Boycott on Chinese At Holyoke

by Laurel | July 20th, 2009

July 20, 1902, page 7

Unions Against the Laundries.
Attempt at Exclusion in the Paper City

What is to become of the Chinese laundrymen? is the question that not a few people are asking themselves. It seems possible that some of them may have to leave the city because of the hostility of the labor unions. Union men all over the country took a deep interest in the Chinese exclusion act at the time that it was being considered in the last session of Congress. In at least one place, Denver, the union workers determined to try a little of the exclusion principle is the interior of the country, and drove out some of the Chinese laundrymen of the city by boycotting. them. For the past two mouths a similar movement has been in progress in Holyoke. Union after union of Holyoke’s 40 have passed votes to tine members patronizing Chinese laundries. It is estimated that fully 60 per cent of the union custom has been taken from the Chinese and given to the steam laundries. How great a percentage of the custom of the Chinese laundries is drawn from union men It is impossible to say, but when one reflects that there are between 7000 and 9000 union men in Holyoke it will be seen that the Chinaman’s trade must suffer to some extent from this boycott, if not seriously injured: The Chinamen admit that the movement is hurting their business “a little.” And union men most have given the Chinamen a fair amount of work. The fact that articles are seldom lost at the Chinese laundries and the better work done have made them generally popular. The prices for starched work, which forms the bulk of the washing given the Chinamen, are about the same as those for the same grade at the steam laundry. The steam laundries’ prices for “family” work are somewhat cheaper’ than those charms! by the Celestials. A prominent Chinese laundryman estimated the. number of his countrymen in Holyoke at 40, and their laundries, including South Hadley Falls, at 13. There are three or four steam laundries and one hand laundry in Holyoke, besides the Chinese establishments. One at least of these laundries employs 40 or 50 hands, and does four or five times as much work as a Chinese laundry.

The movement against the Chinamen goes back to the race question for its deepest source, but there are some characteristic union arguments as well. Chinamen have no regular working hours, and it is claimed that they do not benefit the community sufficiently because they live so cheaply, and thus put comparatively little money into circulation. The Chinaman does work at all sorts of time, but some of them at least live very well. It is everywhere acknowledged that Chinamen are almost fastidious in their selection of food when going a-marketing, and are willing to pay high prices to get the best. They are quiet and inoffensive citizens, and steadily though slowly become more and more Americanized. They regularly attend classes in the Sunday-school of the Highlands Methodist church, and for some years there was a special school for Chinamen in Holyoke.

It is somewhat surprising in view of the general action by the several unions to find that there is a strong sense of the injustice of the action among the union men themselves. It is understood that in not a few eases the matter of placing the Chinamen on the unfair list was hurried through without due consideration. It certainly seems hard to find a real grievance of which the unions could justly complain, and the riot of the matter seems race antipathy list not unmixed with some jealousy on the part of the American laundry workers, whom the boycotting is to some extent indirectly helping. It is safe to say, however, that if it came to a referendum vote on the question the result would probably lie against the present course of action on the part of the unions, and the Chinamen might be allowed to form a union of their own. This would be perfectly in keeping with precedent, as within some classes of labor sub-unions are formed according to nationality. For example, the French and American carpenters have separate organizations.

Excerpted from the Springfield Republican.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Suggested Holyoke Books

Mountain Park -- The Holyoke destination we all loved.

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College, Postcard History by Donna Albino. Many Holyoke women have attended Mount Holyoke. Author also maintains an amazing MHC website based upon her personal collection.

Holyoke - Chicopee, A Perspective

Holyoke-Chicopee: A Perspective, by Ella Merkel DiCarlo. DiCarlo, a former Transcript columnist offers a fascinating compilation of her essays. Published in 1982, this out-of-print book is worth looking for in the aftermarket.


Holyoke, by Craig Della Penna. The first Holyoke book in the Arcadia series, published in 1997.

Belle Skinner Collection

Belle Skinner Collection, by Ruth Isabel Skinner. Published in 1933, this book is long out of print but copies are still available in the aftermarket.

Mitch Epstein: Family Business

Mitch Epstein: Family Business Published in 2003, available in the aftermarket. Epstein's furniture.