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Social Unionism in Action

Culture Initiatives: Songs from Pins & Needles

Today it may be hard to imagine a hit Broadway musical about garment workers—in 1937 it was unusual but not unimaginable. Labor organizers have used their guitars and songs to inspire members and enlighten potential supporters since the inception of the labor movement, but rarely has the cross-over to a broad public been as successful as this one.

Pins and Needles, with music and words by Harold Rome and others, was commissioned by the ILGWU and originally intended as an amateur revue. The original cast was made up of cutters, basters, and sewing machine operators, who played their parts on weekends and went back to the shops Monday morning. The biting satire of the songs and perhaps the mood of the times kept the audience coming, and the show became the longest-running musical on Broadway in the 1930s. A command performance at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt further sealed its place in history.

Recent performances of the songs have been heard, although no fully-staged performance has been seen for decades. We offer you here three classic songs from the show—sung by the incomparable Barbra Streisand, a newcomer when she was featured on this album released by Sony in 1962 in commemoration of the 25th