Immigrant women beat cigar company bosses – Martha Grevatt

Reblogged from

cigar strikers 1937

When you think of the 1930s, one of the first things that come to mind is the great struggle of the United Auto Workers to organize Detroit’s biggest employers. In fact there were numerous sit-down strikes outside the auto industry. Courageous women led many, including a cigar-makers sit-down strike that lasted over two months.

In 1937 six cigar factories occupied a four-square-mile area bordered by Milwaukee, Grandy, St. Aubin and Warren Avenue. In these factories 4,000 women, mostly Polish-speaking, toiled all day long.

Their wages, having been cut 35 to 50 percent since the 1929 stock market crash, were among the lowest in all of Detroit. Toxic tobacco dust was always in the air, with ventilation poor to nonexistent. The few available toilets were of a primitive type or, if modern, dirty and often broken. The factory owners provided no soap or hot water. Sexual harassment from foremen was routine. Read more>>