Margaret Sanger, "Hazleton Strikers Repudiate A.F. of L.," 15 Apr 1913.
Published article. Source: Solidarity, Apr. 19, 1913 .
The strike of the Duplan Silk Workers, at Hazleton, Pa., is still on, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Sarah Conboy, general organizer for the United Textile Workers of America, tried to break the strike by drawing up a contract in which the mill bosses agreed to give the strikers a raise of from 5 to 10 cents a week.
Evidently their generosity became painful to them, and they injected a clause whereby even this "slap in the face" raise could be taken from them at the discretion of the bosses. Most of the workers are little boys and girls who range in age from 14 to 18 years. This is their first strike, and they all claim that they have learned more in seven weeks on strike, than their fathers or mothers learned in ten years.
When running full force there are about 1,200 workers in the mill, and to date there are about 300 back to work.
The papers, as usual, lie and slander the I.W.W. The church, with all its influence, preaches in the pulpit against the organization, using its influence to send the boys and girls who have stood out for nine weeks firmly against the boss, back to work for a few cents' raise a week. The contract signed by Mrs. Conboy and her A. F. of L. organization speaks for itself as a cowardly, dastardly, sell out.
Everything was going to be in readiness last Monday to resume work. The boys and girls requested Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to come and explain the signed contract to those who live so far away that they cannot attend the daily meetings. The Family Theatre was packed to the doors and a lively and enthusiastic meeting resulted.
When some of the opposition pushed their way into the hall and asked to be heard, it was all that Louis Gergotz, the chairman, could do to get the floor for them. He plead with the boys and girls to give them a hearing. That they were there only to break up the meeting was evident, for insult after insult was thrown at the I. W. W. speakers, which only incited the wrath of the audience. The trick was to break up the meeting, arrest the speakers and intimidate the workers so that they would all return to work Monday, the following day. The trick failed.
Another meeting was held that night for the parents, many of whom are miners; and the Italians, where E. G. Flynn and Carlo Tresca again spoke.
On Monday morning there were almost 5,000 pickets and sympathizers around the mill. The whole force of mill bosses, political bosses, and heelers joined forces with Mrs. Conboy at the mill gates, begging the workers to return "where you belong" as Mrs. Conboy said.
The youngsters snapped their fingers in their faces and proceeded to another big meeting in which they declared the strike was still on, and they would remain out until their demands were granted.
The next day the police began their dirty work of arresting crowds of pickets for "loitering," which means when the police tell you to "stop" you are arrested for "loitering." Twenty-six of us altogether were arrested in one day. Very few fines were paid; all agreed we would pay not a cent in fines.
The political boss, McKelvey, holds several positions in Hazleton. At 7 A.M. he's at the mill gate in the capacity of a county detective, who may arrest anyone. At 9 o'clock you may be confronted with Mr. McKelvey in the capacity of alderman, acting as judge to sentence the one previously arrested.
The last card is being played Monday next, when John Golden has been invited to explain the contract to those I.W.W. and A. F. of L. silk workers, not allowing I.W.W. organizers within the hall. The boys and girls wired Big Bill Haywood to come and hold a meeting the same night and explain the contract, and invite everyone--including John Golden.
The little town is all excitement. The strike has been a wonderful eyeopener to all workers, including the miners. Some of the mine locals have promised to stop work and go on picket duty with the boys and girls next Monday.
Keep your eye on Hazleton, fellow workers, and watch results.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project