Today in labor history: Luddites rebel against substandard work conditions

Today in labor history, the Luddites (19th century textile workers) attacked the Heathcoat and Boden’s Mill in Loughborough, England, sabotaging and damaging machinery. This was a response to substandard workplace conditions, and employers replacing them with less-skilled, low-wage labor.

After the workers smashed 53 frames at the mill, troops were sent in, and six Luddites were executed.

The Luddites are believed to have named themselves after Ned Ludd, an English laborer who destroyed weaving machinery around 1779 out of the belief that it was diminishing employment.

The movement first began in Nottingham, England, where weavers faced competition from a new wide-frame machine that could conduct six times the work of previous machines. High prices and depressed wages plagued the area around this time. The Luddites learned to train, march, and organize – rudimentary attempts at what workers are capable of doing today.

The Luddites were one of the earliest examples of an attempt by workers to stand together and collectively bargain, though on this day in 1816, it was done as a riot.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.