Kathy Andrade, pioneering immigrant rights activist, labor organizer and leader, died July 2, 2021. Arriving from El Salvador in her 20s, it wasn't that long before she became director of education for Local 23-25 of the ILGWU. From the 1960s-1990s she developed a wide range of educational and cultural programs in many languages, and pushed the garment workers' union and the labor movement to take on the cause of defending immigrants.
She never stopped organizing. If you wanted to call her (long long after she retired) she'd suggest you try her before 9am or after 9pm. The long days were spent in meetings, at protests, on picket lines, teaching, and helping members and friends who were sick or needed assistance.
Andrade was a loyal friend, advisor and contributor to LaborArts from its founding in 2000, and among the first recipients of the Clara Lemlich Award for Social Activism in 2011.
Find an obituary from the New York Times here.
With her partner and husband the photographer Jorge Colon, Andrade contributed a great deal of information and a number of images for the exhibit THE ILGWU - SOCIAL UNIONISM IN ACTION.
One section in particular reveals the brilliance of Andrade's organizing -- it features images of five of the hundreds of quilts she and her fellow garment workers created. ILGWU Cultural Initiatives - Union Quilts
The photos and the quilts give just a hint of the quality of Kathy's organizing - heartfelt, imaginative, steeped in cultural and historical knowledge - and engaging to all.
A Remembrance from Evelyn Jones Rich
Kathy Andrade was the quintessential Ms. ILGWU. Almost from its beginnings, Andrade personified the many faces of the ILG. I first met her at the end of the 1950’s. She was a newly appointed Director of Education for Local 23-25, the blouse, skirt and sportswear division of the Union. She was a pioneer, innovator, risk-taker, and teacher par excellence.
I was then a young wife and mother – taking care of my toddler son but very involved with the Union’s leaders – primarily through supporting my husband Marvin's efforts. He was the Community Relations Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). We were on the cusp of the sit-ins and the freedom rides. Perhaps the most prominent source of support for this dramatic effort to transform the face of the nation was the ILGWU and Andrade was right up there.
As Director of Education Andrade interacted with Dave Dubinsky, Jay Mazur, Evelyn Dubrow, Gus Tyler, Shasha Zimmerman and, later, Edgar Romney. Marvin and I knew them well through the ILGWU’s close affiliation with Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) in which we were also active. Some ILGWU leaders would travel to Washington DC for ADA Board and Executive Committee meetings. Sometimes the ILGWU would turn its New York City space over to ADA for National Board meetings.
Andrade was always in the office – regular hours meant nothing to her – as we prepared for and actually held the meetings. When CORE needed funds the ILGWU was there. When CORE needed bodies for our picket lines, the ILGWU was there. And, Andrade was always there.
Decades later we renewed our friendship in Labor Arts as Labor Arts created the exhibit about the ILGWU and Social Unionism, or posted an exhibit highlighting the famous quilts which Andrade and her peers created or brainstormed on how to help older members navigate the ILGWU’s health program or immigrant members get green cards, citizenship papers, whatever.
Andrade was both soldier and leader – chief and native American. Our friendship extended over 60 years. For me Andrade epitomized the union movement – where it was; how it grew and changed; where it is now. We shall all miss her.
A Remembrance from May Ying Chen
Kathy was so beloved. As Education Director, she really embodied the ILGWU's tradition of "social unionism," engaging, mobilizing and representing the Hispanic immigrant union members in the labor movement and getting the union and labor movement involved in the diverse immigrant communities of its members.
For example, we had the usual union Christmas or holiday parties, but Kathy made sure we also celebrated Three Kings Day (and Chinese New Year).
Before working in Education, Kathy was an organizer - actually a "colonizer" in the non-union shops - blending into a factory to organize from inside. She was very skilled in needlework and sewing, and her friends/members made a lot of beautiful things - like the quilts and Labor Day Parade costumes.
She was such a support and inspiration to the Chinese immigrants and activists who came up in the 1980s and 1990s...and quite a wonderful leader, female role model and mentor to me. She was totally about (unapologetically) celebrating women, immigrants and diverse communities.
A brief clip from a 2010 interview https://www.instagram.com/p/CMAA0L7gNnG/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
A six part interview from 1998 https://centroca.hunter.cuny.edu/Detail/collections/819
Obituary for LaborPress by Sherry Kane
Kathy (Enriqueta) Andrade (July 8, 1932 - July 2, 2021)
Dynamic activist and long-time labor organizer, Kathy (Enriqueta) Andrade, passed away on Friday, July 2, 2021, just shy of her 89th birthday. Arriving from El Salvador in the 1950s, Ms. Andrade worked as a garment worker and organizer in Miami before moving to New York City and joining Local 23-25 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
As Director of Local 23-25 ILGWU’s Department of Education from the 1960s until 1995, Ms. Andrade developed a wide range of educational and cultural programs, in many languages, for the union’s mostly immigrant membership. She embodied the ILGWU’s concept of “social unionism,” supporting members in the shops and in their communities by providing them with educational, political and recreational opportunities.
An unapologetic advocate for immigrants’ rights, Ms. Andrade pushed the labor movement to support immigrant workers and helped transform its policies to better reflect its changing membership.
“Kathy’s tireless dedication to civil and immigrants’ rights served as an inspiration to the Latino and Chinese members who became union activists in the 1980s and 1990s,” commented former Local 23-25 Manager May Ying Chen. “She was a wonderful leader, a great female role model, and mentor to me because she celebrated women, immigrants and the beauty of our diverse nation.”
Ms. Andrade served as an officer in the Hispanic Labor Committee and was a committed member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. She and her husband, Jorge Colón, helped many people become US citizens and registered thousands of voters over the years. Ms. Andrade felt strongly that immigrants who were living in the US should be fully engaged community members and encouraged civic participation by citizens and non-citizens alike.
“Kathy was a remarkable person, a charismatic leader who had a wonderful rapport with our union members,” said former ILGWU President Jay Mazur. “I met her in 1957, when she worked in a belt making factory. She had strong leadership qualities, so I sent her to the ILGWU’s Training Institute and later hired her to work at Local 23-25. She started out as a ‘colonizer’ organizing non-union shops. As Education Director, she fulfilled the mission of the union to enhance the lives of union members, both in the shops and in their communities.”
“A strong and influential voice for immigrants’ rights, she fought to protect undocumented workers at a time when much of the labor movement was not supportive,” Mr. Mazur continued. “She commanded respect and was a true ‘rank and file’ member and advocate.”
Skilled in needlework, Ms. Andrade coordinated the sewing of costumes for the Labor Day Parade and the creation of a series of beautiful quilts, some of which can be seen at www.laborarts.org/exhibits/ilgwu/culture/quilts/index.cfm.
“Kathy spent her life fighting for civil rights, workers’ rights, and immigrants’ rights,” said Edgar Romney, Secretary-Treasurer of Workers United and former Manager of Local 23-25. “She was an effective organizer who developed educational, political, and recreational activities for union and community members alike. She traveled the country supporting voting rights and worked to ensure that the voices of our immigrant community members were heard. She touched so many lives and will be greatly missed.”
After retiring from the ILGWU in in 1995, Ms. Andrade served as president of the Hudson Guild Senior Club and sat on the Neighborhood Advisory Committee of Hudson Guild in Manhattan where she organized seniors to become more politically active and fought against issues like budget cuts to senior centers. She mobilized retirees to attend political rallies, labor marches, and voter registration drives until shortly before her death.
Ms. Andrade’s influence was widely acknowledged at her memorial service at St. Columba Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan.
“During my years at the union, Jay Mazur and Edgar Romney were the Managers of Local 23-25, but Kathy was the real boss,” said Ed Vargas, Director of Labor Relations for the New York State Department of Labor, who spent many years at the ILGWU.
“Kathy was our leader, our soul,” Leonor Torres, a long-time union member, remarked. “She defended human rights and supported the immigrant community no matter what your race, color, or the country in which you were born. She taught us solidarity and felt that our culture and traditions were important and, by sharing them, we contributed to, and became a part of this country. Today, the garment industry is in mourning.”
Kathy (Enriqueta) Andrade is survived by her husband, photographer and fellow activist Jorge Colón and two nieces, Liz Curicó and Ana Ramirez. She was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Queens on July 7, 2021.