By Lisa Phillips
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Extra resources for A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism
Trapped and in a quest for self-respect, Osman and five of his co-workers decided to try and organize everybody in the shop and force the Eckstein brothers to regulate their hours and raise their wages. Osman and his wife had just had their first baby. To celebrate, Osman invited Harry Karpe and a few other people from work to his house in Brooklyn. They of course talked about their problems at work but instead of simply commiserating, they decided to band together and do something. They quickly realized they were creating a labor union as they pledged to figure out how to force the Eckstein brothers to set their hours and give them a raise.
7 New York differed from other large cities in the United States in that, although it was a major manufacturing center, most of the manufacturing establishments located in the city were small, specialized in nondurable goods such as clothing, and produced for the local New York metropolitan area (which was enormous). New York was not engulfed by huge, smoke-spewing factories as were Detroit, Gary, and Pittsburgh. Because New York’s local market was so big, producing for it enabled manufacturers to specialize in everything from pencils and long underwear to chewing gum and kosher wine.
The Executive Council intended to rectify that situation with the thirty-day approval process. Tobin did not address the federal locals’ lack of voting power. He did point out that more than half of the dues collected from the 900 federal locals representing some 88,000 members went back into organizing in the industries they represented. At that point, Osman spoke. He countered Tobin’s arguments by explaining that the locals that did belong to an International attended conventions at which they had the opportunity to present their resolutions.