Document 25: Enzo Grassi and Fred Schmidt, "N.Y. Dressmakers Visit Chinese Shop Where They Sew from Left to Right," Justice, 15 September 1938, p. 6.


    This newspaper account, written by two New York dressmakers who were members of the cast of "Pins and Needles," offers the best description that has survived of the Golden Gate Manufacturing Company. The company obviously impressed these two experienced operators and union leaders, as they commented to the employer, "we had seen very few shops so well equipped."

    Grassi and Schmidt seemed particularly struck that the company had two large and well-equipped cutting rooms. One wonders whether the 100--120 workers at the company could sew all garments the cutters could prepare, or whether the Golden Gate Manufacturing Company sent a good share of its work out to other contractors. If that were the case, then during the year after the strike settlement the company would have been sending a substantial share of its work out to non-union contractors while it supplied its 100--120 union workers with sewing. Able to compare the relative costs of inside and outside work, management may have decided the following June to close up the inside, unionized sewing operation and send all its cut goods out to non-union shops. Thus, in the innocent remarks made here, we may be able to see the basis for the company's eventual closing the following June (see Document 28).




Enzo Grassi, Local 89
Fred Schmidt, Local 22

    [The writers are members of the cast of "Pins and Needles" who were entertained at the August 21 banquet commemorating the opening of the headquarters by Chinese Dressmakers' Local 341, San Francisco. The next day they visited the Golden Gate shop at which the members of the local are employed.--ED.][A]

    In passing through San Francisco's Chinatown we saw a telephone office that does all its business in Chinese. All operators are Chinese. We were told that San Francisco's Chinese population was about 25,000.

    Continuing our walk, we finally arrived at the Golden Gate shop. We were greeted by our local president, Go Quai Sing.

    We were anxious to see the operators first because we were operators ourselves.

    As we entered the operating department greetings came from our Chinese brothers and sisters.

    It was a very large place with 3 plants using 160 machines. The machines, made by Singer, are interesting and peculiar. They pull and sew from left to right. The machine looks like a snap machine. Each operator makes about 16 dresses a day. The work is very clean and accurate. Every type of machine used in the manufacture of dresses was on the floor. There were basting and felling machines.

    They even had a shirring department engaging 3 girls. They had two 16-needle machines and one 25-needle machine, the only one used in the Chinese garment industry.

    We walked in another section of the shop and there we saw two boys working in the covered button and buckles department. They told me that all covered buttons were made in their department.

    Crossing a corridor, we entered the pressing department, employing only girls.

    No boards are used; pressing is done on a flat table and on the left side. Only steam irons are used.

    The cleaners work directly behind the pressers and they work like the girls in our own shops.

Huge Cutting Department

    We were amazed at the huge cutting room which held 6 tables and displayed every modern cutting device. It even had a machine to lay up the material.

    We were introduced to the patternmaker, the marker and all the cutters. We were able to read the patterns. The notches were all there with the darts very distinct. It was a pleasure to know that they worked the same system as ours.

    In the basement of the shop we were amazed to see an exact duplicate of the upstairs cutting department.

    Here they cut linings, collars and stiff materials with a straight knife.

    We told the employer that we had seen very few shops so well equipped.

Settling Prices

    We started to talk to the employer about prices and the system used in paying his workers. We were interested in that point because we were both shop chairmen and had settled plenty of garments.

    We explained our system of settling prices. We told him that our Union through its system of settling had established a fair market among the manufacturers and that unscrupulous and unfair competition which harmed everybody no longer existed. The employer told us he was glad to have his people part of the ILGWU.

    As we left the shop the local president told us of the early struggles of the membership and said that he was able to visualize a tremendous growth for the local. We told him of the early struggles of Locals 89 and 22 and how they had become the largest trade union units in the world. He said that the hope of the future lay in the local's young American-born members.

    Jennie Matyas, who organized the Chinese local, is going to start a big educational program among the workers.

    While walking through the shop on our way to the exit a worker walked over to us. As the shop stood in silence, she shook our hands and said something that really touched us. She said, "Good-bye and good-luck to you, my dear brothers."

A. This editorial comment appears in the original article.

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