“The long memory is the memory radical idea in the country.” — Utah Phillips
On Monday, September 5 there will be a Labor Day rally at the Saylesville Massacre Monument at 11:00 AM. Jim Riley, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 328, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the RI AFL-CIO’s largest organization, will speak about our history and the current state of affairs.
The monument is located in Moshassuck Cemetery, 978 Lonsdale Avenue in Central Falls, still the scene of Labor-Management strife. Come and commemorate the martyred activists from the 1934 textile strike, hear blistering talk, and show the world we haven’t forgotten our roots and we’re not going away.
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From prior posts
Celebrate Labor Day this year by remembering the Great Textile Strike of 1934 and the Battle of the Gravestones .
Join the Rhode Island Labor History Society this Monday at the Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls, 978 Lonsdale Ave, at 11:00 AM for a ceremony remembering the valiant battle waged by the workers against the power of the State and corporate exploitation.
On Labor Day, 1934, a national textile strike began in Rhode Island and spread to southern cloth mills in an attempt to raise wages and improve working conditions during the Great Depression.
The event turned ugly when local management ask for protection at the non-union Sayles Finishing Company. National Guardsmen, with fixed bayonets, confronted hundreds of unarmed strikers and chased them into the Moshassuck Cemetery. Ironically, union picketers too cover behind headstones in the graveyard. The bullet holes remain dozens of stones to this day. Strife there lasted almost three weeks resulting in the injury and wounding of hundreds of protesters and the deaths of several others. The strike would erupt in violence in Woonsocket as well.
In this period of the Great Recession, let’s remember the struggle of our ancestors and learn the lessons of the past. Pay homage to those who made sacrifices so long ago so that we, their grand children, could have a better life. And in doing, we must learn to mobilize in a very different world to maintain the food life that our families fought and died for.
This year is the 75th anniversary of The Uprising of ’34. The “Uprising” was a national textile workers strike that saw some intense street fighting in the Saylesville neighborhood of Lincoln. Check out this VIDEO. Anyway, while researching the strike for a project with the Rhode Island Labor History Society, I came across this section of text is an issue of Time Magazine. Governor TF Green, after declaring that there was no strike, but “It is a Communist insurrection,” he faced the following situation:
Jitters, Lawyer, banker, scholar, Fellow of Brown University, 66-year-old Governor Green belongs by birth to Rhode Island’s Republican mill-owning class but has cast his lot with plebeian Democrats. Last week he was an old man badly frightened when he asked his State Assembly for: 1) $100,000 to up the State police force from 51 to 1,000 during the emergency; 2) $100,000 more to put 1,000 War veterans under arms; 3) power to close any or all textile mills in the State; 4) power to call in Federal troops, which he said President Roosevelt had promised him.
Republicans lined up behind the Governor, his own partymen against him. The Republican leader of the Senate said he had received the following message from Brig.-General Herbert R. Dean, commander of the State’s National Guard: “I think I can control the situation but for God’s sake tell the Legislature to do something. We need Federal troops!”
Answered the Democratic leader of the Senate: “Don’t call in the regular army! Don’t militarize Rhode Island for the sake of the selfish interests of a small group of mill-owners! If you want to stop the trouble, stop it at its source, the mills, which are a cancer in this body politic.”
When the shouting died that night the Assembly had granted none of the Governor’s requests. Voluntarily mills at Woonsocket, Saylesville and four other trouble spots closed and the Governor started a Communist round-up on his own authority. Though Federal troops were reported mobilizing in New York and New England, President Roosevelt at Hyde Park appeared to be in no rush to send them to Rhode Island.