Textiles and textile unions

Can textile manufacturing be revitalized in the city and if so, what, if any role do unions have to play? That's a question I posed to Lynne Fox, manager of the Philadelphia Joint Board of Workers United, the union that now represents the region's apparel and textile workers.

"If there was ever a task force, I would love to be on it," Fox said, after learning about Wednesday's gathering of the textile manufacturers hosted by the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia. You can read my story about it in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.


"I would love to see that happen," she said. "These manufacturing jobs are critical to the social fabric of the city. Kids are growing up today with no future. These used to be good jobs. You had a pension, you had health insurance. You could send your kids to school. You could buy a car."

In the 1970s, her union represented 25,000 workers. Now it's down to about 800 to 1,000, she said, scattered in businesses employing 50 or less. She blames the decline on trade agreements and imports.

How would manufacturers feel about having a union as a partner in this endeavor? The ones I talked to weren't thrilled.