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September 29, 2020 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Brutally exploited by their bosses and landlords—typically also Jews who had arrived in America earlier— Jewish labor agitators came to understand that their numbers meant power. They organized strikes not only for better wages and shorter hours in the workplace, but also for manageable rents and improved living conditions. From 1907–1909, there were dozens of rent strikes in New York’s immigrant neighborhoods. Picket lines were set up in front of buildings with exploitative rents, many of which led to altercations with landlords, their hired goons, the police, and police marshals. In 1908, Morris Rosenfeld fictionalized the rent strikes in a short one-act play called Rent Strike, translated from Yiddish for the Jewish Current's Housing Issue.
posted by ChuraChura (3 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Reminds me of that story of the bagel bakers’ union that took on the mob... Local 338.
posted by progosk at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

These are wonderful links - thank you! I look forward to reading the play; I've already started on some of the shorter articles.
posted by jb at 5:40 PM on September 29, 2020

For the benefit of those who can read Yiddish or just want to try to parse the Yiddish version רענט-סטרייק (Rent Strayk), here's a link to the original play as a pdf (47 MB; that newsprint is pretty tiny but it adds up). It starts on page 4 of the Jan 12, 1908 edition of Forverts (now Forward). You can also browse the entire paper and look up any day you choose in the Yiddish language Forverts archive.
posted by likethemagician at 7:48 PM on September 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

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