By Lisa Phillips
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Extra resources for A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism
Osman was at least fairly fluent in Yiddish. He was surrounded by Yiddish on the Lower East Side and recognized the Yiddish slurs his bosses hurled at him. Although the degree to which his father’s political leanings influenced him remains unclear, Osman clearly interpreted the situation he found himself in as a young twenty-six-year-old salesclerk at Eckstein’s through the dual lenses of class-based discrimination and anti-Semitism. 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.
Delegates representing federal locals complained about the fact that they had only one vote and that they were required to go through a lengthy procedure to introduce resolutions at the convention. The AFL conflict with the Committee in this period, Osman contended, boiled down to a conflict over how much control working people would indeed have over their destines. 56 “One-lunger” members like Delegate Meyers, of the service or “white-collar” Technical Research Employees Union, No. 20049, argued that the AFL Executive Council designed these policies to purposefully weaken the federal locals and had blatantly ignored the opinions of a significant proportion of the AFL membership.
35 After Osman and the initial group of frustrated dry goods salesmen were “100% organized” and named officially, Osman and his fellow WDGW members confronted their boss with the need for a contract. Their boss signed, and they began operating under contract with “H. Eckstein and Company” in 1933. The WDGW initially operated independently, that is, without a parent union. Osman recalled proudly that the WDGW “got that [H. ” Osman was not alone. The combination of the economic crisis and prolabor legislation set the stage for many young men and women to find the self-respect they lacked in their jobs in union organizing.
A Renegade Union: Interracial Organizing and Labor Radicalism by Lisa Phillips