From the introduction:
Paterson 1913 begins in late January 1913, the busy season when silk manufacturers are producing the fabric that will be sold for the spring fashion market. This is the time when mill workers traditionally strike to make demands for higher wages, but this year the workers’ discontent seems different: more acute, more widespread, more threatening.
Silk manufacturers, big and small, join together in a Manufacturers’ Faction to address and hopefully quell a serious labor conflict. Failure to do so could result in financial ruin for mill owners as well as the entire city.
Mill workers, who specialize as broad-silk weavers, ribbon weavers, and dyers’ helpers, have different grievances and different demands. However, they are exploring a united effort to improve labor conditions for all. They believe that a successful strike will bring the manufacturers to the table for negotiations. Some band together in a Workers’ Faction to plan a course of action that will lead to better conditions for all workers.
Townspeople also are involved in the strike, for Paterson, New Jersey is a “silk town.” If the workers strike, they don’t get paid. If workers don’t get paid, then their landlords, grocers, shoemakers, and barbers also go without income. Townspeople must decide how they will respond to this impending strike.
City officials and the police force are on record: they will prevent any outburst against public order, outside agitators who stir up emotions, and speech that may harm the community. They are on call and ready for action.
The eyes of the nation are on Paterson during this latest in a series of efforts by industrial workers to assert their demands for a better life.