Thursday, April 13, 2017

Eli Zivkovitch and the Textile Workers Union of America

Eli Zivkovitch was an American labor organizer and coal miner from West Virginia. He was Crystal Lee's inspiration for joining the labor movement in the 1970s. He inspired her to join the Textile Workers Union of America. This union has its origins in the early 1900s with the United Textile Workers of America, formed in 1901. The union went on strike in 1934, but was unsuccessful. UTW had its greatest support in the North, but it was largely unsuccessful in the South. The Textiles Workers Organizing Committee was formed in 1937 and merged with UTW in 1939 to form the Textile Workers Union of America. TWUA worked hard in the South and fought against the union-resistant government and shop owners. TWUA was concerned with gaining higher wages for textiles workers as well as benefits like health insurance. It was later a leader in Operation Dixie. This was an operation by the Congress of Industrial Organizations and affiliated labor unions to help unionize the South and included many industries, like paper manufacturing and textiles. It ran from 1945-1954 and was defeated by the South's conservative and more business-oriented politicians. In 1973, TWUA sent Zivkovitch to the J.P. Stevens textiles mill to unionize their workers where he met Crystal Lee Sutton, who later became an important figure in unionizing the textiles industry. Later, TWUA was not the only textiles union in the South and itself to be in competition with said unions, leading it to merge with other unions to form the Amalgamated Clothing and Textiles Workers Union in 1976. In 1978, after Sutton was fired from the J.P. Stevens, ACTWU began to represent workers at the mill.

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