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Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride story

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  • Scott Mathern-Jacobson
    ... A service to remember the six workers killed in the bloody ... Do you Yahoo!? The New Yahoo! Shopping - with improved product search [Non-text portions of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2003
      >Marion (McDowell) News | Service honors those who died in '29
      >
      > Service honors those who died in '29
      >
      >
      > By MIKE CONLEY
      > Staff Writer
      > Tuesday, September 30, 2003>
      >
      A service to remember the six workers killed in the bloody
      >strike of 1929 took place in front of the Marion Manufacturing building Monday, 74 years after the tragic event.
      >
      > And the people who paused to remember these strikers from long ago said they found inspiration from this service to continue with their own struggles.
      >
      > "I am so proud to be in this city of Marion where people died fighting for their rights," said Mirna Preciado, a culinary worker in Las Vegas and one of the speakers at Monday's service.
      >
      > Preciado, a native of Mexico, is one of the riders participating in the nationwide Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. She also spoke about her experiences as a striking worker in Las Vegas.
      >
      > The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride is a national mobilization to "focus public attention on immigrant rights and the injustices of current immigration policies."
      >
      > Inspired by the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement, immigrant workers and their supporters are traveling across the country. They will converge on Washington, D.C. where they will meet with members of Congress on Wednesday and Thursday. The riders will then travel to New Jersey and a mass rally will be held in New York on Saturday.
      >
      > As part of the national event, two buses, one from Los Angeles and one from Las Vegas, stopped in Marion Monday afternoon. Approximately 80 riders and 15 to 20 of their supporters held a service on Baldwin Avenue, across from the old textile mill, to honor the strikers killed at Marion Manufacturing on Oct. 2, 1929.
      >
      > Francisco Risso, director of the Western NC Workers Center in Morganton, welcomed the crowd to Marion and the site of the strike.
      >
      > "We are in Marion in a very sacred place," he said.
      >
      > Laura Gordon, president of the WNC Central Labor Council, said she was happy that a service to commemorate the strike of 1929 was finally held where the events took place. She also hoped that the relatives of the strikers might attend this service.
      >
      > Joe Jones, former president of the United Textile Workers of America, gave a brief history of the strike of 1929. He asked the crowd to picture what life in East Marion was like at the time. In those days, the mill village did not have paved streets and indoor plumbing. The workers' crude houses were built on stilts. They worked 12 hours a day, six days a week and earned less than $13 a week for their labor, according to Jones.
      >
      > In the summer of 1929, workers at both Marion Manufacturing and Clinchfield Manufacturing went on strike for a 55-hour week and a pay increase. After several months of striking and violent confrontations, the management of both mills announced a settlement which included a shorter work week. However, the management of both mills announced on Sept. 25, 1929 that "our loyal workers" would receive an increase of 5 percent in their piece work and hourly wage scales. This did not include the workers who had been on strike.
      >
      > The morning of Oct. 2, 1929 brought a deadly confrontation at Marion Manufacturing. As a result, six men, all striking workers, were shot and killed in a clash with sheriff's deputies. Four of the men were shot in the back, Jones said.
      >
      > They were not admitted to the hospital for treatment because their families did not have the money to pay. No local minister would agree to conduct their funerals, according to Jones.
      >
      > In 1980, the textile union wanted to place a memorial to the slain workers but a suitable place could not be found in Marion. Eventually, a painting to memorialize the workers was commissioned by the union. This painting now hangs in the boardroom of the AFL-CIO building in Raleigh. Jones held up a copy of the painting to the Freedom Riders.
      >
      > "We are thankful to you all for helping us to bring this about," he said.
      >
      > Jones added this is the first time since 1929 that a service to commemorate the strikers has been held in Marion.
      >
      > In her speech, Preciado said she has worked in culinary at one of the hotels in Las Vegas. She and others there went on strike for more than six years.
      >
      > "I didn't know I had rights," she told the crowd. "It took six years, four months and 10 days but we won."
      >
      > She added the experience made her stronger as both a woman and a worker. She is now on the staff of the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 in Las Vegas.
      >
      > "Thank you Lord for this place where they have opened the doors to us," said Flora Anderade, a housekeeper at a hotel in Los Angeles. She and other workers at the hotel are now trying to organize.
      >
      > During the service, the immigrant workers, many of whom were Hispanic, heard the same prayer that was given at the funeral for the striking workers in 1929. "O God, mend the broken hearts of these loved ones left behind," read the prayer. "Dear God, do feed their children. Drive selfishness and cruelty out of your world. May these weeping wives and little children have a strong arm to lean on. Dear God, what would Jesus do if He were to come to Carolina?"
      >
      > The names of the slain workers were also read aloud: George Jonas, Luther Bryson, Sam Vickers, Randolph Hall, T.L. Carver and J. Will Roberts.
      >
      > The immigrant workers and their supporters placed a wreath on the gate of Marion Manufacturing, which now stands empty. The crowd sang "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land is Your Land."
      >
      > The ribbon on the wreath says "We remember."
      >
      >
      >
      > � 2003, Media General Inc. All Rights Reserved



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