Today (1/12/12) is the 100th anniversary of the famous "Bread and Roses" strike. This is one of the most famous strikes in our Labor History. The Bread and Roses strike was one of the first labor strike that brought nationwide attention to some of the oppression occurring in the garment industry. This also came less than one year after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. Labor Unions were still in their formative years but workers were starting to understand that together they could make changes if they stood together.
After the Massachusetts Legislature lowered the maximum working hours for women and children, from 56 to 54, the workers were pushed to complete more work in less time with less pay. The workers decided that this was not acceptable. They walked out. They stood on the cold streets of Lawrence for more than two months. Most of the people who were on strike were women and young children. Like the Triangle fire most of the workers were 14-18 year old girls. These young women went in front of Congress and this is where legislators began to see the struggles of these women.
It was not long after Congress began passing laws to protect workers. They created minimum age for workers among many other laws. So today, remember the women and children who helped start a labor revolution.
Here is a link to the Bread and Roses celebration and below is a great Editorial that compares the Bread and Roses strike to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters.
Celebrate the Bread & Roses Centennial! | Bread and Roses Centennial: "Join us on January 12, 2012 at 9 a.m. at the Everett Mill (15 Union St. Lawrence, MA) for the kickoff of the Bread & Roses Centennial. A brief reenactment will begin at the Everett Mill at 9 a.m. and a procession will be led by a flag carrier to Lawrence City Hall where a Mayoral proclamation will be read, the city hall bell will be rung, the flag will be raised, and the Lawrence High School Girls Ensemble will sing "The Internationale." The Lawrence History Center will then open the exhibit "Short Pay! All Out!: The Great Lawrence Strike of 1912" at 10 a.m. at the Everett Mill. "
‘Bread and roses’ still resonates - Opinion - The Boston Globe: (1/11/12)
"ONE HUNDRED years ago tomorrow, thousands of angry textile workers abandoned their looms and poured into the frigid streets of Lawrence. Like Occupy Wall Street in our own gilded age, this unexpected grassroots protest cast a dramatic spotlight on the problem of social and economic inequality. In all of US labor history, there are few better examples of the synergy between radical activism and indigenous militancy.
The work stoppage now celebrated as the “Bread and Roses Strike’’ was triggered, ironically, by a Progressive-era reform that backfired. On Beacon Hill, state legislators had just reduced the maximum allowable working hours for women and children from 56 to 54 hours per week. When this change went into effect, workers quickly discovered that their pay had been cut proportionately, and their jobs speeded up by the American Woolen Company and other firms.
The strike that started on Jan. 12, 1912 created political tremors far beyond the Merrimack Valley. It forced a vigorous national debate about factory conditions, child labor, the exploitation of immigrants, and the free exercise of First Amendment rights during labor disputes."