Remembering the Roosevelt Massacre of 1915
It was on Jan. 19, 1915, that one of the worst labor disputes in New Jersey resulted in the death of two striking workers. The conflict took place at the Williams & Clark fertilizer plant in what was then known as Roosevelt (now named Carteret).
According to accounts of the day, the laborers had had their wages cut from $2 a day to $1.60 a day and when the rate wasn’t restored as had been promised, the workers went out on strike, not only from the Williams & Clark plant, but also from the Liebig Fertilizer Works about a mile away.
Armed “deputies” from a private detective firm in Newark were hired by the plant’s management to protect it. The strikers were at the train station, reportedly looking for strike-breakers. It was alleged that the men placed obstructions on the tracks to prevent any strike breakers from entering the plants, but the union denied that charge.
As the New York Times reported at the time, according to the stories of the witnesses (but not the deputies), the train halted, the strikers were permitted to inspect it, and they were leaving it, cheering because they had found no one arriving to take their places, when 40 deputies under Thomas Revolinsky, of New Brunswick, rushed from the fertilizer plant onto railroad property, firing revolvers, rifles and shotguns as they ran.
When the shooting stopped, two strikers were dead and at least 20 more were wounded. According to the New Brunswick Times, 28 deputies were arrested and charged.