A Strike in the “Model Village”

(February 1910)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 10 No. 8, February 1910, pp. 699–701.<
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We live in Company houses,
And the Company runs the schools,
We are working for the Company,
’Cording to the Company’s rules.

We all drink Company water,
We all burn Company light,
And the Company’s preachers teach us
What the Company thinks is right.

This is one of the old complaints of the employees of the Ludlow Manufacturing Company, for be it known that Ludlow is a company-owned village. But, alas! “the Model Village,” lauded in the press and on the platform, has now been the scene of a strike lasting over seventeen weeks.

The reformers have been telling us – as well as the company officials – that certain members of the Manufacturing Associates “felt some moral responsibility in making the living conditions of their employees such as would tend to develop good citizens.” And so, a few miles outside of Springfield, Mass., the company purchased a large tract of land and “built” some five hundred “model” dwellings. The entire village is practically owned by the Ludlow Company. The company also put up two churches ‘ and a common school where the children employed in the works could attend evening classes, or, as is the case in many instances, attend a half day school session and spend the other half working.

The company owns the water works, lighting plant, library and gymnasium. It also owns the savings bank which the employees are expected to patronize. “The company dominates local affairs, economic, social, intellectual, moral and political” (from the New York Survey).

”One of the three selectmen of the village, however, is independent enough to assert that his vest and trousers are his own; but he is typical of such a monumental minority as to be the lonesome though refreshing exception which proves the rule. Outspoken opponents of the company are eliminated as far as possible. The Associates freely acknowledge notifying a physician and Polish storekeeper to move out of their business block because of their resistance to the will of the company. The Ludlow plants are thought to represent only a very small part of the holdings of the Ludlow Manufacturing Company, which controls over ten large mills.

During the panic of 1907 the company at Ludlow cut the wages of the creel boys from $5.50 a week to $5.00. The cut was accepted temporarily as a “hard time necessity.” On the same grounds the weavers in the bagging department received a reduction from 29 to 21 cents a roll of 100 yards.

After the enactment of the new tariff law the workers naturally expected a restoration of the old wage scale. This was not forthcoming. The refusal of the bosses to grant the old wage scale precipitated the strike which has lasted for several months.

The company has persistently prophesied that the men would resort to violence and by night a great search-light plays up and down the river and into every chink and cranny of the village. Pinkertons and other special guards numbering several hundred men do picket duty day and night. “The guard is unreasonably heavy, for the strikers have refrained notably from extreme measures.” A town official told a writer for the Survey that “there had been fewer arrests during the strike than in any similar period under ordinary conditions.”

As usual the company has been importing scabs to work in the mills and has announced a further reduction in the wages paid the weavers, who formerly received 29 cents a roll. The new scale will give them only 20 cents, or less.

This strike and the conditions prevailing in Ludlow are the very best sort of an example of what the capitalist class means by “welfare work” for its employees.

The only possible benefit to be gained by these company-owned “model villages” accrues to the employers. By owning the houses rented to its workers, the companies are able to evict the striking or discontented men upon the slightest pretext. Further, it becomes unnecessary for the company to pay its employees’ wages sufficient to enable them to pay high rents (including a profit to the landlords). In other words the “welfare work” of the Ludlow employers enabled them to retain all the surplus value created by the workers there. The company did not have to divide up with the landlord or the sellers of the other necessities of life.

A notice posted by the company to the effect that “the houses had been built for workers in the mills, those not resuming work must move out promptly to make room for others desiring work,” did not have the effect desired – of forcing the men to return to their jobs. And for the past month Ludlow has been the scene of the most pitiful evictions. Servants of the “welfare workers” marched from house to house throwing the poor little furnishings of the men into the street. It is reported that neither illness nor confinement cases escaped the “benevolent” eye of the company, but one and all were set out-exposed to the severe weather.

The most inspiring aspect of the whole strike is the splendid courage displayed by the workers. Hemmed in on every side by rules and regulations and Pinkertons of the company, they steadfastly refused to submit to a further reduction in wages, which meant a still lower level of existence to them and their families.

As long as there is a class that preys, the class exploited and preyed upon will continue to struggle for emancipation. Man seeks pleasure and avoids pain and largely in this fact lies the hope of the human race.

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Last updated on 31 May 2022