A feature about cultural identity, history, and baking. Published by The Morning News.
Never mind that the unions were necessary to fight working conditions so poor as to be hardly conceivable. Let’s celebrate for a moment the heyday of the labor movement, in the first decade of the 20th century, when bakers and union advocates successfully struck for shorter hours and better working conditions.
Among the unions that rose victorious was the Local 338 Bagel Bakers union, a part of the much broader Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America. More a guild than a traditional union, the Local 338 dominated the New York bagel market through the mid 1960s. Everything changed with the development of reliable bagel-making machines, and the union faded into irrelevance. But just think about what it must have been like before that happened. Imagine the picket lines outside of the non-union Bagel Boys shop in Brooklyn. Imagine the hullabaloo caused when bagels from an out-of-state bakery started showing up in shops and markets. Just imagine.