University of Pittsburgh | About Labor Legacy | Archives Home | Contact Us  
Home Databank Document Sets Labor Through the Years People, Places, Commemorations Special Features Union Profiles Site Map     

"Brave Women Strike for Living Wage" "Ferguson & Levin's Employes Rebel Against Scale of Three Dollars a Week -- Union Men Say Premium is Placed on Prostitution"

From the Iron City Trades Journal, Sept. 1908

     "Because they refused to accept a wage cut from a scale that was bringing them little if anything over three dollars a week, fifty girls and women employed in the shirt and overall factory of Ferguson & Levin, 77 Chatham street, went on strike Tuesday at noon, after exhausting all possible efforts to come to an understanding with their grasping employers.
     The girls are members of Local 140 of the Shirt Waist and Laundry Workers, of which Miss Dora Gurdon, one of the strikers, is President.
     For some time past the girls have been working only part time.  In most cases this meant a weekly wage of three dollars or less.  The firm seemed to consider this too much money for respectable girls to have the handling of.  Perhaps they thought it might lead to extravagant habits like automobiling or giving box parties at the Nixon.  Such diversion, would, of course, take their minds from their work.
     The W.C.T.U. and the Y.W.C.A. and other such organizations of "society" folk have not heard of the troubles of these poor, underpaid girls.  They are too busy "reforming" in places where the greatest amount of newspaper notoriety is procurable.  So the girls were compelled to apply to the organized wage earners of the city for support and succor in their dire need.
Men Rally to Their Support
     They did not apply in vain.  When the case was reported to the Iron City Central Trades Council, President Arthur E. Ireland threw himself into the work with all his energy.  Her first tried to show the employers the injustice they were working on the girls; explained to the how impossible and how unreasonable it was to expect respectable women to support themselves on three dollars a week; showed them that their present position in the industrial field had been attained largely through the help of organized labor, and urged them to deal justly with their employes.  All his overtures were in vain.
     On Tuesday the girls met in Old Elks' Hall and decided not to submit to a cut in their meager wages.  They were addressed by members of the executive board of the Iron City Council, who assured them of the support of that body.  The Council will, through its affiliated organizations, throw the support of more than one hundred thousand wage earners to the unfortunate strikers.
     Said President Ireland of the Council in reference to the trouble:  "It is shameful to think that there are beings existing in this age of civilization who call themselves men and still expect our sister to subsist honorably and respectably on three dollars a week.  It is an insult to virtuous womanhood that ought to be taken up by every man in this land who claims to have one vestige of respect for the noble name of woman...."

Full article appears on microfilm in the Iron City Trades Journal, September 11, 1908.

Labor's Congress
Iron City Central Trades Council Treated to a Surprise

Strike of Girl Employees of Ferguson & Levin
Endorsed and Committee Appointed to Raise Funds

     "Iron City Trades Council held its regular session at Arnfeld Hall last night, and the delegates were treated to a surprise when the striking girls of the Shirt Waist and Laundry Workers' Union entered the hall in a body, coming to urge upon organized labor of Pittsburg(h) to assist them in their fight against the unfair treatment of the firm of Ferguson & Levin.
     President Ireland explained to the Council what steps had been taken to aid the girls, and urged upon the allied trades to support them in their resistance to a grasping firm.  A committee was appointed to raise funds to support the strike, and the officers of the Council instructed to do everything in their power to bring about a satisfactory settlement.  Council approved of the strike and of the efforts of the officers to adjust the matter...."

Full article appears on microfilm in the Iron City Trades Journal, September 18, 1908.