News Column

'Strike' teaches valuable lessons

September 2, 2014

By Kimberly Wetzel, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.

Sept. 02--WILLIMANTIC -- "Unite! Dump the Bosses." "Fair Wages." "Workers Unite!"

These were just several of the signs held up high in a re-enacted 1912 labor strike Monday -- Labor Day -- a federal holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers. In 1912, mill workers from several different mills in town and in Massachusetts went on strike and stood up for fair wages and shorter workdays.

The "strike" was sponsored by the Windham Textile & History Museum, in conjunction with Connecticut at Work, an initiative created by Connecticut Humanities, as part of "A Look at Labor" lecture series to explore the past, present and future of work life in the state.

And it led more than 100 people, participants from the textile museum, down Main Street to Bank Street and to what would have been the old Armory Hall at 138 Valley St. -- somewhere in vicinity of the current Design Center East.

"We are here to rally today -- to show the bosses that this will not stand," said music historian Rick Spencer. " The first thing we need to do is dump the bosses."

Spencer led the group in several songs reminiscent of the Industrial Workers of the World union -- also known as the "Wobblies" -- one of the first unions to include unskilled laborers, women, children and immigrants and not just skilled male workers like those of other unions.

"You hear it and you forget," said Bev York, local historian and museum educator for the textile museum, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary with this educational strike. "You see it and you remember. You do it and you understand. In the museum world, living history is about doing it. Everybody here now has a clear idea of what hap- ('Strike,' Page 4)


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Source: Chronicle, The (Willimantic, CT)

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