For Natalie Halpin ’21, legal studies and the arts are not mutually exclusive, and in her internship with The Wardrobe Union (Local 764), she demonstrates just that.
The Wardrobe Union is a labor union that functions under the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The union consists of 1,400 members, mostly women, who dress actors who are on Broadway or are filming in the New York City area. The members also do sewing and laundry repairs, ensuring that costumes are prepared and ready to wear. According to Halpin, the business agent at TWU negotiates the members’ pay and work standards and benefits, ensuring “no gender wage gap” and other equalities.
Hometown: New York City
High School: Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School
At The Wardrobe Union, Halpin helps organize minutes from meetings and prepares research for events. Because The Wardrobe Union has a LGBTQ+ history and regularly supports LGBTQ+ organizations, Halpin recently volunteered to assist members during the NYC Pride March. There, she met Henry Arango, the union’s oldest working member and an exotic interpretive dancer who fled Cuba and saw the riots at Stonewall. Arango, now 90-years-old, has worked on operas, ballets, and productions. Halpin said, “He may or may not have thought I was a dresser, but Henry asked me to zip him into the beautiful pink dress he selected for the occasion and loop the pearl buttons on his gloves through their holes.”
Prior to working for The Wardrobe Union, Halpin became a member of Local 306, a union that represents ushers and also works under the IATSE. While at home during school breaks, she ushers at the Imperial Theatre, and it was this job that initially helped her “recognize the importance of unions.”
Various educational experiences have helped lead Halpin to her internship at The Wardrobe Union. At her arts-focused high school, she majored in fine arts, which helped her develop an appreciation for both aesthetics and the people who create art. At Hamilton, she has developed a passion for human rights, which she said has been augmented by courses like Feminist Theory and Political Theory. “I believe that these courses gave me a solid base from which I can expand my knowledge of workers’ rights,” she said.
Halpin hopes to attend law school after graduating from Hamilton and eventually work in labor law or another law branch that helps protect human rights. She plans to change internship locations later this month, moving from The Wardrobe Union headquarters to Spivak Lipton Law Firm, which represents The Wardrobe Union in court cases, mediation, arbitrations, and before administrative agencies.
Halpin concluded, “With anti-union rhetoric in politics, I’m happy to have the opportunity to view the benefits provided to workers through unions and interact with the individuals impacted.”
Natalie Halpin is one of 200 Hamilton students conducting research or completing an internship supported by the College this summer.