The present strikes in Haverhill, Newburyport, and Amesbury have reached very considerable proportions. A total of ten thousand five hundred shoe workers have walked out of the factories in protest against low wages, poor shop conditions, and non-recognition of unions. The progress of the strike so far, however, has been a forlorn revelation of Labor's impotence in the depression.
There can be no doubt that the strikers in this case have much to complain about. At best a seasonal industry, the shoe plants have been running at less than half-capacity since 1929. Wages were never much above a bare subsistence level, and since the crash have been cut repeatedly and drastically. Conditions in the factories are extremely foul; high competition between firms and the shifting of capital to the south has not allowed any luxuries. Unions are rarely dealt with and have little force in regulating payrolls. In view of this situation it is particularly tragic that nothing can be done about it. For no matter how many strikers there are or how just their claims are, they cannot force anything out of the employers.
The shoe industry is practically at a standstill, and the operators can quite afford to wait a few weeks until the workers are driven back to the shops by sheer want, for orders are not so many or so pressing that they cannot be filled next week as well as today. Nothing beyond pure benevolence or consideration on the part of the employers can bring any alleviation of the workers position, and the operators in the sloe industry are not widely noted for such philanthropy. In short, strikes in this region are hardly more than brave gestures, yet the Massachusetts trouble merely reflects the country-wide stalemate between Capital and Labor, satisfactory to neither party.