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Labor Unions

Omaha as the center of organized labor in Nebraska was also the state center of labor unrest during the early years of this century. The Omaha Daily News, May 14, 1900, reported on an ongoing bakers' strike under the headlines: "Omaha People Eat Bad Bread. Bakers' Strike Has its Effect on the Culinary Department of Local Households. Strikers Out for Keeps."

"Some of the saddest looking bread that ever refused to raise was put on the market this morning," reported the News. "But two of the home bakers in the city have signed the scale of 20 cents an hour. Two in south Omaha and four in Council Bluffs have signed also, and in these shops the bakers have gone back to work."

A spokesman for the striking men said that "the bakers receive the smallest wages of any organized mechanics in the city. We work from ten to as high as seventeen hours a day, and receive an average of only $10 a week. We demand a rise to $12 a week at ten hours per day, and 20 cents per hour for overtime. Most every bakeshop in this city is located in some basement, and we work in these dungeons through the long hours of the night, when most of the laborers are at rest.

"In a great many bakeries young boys are employed, who take the place of men. Some of the boys are hardly big enough to look into the oven, and the vitality and life is being cooked out of them in these hot basements. There is one boy in a shop at Thirteenth and Mason streets, who runs the big twelve-horse power engine, and I understand he has no license to do it."

This 1900 strike was only a forerunner of the post-World War I labor unrest in Omaha, after steep inflation and the lifting of a strike ban imposed during the war.

(August 1997)

 

 

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