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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GARMENT WORKERS' STRIKE OF 1911

GARMENT WORKERS' STRIKE OF 1911

The GARMENT WORKERS' STRIKE OF 1911, planned and executed by the INTERNATIONAL LADIES GARMENT WORKERS UNION, began on 6 June when 4,000 workers took to the streets to picket for improved working conditions in their factories. Though Cleveland ranked 4th among American cities in garment production, the union believed it was the best city to organize, as it rivaled New York in its importance as a supplier to the national market. The worker's demands, presented to the individual companies on 3 June, included a 50-hour week with Saturday afternoons and Sundays off, no charges for the use of machines and materials, and a closed shop on subcontracting--all of which the employers rejected.

The 4-month strike was marked by violence as strikers surrounded and stoned the PRINTZ-BIEDERMAN factory, and local newspapers, which initially supported the strikers, turned against them as the violence continued. There is some evidence that the manufacturers encouraged such action in order to turn sentiment against the striking workers, and one member of the picket committee later admitted that he had been paid by the Cloak Manufacturers' Assn. to instigate violence. During the strike, employers contracted with other shops in smaller Ohio communities to fill their orders and continued to buy and sell in the New York market. The international union, unable to support the strikers financially, called off the action in October 1911 without gaining any concessions. The strike cost the unions more than $300,000, and for several years they were unable to organize worker support against Cleveland's garment manufacturers.