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A Matter of Moral JusticeBlack Women Laundry Workers and the Fight for Justice$
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Matter Carson

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043901

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043901.001.0001

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“Everybody’s Libber”

“Everybody’s Libber”

The Laundry Workers’ Postwar Civil Rights Unionism

(p.166) Chapter Ten “Everybody’s Libber”
A Matter of Moral Justice

Matter Carson

University of Illinois Press

The immediate postwar years saw significant turmoil in the Laundry Workers Joint Board, the result of competitive pressures in the industry, an employer offensive (evidence that in the laundries a postwar “social contract” did not exist), and internal conflict between the leadership and members of the democratic initiative. Chapter 10 demonstrates that the racial tensions that had animated the union since its birth exploded in the late 1940s as work contracted and as LWJB secretary treasurer Louis Simon consolidated his power over the union. Adelmond publicly confronted the leadership and employers for engaging in racist and sexist practices and organized through her own local, where the workers demanded racial justice at home and for people of color abroad fighting colonialism. This chapter reveals that Robinson supported and nurtured the workers’ civil rights unionism by creating educational initiatives; by building alliances with labor and civil rights activists, including the indomitable congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.; by mentoring workers of color; and by founding and supporting organizations committed to Black women’s empowerment. Adelmond’s and Robinson’s multifaceted postwar organizing illuminates the complex ways in which Black working-class women organized at the intersection of multiple positionalities, a reflection of the simultaneity of race, class, and gender discrimination in the lives, as well as their location within and commitment to diverse goals and movements, including civil rights, women’s rights, and organized labor.

Keywords:   civil rights unionism, Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance, postwar social accord, Equal Pay Law (New York State), Pan-Africanism, Adam Clayton Powell Jr, Negro Women, Inc, Equal Rights Amendment, Odell Clark, the Atlantic Charter, intersectionality

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