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Guide to the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Local 3, United Store Workers Records WAG.230

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Bonnie Gordon

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 17, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

The organizing drive of Bloomingdale's department store workers began in the 1930s in conjunction with the drive instituted by other New York City department store employees. Despite repeated setbacks and attempts by the store company to hinder their efforts, a majority of the workers signed up as union members and in 1938 Local 3 became the bargaining representative for all Bloomingdale employees. Early membership was around 2,300. In common with other department store locals in New York City (Macy's, Gimbel's, Stern's), Local 3's leadership was left-wing, creating from the outset, friction with the international Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union and its leadership. This friction exacerbated during the McCarthy period in 1948 when three members attempted to oust the Local's leadership on charges of Communism. In the same year, a Congressional sub-committee hearing on Communism investigated the New York City distributive trades. Weakened by McCarthyism, Local 3, along with other department store locals left the RWDSU, and under the aegis of Local 65, established a joint board for Locals 1, 2 and 3, 5, and 1250. The locals eventually merged in 1950 with the United Office and Professional Workers and some locals of the Food and Tobacco Workers Union to form District 65. The department store section of District 65 was an autonomous unit with its own elected officers and stewards. A changed union climate beginning when District 65 rejoined the RWDSU in 1954, the merger of the AFL-CIO in 1955, and prosperity in the country as a whole, served to strengthen Local 3. A major two-week strike in 1965 resulted in a favorable settlement for workers which has, in the words of President John O'Neill, "brought twenty years of peace." Another change in structure occurred in 1969 when District 65 withdrew from the RWDSU. Locals 2, 3, and 5 elected to remain in the International and formed the United Storeworkers Union under the leadership of William Michelson who subsequently was elected President.