The general strike call in the dressmaking industry was answered yesterday morning by 25,000 of the 35,000 people employed and the other 10,000 are expected to quit in a day or two. The tie-up in the industry, which does an annual business estimated at over $350,000,000, was issued by Benjamin Schlesinger, president, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
Promptly at 10 o’clock, the city’s garment center was crowded with strikers reading the manifestoes that had been handed to them.
Vehicular and pedestrian traffic was blocked as girls with red sashes over their shoulders bearing the slogan “Dressmakers’ General Strike! Today at 10 o’clock,” stood on the corners, passing out the manifestoes. More than two-thirds of the strikers who answered the call are women. A strong detail of police stood by with nothing to do as the dressmakers left the shops and went to a meeting hall to receive instructions for mass picketing.
The strike is aimed at the Wholesale Dress Manufacturing Association, the Association of Dress Manufacturers and the Affiliated Dress Manufacturers. The union demands a $5 weekly salary increase, ten percent increase in the minimum basis rate for piece workers, elimination of the sweatshops, confinement of outside production to union contracting shops, creation of impartial machinery to police the industry, establishment of an unemployment fund and extension throughout the industry of the 40-hour five-day week.
The manufacturers have already agreed to all the demands except the insurance, wage increase and the overtime rate that accompany the 40-hour week. With the industry at the height of its season, and the new styles making it difficult to obtain efficient strikebreakers, the manufacturers admit they are in a hole.
Louis L. Schwartz, president of the Affiliated Dress Manufacturers, said that he hoped for a short strike.
“There is great confusion in the industry,” he said. “It is an unorganized, struggling giant, and a long strike would cripple it severely. We are ready to arbitrate with the union, but we do not feel that we should make any agreement that doesn’t take in the countless hundreds of small shops who are not in any of our associations.”
Mr. Schlesinger also expressed the belief that the strike would be a short one. “It will be short, I believe,” he said; “short and constructive. It will eliminate the sweatshop, and thus be of great benefit to both the worker and the employer.”