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288 pages, Hardcover
First published October 2, 2018
With the strikers destitute, the IWW thought to place worker’s children with sympathizers in different cities. This spread the Lawrence workers' cause. On February 10th, 119 children boarded a train to New York dressed in their rags, with their name, age, address, and nationality pinned to them . . . They all found families when they arrived, as five thousand socialists met them at the train station to celebrate their arrival.Although the Wobblies’ uncompromising radicalism—and their promotion of violent “direct action”—never brought about the worker’s revolution they hoped for, the slow, steady growth of the union movement and the election of important Democratic allies in government led to significant union gains by 1940. Loomis sees the crucial event of this period to be “The Flint Sit-Down Strike” (1937). In this action, not only the GM workers, but their wives played a part:
A women's auxiliary formed to support the workers, bringing them food, clean clothing, newspapers and other items to help them spend the long nights inside the plant. Genora Johnson, a mother of two and the wife of one of the strike leaders, took the microphone and urged the women of Flint to stand up (or sit down!) to GM and fight for the men inside. She shouted, “We will form a line around the men, and if the police want to fire then, they’ll just have to fire into us.”Wages had bee been artificially frozen throughout WWII, and the demand for increased wages eventually led to a wave of post-war labor actions, which Loomis illustrates here in his treatment of “The Oakland General Strike.”
For two days, Oakland shut down. Despite the cold December rain, over 1000,000 workers participated . . . All businesses except for pharmacies and food markets, which the workers deemed essential for the city, closed. Bars could stay open but could only serve beer and had to put their jukeboxes outtside and allow for their free use. Couples literally danced in the streets . . . Workers allowed children to visit Santa in front of a department store to give their Christmas wishes. Recently returned war veterans created squadrons to prepare for battle against the police.Labor made wage gains throughout the postwar years, but eventually a new generation of workers began to agitate for a change in dehumanizing working conditions. For Loomis, the crucial event in this phase of the struggle was the “Lordstown” strike (1972) in Youngstown, Ohio. (Equal treatment for women and minorities was also an important theme during this period, and Loomis does a good job of treating these issues too.)
We came very far in the struggles of workers in the two centuries before today. In the past four decades, we have given back much of our freedom. Only through our combined struggle to demand the fruits of our labor can we regain our lost freedoms and expand those freedoms into a better life for all Americans.
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