Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day #2 -- May 1, 2012

Today is May Day. The image comes courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University (https://www.reuther.wayne.edu/).  The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, the Bread and Roses Strike, was an important stage in the growth of unionism in the United States. Immigrant workers in the Lawrence, Massachusetts textile factories struck when a law capping the hours women could work in the week resulted in wage cuts for people who already could barely feed their families.

The A.F. of L. had little interest in organizing unskilled foreigners, so the Industrial Workers of the World stepped in, sending Big Bill Heywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to lead a team of organizers. The Wobblies helped the strikers to gain sympathy by sending their children to other cities so they would not starve. Mill owners sent the police and the militia to stop a group of women from sending their children to Philadelphia. Photographs of police beating women, one of whom miscarried, lost any sympathy people might have had for management.

The poster decries the use of child labor in the mills and includes a quote from Bill Heywood: "The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children."

All of this seems appropriate in light of attacks on unions by people like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

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