Sunday, June 27, 2010

María Martínez - Union Member

International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
María Martínez was a sister of Cecilio Martínez (father of Eleodora Martínez). María raised Eleodora. María worked as a seamstress in Laredo. At the age of 42, she was a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) Local 350 in Laredo, Texas. (She lived at 404 Washington Street in Laredo with Eleodora Martínez.)

Here is a little history on the Union Local 350 activities in Laredo:

The ILGWU began recruiting in Laredo in 1936, building on successful efforts by La Union de Costureras, an independent local, to organize home-based garment workers for higher wages and a local factory.

From a low of twenty-eight members in 1937, Local 350 grew to 340 members by 1940. Most worked on subcontracts for New York firms accustomed to hiring unionized labor. In an unusual arrangement, the manufacturers' Laredo subcontractor was Sara Ligarde, who also headed the ILGWU local.

ILGWU activity waned in San Antonio in the 1940s; membership dropped to 600 by 1950. By 1963 the San Antonio union folded, following a final strike at Tex-Son over the company's practice of sending work out of state to nonunion firms.

In Houston tough negotiations with the Ka-Bro firm in 1961 had won the ILGWU's representatives a contract guaranteeing wages twenty-five cents higher than the minimum and improved working conditions. By 1966, however, three local ILGWU-represented plants, including Ka-Bro, had shut down.

In 1949 Andrea Martínez revived the Laredo ILGWU Local 350 to call for an investigation of underpaid local workers. The NLRB required their employers to deliver the back pay. In 1978 the East Coast firms, which had contracted with Laredo operations to make children's wear, discontinued orders and switched to contractors outside the United States. Laredo Local 350 expired.

This information was taken from Handbook of Texas Online, (accessed June 27, 2010).

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