We just celebrated in Lawrence the Bread and Roses Festival, dedicated to remembering the heroes and heroines who in 1912 left their jobs to protest the reduction in working hours which entailed a reduction in wages that was already wretched.
History tells us that for 9 weeks during a terrible winter, more than 20,000 workers, mostly new immigrants, dared to challenge the factory owners and other city officials.
Contemporary observers were impressed by the close cooperation between the strikers of different ethnic groups; how they share their food, the important role of women, who despite being generally peaceful faced militias firmly.
Although the use of the phrase “Bread and Roses” during the strike has not been documented, later, the words came to be associated with it symbolizing the battle of workers for survival and dignity.
We know that the win was not only of the workers but for the immense work done by Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which united workers of 40 different nationalities challenging the assumption of more conservative unions, immigrants, especially women of different ethnicities could never be organized.
Following that strike, the unions proliferated. One for each profession or specialty, with each paying membership dues in the hope that members would be always protected.
Unfortunately, in a city with so much history about the rights of workers, workers of Local 3 SEIU Lawrence are working without a contract and have not received a raise in six years, prompting the Business Agent, Edmond P. “Ike” Gabriel to go to the media for support helping reach a fair and equitable contract with the city.
Gabriel, in an exclusive interview with Rumbo published on April 15, 2016, stated that in his talks with Mayor Daniel Rivera on this situation, he always said that there is no money.
Is there no money for dedicated public servants who keep our water running, parks, sewers and streets clean and clear, but there is money to distribute increases and stipends to the chosen ones?
Inspired by the spirit of the 1912 strikers, it is time that unions use their power and demand justice for the workers they represent. They have already waited too long!