Food and Wages
U. S. Commissioner of Labor Charles P. Neil found that for the week ending November 25, 1911, 22,000 textile employees—including foremen, supervisors, and office workers—averaged about $8.76 for a full week’s work in Lawrence. Not everyone worked a full week.
The MA Labor Commission found that “the lowest total for human living conditions for an individual…was $8.28 a week.” A third of Lawrence families earned less than $7.00.
“It is obvious,” the Massachusetts State Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded in 1911, “that the full-time earnings of a large number of adult employees are entirely inadequate for a family.”
Families often survived on bread, molasses, and beans. One worker testified during the March 1912 Congressional investigation of the strike that, “When we eat meat it seems like a holiday, especially for the children.”
The website measuringworth.com makes it possible to get an idea what wage and profit numbers mean. In 1910 the Pacific Mills generated $10M in sales. Adjusted for inflation, and as a measure of current purchasing power, this translates into $237M in sales for one mill complex in 2012. The average hourly wage for a male mill worker over age 18 was $0.18, equal to $4.26 an hour in 2012.The average hourly wage for a woman over age 18 was $0.14, equal to $3.31 an hour in 2012.