Back to Inquiry Set

12E.4.4 S.F. Garment Workers Picket Factory, Stores

Part of a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings, bulletins and photographs pertaining to the Chinese Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (CLGWU), Local 341, mostly concerning the 1938 strike at the National Dollar Store/Golden Gate Manufacturing garment factory in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Lee, Sue Ko.
between 1937 and 1938
Despite many successful strikes and many labor laws, good working conditions are not consistently found within the garment industry. One simple reason is that some employers would rather cut costs and increase profits by paying low wages and avoiding paying for proper equipment, etc. Though this is true across industries, the garment industry in particular is challenged because the work is often done in many different stages, in different factories, and for companies (name brands) that do not own factories but instead contract with them. As a result, the name-brand company can avoid being liable for workplace violations, though publicly its name can be dragged through the mud when these conditions are revealed to the news media. What do you notice about the conditions in this factory? Where and when do you think the photo was taken?
This image is from Los Angeles in the late 1970s, before so many garments were made abroad. We could label this a sweatshop, understood as “a business that regularly violates both wage or child-labor and safety or health laws.” In this case, this downtown loft factory was found in violation of health and safety codes.

S.F. Garment Workers Picket Factory, Stores
ITS FIRST BIG LABOR DISPUTE - Lily Yip, one of the strikers picketing a garment factory at 720 Washington street and 3 San Francisco stores in Chinatown's first big labor dispute.