Lock-Outs, Walk-Outs & Strikes

Both the presses in Norwood took a great deal of consideration to create a nice working environment, and because of this, they probably thought they were a great place to work. However, there were many strikes and walkouts by their workers over the years showing this may not have been true. Eventual changes the presses instituted may have been due to the workers applying pressure and not to the management’s kindness.

Newspaper clipping announcing an eight-hour day Christmas gift.

On December 19, 1899, just before the turn of the century, a small notice appeared in the Boston Journal saying the Norwood Press yields to the demands of the feeders and will increase their wages.

The eight-hour workday came about because workers from greater Boston printing companies had been agitating for a shorter workday. In January of 1906, Norwood’s printers and their apprentices were planning to strike in February to demand higher wages and a shorter workday. In mid January an attempt by Norwood Press management was made to get the boys who were apprenticing at Berwick & Smith, to agree not to strike if they got a pay increase. When pushed, the boys walked out. On Christmas day, 1908, the Norwood Press put out a press release announcing the gift of an eight-hour workday to start January 1, 1909, adding it had nothing to do with the 1906 strikes.  

On Saturday, September 4, 1920 the paper feeder workers of The Plimpton Press, in solidarity with other feeders in the Boston area, took a “vacation” from their jobs. The issue at hand was that the feeders wanted a raise of a dollar a day. Union representatives from Chicago came to the Boston area to mediate for the paperfeeders with the factory owners.

The presses faced another strike in April of 1921 over the reduction of wages. In 1920, at a printer’s convention, union representatives from the workers and the owner agreed to a shorter workday at the same pay. By 1921, this had not come to be; the owners agreed to a shorter day, but they would pay less; the workers wanted a shorter day, but with the same pay they were getting. At first, company owners called this idea “business suicide.” The unions went back and forth trying to negotiate a deal, while printers across the country were on strike. Eventually, all the workers’ demands were met, and they returned to work.

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