Garment’s Workers’ Union Label Campaign (1959-1975)

In a new blog post on the CommsWomen platform, Tesh Diggins, a student at the University of Alabama, College of Communication and Information Sciences, analyses an article on the garment workers campaign by Pamela Ulrich, published by Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.

In a case study titled “’Look for the Label’ – The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Label Campaign, 1959-1975,” Pamela Ulrich analyzes the impact of the ILGWU’s campaign to promote union-made American apparel by labeling garments made in union factories.  The use of major print media outlets in campaigns such as this could be seen as beneficial to the overall goal of reaching two of the three identified target audiences, which in this case were the retail consumers and retail outlets.  The intent behind this campaign was to “strengthen public goodwill” to support the union, as its leaders believed that if American women demanded the label, it would not only force the manufacturers to work with the union, but it would demand that retailers purchase union-made clothes.  

The assumption that public support of the labeling campaign in fashion would not only benefit the fashion industry, but the entire textile industry was a testament to the strength of the fashion industry to stimulate the economy of the nation. “Fashion is the hub of the economics of this business,” said Gronfein in a conversation with Julius Hochman.  “The union should make fashions the vehicle of which it shall sell its social cause.”  The use of advertisements in multiple different modes, particularly in local newspapers, fashion booklets and films, were the primary means of sharing the campaign with the American public.  These advertisements served two primary purposes, to highlight the contributions of the ILGWU to the public, and to show how important the union was to the American fashion industry. 

Printed booklets, that were used to “soft sell” the ILGWU, were sent to individuals, groups and institutions, to spread the word of this campaign to the public across the country.  Between 1965 and 1970, over 6 million booklets were distributed throughout the country, as well as being reprinted or mentioned in such publications as Seventeen, Women’s Wear Daily, and Good Housekeeping.  As an additional strategy, six movies were made to reach a larger audience.  The producer of the films, Elenor Lambert, integrated ILGWU profiles and portrayals of the manufacturing process, to show the value of the union in the manufacturing industry.  Following the initial six films of the early 1960s, the use of films was abandoned until 1967.  The movies made in the late 60s and early 70s featured more contemporary fashions and information about the industry.  These films were often loaned to schools and women’s groups, leading to an increase in the reach of the campaign.

While this campaign officially ended in 1975, due to the shift in the manufacturing industry, the remnants of the program remain.  From the “Look for the Label” campaign of 1959 to the 1975 “Crafted with Pride” campaign, the ILWGU’s position has not changed. 

The full article can be read at this link.


 Ulrich, P. V. (1995). “Look for the Label”- The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Label Campaign, 1959-1975. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 13(1), 49-56.

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