Look for the Union Label (some thoughts prompted by the Alec Baldwin on-set shooting incident)

When I saw this “poster” today, I realized that I haven’t seen any union promotions in a really long time.

It also put me in mind of this old TV ad. I’ll bet every American above a certain age still knows every line of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union song by heart.

I’ve belonged to two unions in my life. When I was a grocery store cashier for several months in high school, I had to join the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America because it was the union that represented our shop. I still remember their name because, really, who couldn’t remember a name like that, LOL. They used to send me the membership magazine, and I can still recall (if memory serves, all these decades later) bloody photos of meat saws and cuts of beef on the cover. The other union was when I was in graduate school. It was a new thing, voted in toward the end of my time there. I can’t remember if this was the name then, but I just checked and it’s now called The Association of UW Professionals (UW-Milwaukee graduate employee chapter), Local 3535g.

Unions were far more prominent when I was a kid. My dad was “management,” so I saw them as a somewhat undesirable element growing up. Not as “the enemy” so much as a sign that a company had failed in its relationship with workers if things had gotten so bad that a union had successfully infiltrated. Kind of like a virus that infects you if you’re run down and haven’t been taking good care of yourself.

In the past couple of decades unions have weakened and many have disappeared. With the Alec Baldwin on-set shooting incident prompting much online attention to exploitative and unsafe working conditions on Hollywood’s production stages, however, I wonder if unions might begin a comeback in the public’s consciousness.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Movies and film, News, Political Analysis, Popular culture, Television and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Look for the Union Label (some thoughts prompted by the Alec Baldwin on-set shooting incident)

  1. mworfolk says:

    This was such a tragic event. My heart goes out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and everyone working on that set.

    I’m in a union and I’m grateful for it—our union has definitely gone to bat for us faculty multiple times. It’s sobering to see how life threatening some work environments can be, and I wish IATSE the best as they advocate for better and safer working conditions on set.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose says:

    Certainly do remember that textile union made jingle. When you purchased a union made garment which had a tag sewn in the seam, it wore like iron. Well constructed to fit any figure. Now we are squeezed into tubes like stuffed sausages, I like to see our younger morning news ladies bringing back the constructed wardrobe of dresses, blouses with skirts or slacks. Lately the work place jump suit attire. It’s nice to see it’s making a comeback.
    Growing up in a union household I seen first hand how my father fought for workers rights. Without a union, a person has no rights in a non union shop. Low pay, no health benefits, no vacation time etc. Do I need to say more? Act 10 was a huge blow to unions. I’ve personally worked in a few union shops and non-union shops. You know where you stand in the union shops. If you watch some of the PBS documentaries from two centuries ago on working conditions for the people as well as children while the owners profited immensely. As the saying goes – Those who can’t remember history are condemned to repeat the past,
    Tragic incident on the NM movie set. I’m not sure what SAG (Screen Actors Guild) encompasses? There are so many independent film companies nowadays.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent points, Rose! I agree with all you’ve said here. There’s a place for unions and maybe the allure of low, low prices and is finally wearing thin when set against the safety, workers’ rights, and larger issues in our economy/society related to the absence of strong unions.

      So true about those older articles of clothing, too. I found a coat in a vintage store with the “union label” sewn in, and that coat was still in great condition! The tailoring, the fabrics, and even things like the straight seams and matched plaids in the ILGWU clothes were outstanding. Clothes are cheap today in more ways than price!

      Liked by 1 person

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