International Ladies Garment Workers Union

The Bitterest Battle: The ILGWU and Unionization in the Kansas City Garment District

The history of the Donnelly Garment Company and its battle with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is one that defies conventional understandings of American life in the Great Depression. It is a story of a female entrepreneur succeeding in an era of economic paralysis, and one of a union failing to organize a factory in a period when workers won substantive rights. ILGWU president David Dubinsky, Nell Donnelly Reed, and Senator James A. Reed were the principal figures in a contest to organize a single garment factory, a legal battle that came to represent much larger questions.

ILGWU Local 270 Banner

Banner for the Coat and Suit Workers Local 270 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as seen on display at the entrance to the Kansas City Garment District Museum.

From Meyer Perlstein and Virginia Stroup to the Donnelly Garment Company

A letter from International Ladies Garment Workers Union Special Representative Meyer Perlstein and Donnelly Garment Workers Union No. 124 President Virginia Stroup to the Donnelly Garment Company. In this letter, Perlstein and Stroup inform the company of harassment that Donnelly employees have experienced from coworkers after joining the union. Perlsten and Stroup explicitly state their intention to solve the matter peaceably.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Statement from Circuit Judge Van Valkenburgh

Statement from Circuit Judge Van Valkenburgh in Equity Case No. 2924: Donnelly Garment Company and Donnelly Garment Sales Company, Plaintiffs, vs. International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and all members of said union as defendants in this class action. In this document, Circuit Judge Van Valkenburgh presents a summary of the case and his interpretation of the same. He then outlines the legality of requesting injunctions or for their dismissal. Van Valkenburgh also includes excerpts of testimony from Wave Tobin, manager of the Kansas City Joint Board of ILGWU.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Plaintiff's Exhibit No. 132: Lottie Conroy Death Certificate

Death certificate for Lottie Conroy issued by the Missouri State Board of Health. She died on March 24, 1934, and her cause of death is listed as second and third degree burns resulting from her clothing catching fire.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Petition for Injunction

Petition for injunction in Equity Case No. 2924: Donnelly Garment Company and Donnelly Garment Sales Company, Plaintiffs, vs. International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and all members of said union as defendants in this class action. In this petition, the plaintiff asserts the ILGWU has been conspiring to force employees of the Donnelly Garment Company to join the defendant union. This includes employees already part of the Donnelly Garment Workers Union.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Findings of fact and conclusion of law in Equity Case No. 2924: Donnelly Garment Company and Donnelly Garment Sales Company, Plaintiffs, vs. International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and all members of said union as defendants in this class action. This document, created by Circuit Judge Arba S. Van Valkenburgh and District Judges Albert F. Reeves and Merrill E. Otis, lists 20 facts found during the case and 29 conclusions of law.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Exhibits "A-30", Graph of Minimum Hourly Wages

A bar graphs displaying the minimum hourly wage provision for the lowest paid crafts in the dress industry from 1913 to 1939. The 'x' axis charts the year and the 'y' axis charts the minimum hourly wage in cents. The graph shows a gradual increase in wage over time with a dip in 1933.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Exhibits "A-29", Graph of Maximum Hours Worked Per Week

A bar graphs displaying the maximum hours worked per week in the dress industry from 1913 to 1939. The 'x' axis charts the year and the 'y' axis charts maximum hours worked. The graph shows a gradual decline in maximum hours worked over time.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Exhibits "A23", ILGWU Application for Membership

Application for membership to the Local No. 124 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, filled out by Katie L. McKinsey, age 26. At the time of application on January 18, 1934, McKinsey was employed at Donnelly Garment Company and had been a sewing machine operator for 6 years.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Exhibits "A-11", Production Statistics

Production statistics for the Donnelly Garment Company for the calender years 1936 through 1938. During these three years, the company produced 5,178,474 articles of clothing worth a total of $16,375,096.67.

Donnelly Garment Company vs. International Ladies Garment Workers Union, et al.: Exhibits "172-176, 179, 182, 185", Graph of Hourly Earnings

Eight line graphs that display the hourly earnings of Donnelly Garment Company employees in relation to other national garment companies in early 1937. These companies include the Apex Dress Co., Action Dress Inc., Philip Zahn & Co., Samax Dress Co., Max Wiesen, Inc., Famous Dress Co., Haas and Bernstein, and Rudy Dress Co.. The data shows that a majority of Donnelly Garment Company employees earn less than the company's national competitors.