29th Annual Bread and Roses Festival!
In 1912, a new state law went into effect reducing the work week of women and children from 56 to 54 hours. But because so many women and children worked in the mills, men’s hours were also reduced. When the first paychecks of the year revealed a cut in pay, thousands of workers, already barely surviving on an average pay of $8.76 a week, walked out of the mills, and the Great Strike had begun.
The strike united workers from 51 different nationalities. Carried on throughout a brutally cold winter, the strike lasted more than two months, defying the assumptions of conservative trade unions within the American Federation of Labor that immigrant, largely female and ethnically divided workers could not be organized. In late January, when a bystander was killed during a protest, I.W.W. organizers Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were arrested on charges of being accessories to the murder. I.W.W. leaders Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to Lawrence to run the strike. Together they masterminded its signature move, sending hundreds of the strikers’ hungry children to sympathetic families in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. The move drew widespread sympathy, especially after police stopped a further exodus, leading to violence at the Lawrence train station.The IWW raised funds on a nation-wide basis to provide weekly benefits for strikers and dramatized the strikers’ needs by arranging for several hundred children to go to supporters’ homes in New York City for the duration of the strike. The union established an efficient system of relief committees, soup kitchens, and food distribution stations, while volunteer doctors provided medical care.
Congressional hearings followed, resulting in exposure of shocking conditions in the Lawrence mills and calls for investigation of the “wool trust.” Mill owners soon decided to settle the strike, giving workers in Lawrence and throughout New England raises of up to 20 percent.
The Boston Industrial Workers of the world see this event as a critical part of our history and fully support The Bread & Roses Heritage Committee. we call to all workers to come out on labor day SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 to recognize, commemorate, inform, and share the labor history and social justice legacy of Lawrence’s 1912 Bread & Roses strike.
an injury to one is an injury to all!