which succeeded it, the Political Action Committee (1949-1966); Private Investigator Reports to Weinstein (1935-1936); Union Label (1949-1956), reflecting Weinstein's activities with the national union label drive; Charities (1956-1968), which contains correspondence with the United Jewish Appeal and Boys' Town of Italy; Deborah Hospital (1951-1966); and Jerome Markovitz (1944-1966), general counsel for the Joint Board. Weinstein's personal correspondence (1928-1950) has been filed with theManager's Correspondence because it contains a significant amount of information regarding Joint Board activities. Letters from 1928 and early 1929 reflect Weinstein's communications with family and colleagues in Chicago during his temporary assignment in Los Angeles. The next several years' correspondence discusses the situation in Philadelphia with acquaintances from Chicago and Los Angeles. A good deal of the material in this record group, particularly from the 1940s, concerns ACWA business. All folders which were originally marked Personal have been maintained.

The Secretary-Treasurer 's Files contain general correspondence (1938-1943, 1950-1977); correspondence with Acwa (NY), (1944-1946, 1971-1980); and subjects (1923-1980). The subjects include weekly production reports for coat contractors (1938-1940), cutters (1934-1935, 1939-1940), pants contractors (1936-1937, 1939-1940), and vest contractors (1936-1939); price lists (1939-1950); elections (1957-1979); taxes/financial information (1946-1979); and, less comprehensively, the Philadelphia Urban Coalition (1968-1974); specifications for various garments and grades of work (1926-1934); and other topics affecting financial and related concerns of the clothing workers.

Series II -- Arbitration/Grievances, (1937-1981), 3 cu. ft.

The Arbitration/Grievances series contains a small group of notices (1958-1980). Most of the cases (1937-1979) have been arranged by shop name. Other materials, mostly correspondence (1939-1978) relating to arbitrations and/or grievances are arranged by local number. Miscellaneous materials (1960-1977) could not be identified by shop name or local number. The Investigating Committee Files (1940-1959), which comprise the bulk of this series, contain testimony, related correspondence and notes, and decisions of this Joint Board Committee. Rank and File Committee Records (1971-1981) have been arranged chronologically; the arbitration and grievance correspondence is followed by the Committee's newsletters and fliers. The U.S. District Court folder contains a subpoena (1956) from the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Series III -- Benefits, (1942-1981), 4 cu. ft.

The Benefits include a small amount of general correpondence, notes, summary figures and related materials (1942-1981), correspondence and claims of the Amalgamated Cotton Garment and Allied Industries Insurance Fund [(1947-1951)-1969]; correspondence with the Amalgamated Insurance Fund (1945-1974); death claims (1943-1975, 1979-1980); health and disability (1953-1974); life insurance (1949, 1951); maternity claims (1948-1949); pension plan (1973); retirement [1945-(1968-1976)]; compensation (1965-1974); and vacation (1942-1975). Staff benefits (1945-1974) contain correspondence, notes and information concerning Joint Board coverage for its employees.

Series IV -- Contracts/Negotiations, (1942-1981), 7 cu. ft.

The Contracts/Negotiations series contains agreements by industry (1922-1981), agreements from other joint boards (1957, 1971), and contracts and related correspondence (1947-1975) arranged by company.

Series V -- Conventions, (1920-1979), 3 cu. ft.

The Conventions series contains correspondence, schedules, and related material about the Joint Board's Legislative Conferences (1968-1971); ACWA Conventions, with correspondence, reports, resolutions, delegate information, programs (1930-1950, 1958-1978), and published proceedings (1920-1970); published proceedings for CIO conventions (1946-1947); Thomas Kennedy's address to the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor (1935); correspondence, programs and arrangements for the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO conventions (1970-1972, 1979); correspondence, reports and arrangements for the Pennsylvania Industrial Union Council, CIO (1938-1957); and correspondence and program for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1968).

Series VI -- Education Department, (1929-1981), 9 cu. ft.

The Education Department records contain a small amount of correspondence (1929-1981). Subjects include: ACWA (NY), concerning Department activities, and containing correspondence with Dorothy Bellanca, 1936, about the Joint Board's educational efforts; minutes, and some correspondence (1944-1972) with the Community Service Committee of the Pennsylvania CIO; Drama, including correspondence (1935-1938), and a number of plays (1935-1945), most of which were printed between 1936 and 1938 by the Federal Theatre Project (WPA); Automation (1956-1961); Labor Legislation (1947-1970); wages (1936-1960; as well as administrative materials for conferences and trips, production of handbills, mailing lists, and the like. The Political Action Committee materials contain general correspondence (1940-1953); subjects, which include lists of election workers [(1948-1951)-1956] and registration information (1941-1952). The programs include correspondence, class materials and notes for Joint Board educational programs and training institutes (1939-1979), and outside programs (1929-1970) on labor education offered by other institutions.

Series VII -- Hillman Medical Center, [1946-(1957-1969)-1978], 2 cu. ft.

The records of the Hillman Medical Center have been brought together from several of the other series in order to provide one access point for this material. The records contain by-laws (1947), Board of Trustees minutes (1948-1973), and reports (1951-1971). Minutes of committees include Budget Investment [(1951-1968)-1972], Building (1968-1971), Executive (1961), House (1968-1969), Joint Advisory (1967-1969), Lay Medical (1951-1961), Research (1968-1969), and other committees (1962-1969). The general correspondence [(1946-1969)-1978], mostly from Joseph Langbord, M.D., and later, George Shucker, M.D., directors of the Center, describes ongoing activities and plans. This is followed by subjects (1946-1978), whose major component is finances.

Series VIII -- Locals, (1916-1980), 8 cu. ft.

This series begins with a folder containing general background information on Locals (n.d.) and shop lists (1951, 1963-1975). Some matrial about benefits may be found in the records of almost every local. Local 56 (Journeymen Tailors - Bushelman) records (1935-1974) contain minutes (1935-1936, 1950-1951); needle workers' meetings (1934); and subjects, including information about wages (1944). Local 88: Constitution and by-laws (1964). Local 110 (Cutters): records (1927-1980) include minutes of the Executive Board (1927-1965); membership (1927-1930, 1933-1965); committees (1927-1948); meeting attendance records (1934-1966); general correspondence (1934, 1956-1980); subjects, including business agent's correspondence [(1934-1936)-1973], and production and wage information (1939-1980). Local 122 (Coatmakers): records (1930-1973) contain minutes of the executive board (1930-1934, 1940-1959), the grievance board (1930-1934), and the membership (1930-1933, 1940-1959); general correspondence (1939-1958); subjects (1931-1973), including production and wages (1932-1969). Local 139 (Coatmakers): records (1917-1973) include minutes (1924-1929, 1940-1951, in Italian until December 1947); general correspondence (1966-1970); and subjects (1917-1919, 1963-1973). Local 148 (Coatmakers): records (1927-1945, 1960-1973) contain minutes of the executive board (1937-1943, in Yiddish, 1969), and of the membership (1927-1933 in Yiddish; 1933-1945, 1969), and subjects (1960, 1973, n.d.). Local 165 (Shirtworkers): material (1937-1969) is comprised of minutebooks of the executive board, and membership (1937-1969); and subjects (1960). Local 341 records consist of membership books (1944-1952). Local 352 (Salesmen): records (1939-1966) contain constitution and by-laws (1966); and subjects (1939-1973). Local 379 (Coatmakers): folder contains minutes from a 1948 meeting, and miscellaneous material mostly about benefits (1941-1948, 1973). Local 694 records (1937-1939) contain correspondence and subjects. Local 746 records are composed of correspondence, reports, and notes (1953-1965) concerning benefits and other local business. Scattered materials (1940-1973), and notices (1916-1921, n.d.) from other locals completes this series.

Series IX -- Membership Records, (1930-1981), 20 cu. ft.

The Membership Records contain various lists of ACWA members working and not working, and local, shop, dues and payroll information. The bulk of this series (22 transfiles) is comprised of the Dues Payment records by shop, and after the earlies available records (1937-1945) were retained at ten-year intervals (1952, 1962, 1972). The incoming and outgoing membership books (1934-1981) comprise another major portion of this series. These materials are, largely, arranged by local, and chronologically thereunder. The Employment Exchange files contain daily summaries of registrations and assignments by operation (1930-1933, 1935-1950, 1952) and shop assignment books (1941-1961). The Survey Information cards (1969) contain member's name, address, age, children's names and ages, shop name and number, and number of years of ACWA membership.

Series X -- Miscellaneous Materials (1911-1982), 11 cu. ft.

The Miscellaneous Materials include Yellow Dog Contracts (n.d.), which have been arranged alphabetically by the individual worker. Name and address, operation and previous place of employment are listed. Photographs (1930-1973) are mostly of conventions, but also include portraits of officers, group pictures of officers and staff members, and some locals. The Scrapbooks (1939-1971) contain mostly newspaper clippings, with some other items concerning matters of importance to Joint Board activities. The Newspaper Clippings contain bound volumes of The Advance (1940-1961), The Amalgamated News (1948-1978, 1980-1982), clippings and other publications(1918-1924, 1969), and subjects (1911-1979). The Phonographs, 1942-1949, several of which are broken or scratched, contain the funeral service for Sidney Hillman (1946), and labor and political topics. Memorabilia, including pins and placards, complete this series.


This collection was processed by Erika Miller, under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and completed in November 1984.

The finding aid for this collection is in 6 parts:

  • Part 1, Background and History, Scope and Content, Organization, and Series Descriptions
  • Part 2, Series I
  • Part 3, Series II - V
  • Part 4, Series VI - VIII
  • Part 5, Series IX - X
  • Part 6, Series X: Phonograph Records