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February 4 (Corrected date): A Labor Martyr in Rochester

January 23, 2014
rochester-garment-workers-strike-1913-2Ida Breiman, an 18-year-old garment worker in Rochester, New York by way of Zhitomir, Ukraine, would be shot dead by a sweatshop owner in the course of a garment strike involving 10,000 workers that began on this date in 1913. Breiman and her father Jacob were among the first 200 workers who struck, demanding union recognition, a pay increase, extra pay for overtime and holidays, and the eight-hour day. Rochester’s garment industry was the third largest in the nation after New York and Chicago, and it would take six more years before the city’s garment workers would win collective bargaining rights. Ida Breiman was part of a group going from shop to shop and noisily calling on workers to join their strike on February 5th. The shop owner, Valentine Sauter, responded with his twelve-gauge shotgun, wounding three strikers and killing Breiman — whose engagement party was scheduled for that evening. Her funeral procession was attended by 5,000 people. “Immigrating to America to escape persecution only to be gunned down while exercising freedom of association that our country offered is one reminder that business identifies the class nature of threats to its privileged social conditions. It was not the religion, ethnicity or sex of workers that mattered to the factory owners; it was instead the fact that regardless of their origins and identities, the strikers were organized to challenge their authority.” -Vincent Serravallo, Smugtown Beacon