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Interpreting the Evidence

Voter Registration Appeal, Local 23-25 International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), New York, NY, September 30, 1976

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Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Flyer "Democracy Still Works," in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Local 23-25 International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) urges voter registration and warns that the last date to register in New York, NY is September 30, 1976. The flyer reads, "Democracy: It Still Works, If You Work at It/Register to Vote!/El Voto Es Poder!Usalo!" ("To Vote is Power! Use It!")
Historical Context
Born out of the sweatshop misery of immigrant labor during the early 1900s, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union was once one of the largest unions in the United States and a key player in the labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Its interest in electoral politics went through many phases.    

During the pre-World War II period, the ILGWU’s leadership moved away from its early revolutionary socialist roots to more mainstream reformist politics. Having achieved a great deal with regard to improving wages and working conditions, the ILGWU lost steam as the garment industry itself shrank or moved away from New York City.      

As this voter registration appeal demonstrates (El Voto es Poder Usalo!/The Vote is Powerful, Use It!), the ILGWU has always been interested in electoral politics.  It was first involved in various socialist parties. Later, it helped to establish the American Labor Party and supported New York’s Liberal Party.  For a time the ILGWU was involved with certain Republican candidates.  Eventually, it aligned itself with the Democratic Party.

Essential Question
How do immigrant populations influence politics?
Check for Understanding
Identify the purpose of the poster and evaluate the significance of this document in encouraging civic participation by new immigrants.
Historical Challenges
Prepare one debate argument in favor of, or against, two of the following proposals:
  1. Launching a voter registration campaign for youth eighteen to twenty-five years of age
  2. Allowing non-legal residents to vote in local elections
  3. Barring non-legal immigrants from joining a labor union
Research the elections of 1976. Find out who ran for office on the national, state, and local level. Who won these elections?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Technology: The flyer shows old voting machines that are being replaced with computerized ones. Research the types of machines being proposed and the good and bad points of each.
Foreign Language: Translate the message in the flyer into another language, such as German, French, Urdu, Arabic, etc.