The Organizer / L’organisation

What have you on your shoulders? Join the Union and get a-head!

The best part of being an archivist or researching in an archive is that there is always something new around the corner to surprise you.  Recently, the JPL-A was visited by Mr. Gary Urian who delivered to us an old periodical that had belonged to his mother, Doris Soltan Urian.  Doris was active in the Jewish Public Library in the 1920s and 1930s but she was also a member of the Joint Council Cloak and Dressmakers Union, organized by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Doris’ periodical turned out to be the only issue that the staff of the JPL-A has ever seen of a union publication entitled, The Organizer/L’organisation.  The publication was mentioned in interviews with former union organizers but the JPL-A has never held an actual physical copy.  The Organizer was printed on January 1st, 1937, the same month that ILGWU Local 262 was formed in Montreal and just four months before the 5,000 person strong ILGWU-led strike of Montreal garment workers.

The issue includes articles by Bernard Shane, Manager of the Montreal Joint Council and general organizer, Rose Pesotta, Vice-President of the ILGWU as well as Lea Roback, who at that time was Director of the Educational Department.  Education was one of the important factors for the ILGWU to aid in the organization of the the garment worker industry.  The union members, who were mainly  women, immigrants, Jews or French-Canadians, were offered classes in French and English, journalism, music, public speaking and the Canadian labour movement.  The Organizer was produced with articles in French as well, part of a concerted effort to attract the French Canadian workers and make them feel comfortable in their union. 

And why did Doris manage to hold onto such a wonderful piece of history all these years?  Doris, who took part in the classes offered by the ILGWU had contributed an article entitled, “A Day in a Shop”, a fictionalized description of one woman’s experience in the factory.  Our deepest thanks to the Urian family for preserving such a historic treasure.

The entire issue of The Organizer/L’organisation can be read in our “Digitized Archives” section.

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