No work, no work, and the future bleak and grey,
Posters in our town appeared showing Lawrence USA,
Woolen mills and bags of gold, a chance we could not ignore.
From Europe we all sailed away – bound for New England’s shore.
Come with me now to Lawrence in the year of nineteen twelve,
These back to back damp tenements house many like ourselves,
And early in the icy dawn hear the factory whistles blow,
And me and my wife and our eldest girl – to the woolen mills must go.
We can’t afford warm overcoats, so meagre is our pay,
In the greatest woolen centre of – the mighty USA.
We workers wrote to William Wood to tell of our distress,
And the answer that he gave us was to pay us even less.
“Short pay! Short pay!” the Polish women weavers all cried,
As they left their looms and went downstairs, walked out side by side.
When we opened up our envelopes and found they’d cut our wage,
We Italians ran from room to room, you’d never seen such rage!
We stopped the motors, tore the cloth and cut the belts with knives,
By the end of that day there were ten thousand out on strike.
Next day the Poles, Italians too,
Belgian weavers in their wooden shoes,
Armenians, Turks, Gentiles and Jews
Met at the City Hall.
And the speakers ranted, raged and roared
In languages I never heard before
‘Til smiling Joe Ettor took the floor
And spoke in my native tongue.
“I’m here to counsel and advise,
To win a strike you must be organised,
Four members each you will provide
From fourteen nationalities.”
When Ettor spoke, he seemed to glow
Like a beacon shining on a dark night, oh,
How the workers loved you, smiling Joe!
But Father Riley was so irate,
He told the Irish “Don’t participate!
The poor must learn to endure their fate.”
The Governor sent the militia.
Two thousand men were deployed.
They beat our pregnant women,
And they stabbed a young Syrian boy.
“You khaki thugs on horseback,
With your bayonets and your guns,
You arrogant Harvard puppies,
See what you have done!”
They laid the blame upon them
Though they were three miles away.
A policeman pulled that trigger,
My wife saw it, plain as day!
The anger that we mourners felt
I scarcely can relate.
As we carried poor Anna’s coffin
To the cemetery gates.
Where Father Riley blocked our way
With a frown on his pious face;
And he says “You cannot bury her
In this holy place.”
Well, Big Bill Haywood came in on a train,
Our excitement we could not contain,
When we heard his fog-horn voice proclaim:
“Fellow workers don’t forget,
To the mill owners’ great regret,
You can’t weave cloth with a bayonet!”
And Gurley Flynn, the bosses’ nightmare,
With her Irish eyes and her coal black hair –
She says “This is class warfare!”
We stood together nine long weeks,
And the bosses gave in.
We assembled on the Common,
Men, children and women.
Where thirty thousand voted
To end this bloody feud,
And we sang The Internationale
In every tongue we knew.
Well, Joe Ettor and Giovannitti,
They were tried for murder in the first degree,
And the jury found them “Not guilty.”
No one knew, and no one cared,
How the unskilled foreign worker fared,
‘Til the I.W.W. double-dared!
Fellow workers, never forget,
We are the ones that toil and sweat,
And we have not spoken – yet!