Document 17: Letter from Chinese Ladies' Garment Workers Union Local #341 to "Fellow Workers and Union Members," 1 May 1938, reprinted in Judy Yung, ed., Unbound Voices: A Documentary History of Chinese Women in San Francisco (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 404-05.

Introduction

    The following document appeared first in Chinese in the bulletin of the Chinese Ladies Garment Workers Union. References in the text reveal once again the blend of traditional Chinese and American trade union influences at work among Chinatown garment workers. Respect for the judge hearing the appeal against an injunction, "who should be like a father to us," was coupled with appreciation for the support of the New York-based ILGWU. That the notice is dated May 1, 1938, acknowledged as "International Workers' Day," provides further evidence of western influence on this Asian-American union local.

Dear Fellow Workers and Union Members:

    Our request to the owner for a wage increase, reduction in work hours, and improved treatment not only failed to get the owner's sympathy and consent, but instead caused him to reveal his vileness and treachery. First he pretended to recognize the union and negotiate a contract in good faith. Then he changed the name of the factory in an effort to avoid further negotiations with the union. Then under the new name he tried to draw up a contract with the clause stipulating that "National Dollar Stores and the new company are not responsible." He would open the factory only one or two days a week, thus using economic pressure to intimidate the workers. Fortunately, our workers stood together and maintained a united front.

    On February 26, the head of our local chapter mobilized all workers to begin picketing the National Dollar Stores factory and its three retail stores in San Francisco. That was two months ago. Then in the middle of March, while we were picketing, the owner obtained a temporary injunction from the court which stopped our picketing at the retail stores, but not at the factory. We are now waiting for the judge's final decision. We hope that the judge, who should be like a father to us, will base his judgment on law and justice, allowing us to resume picketing in front of the three retail stores so that we can continue our long-term struggle for justice from National Dollar Stores.

    During our struggle, we have been lucky to have the backing of our New York headquarters, including material and moral support as well as financial, promotional and legal assistance. Dear workers, we must struggle on. No matter what happens, we must fight to the end, so that the support from our New York headquarters will not be in vain. We also hope that you members in all the other local chapters will help to publicize our situation in your areas and continue to give us your moral support.

Happy May First [International Workers' Day]
Chinese Ladies Garment Workers' Union, Local #341
May 1, 1938


 
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