A Look at Labor Conditions and the New South's Historic Ties to Organization

It's 1929, and workers in the Loray Mill in Gastonia have unanimously decided to strike after work conditions in the mill have gotten worse over time, thanks to management's efforts to reduce operating costs.

Wanting livable wages, better hours, union recognition and to rid the mill of the stretch-out system that was crushing their ability to effectively complete their jobs, 1,800 workers walked out on their jobs on April 1.

Although the ferocity of the strike waned over the next few months, sparks flew again that year on September 14 when Ella May Wiggins, a union leader and single mother of four from Bessemer City, was shot and killed on her way to a protest rally in Gastonia.

All of the men accused of her murder were tied to the Loray Mill and the Manville-Jenckes Company that ran it, and all were acquitted by a grand jury on Oct. 25.

Wiggins' murder left a profound effect on the strikers and their efforts.

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