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such as we have now,' were my argu- with you all the way home so quietly; ments to her.
say something: how did you like the At last the music started. I was all opera?' transformed into attention. I bathed My friend Clara was used to have my soul in the wonderful sounds of the me share my inspirations with her as music, trying to wash off the heavy soon as we walked out of the Opera melancholy that possessed me, and House; sometimes she would walk with kept on gnawing, gnawing my heart me for hours, listening to my conversaand soul.
tion about music, drama, and art in Who has once heard that opera general. I had nothing to say; I felt surely remembers the sweet music and too pessimistical. beautiful words of the aria from the third act in Tosca:
Although the conditions in my shop Absorbed in thoughts alone I wandered. were just as good as in the best union
shops, and we had everything except Oh, wonderful wink,
the recognition of the Union, still, I Oh, celestial happiness,
was anxious to have it organized. I As a wonderful dream all passed away
confess, it was puzzling to me, at first, and so on. I felt a thousand angels why the boss objected to his people dancing around me when the world's joining the Union. As long as union greatest artist, Caruso, began the aria conditions prevailed in the shop, why in his wonderful voice. How I wished not allow the workers to belong where it would never end! How I dreaded to they would? Some of the members in be brought back to thoughts of my the shop were union members. On my present miserable life! On our way question, why they did not have the home, I was very silent. I thought of shop organized, they would answer the successful artists whose early life I me carelessly, ‘We should worry so long read about; who knows — perhaps if I as we have union conditions. I sufwould once have a chance to show my fered by their ignorant answers. I reabilities - I had a good soprano voice called the thousands of young girls who - but I immediately caught myself on had so bitterly fought their fight only that daring thought.
a few weeks before, and I argued with But I am very emotional. Many my co-workers. people at home in Russia would advise *Don't you know that we have got me to select a stage career; myself, I everything just because so many thouhad the highest wish to become an sands of girls fought for it? You youractress, but my parents would not lis- selves stated that the standards were ten to it — they had the worst opinion much lower here before the general of an actress; they saw no art in it. strike was called. You only got in
Being in New York, I often thought creases when the girls in the other of it, but I was afraid to try, for I knew shops won them. Do you think that nobody who could give me an introduc- our boss, no matter how kind he is, tion to the stage, and I, not knowing would reduce four hours a week, if it the English language, could not suc- were not for the strike? We workers ceed in trying all alone without any- must all do our share. It is not fair body's help.
to stay aside and let others fight and 'I am growing impatient to walk spend their money to keep up an or
ganization when we all get the good help very little to make them see my benefits from it. There must be reasons point of yiew, I decided to report to the why the boss does not want a union Union, hoping that they would send shop. I am not criticizing our boss, I some one to unionize the place. admit that he is a fair man; but don't When I went to the office of the you know that for the desire of making Union, I saw the head organizer, and more money, the bosses, even the best told him about my shop. He appeared of them, will exploit their workers to to be interested, and explained that the the utmost. That is why we must be organizers were only too glad to help organized, so that we can stand up out those who wanted to be helped; against them. In unity is our strength. that for years they had been trying We must belong to a union, in order to enlighten the workers' minds, to to protect ourselves against the ruling awaken them to self-consciousness and hand of capitalism.'
help them organize into a union. But the workers cared to know next 'Without a union, the bosses drove to nothing about it. Some of the girls their workers like slaves, they did not would answer me rudely,
fear the individual; if any one pro‘You better shut up; if you don't, tested, he or she would be heartlessly you will get fired. There was another thrown out of the shop. But when a girl in the shop and she tried to agitate protest comes from all the workers, not for the Union and she was discharged.' only from one shop, but from all shops
I would often talk to Clara about my equally, the bosses must listen to them desire to organize the shop. She also and treat them justly; if they do not, warned me not to do it. "The dull sea- then the workers strike. It is very sad son is approaching; you have not any to admit that there are still workers money saved up to face it, so what will who do not care how they are treated. you do in case you are fired?'
Instead of demanding their rights, they But I could not rest. I felt like a keep trying schemes to win the bosscriminal, to work in a trade that is or- es' favor in order to get a dollar raise.' ganized, and not belong to the ranks. I He spoke the truth. There are many could not have imagined that there workers who would do anything, even still were so many people who did not injure a fellow worker, in order to get a understand the value of organization. raise. But I soon found the reason why. Somehow my boss learned that I had
As a rule, a worker in a shop brings complained to the Union. Any one else up his or her friends or relatives; that in my place would have been fired withfriend or relative another friend, and out explanation; but I worked for ten so on; so that, in most cases, the shop dollars a week, and worked mostly on contains workers who are closely re- samples, while a samplemaker's minilated to each other. The consequence mum wage was fourteen dollars. That is, that, if one seems to be misinformed is why the boss first tried to speak to about unionism, all of them get the me and warn me. same idea. If one of them is warned by In the morning, when I came to the boss to keep away from union peo- work, the designer, a very gentle wople, mostly all of them obey him. man, always previously welcoming me
Particularly among Italians, the with a smile, seemed to be angry. bringing up of friends is practiced. Why, Lizzie, I am surprised with Realizing that with lack of knowledge you, such a sensible girl as I thought of the trade-union movement, I could you, to act so silly.'
I guessed what she was at, but said, sensible girl, do your work, do not mix 'What is the matter?' acting as if I in others' business. You can stay here, knew nothing.
and I'll raise you a dollar a week when *Tell me, are you dissatisfied with next season begins; now I can't. You your position? Is there anything wrong see the dull season is coming already. with this place?'
Another week, and there will be very 'No,' I answered, 'I'm satisfied and little work to do.' I think the place is all right.'
I thanked him for his kindness and ‘Then what is the sense in going to sat down to work. Now I understood the damn Union?'
why people in that shop feared the "“Damn Union”! How dare you?' Union. They were fed with the same I wanted to reply, but I controlled my
kind of lectures continually. No wonself.
der they had the idea of Unionism in 'Well,' I said, 'I see no harm in it.' general, as a place where the workers
'It is for your sake I warn you. I'm were cheated. How was I to change only a friend to you. Don't you know their minds? How was I to explain to that the leaders of the Union only care them that this was only a trick of the for your money; they do not do a thing bosses to poison the workers' minds? for you. They are grafters, that is all Later, when I worked in other shops, I they are.'
heard the same story told to the workI smiled again. Poor soul, she was so ers by the bosses. sure of what she said.
In order to learn the accomplishIn the meantime, the boss came in, ments of our unions in the last strike, called me aside, and with the authority I went and joined the Union. In the of a professor, he began to lecture me. shops where a high grade of dresses are
'Look here, little girl, I'm a man made, the season often ends at the who is fair and square as possible. I beginning of April. On the coming always treat my workers as good as I Saturday, at one o'clock, the boss incan. Everybody is pleased with their formed his workers that, on account of positions; are not you? Did I not try the approaching dull times, he was to give you all chances for advance compelled to reduce their wages two or ment?'
three dollars a week, demanding how“Yes, you did, and it was very nice ever the same full week's work. of you; but you did not raise me in What were the workers to do? Here accordance with my advancement,' I they were like sheep led away by a wolf answered.
from the shepherd. They had listened ‘Oh, you'll get a raise next season. to the boss when he promised them all You don't expect me to raise you the they desired, in order to keep them first season? But to the point: you from the Union; and now, when the have no idea what grafters the leaders busy season was over, he took advanare. There has been no strike which tage of the workers who had no union to has not been sold by them. They get protect them, and reduced their wages, the poor working-people's money, and being sure that in the dull season they use it for their own benefit. Now, I am would stay for less. sorry for my own people. Why should Did the workers at last realize it? they waste their money earned through Some did, and left the place: those who hard labor? The Union is only a bluff, remained were too ignorant to realize there is nothing to it, it is no use for the it. workers. Now, if you want to be a When I came on Monday to work,
everything seemed so different. No like myself, perhaps risked their jobs more the former gentleness; the fore for observing the holiday. I spent the man was more particular about the rest of the day happily with my friends. work, more exacting in his demands. But for that day I paid with many, It was slower, so he had more time to many miserable weeks that followed. watch everything. Even the nice The sun's rays, creeping into my Yetta was not so gentle, but I knew it tiny room on the top floor, joyfully was not her fault. She had to obey the played on my face when I awoke early instructions of the boss.
the next morning. I lay in bed, leiThe first of May was approaching. surely stretching and relaxing my poor The Union made all preparations for a legs, tired from marching. I was still grand march.
full of the events of yesterday. My The first of May had two meanings heart beat with warmth as I lay enfor me. As a schoolteacher at home, I joying my sun-bath. The clock struck always celebrated that day by going seven; time to get ready for work! off to the woods, with my pupils, and Humming a favorite Russian song, merrily spent the day in songs and I quickly dressed, took my ordinary games, that celebration having for its breakfast, a roll and a cup of milk sole reason the greeting of the best day which seemed so tasteful that morning, of spring. And so sweet were the mem- and down I marched to the shop. It ories of those bygone days!
was a glorious morning. The little buds The second more important meaning on the trees in Madison Square were was the International Labor Holiday. just opening up into beautiful bloom I decided to stop work, even if the boss and spread such a pleasant fragrance should try to compel me to work. In around. The small fountain in the cenvain did I try to inspire my co-work- tre bubbled, bubbled, splashing out ers with the significance of the First of right and left. I stopped for a moment May. They refused to give up a day's to welcome the cold sprinkle on my wages for such a sentimentality. face.
The day fell on Thursday, a bright The great mass of workers who were warm spring day. The many thou- passing by all seemed light-hearted: It sands of young girls, in uniforms of was the beautiful morning, the warm white waists with red collars, all in sun, the awakening of the green, that line, were ready to march on. The sun spread the good humor on their faces. illuminated their pale but happy faces I liked the world and wanted to greet as they walked through the avenues everybody and everything, 'Good and streets. Looking up at the sky- morning, good morning!' - 'A fine scrapers where they slaved all year, morning!’ – A glorious morning!'their shiny eyes would gleam with 'Well, how did you like the march?' pride and hope, as if they would speak "Was it not splendid?' - 'Indeed, it and warn the world, ‘Behold you who was wonderful!' was heard all around keep us in the darkness, no more are as the workers met on their way to the we to slave for you! Together we shops. stand now, men, women, creators of 'Good morning,' said I merrily to wealth, and together we shall stand to the foreman, who happened to be the fight for our rights!'
first to meet me when I entered the I kept my holiday, joined a small shop. separate division of girls who gathered 'Good morning,' came an angry from different non-union shops and sound from his nose.
'It is too nice a morning to be
Now that I had to look for another angry,' I teased the foreman.
job, I made up my mind to get a place 'If you think that you can make a only in a union shop. I thought that in living on nice mornings or May holi- the union shops the bosses just carry days, why do you come to the shop?' out every clause agreed to in the Prohe asked severely.
tocol; but I soon found out that the I understood that something was workers had to fight for every bit that wrong, and that my good humor would was coming to them according to the not gain the foreman's favor, so I
agreement. quietly went over to my machine, and The dull season had already begun, bent my head over my work.
and it was not easy to find a job. Those Meanwhile, the girls began to fill up who had their shops kept their positheir places at the machines. Some tions: no new help was needed. In the would stop near me, while passing, and shops where a cheap line of dresses or ask how the march looked.
waists were made, the busy season lasts 'It cost me a day's wages to know, until July. I might be able to get a and I think that it is too expensive to place on a cheap line of dresses. I had tell,' was my reply to all of them. worked on a good line of dresses, that
'Good morning, Miss Union-lady.' require more skill and care; I could
I jumped up, instinctively feeling expect to earn but little on the cheaper that it was I who was addressed. grades where speed was required more
A sudden laughter spread over the than skill. shop from the workers, much amused At that time some members of the by that greeting.
Coöperative League had kept — and On the other side of the table stood still keep, a few apartments together. the boss, calling me angrily. With a I learned from the people who lived sudden foreboding of some evil hap- there that it cost very cheap. As I had pening, I walked over to him.
not enough money to live on, I moved 'Look here, miss, you know that I into their coöperative house. Indeed, think that you are too smart for my the expenses were small: $3.50 per place.
month for a room, - two people in What is it?' I interrupted.
each, — and $2.50 per week for two "What is it? Just as if you did n't meals a day, mornings and evenings. know! I don't want you to make Reeking with sweat, my head aching trouble in my shop. What business from the July heat, I wandered around have you to bother my workers? You until I found myself on a bench at Rivmade some of them stop from work erside Drive. The thought that I had when I was in a rush to finish out a lot to go out early in the morning to look of dresses.'
for another position, and fearing that I ' “Why, you complain all the time might strike a job similar to my prethat there was nothing to do and your vious ones, made me so unhappy that I workers sit idle. How did you happen felt I could much easier jump into the to have such a rush all of a sudden?' Hudson than look for any more work;
‘Oh, you get on my nerve! I am not and work I had got to get, for I was going to stand it any longer,' he said so short in money that I hardly had disgustedly, and walked away.
enough for the little expenses we had in On Saturday, I received my pay and the coöperation. It was for the last six was discharged. So I lost my job for weeks that I had no more than two celebrating the first of May.
scanty meals a day. I had to provide