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I was very much inspired when I have a chairman or chairlady to reprehad finished reading over the 'Protocol sent them in the shop; no system can of Peace.' It seemed to me as if every- be changed before the Union is notified. thing was accomplished. The workers All seemed to be well, but it was not. had at last compelled the manufac- It is true that the worker has a right turers to recognize their rights. Each to complain against the wrong actions paragraph began,
of the boss; but as not all the workers Both parties agree,' or 'Both par- as yet have courage enough to comties are desirous.'
plain against their employer, as most I thought the workers in the union of them just stay behind a few brave shops must be happy, for they have people, and let them speak in the name everything to protect them. But my of all, the consequence is not at all falater experiences convinced me that it vorable. The boss would think that was not so, that the Protocol of Peace the workers as a whole don't care, that was stronger on paper than it was in they are contented; but the few more reality.
or less brave workers — kickers, or Besides the Manufacturers' Associ- trouble-makers, as the boss calls them ation there were a number of manufac- those raise a discontentment of the turers who did not belong to it, and people, those are the ones who make they signed separate agreements with the fights, and naturally, if the boss the Union. They were called the Inde- finds it impossible to discharge them, pendent Union Shops. I thought that he makes their life so miserable that in the union shops the bosses just carry they are bound to leave themselves. I out every clause agreed to in the pro- did not see much in that new place, tocol; but I soon found out that the but I learned enough in the many shops workers had to fight for every bit that I worked for in the next year and a was coming to them according to the half. In that shop I did not stay long. agreement. I struck a job as an operator on West
II 25th Street, a union shop. The line of work was a medium one; piece-work In the meantime, I began to attend prevailed in that shop. I did more ob- the regular member meetings of the serving than sewing the first day, for I Waist- and Dress-Maker's Union. I was never before worked in a union shop very interested in following the news and I was anxious to find out how the of the different shops, but not much people feel in one. And this was the could be learned at the member meetresult of my first day's experience. The ings. Instead of discussing the order difference between a union shop and a of the day, or giving shop reports, time non-union shop is that in a non-union was taken by a few men who always shop the boss himself makes a price, tried to disturb the meetings. They the people in the shop having nothing were very ignorant. If it happened to say; the boss can discharge a worker that a complaint of a worker was lost at any time he pleases and feels like it; by the Union, they explained that the he can change the system in the place union leader sold the case to the manuas often as he finds it beneficial for facturer. They would always accuse, himself, without considering that he without any facts at all, accuse the might injure the workers. In a union union leaders of dishonesty; but they shop the people have a price commit- would never give any remedy as to tee to make prices with the boss; they how to get rid of those leaders who in
jure the organization. I cannot even day. It was on Madison Avenue. I renow explain the true motive of those member the place was so light and few boys, for poisoning the minds of clean. The foreman, a tall, middle-aged the members with such false state- man with a kind gentle face, treated ments. They either envied the position the people fairly. For the few days I of the union leaders or were influenced stayed there, I never heard him holler by their bosses through the sort of at a girl. He would speak to everylectures I often heard. There were body in just the same manner as he many members who strongly protested addressed the boss. He would come against those people for killing their over every minute to me, encourage time, but it was impossible to get rid of me in the work, show me how to do it, them. It was awfully disgusting. I for it was a very good line of dresses knew none of the leaders at that time, and I felt a little nervous as everybody but I understood that they could be does the first days. He gave me thirblamed with lack of ambition, they teen dollars to start with. On Saturday could possibly be blamed for not under- after work, I came over to the foreman, standing the people thoroughly, but by asking him if I could possibly get my no means for dishonesty.
pay now, for I was in an awful need The next job I got on Spring Street. and could not wait till Tuesday, the It was a very small place. I had to regular pay-day. The foreman told make samples and do the draping. The me it was against the rule of the house boss liked the work very much. In two to pay before Tuesday, but he would days later he came over to me, and make an exception with me. In a few told me that he needed somebody to minutes he took me in the office telling watch over the few girls, but as his me to wait till my pay was made out. place was very small, he could not As I waited, the boss came in, a afford to keep a forelady, so he wanted handsome young man with very dark me to take charge over the operators. bushy hair and big round blue eyes. The finishers, he said, he'll look after “What is it you are waiting for, young them himself.
lady?' asked he. I immediately refused. How could I excused myself for asking my pay I, having just passed through so many on Saturday, and explained to him why different shops and seen the rude treat
I needed the money. ment by the foreman or forelady of the When the bookkeeper had my_pay employees, become a forelady myself? made out, she left. I still waited; I did That would mean to carry out all the not know why I did n't get my money! instructions of the boss, for I could be The boss sat by his desk writing. I had no forelady if I would not obey his no courage to disturb him and ask for orders. I would have to hurry the girls my pay, so I sat and waited. At last with their work, I would have to bar- he stood up, straightened himself and gain with them in prices and give them sent a smile to me. He took my pay, less than I should. I would have to looked at it, asking me, 'Is that all you order them to work overtime when the get?' boss wants to.
'No,' I said; I get thirteen, but this 'Oh, no, not me, I could not do it, is only for two days and a half.' said I to my employer.
But, my dear girl, that would not ‘Then I'll have to look for somebody be enough for you! Don't you need else, who will do it,' he said.
more than that?' I got another job, that very same A thrill ran through my body when I noticed how he was measuring me could only discredit him so that he with his eyes while he spoke. I felt should never again be able to insult a what the glance in his eyes meant. It working-girl. But how was I to do it? was quiet in the shop, everybody left, I had no witnesses to testify to the even the foreman. There in the office truth. I myself with my broken EngI sat on a chair; the boss stood near lish could hardly explain what hapme with my pay in his hand, speaking pened. Besides, I thought, if I work in to me in a velvet soft voice.
a place and was called to court, my 'Goodness, nobody round!' thought firm would suspect me in something I, trembling with all my body. In- bad, and send me away. So I left him
, stinctively I stood up out of my chair alone, and never went there to collect and stretched my hand out for my pay. my money, though I was in frightful
“Wait a moment, I'll give you some need. more'; and as he said that he grasped In the evening before I went to bed, me in his arms.
I cried again. I screamed, and with superhuman “What's the matter now?' asked my strength I threw him from me, running friend Fannie. into the hall. Luckily, the elevator boy She knew nothing; I was ashamed opened the door in the same moment to tell her the truth. as I rushed out of the office; I ran into 'I lost my pay on my way home,' it. When I was downstairs I was in a said I. mad state. I ran down the streets, not 'Oh, you careless girl, could not you seeing its directions. It seemed to me be more careful with your money?' as if someone would run after me try- "Yes, I was careful, very careful; ing to catch me. When I reached home, that's why I lost it,' said I. I was so pale that the people in the 'Why don't you get married, Leeza ?' house became anxious about me. she asked me. 'If I had as many ad
In my room I closed up the door, hid mirers as you, if I had as many chances my face in the cushion, and cried all
I would do it long ago. You are afternoon. How I hated the men, all of young, full of life, so pretty you would them without exception! I stood before make an ideal darling wife!' the mirror and studied my face, trying
I smiled. 'Is marriage the remedy to find if there is anything in it that for a shop-girl? Oh, no, Fannie, you awakes a man's impudent feelings to- are too bright to think so yourself,' wards me. I hated my youth, for it said I. "Then the kind of man I'm to caused me so many painful humilia marry is likely to be a poor wagetions for the last few weeks. Never till earner; he is also exploited, and our life then did I realize what it meant to be would be miserable under the present a woman. When I walked out of my state of conditions. You are right if room, I thought that all the men who you say that I can marry a wealthy were in the house looked at me with man. I know I have all the chances to the same rude looks as that boss, and it; but Fannie, this is not the outcome, I suffered terribly. I tried to sit down and where is love then? You know in a corner, unnoticed of the people. that love does not choose the wealthy My money I left with the boss; I had any more than the poor! And if you not time to think of it, as I rushed to know me, you also know what I think the elevator to escape in time.
of marriage without love. Besides all, How happy would I be, if I could I believe in the economical independtake revenge of that mean man! If I ence of the woman. Conditions must
be created so that the girl should not Being absorbed in the work, I neverbe driven from a shop by its horrible theless raised my head from time to conditions. The long hours in the shop, time to observe the surroundings. The the unsanitary conditions, the small place was on the first floor. It extendwages, the so-often-repeated slow sea- ed from Seventeenth to Eighteenth son, drive the self-supported, unpro- Street. In the front on Seventeenth tected girl sometimes to life of shame, Street was the shipping department sometimes to suicide, and more often where the ready-made merchandise to marry anybody who happens to pro- was sent in from the contractors and pose to her.'
shipped from there to the customAll the next day I felt awfully ers. The front on Eighteenth Street broken-hearted. I could not get over was taken by the office and show-room. it. I was very nervous and suffered The very dark middle space that was with headache. After dinner, a young left gave shelter to the small factory, fellow, a good acquaintance of mine, consisting of one cutting-table, one came to visit me. He invited me out machine-table, a small finishing-table to Bath Beach, assuring me that the and a pressing-board. The windows in seashore will take all the aches away. the middle walls on both sides faced I went with him. He was such a nice narrow courtyards. The sunshine could fellow, he always treated me with the never strike through, the buildings behighest respect; but being that I was so ing so high and close to each other. We embittered against men, I even took had to work by gaslights from morning him as one of those who sees only till evening. The windows and the sink 'woman'in me. I treated him terribly were covered with dirt an inch thick; that Sunday. Poor boy, he could not they were never cleaned. The table understand my capriciousness. There with the machines stood close to the in Bath Beach, I was introduced to an wall, and we had plenty of dust to aunt of his; when she learned that I inhale from the windows and the yard, was looking for work, she gave me a
also the smell of the rotten sausages of card to her brother who was a jobber the Busy Bee restaurant, which was in on waists and whose aunt kept a small the next basement: waist-shop in the same place. She as- There were sixteen machines; eleven sured me that I'd positively get a job of them were occupied and the rest when she sent me.
waiting. Altogether we were fourteen girls working - three finishers, who did also the cleaning, examining, and
ironing. As I dreaded to go into a shop The main boss of that waist-house, through the paper, I went with the card being the jobber, was out the most of that the woman in Bath Beach gave the time. His son, a young man of me to her brother, and got the job. twenty, was supposed to be the boss of
The first few days I was so absorbed our small plant, but as he seemed to in my work that I did not even notice know very little about waists, the Mr. the people I worked with. I was taken Foreman bossed us himself in a way of in by the foreman, who was the cutter an experienced sweat-shop manager. and everything else. I spoke to nobody In the middle of the week two girls except to the girl who sat next to me, left. They were the best operators. when I had to ask anything of the Sadie, the girl next to me, told me work.
that they only stayed up there for the
dull season. Now, when it got busy, operator had two or three learners to they went back to their old places. work with. The learners would work, ‘For, you see, in a union shop they each one on a certain part of the garmake more money in busy season,' ment, and the skilled operator would said she.
complete the waist. So it was no union shop there my Those poor girls were purposely chances!
never given a chance to be shown how My mind was full of thoughts. I for- to make up a complete garment, for got in myself. Also I forgot that I two reasons. When a girl worked conmade up my mind to think of the work tinuously on one part of the garment, only - that nothing else should bother the work went quicker. A girl not me. I could not keep the promise to being experienced in the trade would my own self. I saw the few girls around meet with great hardship in finding the table, and I thought of them! They another job, so that the girl who worked were all so young, not more than from in a set is always dependent on the seventeen to twenty years of age. And boss she worked for, and has to be very what did they get? Three, four, or five careful how she talks up to the foredollars a week; perhaps some of them man, for fear to lose their 'brilliant' got a little more than that. And how job. they were rushed, and scolded by the To me the foreman spoke in an unforeman, who some time would use usually polished language for him. It such a language that a Russian Cossack was because I was the highest-paid would blush! And how did they live? worker in the shop. But the greatest
When the week was over, I asked the respect he began to pay me when he foreman for a price. He nearly faint- once learned through the papers that I ed when I told him I wanted fourteen was to play on the stage. Our dramatic dollars a week; a girl should not want club had given performances every so much! It was fortunate enough for once in a while. “So, so, you are to be me that the two girls left in the middle an actress it's fine, very fine,' would of the week; the foreman, being very he say proudly. busy and having few skilled workers, He would often tell the girls that I was afraid to lose me too. So, after was an actress. The girls also would two hours' bargaining, I remained there respect me a great deal. That helped for thirteen dollars a week, but was me in gaining their confidence. I often strongly forbidden to tell anybody in tried to convince them how much betthe shop of the 'absurd’amount I was ter it would be for them if they would getting. I was the highest-paid worker all get together and join the Union. in that little shop. So, after many They would gladly do it, were they not weeks of my Don-Quixote-like adven- afraid of the boss. tures, I at last settled down in that There was another girl in our shop, small, dark, dirty place at 41 West a very experienced worker, who just 17th Street!
came for the sake of her sister. Her A great deal of my thoughts was ister had just come from Russia, and now occupied with my shop. The five though she was a dressmaker from weeks I stayed there were enough for home, she did not know how to work at me to get acquainted with everything. first, for the system in the shops is so It was a model of a sweat-shop in the much different from the system in the full sense of the word.
Russian private dressmaking places. We worked in sets. Each skilled That girl, Mollie, got twelve dollars a