Tag Archives: IWW

Paterson Silk Strike, May 19 1913

h/t: Jeffrey Perry

102 years ago, on May 19, 1913, Hubert Harrison spoke at a major rally for the Paterson Silk Strikers at the Botto House in Haledon, NJ. Other speakers that day included “Big Bill” Haywood, Patrick Quinlan, Frederick Sumner Boyd, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Also for more on the strike see Spartucus Educational: The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913

The Botto House later became the “American Labor Museum,” in part because of the large and important meetings held there during the strike.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn speaking to strikers during the Paterson Silk Strike

The Paterson “Evening News” described Harrison as “very bitter in his denunciations of the New York newspaper writers” and reported that he “commenced a tirade upon one of the writers in particular, and called him a — dirty dog.”

The anti-strike “Evening News” added that “his comparisons were very blasphemous and not fit for . . . the papers to re-print”

Co-agitator Flynn, however, defended him saying that “he tells plain facts and the bosses don’t like them.”

(Drawn from Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press)

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__font_size__3__font_co…

For comments from scholars and activists on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/disc.htm and see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__font_size__3__font_co…

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heBKm1ytd5Q

Children working looms in mills in Paterson, NJ. From OutStory: The Paterson Silk Strike

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Remembering a Martyr for Labor: Joe Hill

Joe Hill

Born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund on October 6, 1879 in Sweden and later known in America as Joe Hill, died on November 19, 1915.

Convicted of murder on no more evidence than that of some eye-witnesses to the murder.

Since our post is late and after his date of death we’ll not tarry any further composing our own essay since many have written extensively already on his life.

We will leave you with inks to his bio from the IWW site and ironically a very good write-up from the AFL-CIO labor history site (Joe hated the AFL-CIO as many other IWW members did as they rightfully felt they compromised union strength by working with capitalists).

Also, wikipedia has an good write-up about his trial as well.

We’ll also leave you with some musical tributes as well, which seems fitting since Joe’s live was committed to using music and the lyric as his means of organizing.


I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he
“I never died,” says he
“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe,” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die.”
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, “What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize.”
“Joe Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,
“Joe Hill ain’t never died.
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side.”
“From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where workers strike and organize,”
Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill,”
Says he, “You’ll find Joe Hill.”
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, “But Joe, you’re ten years dead,”
“I never died,” says he
“I never died,” says he




 Workers of the World Awaken!
by Joe Hill

taken from the site for the International Workers of the World, a still active international labor union for all workers

Break your chains, demand your rights.
All the wealth you make is taken
B y exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission
F rom your cradles to your graves?
Is the height of your ambition
To be good and willing slaves?

Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
Fight for your own emancipation;
Arise, ye slaves of ev’ry nation, in One Union Grand.
Our little ones for bread are crying;
And millions are from hunger dying;
The end the means is justifying,
‘Tis the final stand.

If the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains;
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command stand still.


Join the union, fellow workers,
Men and women, side by side;
We will crush the greedy shirkers
Like a sweeping, surging tide;
For united we are standing,
But divided we will fall;
Let this be our understanding-
“All for one and one for all.”


Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making –
It belongs to you by right.
No one for bread will be crying,
We’ll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Worker’s commonwealth.




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Workers in Chicago Arrested at Protest for Minimum Wage Raise

chicago protesters

In this article from the Chicagoist, workers and protesters demanded that the minimum wage be raise to a living wage level of $15/hour.  As reported below, 21 people were arrested but sympathy among even the arresting cops existed as quoted in the story.

We need more of this action, more everywhere across the country as people are pressed to work for less than what is required to survive.  Contrary to popular opinion and even apparently the opinion of some unions, “protecting the middle class” is not what unions are all about; they also must be about raising living standards for everyone.

The people who serve the middle class — the people who work on weekends, holidays and nights, who turn their hotel sheets, who smile and say “Thank you come again” because if they don’t they’ll get fired all serve many who already make a living wage, who enjoy the protections that unions brought them.

It is in the interest of all Americans to raise the living standard for everyone so that everyone can live a decent life and participate in the economy in a productive and meaningful way.

Read the full story here: 21 Protesters Arrested at Mag Mile Demonstration for Raising the Minimum Wage

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Wal-Mart Actions Around New Hampshire

Protesters in Manchester on South Willow Street on Black Friday.

Actions against the employment practices of Wal-Mart happened in three locations in the state this past Friday after Thanksgiving — known as “Black Friday”.

Activists from Occupy NH, Occupy Seacoast, the I.W.W. union and Occupy North Country set up protests, handed out flyers and in one instance, reportedly clashed with local police.

In Manchester participant Mark Provost said, “People were generally positive, honking their horns, waving their fists in solidarity, the jig is up, people know what is going on.”

In Somersworth, NH

In Somersworth Occupy the Seacoast held a protest outside the store in the morning, according to David Holt, “9 put of 10 people that reacted to us when we were outside were positive, gave us the thumbs up or honked and waved in support.”  David said that the group also went inside Wal-Mart with their signs, “We walked thru the Walmart with our signs and the management tried to herd us out, they called the police but we were gone before they showed up.”

When they were outside David said, “One cop pulled over in a cruiser and rolled down the window and we weren’t sure what he would say but he said he was behind us 100%.” Of the numbers of people in Occupy David said, “We had a wide range of people that had never come to an occupy event before, one of the people event printed up pamphlets and handed them out about what Walmart does.”

Some reported that an individual had a clash with the police in Littleton, but that person has asked not to speak to the press, so no further information is available at this time.

More about the action in Somersworth from the Foster’s Daily Democrat: Demonstrators in Somersworth Call for Changes at Wal-Mart

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Somerville Mass Restaurant Owner Won’t Pay His Help

As detailed in the Boston Occupier, members of various groups such as the Boston I.W.W. and Centro Presente have continued to picket and make noise at a local restaurant, Diva because the owners, One World Cuisine have refused  have refused to pay their laborer’s due wages.

The picket goes on and those interested in joining to help fight for the cause should contact the Boston I.W.W. for more information.  The picket goes on everyday.


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A Worker Looks In From the Outside of the ‘Labor Community’

With the latest focus on actions across the country by Wal-Mart workers, many middle class people who have the privilege of not having to work a low wage job announce their solidarity with the workers.  But their focus is narrow and their solidarity rings hollow.  Until a smaller more active union stepped up to support some of the workers who have had the courage to step up, Wal-Mart workers were and (still remain largely) the butt of classist jokes, derisive comments and dismissal by most Americans.

In fact most low-wage work has the stigma in this country of being work occupied by lower educated, slower witted persons who by their lack of the exceptional talent of their middle class betters, have failed to advance economically.  This classist attitude rings hollow in the face of the fact that as the American job pool shrinks, more and more people are forced into working low-wage jobs.  Jobs traditionally shut-off from the traditional unions.  Like a self-serving circle of hell, low-wage workers get stuck in a system where their poverty and desperation feeds an inability and fear to agitate for better wages and working conditions.  Short working hours and low hourly pay that leads to poverty existence squeezes the reserves of workers who lack the flexibility to move to other, better paying work.  Armchair libertarians and the like love to argue ad infitnitum that all workers have mobility to “take their labor else where”.  Such fantasies serve only to blame the worker, leaving better paid workers, the employer and government policies that enable working poverty off the hook.

Sorely missing from the popular perception and focus of the Wal-Mart workers’ action is the acknowledgement that similar workers struggle everyday, unnoticed and unrepresented.  The theme in American politics reflects the tacit willingness of Americans to be separated by class distinctions with signage and slogans that cry out the lame theme, “Protecting the Middle Class”, as if there exists a fear of associating with the ‘unwashed’ and the invisible class — including day laborers and those who languish on unemployment that washes them into the fast growing river of workers struggling to make ends meet with barely crumbs.

Does the American ruling class consist of middle class workers? Are not all workers struggling the same? It appears that instead of seeking to embrace all workers, the traditional labor unions have made the strategic decision to “grow” their dwindling movement only among those that fit their aged and concrete-clad vision.  All workers share the same basic struggles.  As traditional unions beg and work hard to gain support in their struggles to defend collective bargaining rights, where are these unions to defend the millions of workers who don’t work for the most hated retail chain in America?

And also, when will the American “middle class” realize that their never-ending thirst for cheap goods, cheap services and ‘lower prices’ comes at the price of people’s livelihood and standard of living?  Is it necessary to have a Wal-Mart in every town in America? Or a K-Mart? Or a Home Depot?  Has the spread of the corporate conglomerate retail market led to better wages and increased living conditions, or has it created a silent, suppressed, isolated and ever-growing sub-class? While there is much to applaud in the efforts of the Wal-Mart workers those smaller unions that have come out in support of them and other workers, the focus needs to widen to all workers.  The time has come for realization that, as the I.W.W. adage coined nearly a century ago, an injury to one is an injury to all— all workers must come together, ready to represent themselves at the table of labor in solidarity with all labor as One Big Union, united in the fight against the scourge of corporate global capitalism.

From artist Mike Flugennak: http://sinkers.org/stage/

Unfortunately the labor unions presently making up less 12% of the population naturally, have continued their isolation from many workers.  Workers in low wage jobs that larger unions have decided long ago not to organize have suffer from the  lack of union representation.  Exploitation of low wage workers has increased as the economic depression increases the labor pool and emboldens employers.  Some union organizers claim that the old ways of organizing do not work as jobs in lower wage fields tend to have a large turn-over, tend to offer little incentive for workers to remain and thus such a fluid membership base leads to instability and inability to organize long term.

This is disputable when one considers that the largest proportion of the workforce with the most direct exposure to the public is the low wage worker, whether in service jobs, healthcare or retail.  They provide the opportunity to larger trade unions to increase support for and understanding of the struggle to keep legal protected rights such as collective bargaining and (although diminishing and very limited today), the right to strike.  In exchange, formerly neglected workers should justly expect some support for their cause, where such has been historically lacking.

Diminished representation has weakened support for the union movement nationally.  As workers feel further and further distant from what many perceive as weak, disaffected or out of touch union representation, frustration within the ranks increases. Many members complain bitterly of lack of rank and file participation in meetings, apathy among members and even many members who enjoy the benefits of their union job while supporting exactly the opposite in political ideology and public policy, hypocritically assisting those who wish to undo the union and keep more workers out while benefiting from union members themselves. Ironically, union leadership and members do nothing to stop this inside sabotage while more and more workers linger on the outside looking in, unable to find a slot in increasingly unavailable union work.

Also membership reduces as well as the cost of carrying a card and paying dues while unemployed becomes prohibitive.  Unions have shrunk not only due to assaults on worker’s rights to organize and act for their betterment, but also due to attrition as a result of the dwindling union protection. Started by Ronald Reagan, the Republican and ‘New Democrats’ have unraveled protection for worker expression with only barely audible squeaks from union leadership. Sold down the river on the idea that some kind of gentleman’s agreement exists between labor and big business that they must continue to protect, big labor unions have chosen to bargain with the devil than to reach back and lend a hand to their brother and sister workers who could offer strength in their effort to finally resist big business’ assaults on labor.

The labor movement cannot survive in its current state. Dwindling membership rates and even more diminished actual power when one considers participation rates and support in current unions, has a ripple effect on all workers everywhere.  As John O’Reilly points out here, the larger unions smirk and snub workers they consider beneath them at their peril.  Only with all workers united together to fight the nihilistic and dehumanizing forces of corporate capitalism will workers succeed and together bring the living standards of all workers to enable peaceful, dignified existence.

John O’Reilly on how the labor movement talks about itself and how he interprets it as a member and organizer of the IWW.

I’ve been thinking recently about the way that the labor movement sees itself and talks about itself. Labor movement activists often talk about labor as a kind of community, a place where individuals can reach across differences and speak to each other based on a shared connection to their unions and unionism more generally. There are big, well-funded internal publications that the large unions produce which help move this discourse. But there are also independent voices which participate in this discourse. I can think of Labor Notes as an example that I’m most familiar with.

Labor Notes and magazines, blogs, or other publications like it have this particular way of speaking about the labor movement and the changes that it needs to implement that I’ve always had a lot of trouble connecting with. I like Labor Notes, I think its a useful piece that praises rank-and-file struggles and shows how the bosses and the business unions are strong and powerful but also have weaknesses. It’s the kind of publication that shows that working people can have independent publications that highlight our stories of success and explain why and when we fail with a good analysis (usually).

But I’ve always had trouble connecting with the language that LN and similar publications use to talk about the labor movement. There’s a positioning of “inside and against” that I’ve always been unable to connect with. The discourse often goes “we are the labor movement, we need to do better, we need to get better leadership and democratize our unions, we need to organize the unorganized.” I like all the reclaiming of the labor movement narrative, that’s a great step I think. Saying that “we,” being rank-and-file workers, are the labor movement and that unions are not just the union leaders, is really important. But to me as an IWW organizer, I’ve never felt part of some community of labor.

Read more: Outside the House of Labor, by Jack O’Reilly, IWW organizer, originally published in Labor Notes.

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England IWW Cleaner’s Strike Successful

From The Third Estate Blog: (link below)

Striking Cleaners Win Victory Against John Lewis

Cleaners at the flag ship John Lewis store on Oxford Street have won a fantastic victory against job cuts and low pay. The management have now agreed to withdraw, totally, plans for mass compulsory redundancy, and to give cleaners 10% pay rise, backdated to March – following a strike by staff who had organised themselves within the IWW.

Back in late July I went down to the John Lewis store to support the strike. I must confess that I was initially unsure as to whether the workers could win: at this point only a section of cleaning staff were actually organised in the union. What impressed though was the militancy and sheer presence of the picket line. Everybody who went in – whether they were colleagues, bosses, or delivery drivers  – was compelled to properly engage with the fact that their was a strike on. Meanwhile a very deliberate effort. was made to inform the shopping public of the dispute – both at the flagship store and at John Lewis’ sister store Peter Jones. (At one point the police were called to prevent a few of us leafletting outside the latter. To their credit, the police seemed rather amused that they had been called down and explained to the manager that it was not within their remit to stop people giving out leaflets).

More here.

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