Hundreds of people gathered Monday at Campagnone Common for the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival, including a few dozen who attended a ceremony at the 1912 Strikers’ Monument where they received a brief history lesson on why they had the day off from work.
“If it wasn’t for these folks, we wouldn’t have a Labor Day, we wouldn’t have a weekend,” said David Meehan, co-chair of the Strikers’ Monument Committee.
The monument stands in remembrance of the textile strike in Lawrence in 1912 known as the Bread and Roses Strike. The nine-week strike began in January when thousands of workers walked out of the city’s factories because of a pay cut of 32 cents a week when workers’ hours were reduced by law.
The festival, now in its 35th year, celebrates those strikers along with the 100th anniversary of another strike in 1919.
“It’s the sister strike of 1912,” said Jonas Stundzia, co-chair of the monument committee. “It was to sure up hours and concentrated on better working conditions. The 1919 strike was more vicious, more violent, and much longer at 16 weeks.”
He explained that most strikes occurred in the winter and that was particularly hard for workers who gave up their paycheck to strike when there was the added expense of heating a home.