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Nakayama Bread and Roses Strike Timeline
Transcript of Nakayama Bread and Roses Strike Timeline
Massachusetts legislature passed a law reducing the maximum number of work hours in a week, to take effect the first day of the year 1912. What had been 56-hour work-weeks were made only 54. In addition, to match the lessening of labor put in, weekly wages were also brought down. Although thirty-some cents less does not seem like a lot now, it is a grave difference of several less loaves of bread for workers and their families
Only ten days later, workers at mills first began to notice this difference in pay. Polish women employed at the Everett Mill had first noticed 32 cents less than per usual in their wage envelopes, abruptly stopped working altogether and began shouting, "Short pay! Short pay!" All about Lawrence, workers took notice and similarly protested at this sudden change. Like a spark of electricity that soon transformed into a raging wildfire, the strike was set into motion. In less than a week, 20,000 workers joined forces in a strike for their rights.
As the strike gained momentum, community efforts to aid the strikers grew as well. Soup kitchens were formed, such as in the Franco-Belgian Hall, feeding thousands upon thousands of workers as well as their families regardless of ethnicity. The Franco-Belgian Soup Kitchen alone fed over 23,000 workers and their families over the course of the strike.
In addition, workers received from $2-5 courtesy of a strike fund. Despite the equally strong and united opposition of government, militia, and police force, thousands of workers united in their common goal, overcoming countless barriers of religious, cultural, political, and language to create an incredibly powerful and successful strike.
Quickly the IWW (International Workers of the World) became involved in the strike of Lawrence. Following a large meeting on the very matter, Joe Ettor, an Italian and executive member known for organizing in Lawrence, was sent for. Almost immediately he and Arturo Giovannitti (secretary of the Italian Socialist Federation of the Socialist Party of America) set up a strike committee consisting
of two workers of each ethnic group of the mills. This group, the Committee of Ten, was responsible for all major decisions andnegotiations between the workers and the American Woolen Company. They even arranged for meetings to be translated into 25 different languages so as to keep informed the thousands of workers in the strike. Demands were made to the American Woolen Company, stating that they wanted 15% more pay, a 50-hour work-week, double the pay for overtime, and an end to discrimination towards union activity.
Although the strikers fought valiantly, the city fought back. The mentality of the law enforcement in regards to the strike was that if they were to make their message clear to the strikers, they must be severe. The city alarm bell rang for the first time. Local militia and even Harvard students excused from their mid-term exams patrolled the streets, and upon sighting mass picketing they doused protesters with ice cold water from hoses from the top of buildings. In return, strikers threw snow and ice balls, and 36 people were arrested and sentenced to a year in prison. Women strikers adopted the slogan, "We want bread and roses too".
Another group of this time 150 children gathered with their parents at the train station, bound for Philadelphia. However, bothered by the attention being garnered by the "Children's Exodus", officials in Lawrence ordered that no more children could leave for foster homes elsewhere. 50 police officers and 2 militia companies surrounded the train station, ripping children and babies from their mothers arms and causing many injuries and even a pregnant mother's miscarriage. 30 women and children were arrested. Many mothers refused to pay the fines in favor of being imprisoned in protest, sometimes even with babies still in their arms. Instead of taking attention away from happenings in Lawrence as was originally intended, it backfired spectacularly, sparking national outrage and even gaining the interest of Helen Herron Taft, First Lady at the time. As a result, house and senate investigations began. with testimonies from Lawrence children and various officials and eventually publishing reports on the condition of Lawrence.
A major undertaking of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the arrangement to send several hundred Lawrence children to homes of sympathetic families in New York City, Philadelphia, and Barre, VT. On the tenth of February in New York City, 120 children were met with the singing of 'Marseille' and 'Internationale' by 5,000 members of the Italian Socialist Federation and the Socialist Party. A couple weeks later, ninety-two children were sent to NYC, and were paraded with banners down 5th Avenue.
The identification card used to send children to temporary foster-homes away from the dangers of the strike in Lawrence
Finally, the William Wood and the American Woolen Company agreed to most of the demands the strikers had made, and by the end of the month, other Northeastern textile mill companies had followed suit, afraid of similar uprisings occurring.
During a picket line the evening of the 29th, policemen attempted to break up the group of people protesting, and in the process killed a worker by the name of Anna LoPizzo. Joe Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti were arrested as "accessories to murder" despite being three miles away and adressing a rally at the time of LoPizzo's death. Held for over 8 months without trial and denied bail, the IWW was forced to send in others to aid the strike as two key members were unable to do so. "Big Bill" Haywood (founding member and leader of the IWW), Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (labor leader, activist, and feminist), and later Carlo Tresco (Italian anarchist).