H I C A G O
R I B U T E
Abramowitz started the
historic garment workers strike of
1910-11here at 1922 South Halsted Street, the former location of Hart,
Schaffner & Marx Shop #5. She led 16 seamstresses out of the plant in
protest because their piece rate was reduced. Hillman was among the
citys 40,000 garment workers who joined them. The couple emerged
as leaders of the United Garment Workers Union, negotiating a
contract that became a model for labor-management relations.
The labor struggle spread
throughout the nation and, in 1914, the
Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was created. At age 26,
Hillman was elected its first president, an office he would hold until
his death 32 years later. He and Abramowitz had relocated to New
York, but they returned to Chicago to marry on May Day, 1916.
Among the ACWAs
innovations were the 40-hour work week,
unemployment insurance, and the creation of labor-owned housing and
banks (including the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago).
Bessie Hillman served
on the ACWAs executive board and fought for
civil rights, child welfare and womens rights.