John L., Lewis has swung on the textiles. Not content with tying up or bothering, to a greater or lesser degree, the coal industry, the steel industry, the automobile industry, the shoe industry, and a number of other industries. Mr. Lewis has now turned toward the 1,250,000 workers involved in the manufacture of woolen, cotton, rayon, jute, and other clothing goods. Eighting northern as well as southern manufacturers, John demands a minimum wage of eighteen dollars, four dollars higher than N.R.A., a maximum hour week of thirty-five hours, and recognition of the C.I.O.
It is true that most of the southern mills have dropped back from their brief N.R.A. standards. The northern mills, in particular the American Woolen Company of Lawrence, the Perennial Dye and Print Works of Rhode Island, the Pequot and Newmarket Mills in Massachusetts, and the Nashua, and Pacific mills in New Hampshire, against all of which Lewis is gunning, are, how-ever, paying the highest wages in their history and operating on a forty-hour a week basis. These companies are not in strong enough positions, since the last really good textile year was 1927, to withstand labor troubles at this time, and such troubles would undoubtedly mean closing down, perhaps forever.
In general, the southern mills are in a better position to deal with labor than the northern. An example of this is one particularly prosperous mill in South Carolina, where the employer had taken the trouble to organize his own "mill army" as a safeguard against labor difficulty. When trouble came, he calmly announced to the organizers that if there was any violence, the labor leaders were covered with machine guns and would be summarily dealt with. The organizers decided that they had more pressing business elsewhere.
The Amoskeag mills at Manchester, New Hampshire, once the largest, textile unit in the world, formerly employed eight thousand men. Terribly hit by the depression and southern competition, the mills were just getting back on their feet when labor troubles set in. Now only fifteen hundred of those eight thousand are being employed, by Pacific Mills, and Lewis says he is out to help these fifteen hundred. If he really has the interest of the workers at heart, let him regard the deserted buildings of the once great. Amoskeag Company as a grim reminder of what can happen.