Lithuanian Coat Makers Local 54, Brooklyn, ACWA

Dark red silk with gold lettering, fringe and tassels. The central logo is ACWA Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and the lettering reads Lithuanian Local 54, Coatmakers, Organized Nov. 13, 1901, Brooklyn, N.Y., and there are simple designs at the top and bottom of the banner. The back of the banner has the same information in Lithuanian.

Ethnic locals were common in the early twentieth century labor movement, as large numbers of immigrants from different European countries formed locals based in part on the languages they spoke.

This local, one of the earliest, was described in a union history in 1940: "No group in the Amalgamated is more devoted to the ACWA and its principles than the Lithuanians. This group, many of whom had fled from the Baltic country when it was under the tyranny of the czar, had organized into a clothing workers’ union many years before the formation of the Amalgamated." The account goes on to describe a 1894 strike, followed by Lithuanian contractors moving to Brooklyn, with the Lithuanian workers moving too, and organizing a second strike in 1897. Starting with the general strike in 1913, the history concludes, the story of the Lithuanian local becomes the story of all the clothing workers.

The lack of any indication of affiliation with either the AFL or the CIO may indicate that it dates from the early 1930s, before the Amalgamated was in the AFL, or from a time when the question of affiliation was a contentious one.

rayon and cotton
68″ x 46″
circa 1930s–1950s.

Kheel Center, Cornell University