In his poem collection “organized labor: collected poems,” Daniel P. Quinn paints a portrait of the 1913 labor strike in Paterson, NJ. The strike came as a result of technological innovation in the silk industry, which allowed the owners of the silk-mills to buy high tech machines that would replace workers. In other words, where as it took 8 workers to weave silk, now, with the new machines it took only 2 or 3.
The silk-bosses wanted to drive down the wage of jobs; they wanted to eliminate employees in order to increase profit; and they were picking and singling them out one by one, but the workers would have none of it, and so they went on strike. As one text described the intention of Silk Manufacturers: “The wages of all silk workers will therefore be cut down to the lowest possible level of starvation.”
20,000 workers went on strike, and 1,850 of them were arrested. Authorities used violence, clubbing and shooting to get the works back to work, but it failed.
Next year, 2013, will be the 100th anniversary of that strike. On Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, Mr Quinn will give a lecture at the Paterson Museum which will begin at 2pm.
During this labor day, Patersonians will take great pride in the role their city played in the labor movements of the last century which brought in the 8 hours work day, above starvation wages, end of child labor, among others.
Labor Day history: it was in 1882, Matthew Maguire of International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J invented Labor Day.
Happy Labor Day, Paterson!