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Yesterday was the anniversary of an event that happened in my corner of the world, from the history of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, but often called "the Wobblies").

On November 5, 1916, the steamer Verona slowed as it approached the dock at Everett, WA, where a mob was waiting. Surrounded by citizen deputies (vigilantes), the County Sheriff, Donald McRae, shouted to the boat, "Boys, who’s your leader?" The Wobblies on the boat laughed and shouted, "We’re all leaders!" A shot rang out, followed by many many more. No one knows who shot first, but they say the gunfire lasted for ten minutes. The people on the boat ran to one side, to avoid the gunfire. The boat listed badly, the guardrail broke, and people fell overboard.

The Captain of the Verona, Chance Wiman, ducked behind a metal safe. It was a fortuitous move. They later found 175 bullet holes in the pilot house. After the boat righted itself and the gunfire ended, the ship’s engineer reversed the engines and the surviving Wobblies headed back to Seattle, stopping to warn the second ferry (the Calista) to turn around. More below the fold.

Violence the Week Before

On October 30, 1916, seven days earlier, 41 Wobblies from Seattle went up to Everett (about 25 miles north). They planned to support a union that had been striking for five months at a cedar shingle factory. They intended to speak at a traditional free-speech area: the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore avenues.

The sheriff met them at the station with a crowd of 200 "deputies," shoved them into various vehicles, drove them to a remote park, and beat the shit out of them. Here’s a link about it from historylink.org (a great source of Washington state history):

Citizen deputies beat 41 IWW members at Everett's Beverly Park on October 30, 1916

Those men went back to Seattle and the IWW planned a big return to Everett on the fifth. They traveled on two ferry boats. The result was later called "The Everett Massacre" and "Bloody Sunday."

The Aftermath of Bloody Sunday

At least seven people died on November 5, 1916: five Wobblies and two vigilantes. At least 27 Wobblies were wounded along with 16 citizen deputies (possibly from friendly fire). As a result of the Everett Massacre, 75 Wobblies were arrested when they got back to Seattle. One of them, Thomas Tracy, went on trial and was acquitted on May 5, 1917. Charges against the others were dropped.

Here’s a couple of links about the Everett Massacre:

Five IWW members and two deputies die in a gunbattle dubbed the Everett Massacre on November 5, 1916 (historylink)

Everett massacre (wikipedia)

Craft Unions versus Industrial Unions

An interesting thing was, the cedar-shingle union in Everett was part of the AFL; they weren’t affiliated with the IWW. Which means the Wobblies went up there (twice) to support a non-affiliated union.

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was an umbrella group for craft unions. The IWW was an industrial union. The quickest way to explain it is this: The craft union workers were often "skilled" labor, but the industrial unions were often "unskilled" labor.

For craft unions, think about a newspaper that has separate unions for separate crafts: typesetters, press workers, writers, and so on. Quite often, the craft unions used an apprenticeship system for training people.

For industrial unions, think about coal miners or lumberjacks, where all workers belonged to the same union. The company could hire people off the street, train them in a day, and set them to work at miserable wages. If someone complained, he’d get fired and a replacement could easily be found.

Here’s a few more links about the IWW:

Industrial Workers of the World (historylink)

Fanning the Flames: Northwest Labor Song Traditions (historylink)

Industrial Workers of the World (wikipedia)

Originally posted to Dbug on Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 08:14 PM PST.

Also republished by WE NEVER FORGET.

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