PASSAIC, N.J. – For 13 months in the 1920s, thousands of workers in the woolen and worsted mills of Passaic and surrounding communities, like Garfield, Clifton, Lodi and Paterson went on strike to fight for higher wages and the right to be in a union.
The strike – commonly known as the Passaic Textile Strike – gained national and international attention, and was covered by local newspapers, as well as the New York Times. But 90 years later, a comprehensive book on the event and the impact it had on people in Passaic and Bergen counties has yet to be written.
Jacob Zumoff, a professor of history at New Jersey City University, wants to change that. He is in the process of researching how the event, which lasted from 1926 through early 1927 and involved 15,000 to 20,000 strikers, affected workers, their families and communities.
And he is looking for the public’s help in telling the story.
“I am trying to see if anybody in these communities or people who had relatives from these communities might either have documents or letters or pictures,” Zumoff said. He is also looking for people to share their recollections of what relatives or others told them about life around the time of the strike.
“I think that it is almost impossible that such a dramatic event could have happened without having dramatic effects on the people who were living there,” Zumoff said.
From his research so far, Zumoff has learned women were at the forefront of the strike, and often made up at least half of the demonstrators. He also learned police and sheriff’s officers arrested and at times attacked strikers. “People were arrested every day,” he said.
The strike ended after 13 months, with an agreement that allowed workers to unionize. However, within a year, many of the unionized workers were fired. “So at the end of the day, the strike was defeated,” Zumoff said.
People with photos, documents, memorabilia or thoughts and stories about the strike to share with Zumoff, can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (201) 200-3256.
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