Thursday, January 3, 2013

Labor History Timeline--Rise of IWW, Garment Workers and State/Employer Violence

Lucy Parsons
1905    The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) was founded on June 27, 1905, by Big Bill Hayward, Daniel De Leon, Eugene Debs, Lucy Parsons, Father Haggarty, Mother Jones, Ralph Chaplin and others, in part in response to the defeats of the WFM in Colorado, Utah and Idaho and in opposition to the conservative AFL. The IWW was not just a labor union fighting for better conditions for working people, but a revolutionary organization out to abolish the wage system and employer class completely. Like the Knights of Labor, they organized all workers into one big union and were inclusive of all workers, regardless of race, gender or national origin. Unlike the Knights, they eschewed political action, favoring direct action like strikes, slow-downs, work-to-rule and sabotage. (Sources: The IWW;WikipediaLibcom.orgHelen KellerHarry SiitonenSabotage, by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: Western Mining HistoryLucy Parsons Project)

1905    Chicago Teamsters Strike: 21 workers were killed in what would escalate into a General Strike. Riots continued on a near daily basis from April through July. The Teamsters had attempted to end the strike by bribing members of the Employers Association, leading to allegations of corruption that would weaken the union in the following years. (Sources:WikipediaChicago’s Strike Ordeal, Stanley Powers, 1905)
GE in 1907
1906    First Sit-Down Strike: America’s first sit-down strike was organized by the Wobblies (IWW) at General Electric, in Schenectady, NY. 3,000 workers participated in the occupation of the facilities for 65 hours, bringing production to a standstill.(Sources: UHWOWikipedia)

1907    Nation’s Worst Mining Disaster: 361 coal miners were killed in Monongah, West Virginia. (Sources: UHWO)
2 Picketers Among the Uprising of 20,000
1909    Uprising of 20,000: The Lady Garment Workers Strike in New York (AKA the Shirtwaist Strike) was a strike by mostly Jewish women and girls against sweatshop working conditions. 700 were arrested in just one month. Male goons were hired to intimidate and assault the women. A judge told the women they were striking against God. However, the women remained resolute and public sentiment turned in the favor. The strike ended in 1910 with increased wages and improved working conditions and hours. (Sources: WikipediaAFL-CIOJewish Women’s Archive)
The Little Red Song Book
1909    The Little Red Song Book, from the IWW, was first published in Spokane and included songs by Joe HillRalph ChaplinT-Bone Slim, and others. The early editions contained many of the labor songs that are still famous, such as "The Red Flag," "The Internationale," and "Solidarity Forever," while later editions included such classics as “Rebel Girl,” “Mr. Block,” and “The Preacher and the Slave.” You can see video versions of some of these on the Labor Music Video Page. (Sources: IWWThe Sacred Chao)
LA Times Building After Bombing
1910    Llewellyn Ironworks and Los Angeles Times bombingsA bomb destroyed the LA Times building in October, killing 21 employees and injuring over 100, and another destroyed a portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in December. The Iron Workers had been engaged in a brutal and protracted battle with U.S. Steel and the American Bridge Company, which had been successfully busting their union through the use of spies, informants, scabs and agents provocateur, as well as propaganda by their friend Harrison Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times. James McNamara and his brother, John McNamara, secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, were convicted after being kidnapped and allegedly framed by private cops.(Sources: Modern SchoolWorkday Minnesota)

1910-1911       Westmoreland Coal Strike: 16 workers and family members were killed during this strike by the UMWA. The strike lasted from March, 1910 through July, 1911, encompassing 65 mines and 15,000 miners, with the miners and the UMWA losing the strike. Miners’ wives showed up to support their husbands, harassing scabs and getting arrested. Because they couldn’t afford the fines, the women were forced to serve a month in jail with their babies and children. (Sources: Wikipedia;patheoldminer; Jones, Mary Harris: The Autobiography of Mother Jones. 4th ed. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., 1996)
Triangle Shirtwaist Building, March 11, 1911
1911    Triangle Shirtwaist fire: 147 women and girls died (mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants) in this tragic fire, many because the managers had locked all the doors, preventing escape. The company’s owners were acquitted of any crimes, but were forced to pay nominal civil damages of $75 per victim. (Sources:Remembering the Triangle FireWikipediaDemocracy Now)

1912    Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike in West Virginia lasted from April, 1912, until July 1913, and resulted in 50 workers’ deaths through violence, plus numerous more deaths from starvation. The strike and resulting violence were a prelude to the later Matewan massacre and Battle of Blair Mountain. The miners were striking for union recognition, free speech, an end to blacklisting and cribbing, among other demands. Beatings, sniper attacks and sabotage against the workers were routine. The Baldwin-Felts private police were called in by the mine owners. (Sources: Wikipedia; “History is a Weapon,” Mother Jones speech to striking coal miners; “The Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike,” San Francisco Bulletin, March 21, 1913)
Lawrence Strike
1912    Lawrence Textile Strike (AKA The Bread and Roses Strike, because the women were demanding not only a living wage, so they could feed their families, but a better quality of life, too). This IWW-led strike was the first known strike to implement the moving picket line, so as to avoid arrests for loitering. The strike was also unique in that the workers spoke 22 different languages and came from 24 different nationalities, prompting the IWW to give each language group a delegate on the strike committee and complete autonomy. (Sources: The Lucy Parsons ProjectLibcom.orgBread and Roses Centenial;

1912    IWW struck Galloway Lumber Company in Grabow, LA. Also known as the Graybow Riot (July 7), four workers were killed, 50 were wounded, and 58 were arrested. (Sources: IWW)

1913    Calumet Christmas massacre (AKA the Italian Hall Disaster): 73 men, women and children, mostly striking miners and their families, were crushed to death on Christmas Eve at during a party at the Italian Hall in Calumet, MI, when someone falsely yelled “fire.” Company thugs have been blamed for the false cry and for blocking the doors in a deliberate attempt to crush the union. (Sources: Wikipediathe Italian Hall DisasterDaily Kos)
Strike leaders Patrick L. QuinlanCarlo TrescaElizabeth Gurley FlynnAdolph Lessig, and Bill Haywood.
1913    Patterson Silk Strike was an IWW-supported strike for better working conditions and the 8-hour day. Nearly 2,000 workers were arrested, including IWW members Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Big Bill Haywood. (Sources: The Masses (John Reed);WikipediaThe Lucy Parsons ProjectPatterson Friends of the Great FallsSabotage, by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn)

1913    United Fruit Strike: New Orleans: police shot three IWW members, killing one. United went on to be one of the dominant neocolonial powers in Central America (along with Standard Fruit), supporting Banana Republic dictators and their violent anti-labor policies. United Fruit is now known as Chiquita. (Sources: Rense.comWikipedia, the Daily Bleed)

1913    Wheatland Riots: Hop pickers struck against Durst Ranch in Wheatland, CA, when Durst advertised for twice as many workers as he needed in order to drive down wages. Over 100 vigilantes arrived and shot into the crowd, killing 2 workers, a deputy and a district attorney. IWW organizers Ford and Suhr were blamed and sentenced to 15 years in prison.. (
1914    Ludlow Massacre: John D. Rockefeller and other mine operators engaged company goons and the Colorado State Militia to crush 10,000 striking miners in Ludlow, Colorado. The militia attacked a tent camp with machine guns and then set it ablaze, killing 5 men, 2 women and 12 children. By the end of the strike, more than 75 people had been killed. (Sources: Howard ZinnColorado Coalfields War ProjectWikipedia; AFGE;Modern School)

1914    The Montana militia crushed a strike by WFM miners in Butte. (Source:
Roosevelt Massacre
1915    Factory guards shot 20 rioting strikers in Roosevelt, New Jersey, killing several of them. (Source: AFGE)

1916    Youngstown Massacre (January 6): Company guards at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube plant attacked a crowd of striking workers and their wives and children with tear gas bombs and live fire, killing three strikers and wounding 25 others. (Source:  Daily Bleed)
Joe Hill, executed, with Bullet Holes
1916    Joe Hill (1879-1915) was executed on trumped up murder chargesHill was a Swedish immigrant who became an IWW organizer and prolific song writer (Rebel Girl, Preacher and the Slave, The Tramp, Casey Jones the Union Scab). (Sources:WikipediaJoe Hill Project)

1916    Everett Massacre: 7 workers were killed and 50 injured when vigilantes hired by local businesses fired upon IWW members arriving in Everett by boat from Seattle. 75 Wobblies (IWW) were later arrested for murder. (Sources: WikipediaEverett Public LibraryUW Everett

1916    "Preparedness Day" parade bombing occurred in San Francisco, killing 10 and injuring 40. Labor organizer Thomas J. Mooney and Shoe Worker Warren K. Billings, both IWW members, were convicted, spending years in prison before being pardoned in 1939. (Source: AFGEWikipediaModern School)
Striking miners and others rounded up by the armed posse
1917    Bisbee Deportation: On July 12, 1,300 striking IWW miners, their supporters, and innocent bystanders were illegally deported from Bisbee, AZ,  by 2,000 vigilantes—over 200 miles in cattle cars, without food or water for 16 hours. (Sources: the Daily BleedModern SchoolIWW, and Wikipedia)
Frank Little, 1907
1917    Frank Little Lynching: On August 1, IWW organizer Frank Little was lynched in Butte, Montana. Little, a Native American, was kidnapped from his home by six Anaconda Copper Company thugs, dragged by a car and hanged from a railroad trestle. He had also been advocating that workers refuse to collaborate with the capitalists by fighting in WWI. (Sources:Workday MinnesotaIWWWikipedia)
Newspaper cartoon of woman pleading for democracy during East St. Louis Riot
1917    East St. Louis Labor and Race Riot (40-200 deaths): The “Great Migration” north was already well underway, with African Americans moving to industrial cities like Chicago seeking work. In East St. Louis, resentful white mobs frequently attacked black workers and their families, culminating in a riot on July 2 that killed as many as 200 African Americans and left thousands of them homeless. Many of the unions fed the racism not only by generalizing all black workers as scabs, but by doing little to organize them or build solidarity with them. (Sources: Wikipedia,the Black Past)

1917    IWW Offices Raided in 48 U.S. Cities. Roughly 165-300 IWW members were arrested initially, but within six months, 2,000 were in jail and sentenced to lengthy terms. In Spokane, martial law was declared. Virtually every IWW union hall in the country was busted. The raids and arrests were so extensive that the union never regained its strength or influence. (Sources:HistoryLink.orgIWWHistory Matters)

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