In June, 1911, the Cleveland garment workers, mostly immigrant women, struck for a series of demands the owners considered outrageous: a 50 hour work week; a “short Saturday” (7:30am to 1:30pm); Sundays off; not being charged for use of the owners’ machines and materials and a closed shop.
Strikebreakers, police and infiltrators incited violence, women fought back and were massively imprisoned. Traditional allies like women’s suffragettes and the progressive community, for various reasons, did not support the strike. After four months the strike ended with no concessions by management. Elsewhere, unions had more support and eventually the 50 hour workweek was gained. Notice: fifty. If you are not paying your employer for use of your computer, thank a striker.
My reason for sharing this is that I was just in Cleveland for a reading at the Western Reserve Historical Society and research on labor conditions in the garment industry which will be the background of my next novel, also with an immigration theme. The switch from medieval to early 20th C setting is quite recent, but I’m excited about it. The middle ages can wait.
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