April 6, 1882|
Sawin, Congress Poland
|Died||August 11, 1972
New York City
|Occupation||U.S. labor union leader|
We have women working in the foundries, stripped to the waist, if you please, because of the heat.
I read upon the subject and grew more and more interested, and after a time I became a member of the National Board, and had duties and responsibilities that kept me busy after my day's work was done.
Then came a big strike. About 100 girls went out. The result was a victory, which netted us – I mean the girls – $2 increase in our wages on the average.
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift.
After I had been working as a cap maker for three years it began to dawn on me that we girls needed an organization. The men had organized already, and had gained some advantages, but the bosses had lost nothing, as they took it out on us.
The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too. Help, you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.
But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
Surely these women won't lose any more of their beauty and charm by putting a ballot in a ballot box once a year than they are likely to lose standing in foundries or laundries all year round. There is no harder contest than the contest for bread, let me tell you that.
I learned the business in about two months, and then made as much as the others, and was consequently doing quite well when the factory burned down, destroying all our machines – 150 of them. This was very hard on the girls who had paid for their machines.
Of course, we knew that this meant an attack on the union. The bosses intended gradually to get rid of us, employing in our place child labor and raw immigrant girls who would work for next to nothing.
I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship.
Our people were very restive, saying that they could not sit under that notice, and that if the National Board did not call them out soon they would go out of themselves.
So we must stand together to resist, for we will get what we can take – just that and no more.
The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth.
By working hard we could make an average of about $5 a week. We would have made more but had to provide our own machines, which cost us $45, we paying for them on the installment plan. We paid $5 down and $1 a month after that.
I can't talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.
All the time our union was progressing very nicely. There were lectures to make us understand what trades unionism is and our real position in the labor movement.