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Social Unionism in Action

English class held at the Transfiguration Parochial School in Chinatown, circa 1980s.

Photograph by George Colon.

Learning to speak and read English continues to be the key to upward mobility for immigrants in the United States. From its inception in the early 1900’s, the ILGWU organized English classes for immigrant members. It is worth noting that some locals attracted particular ethnic groups. For example, Local 89, under the colorful leadership of Luigi Antonini, became known as the Italian-American local. On the other hand, Local 23-25 went through a remarkable transition, with each new wave of immigrants coming through the local. This photo shows Professor David Lam hard at work in space borrowed by the union, teaching English to members after their work day. Once they had mastered English, the new arrivals could then study to become citizens.