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Marc Levinson

Why 1913 Garment-Worker Strike Was Among the Oddest Ever

It was one of the best-organized work stoppages in U.S. history. It was also one of the oddest, for the strike that briefly crippled the women’s clothing industry in New York 100 years ago this week was backed by factory owners as enthusiastically as by the union.

Work in New York’s garment factories didn’t pay much in 1913. The women who sewed seams on dresses and underwear, working on a piece-rate basis, typically took home less than $5 for a 56-hour week. And bosses in many shops reclaimed part of that pay by fining workers for showing up late or for “damage” to the goods.