The INTERNATIONAL LADIES' GARMENT WORKERS' UNION AGREEMENT OF 1918-19 laid the basis for collective bargaining in the Cleveland cloak and suit trade. Agitation for the agreement began a few years after an unsuccessful strike in 1911. This general strike caused Cleveland manufacturing firms to grant certain concessions to their employees. The seasonality of work was reduced, and new policies toward employees were introduced. Owing partly to these changes, within 3 years the Cleveland locals almost disappeared. In 1914 the New York City-based Intl. Ladies' Garment Workers' Union began a campaign to strengthen the locals in Cleveland. Union membership increased from 150 to over 1,000 between 1914-15. The Cleveland locals, Cloak & Suit Tailors, Local 26, Shirt & Dress Makers, Local 27, Women Garment Workers, Local 29, Ladies' Garment Pressers, Local 37, and Ladies' Garment Cutters, Local 42, combined in the Cleveland Joint Board of Cloak & Skirt Makers' Unions. Members became disappointed when the ILGWU refused to call a general strike and advised the Joint Board to tax its members $3 each on behalf of workers in other strikes. The Joint Board dissolved by May 1916. But the international persisted and began campaigning again during 1916-17. By the summer of 1917, the Joint Board was again in operation, and the union counted 1,400 members. Employers countered by setting a 48 hour work week and increased wages: again unions lost members.
On 16 July 1918, the international and the Cleveland Joint Board submitted demands for a wage increase and a method for adjusting disputes to the Cleveland Garment Mfrs. Assn. The demands were ignored, and a general strike was called on 23 July 1918; 3,000 workers went out, mostly from the small shops. Since the large firms were involved in the war effort, Secretary of War