In the 1940s, Western employed around 250 people, making them the largest employer in the film industry apart from MGM. When European immigrants flocked to Los Angeles in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, they brought with them their crafts. As a result, Western employed some of the best artisans from across the world in their custom workrooms. The three research librarians at Western spoke at least six languages between them.
Local 705 of the IATSE.
Costume house employees began organizing within the labor movement in the late 1930s. Western Costume was organized by 1942, and in 1944 they merged with Motion Picture Costumers Local 705 of the IATSE. Western Costume has been a Local 705 signatory costume house ever since, and have periodically been the largest union employer in the industry.
An Indispensable Resource
Despite consistent demand, the company still faced troubling uncertainty in the 1940s. In 1942 Joe Schnitzer had to take a medical leave from the business. Furthermore, unionization meant higher payroll costs, and the company struggled financially. Unsure of the future, Schnitzer approached the studios. Fearing the end of an ndispensable resource, six major studios—Warner Bros., RKO, 20th Century-Fox, Columbia, Universal, and Republic—united to purchase Western Costume in January 1943. Joe Schnitzer passed away the following year, and Abe Schnitzer stayed on as president.