In 1918, the Cellulose & Chemical Manufacturing Company, Ltd. (the ‘Celanese’) was opened in Cumberland, Maryland . At times, the plant employed more than 5,000.
Most worked about 10 hours a day, six days a week, and earned less than $10 a week. . Whole families, including children, worked in the mill. The machines were loud and dangerous to work around. Breathing problems and lung damage were caused by the carbon di-sulphide fumes and small pieces of fabric that flew around the machines
From 1929 on, the Celanese company felt the pinch of the Great Depression. To reduce costs, managers reduced wages, banned restroom and other breaks, and also introduced the ‘stretch-out’. The ‘stretch outs’ were intended to speed up production by increasing the number of looms assigned to each worker.
From 1933 to 1936, workers participated in several plant-wide strikes and a number of sit-downs. The strike of 1936 won a raise in wages, a cut in workload and a procedure for settling grievances, and as well, the company finally recognized the union.