Object Story and Significance:
Forty years ago on June 24, 1982, as many as 20,000 garment workers and their supporters rallied at Columbus Park in one of the largest demonstrations of worker unity and collective strength in New York Chinatown history. At the time of the strike, Chinatown garment workers numbered 25,000-strong, 80 percent of whom were Chinese immigrant women. Proudly donning union hats and raising picket signs proclaiming “We are one!,” they joined the strike to defend a newly negotiated union contract which would mandate that employers raise their pay by $1.15, provide them with one additional paid holiday, and increase employer contributions to workers’ healthcare. Cowed by the immense pressure of such a massive collective action, one by one, they forced the majority of Chinatown garment subcontractors to reluctantly sign the new contract. To target the remaining holdouts, this large bilingual poster called on workers to turn out for a second rally on July 15th. The poster, measuring 20 by 29 inches, printed in a conspicuous orange, and posted where workers would have seen it, would have signaled support for the strike action by all whose walls and doors it hung on, even as it reminded and exhorted from workers a second near universal turnout. The message of this poster was bolstered by countless everyday conversations, phone banking, and leafleting by thousands of courageous and resolute women, who put hard work into organizing and mobilizing their friends and fellow workers. Due to their efforts in this second historic rally, workers finally secured victory: by its end, they got every Chinatown subcontracting firm still holding out to sign the new union contract, winning much needed pay increases and benefits for their families.
2005.009.002 Women at garment workers’ strike and rally at Columbus Park, Chinatown. Photograph taken by Paul Calhoun, 1982. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection. 唐人街哥伦布公园服装工人罢工和集会的妇女。照片由 Paul Calhoun 拍摄，1982 年。美国华人博物馆 (MOCA) 馆藏。