New Demands
New Demands
Photo essay

Commissioned for Counter-Signals 2, Hieroglyphs of the anti-commodity, Fall 2017–Winter 2018, edited by Jack Henrie Fisher
Layout and design by Jack Henrie Fisher
Images courtesy the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University Library

The essay is a curated selection of historical photographs depicts strikes, protests, rallies, and campaigns waged by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union between the turn of the 20th century and approximately 1985. Arranged mainly in chronological order, the visual narrative depicts the ILGWU’s earliest struggles and
demands for basic rights from the turn of the 20th century to the second
world war, to campaigns to strengthen and maintain union gains, to struggles
against racial discrimination in the workplace and society at-large.
Over time and reflecting the decline and later demise of American garment
and textile manufacturing, the ILGWU battled to maintain existing contracts
and agreements, and it urged consumers to buy union-made clothing
produced in the USA as opposed to cheap imports, emphasizing the ways
in which unions benefit workers and their families. Since the 1980s a (mostly Republican-led) policy and legislative agenda, aggressive neoliberal trade policies, multinational dominance, an anti-union political climate hostile to organized labor have combined to unravel the gains made by the ILGWU and other unions, substantially lowering labor standards and eroding workplace protections for union and non-union workers alike. The photo essay draws on research conducted for New Demands, an ongoing series of art works and performances that call attention to late capitalism’s assault on unions and workers’ rights.