Union-Made: Fashioning America in the Twentieth Century

Look for the Union Label

When the ILGWU founders met on June 3, 1900, and named their union, they immediately adopted a label for it. Until the 1950s, though, it was simple in design and it was adopted in a few shops only.

After the establishment of the Union Label Department in 1958, the ILGWU launched the first garment industry-wide label. The union sponsored many well-publicized launch events, during which the wives of several government officials, including Eleanor Roosevelt, sewed the label into garments made in unionized shops.

The numbers and letters on the new labels were intended to provide a system for record keeping and easy identification of the employers involved. The working of that system has unfortunately been lost, but it is possible to roughly date garments based on the characteristics of the labels, which changed through time.

During the media campaign of the late Seventies and Eighties, the ILGWU renewed its efforts to print union label fabrics in various colorways and styles. These fabrics were distributed to ILGWU members, who then constructed garments to wear when attending rallies, strikes, parades, and other public events.

The union also attached the union label to a great number of objects that were distributed at rallies, pickets, conventions, and other union events, in the attempt to reach out to other unions and to the public at large.

Garments

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Photographs

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Objects

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Print

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