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On the second part of our series on the history of early US textile strikes, we move into the 20th century. As the textile industry expanded, advances in technology did not come with advances in safety. The drive for maximum profit led to one of the worst industrial disasters in US history, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911. Just a year later, not far from where the Lowell Mill Girls formed one of the first labor unions in the country, workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts waged a massive strike for fair wages and safer conditions that would come to be known as the Bread and Roses strike. The workers, led by socialists and organizers from the IWW, fought to overcome the efforts of bosses to split workers up along ethnic lines. Finally, in 1934 as the textile industry moved out of New England and into the South in search of cheaper labor, one of the largest labor uprisings in US history erupted into a national textile strike all along the east coast. These struggles show many of the core contradictions of capitalism, and can teach us many valuable lessons for our organizing today.
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