The Working Class History T-Shirt of the Month for March pays homage to the two-month-long so-called “Bread & Roses” strike that ended on 14 March 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts in the USA. Two days earlier, on 12 March, factory owners gave in to most of the demands of the 20,000 striking women and girls. The walkout, initiated by Polish women workers, was denounced by the American Federation of Labour as too “revolutionary” and “anarchist”. Because of the lack of support, the women workers turned instead to the more radical Industrial Workers of the World union.
The name of the strike refers on the one hand to the satisfaction of basic needs like bread and on the other hand to the beautiful things in life, symbolised by roses. Both are worth fighting for. In a song that was sung at the protests, it says “yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too”.
It is worth mentioning the extremely inclusive organising work of the women workers, whose meetings were translated into almost 30 languages to enable all ethnic groups to actively participate in the strike. Together they confronted brutal police and military repression and eventually won major concessions for the entire garment industry at the time. In particular, they won a 15 per cent wage increase, double overtime pay and amnesty for most of the strikers. A campaign to free IWW organisers arrested during the strike continued until they were acquitted in November.
About the design: This month’s design is by artist and tattooist Nora Lehrmann. Nora chose a drawing of roses and wheat as a symbol for bread to represent the strike. She has also included the period of the strike (11.01.-14.03.1912) in a banderole. This time, the design deliberately does without an ‘intrusive’ slogan and captivates with the simple and subtle beauty of the monochrome drawing.