History | Bread and Roses Centennial

History | Bread and Roses Centennial

History | Bread and Roses Centennial

Nearly one hundred years ago, textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, launched an explosive eight-week strike that popularized the motto "Bread and Roses" - dignity and improved working conditions, as well as Higher wages. The victory made it clear that partially qualified workers - many of them recent immigrants and almost half of them women - could organize to improve their working conditions. In January 1912, factory owners refused to adjust wages to keep the money workers take home after the legislature cuts the workweek from 56 to 54 hours. By refusing to meet with the works councils, the supervisors hoped to quell the riots. Instead, it provoked a bitter strike that changed labor relations in Lawrence.

A clash between militia and demonstrators

A cartoon that appears in a local newspaper that shows the confrontation between police and mothers with their children at the train station

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After eight weeks, They gave out. The strikers won a 15% increase granting the largest increase to workers with lower wages. The owners also agreed to meet with complaints committees and modify the premium system. The Lawrence system led to pay raises to more than 150,000 New England textile workers. Pan & amp; Rosas was just a skirmish. Workers were not able to build a permanent union structure at the Lawrence plant until the late 1930s. However, the Pan and Roses experience had a significant effect on the participants. During the quarter century following the 1912 strike, Lawrence was the center of the storm for labor activism in the New England textile industry. As a proclaimed strike banner, Pan and Rose participants learned that "in the fight, you gain your rights." This article was written by Dexter Arnold and appeared in February 1987 issue of Union Work News

To download a bibliography of the IWW and publications related to the Pan and Roses strike, click here.