The Grand Rapids Furniture Strike of 1911
Anderson, Joses C.
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This is the story of the plight of some workingmen in the city of Grand Rapids in the early years of the twentieth century. It is an account of an economic conflict in one of the city's largest industrial bases, the furniture industry, in the year 1911. In that year the furniture industry accounted for roughly 30% of the city's industrial production, 41% of the industrial employment, and about half of the total wage bill. With this kind of clout it is evident that any serious conflict would have had equally serious reverberations throughout the city. There were many concerned citizens of Grand Rapids who paid close attention to what' was happening. Fortunately, some of their viewpoints have been preserved to be presented here. It was most informative to learn that the majority of citizens that took the time to discuss this issue in the public forum were pro-labor. Their views give credence to the belief that labor unions were beginning to achieve some legitimacy within the public eye, at least in Grand Rapids. This was not support coming from the faceless and vocal masses, but from educated middle class citizens. Perhaps because of the violence associated with strikes in the latter 19th century, these people sought to use their influence to promote a resolution of conflict between autocratic entrepreneurs and dogmatic union members.