On this day in labor history, the year was 1934.
That was the day that became known as “Bloody Thursday.”
Seven striking workers were shot dead and another 30 wounded at the Chiquola Mill in Honea Path, South Carolina.
The Great Textile Strike of 1934 had started September 1.
The twenty-two day strike spanned the eastern United States, from New England to Georgia and involved close to half a million workers.
The main issue was the dreaded “stretch out,” increased workloads at the same or even reduced pay rates.
Striking textile workers implemented the flying picket squad tactic employed by Minneapolis Teamsters earlier that summer.
Hundreds drove from mill to mill to prevent scabbing.
Mill executives across the Piedmont were stunned and terrified at the strike’s effectiveness and the workers’ militancy.
Strikers at the Chiquola Mill had formed solid picket lines at the gate when scabs and special deputies armed by the mill’s owner, opened fire.
All seven were shot in the back as they tried to escape the hail of bullets.
According to a New York Times article the following day, the killings marked “the beginning of the second bloody phase of the strike as one town after another reported completion of preparations to resist the flying squads and the picketing activity of the strikers.”
Frank Beacham, the grandson of Chiquola Mill owner and mayor of Honea Path, Dan Beacham, has worked to unearth the history of the massacre and apologize for his grandfather’s cruelty.
He notes that, as in many southern mill towns, after the strike went down to defeat, those who struck were fired and blacklisted.
Those who retained their jobs essentially took a vow of silence never to discuss the strike or massacre again.