November 24, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I joined the National Writers Union a UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO. They offer resources, giving writers assistance with contract advice and grievances with publishers. Their strength comes from pooling information from other writers and lawyers, and then speaking out collectively.

My T-shirt arrived yesterday.

The last time I was a union member it was the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. I was a power sewing machine operator and that was a lifetime ago. I have no idea how many members we had in that union, never thought to ask back then. But I know that there are approximately 1,300 members of the National Writers Union.

This is a clipping from the 1930s in an old scrap book I inherited from my father. (This book is worthy of a blog post on its own at another time.) Unions have been around since the mid 1800s reaching their highest membership in the 1950s. Since the 1960s there has been a steady decline in union membership. Today approximately 11% of the work force belongs to a union. The service industry is the most unionized. California has the largest percentage of union workers than any other state.

A union label used to be a mark of pride now they are few and far between. I rarely see them sewn into a garment or stamped on a product’s carton. Now manufacturers boast of MADE IN USA, hoping to get the public to buy domestically produced merchandise. What I’ve noticed recently is regional pride, similar to the above logo, MADE IN NYC.

It’ll be interesting to note if wearing this union T-shirt alters the way I write. I doubt it. But somehow it does add another note of seriousness to what I’ve been doing all these years. And I wonder does this make me a working class writer? I also wonder if in the back of my head a story is starting to emerge about one or all of those ladies in the above newspaper clipping.


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11 Responses to I’M A UNION LADY AGAIN

  1. thelma straw on November 24, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Good move! We writers need all the help we can get! My hourly mantra, or often, minute by minute, is that old Arab proverb ” If you seek wisdom, sample every tent in the bazaar!” The NWC is certainly a wise tent to have as one hat on your head. Those old ladies could tell onehelluva story if you could get inside their heads! On lots of levels. Thelma Jacqueline Straw

    • Jakay Jarvis on January 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Hello after all these years!

      Yes, writers and others toilers in imagination need all the support they can get.

      You may/may not remember me from your years at St. Mary’s School. You left your mark with students, and, with the aid of the Internet, I’ve found you to express my thanks. I graduated in 1965 and have journeyed through many “incarnations” since then. Professionally, I spent 41 years in journalism — newspapers and public relations — before a layoff in October. Now, I’m a new “work under construction,” trying to find a way to support the new adventures.

      As ancient cultures and belief systems have been a passion for me since the age of 8, your ancient-history class with Brested’s text was an inspiration. You also taught drama to us and wrote the Christmas pageant, which Helen Smith and I directed the year you earned your master’s.

      I was called Judy Kay Jarvis in those years, but since college have used the nickname Jakay (J.K.). And, during my divorce, I re-assumed Jarvis.

      Best wishes for the coming year, and again, thank you for your influence in the early years.

      Jakay Jarvis

      • thelma straw on January 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        Dear Judy, thank you for your note here. What a small world!!!
        Please send me your email address – mine is tstraw2@verizon.net…… I happen to have a copy of the 1963 annual, as it was dedicated to me, and just looked you up!
        I’d love to reconnect. I live and work in Manhattan. I also blog at http://www.crimewriters.blogspot.com Thelma Straw

  2. Susan on November 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I still have my union sweatshirt – says (on the back) “metaphors be with you” and when I wear it people stop me to ask what it means. The union was extremely helpful for contract advice and for networking. I used to write pupil and teacher lessons for grade school textbooks.

  3. Susan on November 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Very interesting article…thanks for the flash back with the scrap book. Times have changed, but all that much in some respects.

  4. Jeri on November 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Mazel tov!

  5. Chloe C on November 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Will be looking forward to the stories about the ladies in the picture!
    Love that phrase “metaphors be with you”!

  6. Sharon Johnson on November 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    One more step into the life of a creative mind. What a fantastic adventure you are enjoying in your retirement years. Write on my friend.

  7. claudia/toddi on November 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    You are an official writer, now. Unionized and all. I am so glad that you are able to use the pages and pages of dad’s newspaper clippings. I still think that you should write a story on an article or two. There is a wealth of info in those clippings.

  8. Eric parker on November 27, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Thanks you union girl you

  9. chicbee on November 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

    There was also the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). Amalgamated was a popular woe=rd a while back. My family had a coop in The Amalgamated in Manhattan’s lower east side. The building is still there, and is now again in a trendy area…