A brief history of garment worker labor rights in the united states electricity bill payment hyderabad


Ready-to-wear became cheaper and more available with major technological advances during the Age of Industrialization. Inventions we take for granted today like the sewing machine and mechanical looms hugely sped up the garment-making process.

By 1840, Francis Cabot Lowell had some 8,000 women working in his mills in Massachusetts. Being a so-called “Lowell Girl” offered many women their first chance to live away from home and experience life away from the often male-controlled household. Entering the workplace allowed women some newfound opportunities, but they were expected to work ungodly hours in dangerous conditions and received about half the pay of their male counterparts.

1843 would mark the first major American step to better the lives of garment-workers when some of the Lowell Girls united to form the Lowell Female Labor Reform Organization. The women of the LFLRA came before the state legislature to educate their lawmakers of the actual conditions within the factories and petitioned for a 10 hour work day. New Century, Same Shit

Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, labor federations began forming to protect workers’ rights, but many of these organizations were tailored exclusively to white male workers. Strikes by black laundresses in the former slave states and the formation of the United Garment Workers of America set the stage for the arrival of one of the most important and progressive unions in American history: The International Lady Garment Workers Union.

The ILGWU formed in 1900, but its early years were fraught. Its members were largely immigrants; some Jewish, some socialist and the ILGWU struggled to create a unified front among the pre-existing unions that had been brought into the fold of the newer, larger union. Their first success came in 1907 with the favorable conclusion of a series of reefer-maker strikes in New York City. (A reefer was a child’s coat, and had nothing to do with marijuana.) By the end, the Reefer Manufacturers’ Association agreed to hire union workers, stop subcontracting, provide equipment, and limit the work week to 55 hours.

On March 25, 1911, a fire started in a scrap waste bin on the eighth floor of a shirtwaist factory in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. The factory owners had locked most of the exits to prevent workers from stealing and the already-cramped facilities lacked proper emergency supplies, so when the fire broke out, escape was impossible. Within minutes, fire had spread to the ninth and tenth floors and the minimal fire escapes became unusable or collapsed onto the street. Fire ladders were only able to reach the sixth floor while dozens of workers remained trapped inside. 146 garment workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.

These deaths were impossible for politicians to ignore and led to the first wave of major changes in labor rights in the American garment industry. Reformers and law-makers joined forces to create the Factory Investigation Commission, which, only two years later had helped write 25 bills into law. We can thank the Commission for laws about automatic sprinklers, fire drills, and a greater degree of safety in most modern buildings.

The long struggle of garment workers have insured that there is now far more stability and safety in American garment manufacturing facilities. The Department of Labor has established strict guidelines about minimum wage and overtime. All apparel contractors must follow the rules set in The Fair Labor Standards Act. The Act prohibits minors under 16 from working in apparel and prohibits the commercial manufacture of clothing at home.

Garment workers today cater to a clientele that is more accustomed than ever to instant gratification in their shopping. Far too often, the average consumer forgets the human face and hands behind their clothes and choose options that are more dubious than others. China, which had long been derided for its association with sweatshops, is slowly becoming too pricy for clothing manufacturers who only care about the bottom-line. Many are now moving to places like East Africa and Bangladesh, where wages are lower and labor laws much laxer. in 2013, over a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, lax regulations at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh lead the building to collapse, killing 1,134 garment workers.

Life is by no means easy for American workers in the garment business and there is still much work to be done in fair labor policy, but the comparative progress is staggering. We must continue to advocate for progressive labor policy as well as direct our hard-earned earnings to brands that support and care for workers.