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U.S. Department of Labor. Report on Strike of Textile Workers in Lawrence, Mass. in 1912

Published: June 1, 2005

Printed on acid-free paper,
in library bindings, several in enlarged formats.

U.S. Department of Labor. Report on Strike of Textile Workers in Lawrence, Mass. in 1912

In the first decade of the 20th century fully one half of the working population of Lawrence, Massachusetts was employed in the woolen and cotton mills, and nearly 70% of the inhabitants depended directly on the mills for their livelihoods. Yet the general conditions in Lawrence were more or less typical of the textile industry in all of the factory towns where textiles dominated, and the Lawrence strike might just as easily have occurred anywhere.

The strike, which began January 11, 1912 and continued through March 14th, involved all of the mills and as many as 23,000 employees. The immediate cause of the strike was a reduction in wages growing out of a state law that became effective on January 1st, a law which was not entirely understood by the largely foreign-born workers, but which reduced the number of hours in the work-week without increasing the hourly rate to compensate.

Only 2,000-3,000 workers were members of any sort of union at the outset of the strike, and there were great divisions between the skilled and unskilled crafts and between the various nationality groups. However, by the end more than 20,000 workers were part of a well organized strike, as a result of which some 30,000 textile mill employees in Lawrence secured an increase in wages of from 5 to 20 percent; an increase in compensation for overtime; and other benefits. Furthermore, other workers throughout New England received similar gains without striking.

The Lawrence strike represented the first serious industrial clash in New England conducted by the Industrial Workers of the World, known more affectionately as “The Wobblies,” and it took on some of the aspects of what might be termed a social revolution. It was thus a watershed in the history of organized labor in the United States. This volume, with both a detailed description of the conditions and events as well as hundreds of pages of statistics, has long been one of the foundations for the study of American Labor history in the United States. In fact, in many libraries the book has been damaged, mutilated or destroyed. For that reason we are reprinting it during these days when such a book is clearly urgently needed, given the declining force of organized labor in the U.S.

U.S. Department of Labor. Report on Strike of Textile Workers in Lawrence, Mass. in 1912. 511 p., 6x9"