Sunday, August 31, 2014

September 1910 - Handful of women led to citywide garment worker strike in Chicago - Rosetta was 10 months old at the time

1910   There was still much to be accomplished for women to make their voices heard, but Rosetta was born at a time when women were attempting to stand up for their rights. She was a lifelong advocate of fair treatment for all.

That strike was a bitter one and pitted the strikers against not only their employers and the local authorities, but also their own union.

In September, 1910, 17 young women made history in the Pilsen neighborhood when they abandoned their sewing machines and walked out of Shop No. 5 at 18th and Halsted Streets of Hart, Schaffner & Marx, then the largest clothing manufacturer in the nation. All that the women wanted were improved working conditions and better wages, but by initiating a strike that would last for four months and eventually involve some 40,000 workers, the group sent reverberations throughout the garment industry and laid the groundwork for the formation of a second major union in the industry.
The clothing industry, according to historian N. Sue Weiler, was then Chicago`s biggest employer, bigger even than the city`s famed stockyards. Hart, Schaffner & Marx, headquartered in the garment district centered around South Franklin and West Van Buren Streets, parceled out contract work to mostly immigrant workers, half of them women, in its 48 shops.
In December some 20,000 striking workers marched from West Jackson and South Ashland Boulevards for a rally at the Cubs ballpark, which was then on the West Side. It was almost a festive affair, as the workers marched to the beat of the Marseillaise, which they sang over and over in Yiddish, Polish, Italian, Bohemian and Lithuanian.
As the strike dragged on, tensions intensified. Companies hired private detectives to protect their nonstriking workers from ``agitators.`` Some shops gave firearms to their employees and even instructed them to shoot strikers who interfered with nonstriking employees. While escorting two teenage workers home, Tony Yacullo, a private detective employed by a downtown tailor, allegedly shot Charles Lazinskas, a striking workman, through the heart. Less than two weeks later, Frank Nagreckis, another worker on strike, was killed by a police officer. The strike also proved fatal to three other persons: a delivery boy, a bystander and a Hart, Schaffner & Marx guard.