Everett Mills of Lawrence, Massachusettes - 1929

Everett Mills of Lawrence, Massachusettes - 1929

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Everett Mills of Lawrence, Massachusettes - 1929
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Beautifully engraved certificate from the Everett Mills issued in 1929. This item is hand signed by the Company’s President and Treasurer and is over 73 years old. On February 12, 1912 a historic industrial conflict prior to World War I occurred in the textile mills of Lawrence, Mass. It was led not by an AFL union but by the radical Industrial Workers of the World-the IWW, or the Wobblies, as they were generally known -an organization in frequent verbal and physical conflict with the AFL and its affiliates. The strike in Lawrence started when the mill owners, responding to a state legislature action reducing the work week from 54 to 52, coldly and without prior notice cut the pay rates by a 31/2 percent. The move produced predictable results: a strike of 50,000 textile workers; arrests; fiery statements by the IWW leaders; police and militia attacks on peaceful meetings; and broad public support for the strikers. Some 400 children of strikers were "adopted" by sympathizers. When women strikers and their children were attacked at the railroad station by the police after authorities had decided no more youngsters could leave town, an enraged public protest finally forced the mill owners not only to restore the pay cuts but to increase the workers' wages to more realistic levels. The following was from a newspaper in England at the time of the conflict: Lawrence, Massachusetts there erupted a labour dispute in 1912 which not only captured the headlines of the American press but was also closely observed throughout Britain and Europe. This was in a city which prior to 1912 enjoyed a reputation for harmonious and trouble-free industrial relations. In 1880 its quiescence had been contrasted to the turmoil of Fall River. The massive mill building boom of the period 1890-1910 had been developed on the assumption of labour quiescence, and up to 1912 there had been no overall textile strike in Lawrence.4 Yet it was in Lawrence that a conglomerate mass of over 20,000 poor, largely immigrant, textile workers, speaking some forty-five dialects, succeeded in demonstrating a remarkable class solidarity in the face of opposition which Bill Haywood described as "the courts, police, detectives pulpit, press, soldiers and legislature".5 The workers' victory was the forerunner of a wave of industrial conflicts that swept New England; it marked the high water point of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the Eastern USA and seemed to commentators in all parts of the political spectrum to herald a new era in the history of Labour in the United States. It utilised forms of collective action which were new to the Eastern cities: mass picketing, the use of women in confrontational situations, and the transportation of strikers' children to other areas. As Mary Vorse said: It was a new kind of strike. There had never been mass picketing in any New England town. It was the spirit of the workers that seemed dangerous. They were confident, gay, released and they sang. It was an innocent strike, yet it had an explosive quality.6 From 1912 Lawrence became one of the storm centres of labour conflict in the New England textile industry through to the 1930s.


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