Paterson NJ Silk Strike
The Paterson NJ Silk Strike went on from February 1913 until August 1913 and was one of the many early manufacturing tensions that happened between 1909 and 1913. During the strike, almost 2,000 workers were arrested and jailed. Over 300 mills and dye plants were closed, and most of the most top leaders in labor came to the city to cheer workers and boost morale. The Paterson Silk Strike is noteworthy for its timeframe, and the numbers of labors went on strike, and for the Pageant. The strike also had the distinction of not involving violence, which at this time in history was unusual.
Paterson silk mills
Paterson was an industrial giant in the early 1900s. The Passaic River Falls produced a tremendous amount of energy to support a plethora of mills and plants around its shore. The mills in Paterson operated virtually 7 days a week, and the owners became some of the richest men in the area. Immigrants made up the majority of the workforce, as was the custom along the east coast at that time. This was ideal for owners, as the language gap prevent labor unions and large-scale organization virtually impossible.
Doherty Silk Mill
In early 1913, the silk workers of Doherty Silk Mill denied a four-loom process for a second time. This would have both reduced the number of jobs as well as made the job even more taxing. Fifty to sixty hour work weeks were not uncommon and child labor laws had not be enacted, so children as young as ten were employed. The mill's protest would likely protest would have likely not to have lasted had it not been for the Industrial Workers of the World organization. Labor leaders, such as Pat Quinian, Beth Gurley, and Carlo Tresca urged the protestors on, sometimes addressing them in seven different languages. One of their demands was an 8-hour work week. The strike caught on in other mills soon thereafter and by March of 1913, virtually ever mill and plant in Paterson NJ went on strike. The strikers were jailed in many cases, labor organizations continue to rally for their cause. Woman were critical in the strike as well. Women took on an additional cause beyond suffrage, but also economic freedom.
End of the strike and lasting benefits
Then in late May, many striking laborers went back to work but others were blackballed by their former employers. Some found work in nearby Pennsylvania mills, were labor relations had not reached a boiling point. The Paterson NJ strike is noted as being the most significant early event in advancing 20th-century labor relations and policy. When it was all said and done, while there was no bloodshed, many workers were never able to return to work. However, for their sacrifice, labor practices improved for millions of workers across the country over the next few decades. It was a turning point for the United States in that labor and their unions could not stand toe-to-toe with wealth management and negotiate fair labor practices. While the Paterson NJ strike only last a few months, its impact can still be felt today.