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Joseph Plati

Because a Rochester clothing firm signed a closed shop agreement with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers the night Joseph Plati’s son was born in 1933, the child was named Victor in honor of the union’s final success in organizing the shop. Victor Plati is therefore a living reminder of union strength and victory in a particular labor struggle.

Joseph Plati, however, a young man of less than forty years, entered the labor movement the hard way. His sister worked in the clothing industry and he marched in a picket line before and after school when he was but a child, during the 1913 clothing industry strike. There he saw and deeply resented the way working people were being treated by the police. He was firmly committed to the movement after he witnessed the shooting of a girl by an irate employer.

Cutting short his education at Public School No. 5, Joe Plati, who came to America from Italy when he was 11 years old, began to work at the age of 14. There was a nucleus of a union in the first factory he worked in, where he pulled basting and later did edge baiting. He joined this group and was chosen by it to circulate application cards and to collect union initiation fees. These activities ceased being openly carried on when he was discovered by the management, but organization continued secretly after that.

The group felt the need for a leader, and when a New York organizer was sent in by the Amalgamated, the formation of a union progressed much more quickly. The firm hindered these activities, however, by discharging leaders as soon as they were discovered.

Joe Plati marched on the picket line once more when the clothing workers struck again in 1919. That strike remains very vivid in his mind. “As long as I live,” he said, “I will always remember the bravery of many fellow workers, particularly the women, who were determined to secure recognition and higher wages.”

It was at that time that the United Garment Workers marched into the factory and signed an agreement with the firm. “But the UGW did not represent us,” declared Plati. “We resented what the UGW did at that time,” he remarked, “especially since many of our active people were discharged after the agreement was signed.”

Plati was compelled to leave that factory, finally, obtaining a job at another clothing factory where he was a joiner and all around special machine operator.

It took Rochester 20 years to become a strong Amalgamated city, beginning in 1919 when an agreement was signed with the Clothiers’ Exchange, representing several shops. Joe Plati was elected to all the unpaid offices of the Amalgamated, acting as president and secretary of Italian Local 202, as delegate to the Rochester Joint Board of the Amalgamated, and then as a member of the board of directors.

In 1929 he was elected business agent for the tailors. His job took him into other cities in the state and he helped bring about complete organization of Utica and Troy, and did general organization work in several other cities. Today he represents the textile, cosmetic, button, box, photo supply, food and other workers in the CIO Industrial Union.

Expressing his views on a live local issue, Joseph Plati stated that he is “hopeful and anxious for unity in labor ... and it can be achieved, particularly in Rochester.”

He indicated disappointment that certain leaders of the AFL are not cooperating to serve the interests of the rank and file of both unions. But, he also commended the AFL representatives with whom the CIO has signed joint agreements in some cases. “I want to congratulate the representatives of these unions,” he stated, “for their sincerity, honesty, and intelligence in trying to do something beneficial for labor.”

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