Zimmerman, Charles S., 1896-1983

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Charles S. Zimmerman (1896-1983) was a labor leader and political activist. Zimmerman was born in Russia in 1896 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1913. He worked in the New York garment industry and joined the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) Local 22. Shortly thereafter, he became its secretary-manager. He was also an organizer for the Joint Board of the Dress and Waistmaker Union. Zimmerman joined the Socialist Party in 1917. Throughout the 1920s, Zimmerman was an active member of the Communist Party, which affiliation cost him his union leadership positions in 1925. By 1931 however, he had broken with the CP and was reinstated in the ILGWU, he was elected a vice-president in 1934.

From the guide to the Charles S. Zimmerman Papers, 1920s-1930s, undated, (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Charles S. Zimmerman, labor leader, political activist, and officer, International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).

Charles Zimmerman was born in Russia in 1896 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1913. He worked in the New York garment industry and joined ILGWU Local 22; shortly thereafter, he became its secretary-manager. He was also an organizer for the Joint Board of the Dress and Waistmakers' Union. Throughout the 1920s, Zimmerman was an active member of the Communist Party, which affiliation cost him his union leadership positions in 1925. By 1931, however, he was reinstated in the ILGWU and was elected a vice-president in 1934.

  • 1897: Born in Talne, Ukraine, Russia. Studied in Kheder and Talmud Torah.
  • 1907: Entered local Russian secular school.
  • 1913: Arrived in United States. Lived with relatives on Lower East Side.
  • 1913 - 16 : Worked in garment and non garment shops.
  • 1913: Participated in a strike to form a union and joined Local 19, United Garment Workers, on Clinton Street.
  • 1914: Mother and brother came from Europe and joined CSZ and his sister.
  • 1913 - 17 : Attended public night school and Manhattan Preparatory School.
  • 1916: Joined Local 25, ILGWU, and factory went out on strike. Elected shop chairman.
  • 1917: Joined Socialist Party.
  • 1918: International Workers of the World (IWW).
  • 1919: Conducted organizing drive for Local 9 in Long Branch, N.J. Hall chairman in organization strike of Local 25.
  • 1930: Joined the United Cloak and Dressmakers Progressive League as member #1.
  • 1931: Rejoined ILGWU.
  • 1931: Formed Committee of 25 to rebuild Local 22.
  • 1931: After rejoining Local 22, formed Progressive League (or Group).
  • 1932: Elected to executive board of Local 22.
  • 1933: Elected manager-secretary of Local 22.
  • 1934: Elected to General Executive Board.
  • 1940: Resigned from Lovestone group.
  • 1945 - 46 : Trip to Europe, visiting Poland, Sweden and Norway on behalf of Jewish Labor Committee.
  • 1947: Elected chairman, Trade Union Council, Liberal Party. 1958 Elected general manager of Dress Joint Board.
  • 1958: Served as worker delegate to Sixth Session of Textiles Committee of International Labour Organization.
  • 1966: Helped found Inter-American Federation of Textile and Garment Workers.
  • 1969: Training ship, "Charles S. Zimmerman," christened by Seafarers International Union.
  • 1972: Resigned as Union vice president and general manager of Dress Joint Council and N.Y., Dress Joint Board.

From the guide to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Charles S. Zimmerman papers, 1919-1958 [bulk 1920-1945]., (Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library)

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was founded in New York City in 1900 by mostly Socialist immigrant workers who sought to unite the various crafts in the growing women's garment industry. The union soon reflected changes in the sector and rapidly organized thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled women, mostly Jewish and Italian young immigrants. Exemplifying the “new unionism,” the ILGWU led two of the most widespread and best-known industrial strikes of the early Twentieth Century: the shirtwaist makers’ strike of 1909 in New York City and the cloak makers’ strike of 1910 in Chicago. The union also tried to adapt to the fragmented and unstable nature of the industry. It adopted the “protocol of peace,” a system of industrial relations that attempted to ensure stability and limit strikes and production disruption by providing for an arbitration system to resolve disputes.

The ILGWU exemplified the European-style social unionism of its founding members. They pursued bread and butter issues but provided educational opportunities, benefits, and social programs to union members as well. In 1919, the ILGWU became the first American union to negotiate an unemployment compensation fund that was contributed to by its employers. The ILGWU also pioneered in the establishment of an extremely progressive health care program for its members which included not only regional Union Health Centers but also a resort for union workers, known as Unity House. The Union also had an imaginative and pioneering Education Department which not only trained workers in traditional union techniques, but provided courses in citizenship and the English language.

David Dubinsky, an immigrant from Belarus who came to the US in 1911, provided strong leadership that led to unprecedented growth in the union during his presidency from 1932 to 1966. He led the union through successful internal anti-communist struggles, built on the ascendancy of industrial unionism by encouraging the formation of the Committee for Industrial Organization, and helped the union become an important political force in New York City and state politics, and in the national Democratic Party and Liberal Party as well.

In the period following the Second World War, the union suffered a decline in membership as manufacturers avoided unionization and took advantage of less expensive labor by moving shops from the urban centers in the northeast to the south, and later abroad. The ethnic and racial character of the ILGWU also changed as European immigrants were supplanted by Asians, Latin Americans, African- Americans, and immigrants from the Caribbean.

In July 1995 the ILGWU merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) at a joint convention, forming UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees). At the time the new union had a membership of about 250,000 in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

From the guide to the ILGWU. Charles Zimmerman Collection of Radical Pamphlets, 1914-1958., (Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Zimmerman, Charles S., 1896-1983. International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Charles Zimmerman, Collector. Radical pamphlets, 1914-1958. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Tyler, Gus. ILGWU. Oral histories, 1966-1985. Cornell University Library
referencedIn ILGWU. International Relations Department records, 1968-1995 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union records 1906-1985, 1923-1984 (bulk). Cornell University Library
creatorOf Charles S. Zimmerman Papers, 1920s-1930s, undated Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. Yivo archives - Interviews in Amerikaner, Yiddishe Geschichte Bel-Pe, 1963-1964. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Draper, Theodore, 1912-2006. Theodore Draper research files, 1919-1970. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. New York Cloak Joint Board. ILGWU. Joint Board of the Dress and Waistmakers' Union of Greater New York. Managers' correspondence, 1909-1978. Cornell University Library
referencedIn ILGWU. Joint Board of the Dress and Waistmakers' Union of Greater New York. Managers' correspondence, 1909-1978 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn George Meany Center for Labor Studies. Recorded interviews, collection of oral histories conducted by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, 1979-1980. Cornell University Library
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Relations Dept. ILGWU. International Relations Department records, 1968-1995. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Daniel Nilva Photographs - Part I - Negatives, Bulk, 1950-1960, 1934-1975, (Bulk 1950-1960) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Kemp, Maida Springer, 1910-. Oral history interview with Maida Springer Kemp, 1977. Wayne State University. Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs
referencedIn Charles Zimmerman, Collector. Radical pamphlets. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Lovestone, Jay. Jay Lovestone. Papers, 1929-1983. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Liberal Party of New York State records, 1936-2002 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. New York Cloak Joint Board. ILGWU. New York Cloak Joint Board records, 1926-1973. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Sam Reiss Photographs - Part II: Photographic Prints, Bulk, 1950-1975, Circa 1930-1975 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
creatorOf ILGWU. Charles Zimmerman Collection of Radical Pamphlets, 1914-1958. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn Ohio. Supreme Court. Correspondence concerning Associate Justice Charles Zimmerman, 1932-1939. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
creatorOf International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Charles S. Zimmerman papers, 1919-1958 [bulk 1920-1945]. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees. Series 6, Subseries 4. Bayard Rustin interview, 1977. Cornell University Library
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. ILGWU. Oral history. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Daniel Nilva Photographs - Part I - Negatives, Bulk, 1950-1960, 1934-1975, (Bulk 1950-1960) Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn ILGWU. New York Cloak Joint Board records, 1926-1973 Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Communications Dept., Biography files. Pt.3. Cornell University Library
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Local 22 (New York, N.Y.). ILGWU. Local 22. Charles Zimmerman. Photographs, 1910-1958. Cornell University Library
referencedIn ILGWU Records, 1884-2006, bulk 1923-1995. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.
creatorOf Liberal Party of New York State. Liberal Party of New York State records, 1936-1975. New York Public Library System, NYPL
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith AFL-CIO. corporateBody
associatedWith American Federation of Labor. corporateBody
associatedWith American Jewish Congress. corporateBody
associatedWith Antonini, Luigi, 1883-1968 person
associatedWith Brown, Irving, 1911- person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Communist Party of the U.S.A. (Majority Group) corporateBody
associatedWith Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Draper, Theodore, 1912-2006. person
associatedWith Dubinsky, David, 1892- person
associatedWith Foster, William Z., 1881-1961 person
associatedWith George Meany Center for Labor Studies. corporateBody
associatedWith Hochman, Julius, 1892-1970 person
associatedWith International Fur and Leather Workers Union of the United States and Canada. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Educational Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Relations Department. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. International Relations Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Local 22 (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. New York Cloak Joint Board. corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Labor Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Kemp, Maida Springer, 1910- person
associatedWith La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947 person
associatedWith League for Industrial Democracy. corporateBody
associatedWith Liberal Party of New York State. corporateBody
associatedWith Lovestone, Jay. person
associatedWith Mooney, Thomas J., 1882-1942 person
associatedWith National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. corporateBody
associatedWith National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees. corporateBody
associatedWith National Urban League. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio. Supreme Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Pesotta, Rose, 1896- person
associatedWith Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972 person
associatedWith Red International of Labor Unions. corporateBody
associatedWith Reiss, Sam. person
associatedWith Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972 person
associatedWith Socialist Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968 person
associatedWith United States. Works Progress Administration. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilkins, Roy, 1901- person
associatedWith Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring. corporateBody
associatedWith Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New York (State)
United States
Subject
Women's clothing industry
Clothing workers--Labor unions--United States
Labor unions and communism--New York (State)--New York
Labor union locals
Strikes and lockouts--United States
Labor unions and communism--United States
Afro--Americans--Employment
Jewish socialists--United States
Communists--United States
Labor disputes--United States
Anti-fascist movements
Labor unions and communism
Women's clothing industry--United States
Communism--United States
Labor unions--Officials and employees--United States
Industrial relations--United States
Labor unions--Clothing workers
Working class--Education--United States
Labor unions--Clothing workers--United States
Jewish communists--United States
Civil rights--United States
Clothing workers--United States
Socialists--United States
Industrial relations
Clothing workers
Congresses and conventions--New York (State)--New York--Pictorial works
Labor disputes--Canada
Strikes and lockouts--Canada
Labor unions--Officials and employees
Anti--Nazi movement
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1896

Death 1983

Information

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