There was a front page article in today’s New York Times : Textile Plants Humming, but Not with Workers
Despite the upswing in textile manufacturing here in the U.S., many workers are being laid off due to automation. This situation recalls a similar one many years ago. Dutch textile workers during the Industrial Revolution were being laid off as textile mills became industrialized. They protested by throwing their Dutch wooden shoes, called sabots because they resembled the small wooden sailboat, into the machinery and disrupting production, sometimes ruining the mills. The resulting act and word became known as “sabotage”.
My old friend from UCLA grad school days, Mark Squires, sent this comment, which is so interesting I am compelled to include it here:
“Tom, my historical sources, though not universally accepted, differ somewhat from the NYT’s story that”sabotage” derived from Dutch textile-mill-workers throwing a ”sabot,” a small wooden shoe named after a small wooden boat, into the machinery. A retired intelligence official tells me that, originally, the disgruntled workers threw the entire boats into the machinery – a very effective tactic. But the capitalists’ agents soon learned to sniff out which workers were carrying boats into factories. The workers adapted by carrying in smaller and smaller boats; and this growing demand eventually led to boats only the size of a shoe (and this, though interesting for surfers, led inevitably to the decline of the Dutch whaling industry).”