The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories - cover image


Maurice Wolfthal

Published On





  • English

Print Length

334 pages (viii + 326)


Paperback156 x 18 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.7" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 19 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.75" x 9.21")


Paperback1043g (36.79oz)
Hardback1427g (50.34oz)



OCLC Number





  • HBLW
  • JFSR1
  • LNHR
  • JFFN


  • HIS036060
  • HIS022000
  • POL013000
  • SOC007000


  • HD6305.J3


  • Bernard Weinstein
  • unionism
  • United States
  • Jewish Unions
  • socialism
  • United Hebrew Trades
  • labor history
  • Jewish history
  • immigration
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The Jewish Unions in America

Pages of History and Memories

Newly arrived in New York in 1882 from Tsarist Russia, the sixteen-year-old Bernard Weinstein discovered an America in which unionism, socialism, and anarchism were very much in the air. He found a home in the tenements of New York and for the next fifty years he devoted his life to the struggles of fellow Jewish workers.

The Jewish Unions in America blends memoir and history to chronicle this time. It describes how Weinstein led countless strikes, held the unions together in the face of retaliation from the bosses, investigated sweatshops and factories with the aid of reformers, and faced down schisms by various factions, including Anarchists and Communists. He co-founded the United Hebrew Trades and wrote speeches, articles and books advancing the cause of the labor movement.

From the pages of this book emerges a vivid picture of workers’ organizations at the beginning of the twentieth century and a capitalist system that bred exploitation, poverty, and inequality. Although workers’ rights have made great progress in the decades since, Weinstein’s descriptions of workers with jobs pitted against those without, and American workers against workers abroad, still carry echoes today. The Jewish Unions in America is a testament to the struggles of working people a hundred years ago. But it is also a reminder that workers must still battle to live decent lives in the free market.

For the first time, Maurice Wolfthal’s readable translation makes Weinstein’s Yiddish text available to English readers. It is essential reading for students and scholars of labor history, Jewish history, and the history of American immigration.

Table of Contents


Introduction by Maurice Wolfthal

The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories by Bernard Weinstein

The First Jewish Immigrants in the United States

How the Jewish Immigrants of the 1880s Earned a Living

The First Jewish Workers in the American Trade Unions

The First "Radicals” Among the Jewish Immigrants of the 1880s and the Beginning of the Jewish Labor Movement in America

The Strange Case of Comrade Wolf

Hymie "the American”

The First Jewish Theater Choristers’ Union

The Jewish Actors’ Union

The Yiddish Varieties

The Jewish Typesetters’ Union

The Founding of the United Hebrew Trades of New York

How We Organized Strikes

The Panic of 1893 and the First Splits Within the Jewish Labor Movement

The Schism in the Socialist Labor Party

The First Years of the Jewish Labor Movement in Philadelphia

The Beginning of the Jewish Labor Movement in Chicago

The Unions of the Cap and Millinery Trade

The Millinery Trade and the Union

The History of the Tailors in the Men’s Clothing Industry

The Struggle of the Tailors’ Union Against the Plague of the "Open Shops”

The Custom Tailors’ Union

The Story of the Knee-Pants Makers’ Union

The Union of the Children’s Jacket Makers

The Union of the Basted Children’s Jacket Pressers

The Union of the Unbasted Children’s Jacket Makers

The Pants Makers’ Union of New York

The Vest Makers’ Union in New York

The Shirt Makers’ Union

The Great Garment Workers’ Strike of 1913 in New York

How the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Was Founded

The Women’s Garment Unions in America

The Jamaica Incident and Other Trials

The Cloak Makers’ Unions in Other Cities

The First Jewish Unions of Waist Makers, Wrapper Makers, Buttonhole Makers, Embroidery Workers, and Other Ladies’ Garment Workers

The Birth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union

The Strike of 300 Skirt Makers Against the Firm of John Bonwit in 1905

The Industrial Workers of the World Also Founds a Cloak Makers’ Union

The Reefer Makers’ Strike of 1907

The Historic General Strike of the 18,000 Waist Makers in 1909

The Great Cloak Makers’ Strike of 1910 and the Founding of the Largest Jewish Union

The First Years After the Strike

The General Strike of the Cleveland Cloak Makers in 1911

The Triangle Fire

The Protocol of the New York Ladies’ Waist and Dress Makers’ Union of 1913

The General Strike of the Wrapper, Kimono, and Housedress Makers and the White Goods Workers of 1913

The Hourwich Affair and the First Civil War in the Cloak Makers’ Union

The Organizing Work of the ILGWU in Other Cities from 1915 to 1919

The Breaking of the Protocol and the Strikes of 1916, 1919, and 1921

The General Strike of the Dress Makers in 1923

The Ladies’ Tailors’ Union of New York

The Raincoat Workers’ Union

The Struggle with the Communists in the Joint Action Committee

The General Strike of 1926 and the Expulsion of the Communists

The Rebirth of the Cloak Makers’ Union

The Jewish Bakers’ Unions

The 1927 Bakers’ Strike Against Two Big Firms, Pechter and Messing

The Jewish Bakers’ Unions in Other Cities

The Furriers’ Union

The Founding of the International Fur Workers’ Union

The Union of Jewish Painters

The Pocketbook Makers’ Union

The Suitcase Workers’ Union

The Trunk Makers’ Union

The Neckwear Makers’ Union

The Union of Cleaners and Dyers

The Union of Mattress and Bed Spring Makers

The Seltzer Workers’ Union of New York

The Union of Clerks and Retail Dress-Goods Stores

The Union of Grocery Clerks

The Union of Jewish Waiters

The Union of Paper Box Makers

The Union of Jewish Barbers

The Union of Jewish Shoemakers

The Union of Jewish Tin Workers

The Union of Jewelry Workers

The Union of Butcher Workers

The Union of Jewish Newspaper Writers in New York

The Union of Jewish Bookbinders

The Jewish Laundry Workers (The Steam Laundry Workers’ Union)

The Union of Wet-Wash Laundry Drivers

The Pressers of Old Shirts in Hand Laundries

The Union of Jewish Inside Iron Workers

The Union of Jewish Furniture Drivers

The Union of Workers with Live and Kosher-Slaughter Fowl

The Little Unions

The Disappeared Unions

The New Generation of Jewish Workers in America

The Jewish Carpenters and Wood Workers

Jewish Plumbers

Jewish Moving Picture Operators

Jewish Bricklayers, Masons, and Plasterers

Jewish Metal Workers and Machinists

Jewish Workers in Radio and Aviation

Jewish Drivers of Cars and Taxis




Bernard Weinstein


Maurice Wolfthal