United Garment Workers Association Local 17
Garment Workers Local 17 affiliated with the Seattle Central Labor Council in 1903. Local members worked primarily for the Black Bear Manufacturing Company—the first garment factory in Seattle. The company embraced unionization of its workers from its founding in 1902. This resulted in better working conditions, higher wages, time off, and shorter shifts. Garment workers were primarily younger white women. Older women and Japanese immigrants were more likely to be hired as contract labor by other garment companies, the pay lower than that earned by workers at Black Bear.
Some garment workers during the early 1900s were also affiliated with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Local 28 which represented workers who made women’s clothing. This union was not as strong as UGWA Local 17, and membership was dwindling by 1918.
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