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Social Unionism in Action

Union Quilts: Local 23-25 quilt featuring union’s cultural initiatives, circa late 1980s.

Click quilt square for detail.

Private collection, photograph of quilt by Teddy Fung

This remarkable quilt was made by members of Local 23-25 who belonged to the Chinese and the Hispanic committees of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). It was produced under the direction of organizer Kathy Andrade and presented to the president of the ILGWU at the union’s convention in the late 1980s.

The squares in the top row depict immigrants arriving at our shores under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty, a garment worker in front of the burning Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and a demonstration in front of the U.S.Capitol building with signs reading “Amnesty for Undocumented Workers,” “Roll Back Imports and Save Garment Jobs Now,” and “Solidarity” in Polish, Spanish, Chinese and English.

The second row shows a sewing machine embedded in a map of the U.S. under the slogan “A Fair Share for America,” from a campaign for fair wages; a plea for workers to “Register and Vote’; and a “plug” for the union’s education classes.

The third row features a collage of symbols representing union cultural activities such as dance, drama, bowling, painting; a poem about Local 23-25 with logos from the Chinese Committee of CLUW and the Hispanic Committee of CLUW; and the union’s immigration project.

The squares in the fourth row show a 1982 garment center rally, a union daycare center, and the ILGWU Chorus.

The quilt itself represents an extraordinary example of women of diverse ethnic backgrounds using their after-work hours to not only sharpen up their sewing skills but also to demonstrate the union’s potential as a source of cultural achievement.