Hellraisers Journal: Mother Jones Speaks to Striking Street Carmen: "The nation was founded on a strike!"

You ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age.
Put on your fighting clothes.
-Mother Jones

Tuesday March 7, 1916
Washington, D. C. - Mother Jones Speaks to Striking Street Carmen

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 12.22.44 PM.png

The street carmen of Washington, D. C., conducted a two-day strike, March 5th and 6th. Negotiations are ongoing and a settlement is expected soon. The article below from The Washington Herald of March 6th describes a mass meeting held by the strikers at which Mother Jones appeared unannounced and was greeted with great applause.


Four Unions, 6,000 Strong, Pledge
Support to Strikers

Strikers Give "Mother" Jones Ovation as She Makes
Unannounced Appearance at Meeting-
Mob of Hundreds Jeer at Passing Conductor,
Calling "Scab."

Rizin, Rezzin Orr, WDC Street Carmen's Strike, W(DC) Tx Eve, Mar 5, 1916.png

The moral and financial support of four local unions, with a total membership of more than 6,000, were pledged to the striking street carmen by the presidents of the unions in addresses at a mass meeting held at Typographical Union Hall yesterday afternoon. An enormous overflow from the main auditorium held a secondary meeting in the executive room of the building.

The unions yesterday pledging support to the strikers were the Plate Printers' Union, with a membership of 1,500; the Carpenters' Union, with a membership of 1,600; the Machinists' Union, with a membership of 1,800, and the Typographical Union, 2,500 strong.

A representative of the Bricklayers' Union, which has a membership of more than 2,500, yesterday told the strikers that the moral and financial support of the organization would be pledged at a meeting to be held Wednesday night.

The executive committee of the strikers was informed that if a representative would attend the bricklayers' meeting the treasurer would turn over to him $100 as a beginning of their aid.

The speakers addressing the meeting yesterday were Rezzin Orr, organizer of the union; Grant Hamilton, representative of Samuel Gompers; President John J. Deviny, of the Plate Printers' Union; President C. H. Adams, of the Carpenters' Union; President Criekbaum, of the Machinists' Union; Sam DeNedrey, delegate of the Typographical Union; James Egan, editor of the American Federation of Labor Letter; L. A. Sterne, acting chairman of the strikers' conferences and organizer of the American Federation of Labor, and "Mother" Jones.

Mother Jones on Firing Line.

Mother Jones, UMWJ, Feb 10, 1916.png

"Mother' Jones, the most prominent woman labor agitator in the United States, who recently gained notoriety during the Cripple Creek riots, when she was imprisoned in Colorado and later forced to leave the State, yesterday walked into the meeting unannounced. When identified by the chairman she was given an ovation.

Concluding an address of particular bitterness when referring to capitalists. "Mother" Jones, after telling the men that "I am with you heart and soul," said,

Boys I have got to go to West Virginia now, but I am coming back to Washington and if you have not won this strike, or if you knuckle under to these plutocrats who are now resting in the balmy sunshine of Florida and other winter resorts. I am going to raise holy h--l in Washington.

She later asserted "When I come back we will make the members of Congress bring these fellows to terms."

"Mother" Jones before leaving arose with the remark, "Boys, I haven't much money, but here is $10 to show that I am with you."

A deafening shout of "Frame it" came from the men as she passed the money to Chairman Sterne, who briefly thanked "Mother" Jones and said that the $10 would be used only after every other cent in the treasury had been spent.

During the course of her address she said:

This nation was founded on a strike. We revolted against the tyranny of King George III. Then came the strike against temporal slavery,and now the third strike-the strike against industrial slavery-is on.

When some one told me early this morning the carmen had gone out on strike, I said to myself, "well, have they got a little of Patrick Henry's blood in their veins at last."

"Mother" drew cheers that lasted for several minutes when she told the men that if they had had any manhood in them they would have walked out long ago.

[She said:]

Every time I come to Washington...I ask you boys on the cars how much you get an hour and how many hours do you work. And I must say that right here in the Nation's Capital there is no more brutal system of industrial slavery than the street carmen's conditions.

Leader Predicts Quick Victory.

AA of Street and Electric Railway Employes of America, WDC Charter, 1916.png

Chairman Sterne, in opening the meeting, declared it was a source of gratification to know that, though 1,600 men now are out of employment and their places filled by others, not one single case of violence, drunkenness, or disorder of any kind had been reported. Mr. Sterne asserted that the strike would not last another forty-eight hours.

Rezzin Orr, the first speaker of the day, told the men that though he could make no definite statements, he felt safe in saying that there was no doubt that the strike would be ended in a surprisingly short time by their demands being granted. After a brief address, he left the hall to attend a conference with the District Commissioners.

In an interview with a reporter for The Washington Herald Mr. Orr, while refusing to divulge the course of the early morning conference with the Commissioners, stated;

Myself and the committee will listen to any statement or concession for settlement that might be advanced through the Commissioners by the street railway officials, but no action will be taken until a report is submitted to the union at a mass meeting and the men express their wishes.

The first move of the strikers was made early yesterday morning, when within a few minutes after the strike was declared, at 2:30 o'clock, the crew of the Washington Railway and Electric company, car No. 78, after running their car on the cross-over at Ninth street and Louisiana avenue north west, disconnected every motive power wire and went to their homes. The position of the car effectively blocked traffic on Ninth street in either direction until removed by coupling onto another car.

The first public out break of the strikers occurred yesterday afternoon directly after the adjournment of the meeting, when several hundred congregated at Fifth and G streets northwest. As the occasional crowded car stopped at the switch the yell "scab" startled the passengers. The cry was taken up by young boys, who, on roller skates, marked each car in chalk with the words "scab car."

The instructions given to the delegations sent to each barn by the executive committee were: "don't try to intimidate any one, but persuade the motormen and conductors to leave the cars."

[Photographs and paragraph breaks added.]



Washington Area Spark
(See notes.)
Street Car Union Committee at Strike Meeting: 1916

The Washington Herald
(Washington, District of Columbia)
-Mar 6, 1916

Rizin, Rezzin Orr, WDC Street Carmen's Strike, W(DC) Tx Eve, Mar 5, 1916
Mother Jones, UMWJ Cover, Feb 10, 1916
AA of Street and Electric Railway Employes of America, WDC Charter, 1916

See also:

mother jones in cold cellar cell (2).jpg

Note: Whoever wrote this article seems to be confusing
the Cripple Creek Strike of 1903-04 with the Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-14.
For more on the Cripple Creek Strike of 1903-04:
For more on Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-14:
(Also source for image of Mother in cold cellar cell.)

Note: This was a two day strike. Agreement was reached on March 11, 1916
and can be viewed here:
Monthly review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Volume 2, Issue 4, April 1916
United States. Bureau of Labor Statistics
G.P.O., 1916
"New Street Railway wage Agreements in Washington, D. C."


11 users have voted.


Gerrit's picture

Thanks, mate, for posting the HJ here. What a banner day here; first, OPOL, and now, the HJ Smile I really don't think Mother Jones would have supported the Korporate Kos and it's support of the korporate kleptocracy. This is wunnerful; I've missed this diary series. Best wishes, feather fall

7 users have voted.

Resilience: practical action to improve things we can control.
3D+: developing language for postmodern spirituality.

JayRaye's picture

the writing room at DK5 is way too ugly and unusable to spend 5 hours a day in it.

JtC has made us a real nice comfortable writing space here.

Was posting a preview over there, but not doing that anymore either.

Stop by here at HJ anytime you like, Gerrit, always glad to see you here.

6 users have voted.

Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

JayRaye's picture

along Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, and all those other Socialist and/or IWW, Hellraisers and Rebel Workers.

5 users have voted.

Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

Jazzenterprises's picture

As well as the great work you do. Thank-you.

4 users have voted.

Progressive to the bone.

Jazzenterprises's picture

As well as the great work you do. Thank-you.

PS: Oops on the double post, couldn't find a "delete comment" option. Next time i"ll just be patient...

2 users have voted.

Progressive to the bone.

JayRaye's picture

you're welcome from me!!

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons