Kathy Andrade, Unionist Who Fought for Immigrant Workers, Dies at 88

Kathy Andrade, a longtime garment union activist in New York City and a local of El Salvador who pushed the labor motion to embrace immigrants relatively than view them as threatening the livelihoods of American-born employees, died on July 2 in Manhattan. She was 88.

The trigger was cardiac arrest, her husband, Jorge Colon, stated.

From the early 1960s to 1995, Ms. Andrade was director of schooling for Local 23-25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, a big and influential chapter in New York. But the title alone hardly conveyed her affect on her union, which represents women and men within the stitching trades. She embodied the boots-on-the-ground activism and intuitive folks expertise that helped the union thrive, serving to numerous immigrant garment employees navigate the trail to citizenship, study to talk English and even broaden their expertise by instructing them how one can make jewellery.

“She was like the Godfather,” Ana Ramirez, a relative who as a toddler would go to Ms. Andrade at work in Manhattan’s garment district. “There would be a line of people outside her office, just waiting to get help.”

When Ms. Andrade began with the I.L.G.W.U., many organized labor officers noticed immigrants, whether or not documented or not, as jeopardizing the job prospects and better wages of union members, the labor historian Rachel Bernstein stated in an interview. “Kathy was really instrumental in making sure” that the I.L.G.W.U. “didn’t take that stance,” she stated.

Jay Mazur, a former president of the I.L.G.W.U., known as Ms. Andrade “the premier advocate for the undocumented.”

“She knew the word before anybody else,” he stated.

Ms. Andrade efficiently pushed Mr. Mazur, who at the time was an organizing director in Local 23-25, to talk publicly in assist of undocumented employees and to advertise pro-immigration language in union insurance policies, like calling for the federal authorities to grant the undocumented amnesty.

Muzaffar Chishti, a former I.L.G.W.U. immigration lawyer who’s now a senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington suppose tank, directing its workplace at New York University’s School of Law, stated that largely due to Ms. Andrade’s work, “the local became the first formal labor entity in the country to fight for the rights of the undocumented.”

“She was not looking at policy,” he stated. “She didn’t know what legislation to push, but she instinctively knew that the rights of the undocumented had to be protected if you wanted to protect the rights of all workers.”

The labor motion later caught up with Ms. Andrade, particularly as giant swaths of the labor power — notably in agriculture, well being care and development — grew to become more and more composed of immigrant employees. In 2000, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. formally known as on the federal authorities to grant amnesty to an estimated six million undocumented immigrants residing within the United States and to get rid of most sanctions on employers who employed them. That proposal and others prefer it have by no means discovered enough assist in Washington, nonetheless.

As the New York native’s schooling director, Ms. Andrade organized stitching courses for new members — she herself was recognized for creating elaborate quilts in tribute to garment employees — and helped many navigate the immigration system and work towards citizenship.

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She additionally inspired the native to work with different marginalized teams. Evelyn Jones Rich, an activist working with the Congress of Racial Equality, typically collaborated with Ms. Andrade, whether or not it was in securing union funds for picket strains in opposition to companies that discriminated in opposition to Black folks or discovering I.L.G.W.U. members to hitch a protest march.

“She was a little lady, but she was a giant,” Ms. Rich stated.

Ms. Andrade was born Enriqueta Mixco on July eight, 1932, in Santa Ana, El Salvador. Her father died earlier than she was born. She and her mom, Rosaura Pocasangre, lived in Guatemala for a lot of her childhood to keep away from political unrest in El Salvador. Returning there within the 1940s, she married a person from her hometown and took his surname, Andrade.

The couple went to the United States in 1949, however inside a couple of years her husband died of most cancers. In the early 1950s, Ms. Andrade took a job in a manufacturing unit that made airplane elements and parachutes in Long Island City, Queens, changing into one of many few ladies to work there. She quickly joined the machinist’s union.

She later left the manufacturing unit over her immigration standing as a noncitizen, discovered a job making belts to stitch on attire and joined Local 40 of the I.L.G.W.U., additionally in New York.

Mr. Mazur was working for Local 40 at the time, and after Ms. Andrade had approached him with questions concerning the union — carrying herself with unmistakable confidence when she arrived at his workplace, he recalled — he despatched her out to nonunion factories as a “colonizer,” to unfold the phrase about employees’ rights to unionize.

When Mr. Mazur grew to become the organizing director of the I.L.G.W.U.’s Local 23, which might quickly merge with Local 25, Ms. Andrade adopted. She grew to become an American citizen within the late 1950s.

She met Mr. Colon a couple of years later. Ms. Andrade was competing in a pan-American cultural pageant during which younger ladies modeled the standard garb of their homelands. Ms. Andrade represented El Salvador. Mr. Colon was a contract photographer overlaying the occasion. The night sparked a friendship that become “a love affair that lasted 59 years,” stated Mr. Colon, her solely quick survivor.

The couple lived in Penn South, a cooperative housing improvement within the Chelsea part of Manhattan that was initially sponsored by the I.L.G.W.U. and catered to union residents. Ms. Andrade died in a hospital.

Even after her retirement in 1995, when the I.L.G.W.U. merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union to develop into UNITE, she remained energetic within the labor motion, championing immigrant rights. She additionally grew to become concerned in Hudson Guild, a social providers group that helps the immigrant neighborhood in Chelsea.

“She spent every waking minute doing something to help somebody,” Ms. Bernstein, the labor historian, stated. Her work was “a terrific example of how unsung women make a difference.”