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Category: General

This Day in Labor History: November 5, 1916

[ 17 ] November 5, 2011 |

On November 5, 1916, a boat loaded with members of the Industrial Workers of the World attempted to dock in Everett, Washington. Local leaders, determined to stop the I.W.W. from entering their nice little town and influencing their striking shingle weavers, opened fire on the docking boat, killing at least 5 I.W.W. members, though probably closer to 12. 2 deputies died as well, shot in the back by friendly fire. Known as the Everett Massacre, this incident was the first of several incidents of organized violence against the I.W.W. in the Northwest during the second half of the 1910s.

Shingle weavers lived a tough life. You could always tell who was new to the job. The newbie had 10 fingers. Shingle weavers created roofing shingles out of raw pieces of cedar. They did so with bare hands and whirring buzz saws without protection. In addition, the saws produced wood dust that workers breathed in. “Cedar asthma” was a common malady. Shingle weavers had been the first workers in the timber industry to organize into unions, going back to the late 19th century. In fact, as 1916 approached, the I.W.W., while active in the region organizing itinerant loggers, had almost no presence in Everett. Many shingle workers saw themselves as skilled workers as felt closer to the American Federation of Labor than the disreputable radicals, although the AFL had shown very little interest in organizing them. The shingle weavers had gone on strike in the summer of 1916 to receive a pay raise to make up for slashed wages from an industry downturn in 1914.

The shingle weaver strike was almost over when the I.W.W. showed up. In fact, only one mill remained on strike. On August 19, 1916, strikebreakers at that mill got into a fight with strikers, beating them up pretty bad. The I.W.W. had only a small presence in the town but capitalized on the newly explosive situation. Wobblies began agitating more, organizing the workers. The town quickly shut down the I.W.W. office, thinking it would get rid of them, but more kept arriving.

Everett leaders unleashed their full fury on the Wobblies, even before November 5. 40 Wobblies were rounded up, brutally beaten, and taken to the edge of town where, despite some severe injuries, were forced to walk along the rail line back to Seattle. Wobblies were used to being kicked out of town. In fact, much of their early publicity came from free speech actions throughout the West as local police forces and industry leaders routinely violated their 1st Amendment rights.

So when word of the beatings got out, the Wobblies were not going to back down. Instead, the hired a boat, the Verona, which they loaded with 300 of their members to bring the free speech struggle to Everett. By the time the boat arrived, law enforcement had massed at the dock. Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae had deputized 200 citizens to stop the “invaders.” McRae yelled out, “Who are your leaders?” The response: “We are all leaders!” At this point, McRae and his deputies opened fire, nearly causing the boat to capsize as the Wobblies fled the assault.

The known dead Wobblies were Hugo Gerlot, Abraham Rabinowitz, Gus Johnson, John Looney, and Felix Baran. There were 7 Wobblies missing, probably shot into the water and later fished out and quickly buried to avoid the information becoming public. Naturally, the Wobblies were then arrested and charged with the deaths of the 2 deputies killed by friendly fire. The authorities chose only one Wobbly, Thomas Tracy, to stand trial for the “murders,” but even in a day where unbiased juries in labor trials were a rare exception, the jury acquitted Tracy due to the complete lack of evidence.

The I.W.W. did not go away after the Everett Massacre. Building upon it and other martyrs to the worker struggle, they made the Pacific Northwest timber industry the union’s prime focus in 1917, bringing the industry to a halt that summer protesting the atrocious living conditions and working environments loggers suffered daily. Eventually, the federal government intervened after the U.S. entered World War I because the strike became a national security issue due to the necessity of Northwestern wood to build airplanes. The I.W.W. wouldn’t go away after that either. In fact, it took another act of violence against radical workers in order to suppress the Wobblies in the Northwest. We’ll get to that next week.

Previous editions of this series have covered the Bisbee Deportation of 1917 and Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676.

Michael Jordan

[ 24 ] November 4, 2011 |

How odd that it is Michael Jordan leading the hard-line NBA owners group demanding draconian reductions in players’ share of revenue. In 1998, as a player himself, Jordan pointedly told owners that if they couldn’t make a profit under the current system, they should sell their teams.

Talk about betraying your class.

This Year’s Winner of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Award for Hypocrisy in Fatherhood Is….

[ 48 ] November 4, 2011 |

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) who owes 100K in child support yet gets kudos from the Family Research Council for being pro-family!

Today From the Iron Triangle

[ 13 ] November 4, 2011 |

Of course:

Months before MF Global teetered on the brink, federal regulators were seeking to rein in the types of risky trades that contributed to the firm’s collapse. But they faced opposition from an influential opponent: Jon S. Corzine, the head of the then little-known brokerage firm.

As a former United States senator and a former governor of New Jersey, as well as the leader of Goldman Sachs in the 1990s, Mr. Corzine carried significant weight in the worlds of Washington and Wall Street. While other financial firms employed teams of lobbyists to fight the new regulation, MF Global’s chief executive in meetings over the last year personally pressed regulators to halt their plans.

The agency proposing the rule, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, relented. Wall Street, which has been working to curb many financial regulations, won another battle.

Whew, I was worried that job-killing Washington bureaucrats were going to stifle the ability of executives to loot their companies by taking shareholder money to the roulette table innovation for a minute there.

Almost As Powerful As ACORN!

[ 14 ] November 4, 2011 |

Amazingly, there’s a certain class of wingnut that remains obsessed with Journolist. Because, apparently, the fact that liberal opinion journalists express liberal opinions in emails as well as public (and a libertarian journalist might have unkind if not false things to say about a Republican) proves that no scandal involving a Republican can ever be true, or something. Reynolds and Althouse aren’t really into making arguments so much as tribal grunting.


[ 2 ] November 4, 2011 |

I was on the Rick Smith Show last night talking about general strikes and Occupy Wall Street and other aspects of class warfare in the past and present. Check it out.

Steve Jobs’ Vision of America

[ 106 ] November 4, 2011 |

When Steve Jobs met with President Obama in 2010, Jobs told the president that he would only get one term:

You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America’s education system, saying it was “crippled by union work rules,” noted Isaacson. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.” Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.

If China is our model, is this how Steve Jobs saw America’s future? “We found that across the four Chinese-owned copper mines in Zambia, there were persistent labor abuses, particularly in regards to health and safety, long hours of work and anti-union activities,” said Matt Wells, with Human Rights Watch in Lusaka, summarizing the more than 100-page report.”

Or what about this? “Dozens of miners have been trapped in a coal mine in China after a “rock burst”, officials say.
Four miners were killed and 50 more are missing after the accident, which happened late on Thursday in the city of Sanmenxia in Henan province.”

Or this?

Or should I be saying anything negative about National Hero and Demigod Steve Jobs at all? After all, with him not around to give our lives of ennui meaning through gadgets, what’s the point of living? Clearly, worker death and pollution is a worthy model so long as I can download a new app every day!

More on the Indefensibility of the NCAA Cartel

[ 43 ] November 4, 2011 |

Pierce’s follow-up to the must-read Taylor Branch article is, of course, outstanding. The first key point is that amateurism is an empty fraud, a transparent mask for exploitation and class privilege, that I’ll take seriously as soon as coaches and administrators work on a volunteer basis. The second concerns the issue of ancillary revenues:

The counterargument, of course, is that athletes are “compensated” by the scholarships they are granted to the universities they attend. In a time in which the middle class is being squeezed, and a college education is pricing itself out of the reach of thousands of families, this argument gains a certain amount of power. However, let’s accept it on its face for the moment. You can say that the university is entitled to the gate receipts from its games based on the value of the scholarships it grants to its players, and I might even grant you that, at which point I will lie down until this feeling passes.

But the ancillary income — television revenues, the sale of jerseys and other gear, the use of a player’s “likeness” in video games, and on and on — completely overwhelms the equation and makes the relationship inequitable. The Southeastern Conference made over a billion dollars last year. The Big 10 made $905 million. These people may have a moral right to their ticket sales based on the scholarships they provide, but they don’t have a moral right to every last nickel they can squeeze out of their labor force. That’s absurd. It’s un-American. And it cannot last.

Exactly right. Even if we assume arguendo that scholarships represent adequate direct compensation, I’ve never heard a remotely decent argument for why players should be denied their fair share of merchandise revenues, be prevented from taking gifts, etc. As I’ve said before, this is represents not some longstanding academic tradition but a unique burden placed on athletes. We don’t prevent journalism students from selling stories or music students from taking gigs, and we don’t do this because it wouldn’t make any sense to do that. These grotesquely unfair rules can’t be ended soon enough, and if it takes a lawsuit so be it.

How Free Trade Agreements Work on the Ground

[ 54 ] November 3, 2011 |

A Wisconsin-based mining company is using the Central American Free Trade Agreement to sue the government of El Salvador for closing down a mine because of pollution. The Commerce Group is suing El Salvador for $100 million in damages for violating CAFTA.

This is the race to the bottom. This is why companies go overseas. With free trade agreements, we recreate Gilded Age labor and environmental conditions in the developing world. We have simply exported all the negatives of the Industrial Revolution. We were promised cheap goods and information economy. They were promised jobs. Instead, we are mired in an economic slump without a foreseeable end and a failed information economy while they live in endemic poverty and suffer environmental poisoning. And the last several presidents, regardless of political party, have supported the continuation of this trend.

Most Prominent Politicians (XVI): Tennessee

[ 87 ] November 3, 2011 |

On to the Volunteer State. I’d say Tennessee has performed about to an expected level in generating prominent politicians. Its 3 presidents make it seem like it would outperform, but relative to other states its size in the South, it has rather underperformed in producing congressional leaders.

1. Andrew Jackson–Fairly obvious selection, a man who defined an era for both good and bad.

2. James K. Polk–stole half of Mexico in a blatantly expansionist war. But given that was more or less what he set out to do from the beginning, it’s hard to call him unsuccessful as such. Just a jerk. His administration was also ridiculed by European diplomats for not serving alcohol, as Polk was a teetotaler.

3. Andrew Johnson–Lemieux and I argue over whether Johnson or Buchanan is worse. I tend to go with the latter, but I’m hardly defending Johnson in making this argument. An utter disaster and Lincoln’s worst move.

4. Cordell Hull–Longtime congressman and shorttime senator, but his real accomplishments are of course as Secretary of State, where he served for 11 years, including during most of World War II.

5. Estes Kefauver–Kefauver was an important New Dealer and relatively progressive on racial matters for a man of his time, place, and political position. The Kefauver Committee investigative organized crime may be what he is most known for, but he accomplished far more substantial things. One of three southern senators to not sign the Southern Manifesto in 1956. Was nearly the Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956.

6. Al Gore, Jr.–The man who should have been president. Thanks Ralph.

7. Kenneth McKellar–Served as senator from 1917 until 1953. A classic southern conservative, though less so in his early days, McKellar became increasingly opposed to the New Deal as he aged. Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he had full knowledge of the Manhattan Project. He chose to use that information to threaten holding up money for uranium acquisition as part of a feud with Tennessee Valley Authority head David Lillenthal. Nothing like holding up the nation’s war effort to settle a personal score.

8. Al Gore, Sr.–Like Kefauver, Gore should be lauded for refusing to sign the Southern Manifesto. Like Kefauver, an important southern liberal who supported a wide array of progressive legislation. Was targeted and defeated in 1970 as part of Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

9. Howard Baker–The first Republican elected to the Senate from Tennessee since Reconstruction, Baker became Majority Leader and one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, both during and after his Senate career, when he became Reagan’s Chief of Staff.

10. John Bell–I thought about putting Bill Frist here, but he was such a weak Majority Leader and has completely faded from the public view and consciousness, suggesting a not-so-important figure. So I went with Bell instead, who is most known as the presidential candidate for the Constitutional Union party in the 4-way election of 1860. He held any number of posts before that, including congressman, senator, Secretary of War, and Speaker of the House. One of only 2 southern senators to vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

OpenSource Pajamas PJMedia

[ 10 ] November 3, 2011 |

The name may change, but the standards of journamalism remain the same…

“[S]uch a statement seems to suggest a fear of too much justice.”

[ 18 ] November 3, 2011 |

Litwhwick’s depressing account of the oral arguments in Perry v. New Hampshire makes it pretty clear that the Supreme Court is disinclined to require any changes to how courts deal with eyewitness testimony despite extensive evidence that its unreliability is particularly likely to lead to miscarriages of justice:

In his rebuttal, Guerriero tries to explain again that the reason you want to take fallible eyewitness identifications away from the jury is precisely because eyewitness testimony is both powerful and wrong: “The witness’s sincerity has a powerful effect on the jury,” he explains. But it’s clear that this court will either dismiss or slide right past the old precedents that suggest that eyewitness evidence is uniquely dangerous. Oddly enough, the fact that other compelling evidence may prove equally untrustworthy seems to have immunized all the bad eyewitness evidence.

See also Liptak.

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