History of the Labor Movement in the United States - Vol. 4

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
The Paterson Strike

The year 1913 opened with another I.W.W. victory in the textile industry -- this time at Little Falls, N.Y., a major center for knit goods and underwear. On January 2, 1,500 mill workers, native Americans, Italians, Poles and Hungarians -- 70 per cent of them women -- ended their 12-week strike with a wage increase. They had walked out of the Phoenix and Gilbert Knitting Mills on October 10, 1912, in protest against a reduction in wages ranging from 75 cents to $2 per week, following the. application of a state law reducing hours for women workers from 60 to 54 per week. With average weekly wages of $8 to $9 for men, $5 for women, and $3.75 for children, the wage cut spelled starvation for many of the strikers.1

Soon after the strike started, the mill workers rallied behind the I.W.W. whose organizers, led by Benjamin J. Legere, Phillipo Bocchino, and Matilda Rabinowitz, came to Little Falls in response to an apical for assistance. Daily parades of the strikers past the mills started. A moving chain of pickets, mainly women and girls wearing red sweaters, circled 'round and 'round the mills. In spite of some of the worst police brutality in a strike of this period and mass arrests, the picketing continued. But gradually all forms of activity were suppressed. No picketing, no parading, no open-air meetings were allowed, and it was dangerous for even a small group of strikers to gather at any one spot on the streets. On October 15, Dr. George R. Lunn, the Socialist Mayor of Schenectady, was arrested while addressing the strikers. On October 30, all I.W.W. organizers, speakers, and committeemen were arrested and jailed.2*

The strikers maintained their ranks unbroken, supported by liberals, Socialists, and trade unionists throughout the East. The strike was ended

____________________
*
Fourteen of those arrested remain in the Herkimer jail awaiting trial which did not take place until March and May 1913. ( New York Call, March 1, 20, 21, 1913.) Legere and Bocchino were convicted of assault and were not released from jail until July 1914.

-351-

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