1912 Lawrence textile strike
|1912 Lawrence textile strike|
Massachusetts militiamen with fixed bayonets surround a group of peaceful strikers
|Goals||54-hour week, 15% increase in wages, double pay for overtime work, and no bias towards striking workers|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Lawrence textile strike was a
The strike united workers from more than 40 different
The Lawrence strike is often referred to as the "
A popular rally cry that was used at the protests and strikes :
"As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!"
Founded in 1845,
The workers in Lawrence lived in crowded and dangerous apartment buildings, often with many families sharing each apartment. Many families survived on bread, molasses, and beans; as one worker testified before the March 1912 congressional investigation of the Lawrence strike, "When we eat meat it seems like a holiday, especially for the children". The
The mills and the community were divided along ethnic lines: most of the skilled jobs were held by native-born workers of English, Irish, and German descent, while Québécois, Italian, Slavic, Hungarian, Portuguese and Syrian immigrants made up most of the unskilled workforce. Several thousand skilled workers belonged, in theory at least, to the
On January 1, 1912, a new labor law took effect in
The city responded to the strike by ringing the city's alarm bell for the first time in its history; the Mayor ordered a company of the local militia to patrol the streets. When mill owners turned fire hoses on the picketers gathered in front of the mills,
 they responded by throwing ice at the plants, breaking a number of windows. The court sentenced 24 workers to a year in jail for throwing ice; as the judge stated, "The only way we can teach them is to deal out the severest sentences".
At the same time, the United Textile Workers (UTW) attempted to break the strike, claiming to speak for the workers of Lawrence. The striking operatives ignored the UTW. The IWW had successfully united the operatives behind ethnic based leaders. These leaders, members of the strike committee, were able to communicate the message of Joseph Ettor to stage only peaceful demonstrations. Ettor did not consider intimidating operatives trying to enter the mills as breaking the peace. The IWW was successful, even with AFL affiliated operatives, because it defended the grievances of all operatives from all the mills. Conversely, the AFL and the mill owners preferred to keep negotiations between each mill and its own operatives. But in a move that frustrated the UTW, Oliver Christian, national secretary of the Loomfixers Association—an AFL affiliate itself—said he believed John Golden—Massachusetts UTW president—was a detriment to the cause of labor.[
A local undertaker and a member of the Lawrence school board attempted to frame the strike leadership by planting dynamite in several locations in town a week after the strike began. He was fined $500 and released without jail time. It later came to light that William M. Wood, president of the
The authorities later charged Ettor and Giovannitti as accomplices to murder for the death of striker
The IWW responded by sending
The police action against the mothers and children of Lawrence attracted the attention of the nation, and in particular that of
The national attention had an effect: the owners offered a 5% pay raise on March 1; the workers rejected it. American Woolen Company agreed to most of the strikers' demands on March 12, 1912. The strikers had demanded an end to the Premium System, where a portion of their earnings were subject to month-long production and attendance standards. The mill owners only concession on this point was to change the award of the premium from once every four weeks to once every two weeks. The rest of the manufacturers followed by the end of the month; other textile companies throughout
Ettor and Giovanniti, both members of IWW, remained in prison months after the strike was over.
 Haywood threatened a general strike to demand their freedom, with the cry "Open the jail gates or we will close the mill gates". The IWW raised $60,000 for their defense and held demonstrations and mass meetings throughout the country in their support; the authorities in
In the meantime, Ernest Pitman—a Lawrence building contractor who had done extensive work for the American Woolen Company—confessed to a district attorney that he had attended a meeting in the Boston offices of Lawrence textile companies where the plan to frame the union by planting dynamite had been made. Pitman committed suicide shortly thereafter when subpoenaed to testify. Wood—the owner of the American Woolen Company—was formally exonerated.  
When the trial of Ettor and Giovannitti, and a third defendant—Giuseppe Caruso, accused of firing the shot that killed the picketer—began in September 1912 in Salem, Massachusetts before Judge
Ettor and Giovannitti both delivered closing statements at the end of the two-month trial. In Joe Ettor's closing statement, he turned and faced the District Attorney:
"Does Mr. Ateill believe for a moment that...the cross or the gallows or the guillotine, the hangman's noose, ever settled an idea? It never did. If an idea can live, it lives because history adjudges it right. And what has been considered an idea constituting a social crime in one age has in the next age become the religion of humanity. Whatever my social views are, they are what they are. They cannot be tried in this courtroom." 
All three defendants were acquitted on November 26, 1912. 
The strikers, however, lost nearly all of the gains they had won in the next few years. The IWW disdained written contracts, holding that such contracts encouraged workers to abandon the daily class struggle. The mill owners proved more persistent, slowly chiseling away at the improvements in wages and working conditions, while firing union activists and installing
The strike had at least three casualties: