Open Thread - Thurs 25 Aug 2022 - Wobbly?

The Wobblies:

The person I supported in my local primary election for Congress this year, Rebecca Parson, lost.

This isn't surprising, she was running against one of the more rightward leaning Dems in Congress; a guy who has been in the seat since 2012 or so. And she's pretty radical. The guy she ran against, Derek Kilmer, is pretty centrist. Anyway, after she lost, she sent out an email thanking all of us supporters and asking us to answer a question about what she should concentrate on next.

Surprisingly, unionization was the answer that got the most votes. I think that's good. The result made me remember some of what I learned about unions when I was young and moved to the PacNW. One of the unions I learned about was the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), the Wobblies. The Wobblies were, and are still, quite active in the PacNW, for example, in Seattle.

I love this saying! It's so true!

The IWW was founded in 1905, in Chicago. The union grew quickly, and in the 1910s and 1920s was very strong in the American West, achieving quite a few of its short term goals. But, it was considered to be 'too radical' by other unions like the AFL, and it lost membership and popularity when the government cracked down on socialist, anarchist and radical groups during the First Red Scare after WWI. One of the things I really like that the IWW promotes is workplace democracy, in which workers elect their own managers. (Wikipedia has a pretty decent general overview of the union's history, as do the the webpages of the Union itself, and the Seattle arm of the union).

On Nov 5, 1916 the Everett Massacre (also called Bloody Sunday) happened. Wobblies had come north from Seattle on several boats to join striking workers in Everett, WA. The striking workers were called shingle weavers, they cut cedar into shingles with mechanical saws and then stacked the shingles into piles. They were striking in Everett because they hadn't had their wages restored to the levels they'd had prior to a recent (to 1916) slump in logging, after that slump was over. Anyway, the boats were met by the sheriff of the town, who, of course, supported the owners of the timber mills (and shingle factories), and a bunch of armed vigilantes. The vigilantes opened fire as one of the boats was docking. The workers couldn't even disembark. Several of the workers (at least five) were killed and 27 or more were wounded, but they'd come prepared to fight and two 'deputies' (deputized vigilantes) were killed, with 20 wounded. Over 70 Wobblies were arrested. The leader of the Wobblies was tried for murder and acquitted by jury. After that the charges against the other 73 Wobblies who had been arrested were dismissed and they were released from jail. Ironically, the deputies did not die by gunfire from the Wobblies, but were shot in the back by other deputies! It's likely many of the vigilantes who were hurt were also wounded by 'friendly fire'.

One of the more famous early members of the IWW, although you might not hear a lot about her now, probably, was Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She was from the East Coast, but when she was 19 she traveled to Spokane WA to help with a free speech fight on behalf of the IWW (of which she was a member and organizer). This was in 1909. She chained herself to a lamp post to delay her arrest. The fight/protest was because the local government was shutting down speech rallies and such, defying (as usual) the free speech clauses of our Constitution. The local government relented in 1910 and let the IWW hold speech meetings. The government also released the members of the IWW it was holding in prison. Flynn helped found the ACLU in 1920. She joined the Communist Party of America in 1936. She fought for women's rights, birth control, and women's sufferage. She was arrested and jailed in 1951 for two years during Red Scare II (or was it III, or IV, which one are we on now? 12? 21? I don't know). She died in 1964 in Moscow, Russia. She was given a state funeral there, over 25,000 people attended.

Another famous early member of the IWW was Joe Hill. He was martyred in 1915; executed by firing squad for a crime most people thought he didn't commit. He was born in Sweden! He wrote several iconic songs and poems, and came up with the common phrase 'pie in the sky'. I first learned about him from Pete Seeger's cover of the song, 'I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night'. Joe Hill wrote, 'There is Power in a Union' and I have to admit I love that song, so here's one of my favorite versions by Billy Bragg.

I think what these tiny tidbits show is that, sad to say, nothing every really changes, even as everything changes. We still have to chain ourselves to lamp posts. We still have to protest, the rich still take everything and the poor still starve, the police, the army and the vigilantes still shoot at us. But there are times of triumph, long periods where there can be peace and prosperity for all. So let's keep fighting!

A movie made in 1979 about the Wobblies has been restored and re-released recently, for May Day 2022.

Here's some links about it:
https://www.democracynow.org/2022/4/29/the_wobblies_documentary_iww_history
https://quillette.com/2022/06/01/the-return-of-the-wobblies/ (from Australia!)
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/05/26/kezm-m26.html

Here's the unrestored version...

For information about unions and strikes that are happening now, check out 'Who Gets the Bird' a blog by Jonah Furman on substack.

So, thanks for reading and here's the open thread - and remember, everything is interesting if you dive deep enough, so tell us about where you're diving!

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Sima's picture

I hope your day is going great! We are supposed to be hot (for here) today. We'll see, the farm seems to be getting a bit of a sea breeze, which is keeping it cooler than places nearby.

Let's hear about what you are doing, and any info you might have about the wobblies! (or other unions!)

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14 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

QMS's picture

The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed by Richard Seddon’s Liberal government, making New Zealand the first country in the world to outlaw strikes in favour of compulsory arbitration

Is arbitration still a thing? I know executive authority has been used to bust strikes (like the air
traffic controllers) and occasionally hear about some judges forcing arbitration.

The modern era seems to permit companies to practice strike busting at their whim. And scabs
still seem around. The Pinkerton types have morphed into private goon squads of various flavors,
including LEO's.

It has always been an uphill battle for labor rights activists. The big corporations do not usually care
to give concessions. And, of course, the legislators do very little to help workers.

Thanks for the OT Sima!

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Sima's picture

@QMS
Arbitration... I dunno. I think it's still a thing, but not sure it works very well. As always, the power positions get corrupted; so heads of unions, etc, become 'bought' in a way. That's why I really support the IWW, no heads (or so it seems).

Hope you had a great day!

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5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

Lookout's picture

I love the Seeger song you mentioned too.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" says he,
"I never died" says he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe," by god says I,
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 shot you Joe,
they killed you Joe" says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man"
Says Joe "I didn't die"
Says Joe "I didn't die"

Standing there as big as life
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 go 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 working men go out on strike
Says he'll find Joe Hill
Says he'll Find Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" says he,
"I never died" says he.

Pete is a particular favorite of mine...not just as a musician, but also as an exemplary person.

Joe Hill played an important role as you say.

On Jan. 10, 1914, Hill knocked on the door of a Salt Lake City doctor at 11:30 p.m. asking to be treated for a gunshot wound he said was inflicted by an angry husband who had accused Hill of insulting his wife. Earlier that evening, in another part of town, a grocer and his son had been killed. One of the assailants was wounded in the chest by the younger victim before he died. Hill's injury therefore tied him to the incident. The uncertain testimony of two eyewitnesses and the lack of any corroboration of Hill's alibi convinced a local jury of Hill's guilt, even though neither witness was able to identify Hill conclusively and the gun used in the murders was never recovered. The campaign to exonerate Hill began two months before the trial and continued up to and even beyond his execution by firing squad on Nov. 19, 1915.

On November 18, 1915, the night before his death, he telegraphed IWW leader Big Bill Haywood: “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true rebel. Don’t waste time in mourning. Organize.”

We need unions for corporate employees, but I like QMS idea from yesterday's OT, Coops. The idea of workers owning and sharing the profit of the places where they work makes the most sense to me. Of course the problem is it is a corporate, not independent, world and economy. In Germany, Unions elect a representative to serve on the corporate board. That is a great idea, IMO.
https://www.bclplaw.com/en-US/insights/german-employee-representation-on...

German co-determination on board level is critical and sensitive for corporate governance at the top of large German companies. Unlike other jurisdictions, Germany has a two-tier system of co-determination: at floor level, employees elect work councils as their representatives who have far-reaching information, consultation, and even veto rights on operational levels; while at board level, employee representation depends on the headcount of staff. Once a threshold of 500 employees is reached, it is mandatory to establish a supervisory board. More than 500 employees triggers a one-third participation, whereas more than 2,000 employees results in parity co-determination.

The supervisory boards of all larger entities in Germany therefore consist of equal members of shareholders and employee representatives. It is in effect, however, an “almost parity” co-determination, because the shareholders have the final say with the chairman of the board being elected by the shareholders having two votes in the event of a deadlock.

No matter what, the game seems always rigged in favor of the elite.

Well thanks for the OT. Hope your garden is doing well. We just planted some lettuce to prep for the fall garden.

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11 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

enhydra lutris's picture

@Lookout

governmental structure (as theorized) In any industry there would be a council comprised of equal numbers of representatives of the individual corporations or employers and of the emloyees of each such business entity who would hammer out the wages to be paid uniformly to the employees within that industry as well as all other matters of import to said industry.

be well and have a good one

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5 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Sima's picture

@Lookout
I too am a big Pete Seeger fan. It was his version of the song that made me try to learn who Joe Hill was. I love all of Pete's songs and sing along, even though I can't sing at all!

I didn't know that the Germans organized their companies that way. It's good, but, in the end, as you say, it always favors the elite. I wonder how often the big bosses go against the workers?

Co-ops are great ideas too. There are a few around here, should be more!

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5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

enhydra lutris's picture

One feature of IWW history is the ideological class with other unionizing bodies. The AFL was created to be a comglomeration of multiple craft unions, separate unions based on the trade or craft of the members, almost like guilds. The Wobblies initially argued for or pushed for organization along industry lines though that still wasn't really what they were all about. The difference is that in a carft union, there might be 5, 10 or 20 different unions represented in something like the auto industry, but only one if unions were based on industries. The CIO somewhat came to initially stand for such a principle, for what it's worth. Think, broadly, of longshore work people on boats (on deck and below deck, running derricks, handling pallets, et., etc. AND on the docks, forklift jockeys, those unhooking derrick lines, etc. In a craft union model, those would all be separate unions. In an industry model, only one.

The IWW, in the end, alienated both the AFL and the CIO because they really stood for "One Big Union", organized strictly as a class based operation, all labor, regardless of craft or industry, which would give them, theoretically, much more clout.

be well and have a good one

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7 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Sima's picture

@enhydra lutris
and all for one. I dunno, seems like it would have more clout. I know the in the beginning, the IWW accepted all types of 'undesirables' that the others organizations/unions wouldn't, like blacks, women, mexicans, etc. Because everyone was a worker, everyone had a say. I like that, but the real world interferes, doesn't it? Because no matter what, humans are humans and one has to be on top, or something like that.

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4 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

leadership has to offer.

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Sima's picture

@humphrey
He's just as stupid sounding as our own leaders. Suffer for what? What's the goal here? It's not like, say, WWII or something. And why do the poor have to bear the brunt of it all. How's about taking some money from Davos types?

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5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

Both headlines from today.

inflation2.PNG

A measure of US profit margins has reached its widest since 1950, suggesting that the prices charged by businesses are outpacing their increased costs for production and labor.

After-tax profits as a share of gross value added for non-financial corporations, a measure of aggregate profit margins, improved in the second quarter to 15.5% -- the most since 1950 -- from 14% in the first quarter, according to Commerce Department figures published Thursday.

inflation1.PNG

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Sima's picture

@gjohnsit
I knew the corps (corpses?) were doing well with this inflation, at least for now. But didn't realize how much. I spent over 300$ at the grocery store yesterday. Last year it would have been around 190$. All the stuff I had to buy has gone up insanely, and I can't believe it's all because supply lines or whatever other excuse they have. Ohh yea, no-one wants to work... (I call b.s.!)

As for student loans, they should be forgiven and school should be free or very low cost, unless you are going to a private school, like it was when I was young. And no, schools didn't cause inflation then either!

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7 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

My history classes pretty much ignored union history, or portrayed them in a bad light.
The idea of no union heads is just such a fair and democratic way of running a union for the benefit of all members.
Hope you and the kids are all great.
Thanks so much for the OT!

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Sima's picture

@on the cusp
My history classes did the same except for one... one teacher in high school who got permission from the school to teach us about local history. And he taught us about unions, and Indians, and what happens to the little towns when the state builds a reservoir over them, and about vets from WWI and II and Vietnam and why it was stupid to 'duck and cover' if we got hit by nukes, since we lived close to many military bases, and so much more. He, and a very old chemistry teacher taught me so much. The chem teacher spent every other Friday after quizzes showing us his slides of his 2 to 3 month trips across Europe and through the USSR! (yes, he got in trouble in the late 50's early 60s during one of the Red Scares) in a VW van, showing us the people he met. Boy, did they help open my eyes to the 'other' side of things!

Thanks for stopping by!

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5 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Sima What an educational experience!
Dad was union. For my family, it was a given. Good. Ho hum. No discussion. But distinctions between union structure was a topic I heard about in your essay for the fist time. And I have a degree and 3 post-grad semesters toward a Masters in US History!
I think someone comes into purview, gets to talking, spurs interest. I never had that in re IWW.
You ROCK!

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4 users have voted.

A subject near to heart since my Dad was a wobbly when he was younger. Later, he was president of the local Carpenter's and Joiner's union. Most of those unions are long gone in Texas and elsewhere. The Right to Work (for less) laws killed most of them. Several years back, I know one of my nephews (now in his 40's) was looking into getting into a trade and only the industrial electricians and sheet-metal folks still had a decent union.

And, it's good to see some young folks fighting to bring back the unions, countering the "nobody wants to work anymore" diatribe with "Fuck you. Pay me!"

All the best to everyone.

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Sima's picture

@peachcreek
And you! Both my grandfathers were in unions, but, as you say, it sometimes seems there are only a few decent unions left. However, the young people are starting them again!

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3 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

Sima's picture

@kelly @kelly
Thanks! I am reading the links now :). It's good to learn new stuff, I hadn't learned about Fresno, but I lived close by for a while. Sheez! Thank you!

Edited to add: the song from the second link rocks. Once again, thank you!

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3 users have voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so

@Sima thanks for looking! That really only scrapes a little. What happened in the late 60's and early 70's is amazing. We still benefit from that momentous circumstance, but folks who werent there (I might have participated in the biggest march as a kid. I actually did) or dont realize the scope of issues (how about a top ranking Goebbel's guy being placed in charge of the state university/college?)
or even slightly more recently, when the hardcores took on The Gap in The Mall. Now that was a big deal/victory. Who knows what is next. The LCD attitude towards Fresno is hatRED. As conservative as the valley may appear, the leftist activists have produced considerable progress, fought serious fights and brought home hard won victories.
They simply get no shrift at all from the folks who dont know their shit.

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1 user has voted.

@kelly With the last years and covid, I've been reading more nonfiction and history than usual, with a particular affinity to water-law and labor-law. I went down a reasonably small warren of a rabbit hole thanks to you and found Frank Little (unionist).

I did not know of him or this history. What a fucking hero.
I'll probably delve a little deeper. Thanks!

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Sima's picture

@peachcreek
Rabbit hole indeed, am now reading about Frank Little and others. I got the movie about him in Butte, 'An Injury to One', slated for buying in my next round of video buys... thank you!

up
1 user has voted.

If you're poor now, my friend, then you'll stay poor.
These days, only the rich get given more. -- Martial book 5:81, c. AD 100 or so
Nothing ever changes -- Sima, c. AD 2020 or so