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The Great Steel Strike and its Lessons   By: (1881-1961)

The Great Steel Strike and its Lessons by William Z. Foster

First Page:

THE GREAT STEEL STRIKE AND ITS LESSONS

by

WILLIAM Z. FOSTER

THE GREAT STEEL STRIKE AND ITS LESSONS

[Illustration: PENNSYLVANIA LAW AND ORDER State Police driving peaceful citizens out of business places, Clairton, Pa. Photo by International ]

THE GREAT STEEL STRIKE AND ITS LESSONS

BY WILLIAM Z. FOSTER

INTRODUCTION BY JOHN A. FITCH

NEW YORK B. W. HUEBSCH, INC. MCMXX

COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY B. W. HUEBSCH, INC. PRINTED IN U. S. A.

INTRODUCTION

Half a million men are employed in the steel industry of the United States. At a period in which eight hours is rapidly coming to be accepted as the standard length of the working day, the principal mills in this industry are operating on a 12 hour work schedule, and many of their workmen are employed seven days in every week. These half million men have, for the most part, no opportunity to discuss with their employers the conditions of their work. Not only are they denied the right of bargaining collectively over the terms of the labor contract, but if grievances arise in the course of their employment they have no right in any effective manner to take up the matter with their employer and secure an equitable adjustment.[1] The right even of petition has been at times denied and, because of the organized strength of the steel companies and the disorganized weakness of the employees, could be denied at any time.

The right of workers in this country to organize and to bargain collectively is unquestioned. On every hand the workers are exercising this right in order to protect and advance their interests. In the steel mills not only is the right generally denied but the attempt to exercise it is punished by expulsion from the industry. Through a system of espionage that is thoroughgoing and effective the steel companies know which of their employees are attending union meetings, which of them are talking with organizers. It is their practice to discharge such men and thus they nip in the bud any ordinary movement toward organization.

Their power to prevent their employees from acting independently and in their own interest, extends even to the communities in which they live. In towns where the mayor's chair is occupied by company officials or their relatives as was the case during the 1919 strike in Bethlehem, Duquesne, Clairton and elsewhere orders may be issued denying to the workers the right to hold meetings for organizing purposes, or the police may be instructed to break them up. Elsewhere as in Homestead, McKeesport, Monessen, Rankin and in Pittsburgh itself the economic strength of the companies is so great as to secure the willing cooperation of officials or to compel owners of halls and vacant lots to refuse the use of their property for the holding of union meetings.

One who has not seen with his own eyes the evidences of steel company control in the towns where their plants are located will have difficulty in comprehending its scope and power. Social and religious organizations are profoundly affected by it. In many a church during the recent strike, ministers and priests denounced the "agitators" and urged the workmen in their congregations to go back to the mills. Small business men accepted deputy sheriffs' commissions, put revolvers in their belts and talked loudly about the merits of a firing squad as a remedy for industrial unrest.

For twenty or more years in the mill towns along the Monongahela since 1892 in Homestead the working men have lived in an atmosphere of espionage and repression. The deadening influence of an overwhelming power, capable of crushing whatever does not bend to its will, has in these towns stifled individual initiative and robbed citizenship of its virility.

The story of the most extensive and most courageous fight yet made to break this power and to set free the half million men of the steel mills is told within the pages of this book by one who was himself a leader in the fight. It is a story that is worth the telling, for it has been told before only in fragmentary bits and without the authority that comes from the pen of one of the chief actors in the struggle... Continue reading book >>




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