The Lower East Side of New York
Jewish Life in America

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Fights Rage All Day -- Kosher Bread Famine Acute.

From The New-York Tribune, August 10, 1905.

The Window of a Kosher Baker's Shop.

Strikers or their sympathizers wrecked the bakeshop of Philip Federman at No. 183 Orchard Street early last night amid scenes of the most tumultuous excitement. Policemen smashed heads right and left with their nightsticks after two of their number had been roughly dealt with by the mob. Two men were arrested and charged with inciting to riot, assault, and disorderly conduct. Bricks and bottles were thrown down on the heads of the policemen from houses in the neighborhood. The reserves of the Eldridge Street station had their hands more than full coping with the maddened crowd.

Word was passed to the headquarters of the strikers in Great Central Palace at No. 90 Clinton Street shortly after seven o'clock that there was a "roughhouse" in Federman's bakery in Orchard Street between Rivington and Stanton Streets, one of the most densely populated sections of the East Side. It had been rumored that Federman, who usually had eight bakers in his employ, had set three men to work in the places of the strikers. Shouting "scabs," accompanied with unintelligible maledictions on them, the crowd in the Central Palace rushed pell-mell to Federman's. There they found the street filled with a howling mob which swayed back and forth from sidewalk to sidewalk shouting and beating each other. Half a hundred of the first of the new arrivals piled on top of Isidor Bernstein of No. 11 King Street, a watchman for Federman, and bore down his burly form in spite of the vigorous way he played on their heads and shoulders with his club. Four of the crowd forced their way to the basement bakery where Federman and his three assistants cowered in one corner. Dough filled the great mixing troughs and furnished fine ammunition for the insurgent quartet. They threw it at the boss and his three men and, when tired of that, slashed it about the floor and walls of the rooms. They tried to destroy every implement they could lay hands on, and by the time their energy was somewhat exhausted there was not a pane of glass in the windows or any value left in the material in the place.


Attempting vainly to follow the crowd that streamed from the Palace at the word of the doings at Federman's, Patrolman Finley of the Eldridge Street station fought his way through the mob to the head of the steps leading to the basement where he found Bernstein, the watchman, almost done for. Finley had sent in a call for the reserves when he saw the threatening nature of the crowd. When he got to Bernstein's side, the crowd immediately attacked him. He is a giant. All of his efforts to ward off the crowd without recourse to violence were of no avail. A well-directed brick sent him to the street. Then when he got to his feet he used his nightstick with telling effect. Many of the people must have suffered severely from the blows of the policemen's clubs; yet they fought like tigers. So great was the press of the crowd that the patrol wagon bearing the reserves could not force a way through the densely packed bodies. The horses' bridles were grabbed in spite of their rearing and plunging, and forward progress was stopped. Detectives Landers and Galligan, sitting with their feet hanging out of the tail of the wagon were pulled out into the street by their heels. Then the other policemen in the wagon leaped out and charged the crowd, striking right and left, forward and back with their nightsticks.

Howls of pain rose higher than the shouts against the police. The police tore the crowd apart and plunged into the basement of the bakery where the trouble originated. They pulled out two men, Louis Mandesiever of No. 249 Broome Street and Max Siegel of No. SS Norfolk Street, both almost unrecognizable from the dough that smeared their clothes and faces and both bleeding from gashes in their heads.


It was impossible to get the patrol wagon started when the two prisoners had been bundled into it. Then the bricks and bottles began to descend from the windows. Patrolmen Hart and Sweeney forced their way into the houses and searched for the throwers high and low, but in vain. The mob finally gave way under repeated charges by the police and permitted the patrol wagon to pass. Patrolman Finley was bruised and cut and his uniform ruined from his being rolled in the mud. Bernstein was so badly beaten that he was sent home in care of a physician. The mob gave way only bit by bit under the repeated charges of the police to clear the street; it then retreated into the nearest doorways from which it hooted and jeered police and bosses alike.

Previous to the outbreak of the trouble and the deserting of headquarters, it had been announced that a request had been sent to the International Union in Chicago to call out the journeymen and the English-speaking bakers. It was not expected that there would be any word received from Chicago until today.

Reports that the bosses were attempting to man their shops with nonunion labor led to the sending out of pickets from strike headquarters in bunches of ten and twelve. They not only permeated the East Side but also penetrated to Harlem and the Bronx, with orders to stop all work. Riots all over the East Side were the chief characteristic of the strike yesterday. "Strong-arm men," the employers say, have been brought here from outside by the strikers to start the riots. The strikers assert that thugs have been engaged by the employers.


Meantime, the kosher bread famine had become acute. Lunchrooms lay idle, and the Hebrew grocers could not get any bread to sell, as it was unsafe to receive any. The strike leaders' evident intention was to starve out the people in the hope of bringing matters to a climax. The bread famine was principally confined to the district between Hester and Houston Streets as far as Avenue C. Rye bread, which was selling before the strike at two and one-half cents a pound, was eight cents a pound and hard to get at the money. At Pyocken Polski's union restaurant at No. 87 Attorney Street, there was no bread, and there was no business done all day. Groceries were in the same plight, and biscuits which were on the shelves for months went off like hot cakes. The most serious riot of the afternoon took place at the bakery of Joseph Bock, No. 138 Orchard Street. Bock, who is treasurer of the boss bakers' association, was away at the time, and his assistants barricaded the place. Forty strikers tried to storm the cellars in order to get the employees on strike, but Patrolman Sofsky of the Eldridge Street station came along on a run and captured a ringleader, using his club freely.

By this time the street was blocked with people, among whom were a number of women. Sofsky had to fight his way to the station, and once was borne down by the crowd. A number of reserves then arrived under Captain Murtha, wielding their clubs, and a furious fight took place before the crowd was dispersed. Patrolman Benjamin Stern received an ugly cut on the head from a flying piece of rock. Three men in all were arrested and discharged with a reprimand in Essex Market Court later, Magistrate Moss considering the evidence not sufficient to justify a fine.

Another fight took place at Abraham Waidstricken's bakery, No. 150 Allen Street, where a number of strikers dragged out barrels of flour and scattered their contents in the street. An attempt was made by the Jersey Model Bakery of Hoboken to deliver bread at a shop in Clinton Street. When two wagons filled with the bread appeared, a crowd seemed to rise out of the ground, assailing the wagons with bricks and other missiles. A number of police charged the crowd and took the wagons to the police station. Israel Reisler, a grocer, of No. 103 Clinton Street, had his place besieged with an angry throng of strikers when an attempt was made to deliver kosher bread to him. The place is nearly opposite Great Central Palace, the headquarters of the strikers, out of which the strikers poured in hundreds. They cut the harness of the horses, but reserves from the Union Market and Delancey Street stations appeared and scattered the rioters.


There was a disposition on the part of the strikers to get women into the mobs, with the object of working public sentiment if women were clubbed. The police, seeing this, were careful not to make too indiscriminate a use of their sticks. Five women upset a pushcart loaded with bread at Orchard and Stanton Streets, trampling the loaves into the mud. A number of women also snatched a basket from a man who was delivering bread at Stanton and Ridge Streets.

The strikers sent committees around on every pretext. One committee was sent to Philadelphia to prevent kosher bread from being sent from that city to New York. Another committee was sent to Jer­sey City and Hoboken with the same object. A meeting of the Hebrew boss bakers' association, which has been formed since the strike began, was held yesterday after­noon at No. 252 Broome Street, and the boss bakers had a noisy time. The meeting was behind closed doors, but the wrangling could be heard outside. A schedule of demands from the strikers had been submitted, based on recognition of the union. After the meeting the following statement was made:

"We are ready to pay the wages demanded, but will on no account recognize the union or sign any agreement. Further, we can consider no negotiations with walking delegates or the strike leader, Samuel Kurtz. Our bakeries are closed. We can get men, but they are afraid to go to work, and we are not asking our men who did not strike to work for fear of provoking riots."

The employers also said that Kurtz came from Providence and never appeared except when there was a strike. They made a number of vague charges against strike leaders but were not willing to give their names as making the charges. On the invitation of Secretary Emery of the Citizen's Industrial Association, Kurtz, the strike leader, called at its headquarters in the St. James Building, 26th Street and Broadway, and presented a list of their demands and complaints. The employers will give their side to the association to­day. A committee of three headed by Kurtz called on Acting Mayor Fornes and said that the strikers, now 2,500 strong, wanted to go to the mayor's office to ask for protection from the police. Mr. Fornes said that it would be better for a committee of twenty-five or thirty to go in­tead, but he said that he did not see what good it could do as the trouble was between the strikers and their employers. The strikers later decided to abandon the parade, and will send a committee of thirty to the mayor at one o'clock tomorrow.


The strikers decided last night to hold a mass meeting tomorrow night either at Hamilton Fish Park or Rutgers Square. They reported that John Heintz, international secretary of the bakers, would be here today to take charge of the strike. At a secret meeting of delegates from Locals No. 23, 40, 305, 163, and 4 in Great Central Hall yesterday, a formal agreement which the bosses will be required to sign was drawn up. Its fourteen sections include agreement for a ten-hour day and the wages which the bosses said on Tues­day that they would grant, as well as many minor details as to the relations between employers and employees. Section 1 of this agreement requires the bosses to employ only union men in good standing. Section 2, about the only one in which the unions agree to do anything on their part, provides that the unions will provide sufficient journeymen bakers for the employers. Section 3 requires a ten-hour day, including thirty minutes for luncheon. It also requires that no work shall be done on Friday, not even sponging or arranging and delivering flour.

Representatives of the union, Section 7 requires, must be permitted access to all bakeries under the agreement at any time in or after working hours. Section 10 defines the wages to be insisted upon by the strikers. These are oven hands $20 and up a week; bench hands $16 and up a week; jobbers on oven work, $4 a day and up; jobbers on bench work, $3.50 a day and up. In this section it is further agreed that wages shall be paid in full on the Jewish holiday weeks. Section 13 requires the employers to deposit $25 each as security for strictly complying with the provisions of the agreement. Upon the first violation of the agreement this $25 is to be forfeited to the union. Section 13 also requires the bakers to buy union labels at $3 a 1,000. Section 14 makes the life of the agreement one year, beginning on October 1 or whenever may be agreed upon by the different unions.







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