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sweatshops in the schools (1933) Editors’ Note: This letter by West appeared in the New Republic on October 4, 1933, after work-study students at the Berry School in Rome, Georgia, including one of West’s younger cousins, decided to organize a union and go on strike. The essay underscores West’s concern for educational reform and labor rights. Recently there has been a significant student strike in the Berry Schools, at Rome,Georgia.Berry is a school for poor whites which parades itself as a great philanthropic and humanitarian institution.The students pay their tuition by working during the four summer months.Before the depression they were paid from sixteen to eighteen cents an hour,working from ten to twelve hours a day at manual labor of the hardest sort, some of it semi-skilled. This summer, however,the authorities reduced the working students to the disgracefully low wage of ten to twelve cents an hour, while tuition remained the same as before and the prices in the school store,where students must buy their supplies, were raised considerably. Resenting this injustice, the students went out on strike, demanding enough out of four months’ work to pay eight months’ tuition,and a reduction in the school-store prices. The strike was ended when officials promised to endeavor to meet the demands and not to expel students for striking. Since they returned to work, students report that the authorities are holding the club of expulsion over their heads.I am an alumnus of Berry and know too well the reality that lies behind their fine story of helping “poor mountain boys and girls.” I think the public should be told the nature of this and other missionary institutions with which the South is cursed. Don West, Monteagle, Tenn. 01.Prose.1-blnk 96/West 12/2/03, 11:48 AM 29 ...


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