Skip to main content

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn with Pat Quinlan, Carlo Tresca,
Adolph Lessig, and Big Bill Haywood
Paterson, New Jersey 1913
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Arrives

On January 27, 1913 at the Doherty Silk Mill in Paterson, New Jersey, a workers committee requested a meeting with management. They wanted an end to the hated four-loom system which had doubled their work load with no increase in pay, and had caused the lay-offs of many of their fellow workers. When four members of that committee were fired, 800 silk workers, almost the entire work force, walked off the job spontaneously. They were without union organization to back them up. Being mostly foreign-born, non-English-speaking, unskilled workers, the AFL's United Textile Workers did not want them.

But, in fact, there was another textile union in Paterson at that time: the IWW's National Industrial Union of Textile Workers, Local 152 which local organizers, Ewald Koettgen and Adolph Lessig had established over several years of organizing. It was there, with this stalwart band of 100 Wobblies, that the strikers found a union willing to back up their strike. As it became clear that Doherty would not bargain with the strikers, Local 152 request help from IWW headquarters in Chicago.

On February 25, 1913, national IWW organizers, Pat Quinland, Carlos Tresca, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrived to speak at a mass meeting. All three were arrested that night at the meeting. Strikers followed them to the jail and held a rally outside the jail, singing and shouting for their release. Women shouted, "When the strike is won, Gurley Flynn will be the boss!"

By the time Big Bill Haywood arrived, later that week, the strike had spread to silk mills across Paterson. 300 mills were shut down, and 25,000 silk workers were on strike. Big Bill advised the strikers: "fold your arms or put your hands in your pocket and let the manufacturers do the worrying."

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Speaking to Strikers
Paterson, New Jersey 1913
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Speaks to Strikers

Meetings, rallies, marches, speeches, and singing were features of any IWW strike, and the Paterson Silk Strike fit that mold. Mass meetings were held every morning, and shop committee meetings each afternoon. Each shop elected two strikers to represent them on the shop committee, and this was the committee that ran the strike. There were also special meetings for the women and children who made up more than half of the strikers.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was much beloved by the strikers. Reporter Art Shields describes the strikers reaction to her:

Fifteen to twenty-thousand strikers and sympathizers were applauding a beautiful young woman, whose passionate voice reached everyone in the crowd. She spoke from a high platform heaped with gorgeous flowers. But violets and roses paled before this twenty-one-year-old beauty, and I fell in love with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at first sight.

I wasn't her only captive. No other woman speaker except Mother Jones won so many hearts as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She won them in struggles against big exploiters, not in quiet lecture halls....

And there was a dramatic scene when Elizabeth called an Italian girl she knew to the platform. This was a pale, thin teenager..Elizabeth embraced her and then said, "The silk bosses are killing Angelica. They are working her to death. They put her on four looms instead of two. She's working twice as hard as before."

..."But that isn't all the silk bosses did to Angelica. They didn't give her enough to eat." Angelica, she said, was the only support of a sick mother and her younger brothers and sisters. Her father was dead. Her family was hungry The family seldom ate meat. "She's also striking," Elizabeth said, "for a raise to give her family enough to eat."

The silk bosses are robbers, Elizabeth continued. The cars they are driving, the diamonds their wives are wearing, the rich food their families are eating, their winter vacations in Florida's sunshine-all come from the labors of Angelica and twenty-five thousand other silk workers. "And when you win the raises you are fighting for," she said, "you'll get back only a little of what you produced. But these raises are just a beginning. The time is coming when you will run these plants for yourselves."

"She got to be an idol with us."

Irma Lombardi was a young seventeen-year-old striker. She left us this description of Gurley Flynn:

Gurley Flynn called a meeting just for the women one day. She started with that lovely way of hers. She looked at us and said, "Would you like to have nice clothes?" We replied, "Oh, yes." "Would you like to have nice shoes?" "Oh,yes." we shouted. "Well, you can't have them. Your bosses' daughters have those things!" We got mad. We knew it was true. We had shoes with holes, and they had lovely things. Then she said, "Would you like to have soft hands like your bosses' daughters?" and we got mad all over again. She was a beautiful speaker. She got be an idol with us.
Sophie Cohen was the child of a former mill worker. Though not a striker, her father was passionate in his support of the strike, and often brought her to the rallies. She later remembered Gurley Flynn:
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
IWW Organizer
Gurley Flynn looked just like the pictures we see of her now. She was young, vibrant, enthusiastic. She wan't really a good speaker, but she gave so much of herself in her talks. She would come at night to the soup kitchens. There were big cauldrons of soup set up in a lot next to the church and she would get up on a platform. There were red flares around her, and she'd get them singing and then she'd talk with them. It was just the thing people needed to keep them together and give them courage.
Sundays in Haledon

Meetings were not allowed in Paterson, but the nearby town of Haledon had a Socialist mayor who welcomed the strikers. On Sundays thousands of strikers marched to Haledon. A striker's family offered the use of their two-story house. Speeches were given from the upper balcony to the crowd gathered below in the street and in the large green field opposite the house. Gurley Flynn later remembered those Sunday meetings fondly:

Sunday after Sunday , as the days became pleasanter, we spoke there to enormous crowds of thousands of people-the strikers and their families, workers from other Paterson industries, people from nearby New Jersey cities, delegations from all over America and from foreign countries. People who saw these Haledon meetings never forgot them.
But there was a deeper reason for going to Haledon on Sundays, Gurley Flynn explained:
Because Sunday is the day before Monday. Monday is the day that a break comes in every strike, if it is to come at all during the week. If you can bring the people safely over Monday they usually go along for the rest of the week. If on Sunday, however, you let those people stay at home, sit around the stove without any fire in it, sit down at the table were there isn't much food, see the feet of the children with shoes getting thin and the bodies of children where the clothes are getting ragged, they begin to think in terms of "myself" and lose the spirit of the mass and the realization that all are suffering as they are suffering...And so our original reason for going to Haledon was to give them novelty, to give them variety, to take them en masse out of the city of Paterson some place else to sort of picnic over Sunday that would stimulate them for the rest of the week.
Mass Arrests
On the picket lines, the strikers were subject to daily mass arrest. Many were sentenced to ten or twenty days, some to six months at hard labor. Most of the strikers went straight back to the picket line upon their release. Seventeen-year-old Hannah Silverman was arrested three times. She was back on the picket line the next morning each time she was released. Big Bill Haywood hailed her as "the greatest little IWW woman in America." When Carrie Torello was arrested, she gathered her children together, put them in the patrol wagon and told another striker, "If you see Freddie, tell him to come to Jail."

The Paterson Press
The Paterson Press openly called for violence against the IWW organizers, calling for the formation of a vigilance committee to drive them out of town:

Los Angeles, Akron, Denver, Ottowa, and other cities kicked the I.W.W. out of town in short order...What is Paterson doing to discourage this revolutionary horde?
And another example:
Akron, Ohio, could not find a law to banish this dangerous revolutionist [Big Bill] and his cohorts but a citizens' committee of 1000 men did the trick in short order. Can Akron, Ohio, accomplish something that Paterson, N.J., cannot duplicate? The Paterson Press dislikes to believe it, but time will tell.
On Thursday, April 17, 1913, Modestino Valentino was murdered by private detectives, hired gunmen imported from New York by the mill owners. This man's only crime against the mill owners was that he was standing on his own front porch watching the strikers hoot at the scab-herders. He was not a striker, nor was he a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. The hooting so bothered the gunmen that they felt compelled to open fire on unarmed workers. Gurley Flynn described how he died:
[He] grabbed his child and started through the doorway, when he was shot in the back. His wife grabbed the child and her husband fell dead at her feet.
Gurley Flynn went with a committee of strikers to visit the widow:
She was in bed, awaiting the birth of a second child. On the other side of a folding partition was the casket of her dead husband, parallel to the bed. The priest came in while we were there but he made no objection to our request [for the I.W.W. to provide for the funeral.] She was a simple grief-stricken woman, who expressed her sympathy with the strikers, many of whom were her neighbors. She placed the blame where it belonged-on the company thugs who murdered her husband. It was a tragic example of force and violence by the employers in the class struggle-a worker dead , a woman widowed, two children, one unborn, left orphans-a story repeated all too often in my experience.
According to IWW historian, Fred Thompson, five workers in all lost their lives in the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913.

Hunger, the Great Strikebreaker

In spite of the courage shown by the strikers and their leaders, the silk strikers were defeated. Some small concessions were made by a few of the mill owners, but for the most part, strikers went back to work defeated. Some had been replaced by scabs and were never rehired. Gurley Flynn partially blamed the Pageant for the loss of the strike, asserting that it was a distraction from strike duties. It was a financial disaster also, which only further discouraged the strikers. But in the end the strike was lost because the strikers were starving. Gurley Flynn later spoke of the suffering that the strikers endured before they were driven back to work by hunger:

I saw men go out in Paterson without shoes, in the middle of winter and with bags on their feet, I went into a family to have a picture taken of a mother with eight children who didn't have a crust of bread, didn't have a bowl of milk for the baby in the house,-but the father was out on the picket line. Others were just as bad off. Thousands of them that we never heard of at all. This was the difficulty that the workers had to contend with in Paterson: hunger; hunger gnawing a their vitals; hunger tearing them down; and still they had the courage to fight it out for six months.
Let us honor their courage and sacrifice by continuing the struggle for social and economic justice.



The IWW: Its First Seventy Years 1905-1975
-by Fred W Thompson & Patrick Murfin
IWW Press, 1976

The Rebel Girl
My First Life (1906-1926)

-by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
NY, 1979

Women and the American Labor Movement
From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I

-by Philip S Foner
NY, 1979

My Shaping-Up Years
-by Art Shields
NY, 1982

Solidarity Forever
An Oral History of the IWW

-ed by Bird, Georgaks, & Shaffer
Lake View Press, 1985

Words on Fire
The Life and Writing of
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

-by Rosalyn Fraad Baxandall
Rutgers U Press, 1987

Rebel Voices
An IWW Anthology

-ed by Joyce L Kornbluh
Charles H Kerr Pub, 1988

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, WE NEVER FORGET, History for Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  ACM reposted at: (14+ / 0-)

    Wild Wild Left:

    The Stars Hollow Gazette:



    Having had problems with the videos, I went searching for an alternative (of course, the video worked everywhere but FDL who didn't like the pictures either), but here is another version of The Rebel Girl:

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:07:13 PM PDT

  •  ACM Schedule (8+ / 0-)


    28th: Diane Gee


    5th: Nattiq
    12th: Justina
    19th: Northsylvania


    30th: Annieli

    We have a great schedule of posts coming up! We also have some openings beginning at the end of May until the last sunday in June. So, here comes the pitch again! This series is unique in many senses; rarely do Social Democrats, Marxists of various perspectives and Anarchists of various perspectives come together to debate, discuss and share ideas ... I keep thinking that it has not existed since the First International which was way in the past. It is a great series and it depends upon all of us working together as writers and commentators and dare I say it, comrades, pulling together to keep this series going. To keep it going, we need volunteers to write, we need people willing to read and comment and we need commitment from all of us to keep it alive. So, if you can write something, please comment on this post OR send a personal message to ny brit expat using dkos personal mail OR send an email to our group email address:

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:14:47 PM PDT

  •  no time to stay (11+ / 0-)

    marking papers

    but I have just discovered Bernard Lietaer and

    "The Future of Money" and "Rethinking Money"

    which basically reiterate the ideas of "Sacred Economics"

    and their is a proposal for the Bank of England to move to negative interest rates.

    I am feeling better this afternoon with this information in my often despairing brain.

  •  I cannot thank you enough for (15+ / 0-)

    sharing your knowledge of US labor history with us JayRaye! We have so much to remember, so much to learn again ... we are looking at a period where union organisation took different paths than so much of what we are used to seeing in our lifetimes. This was a period where the ideology of classlessness, democracy and equality in the US is debunked by the actions of the capitalists, by the failure to actually have equal justice under the law for the rich and poor, where private security was used to destroy workers actions and opposition ... writing this just underscores that so much of the current situation is falling backwards.

    We have far too much to learn to have so few people present for this discussion. Perhaps the most important things are that we are weak when we are not united, we are weak only if we allow them their power. Together we can fight for something better, together we can fight for another future for all rather than propping up a system which requires poverty and inequality. Thank you!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:32:32 PM PDT

  •  Guess you're now becoming our official labor (10+ / 0-)

    historian! Do you know anyting about IWW;s recent efforts at organizing in the NYC Starbuck's? It might make an interesting piecel

  •  Carlo Tresca! (12+ / 0-)

    There's an okay biography of him by Dorothy Gallagher, All the Right Enemies. He was murdered either by the Mafia for being too anti-Fascist or by the NKVD for being a Trotskyite in 1943.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tuscon, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 03:43:08 PM PDT

  •  ultimately, those with the resources can (14+ / 0-)

    win because they can always starve the other side out, figuratively or, in this case, literally.

    We have to be better at finding ways to provide for one another as we face down capitalism.

    The number one thing stopping people from getting into the streets is fear that they'll lose their home not be able to put food on the table.

    Thank you for this series, JayeRaye. Wonderfully done.

  •  Thanks, JayRaye, Great History. (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks so much for posting this story about Flynn and the Paterson strike.  How sad that their six month battle could not bring them full bellies and new shoes.  But very likely it inspired millions of other workers to unionize.

    How we need strong unions now!

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 05:27:23 PM PDT

  •  An important diary -- so well done (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you, JayRaye.

    Be sure you put your feet in the right place; then stand firm. ~ Abraham Lincoln

    by noweasels on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 07:43:19 PM PDT

  •  She was asked (By Republicans!) (4+ / 0-)

    To speak as a defense of Communism before McCarthy. Ain't that something. Jesus Loves You.

    by DAISHI on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 08:43:21 PM PDT

    •  Source? Invited? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm really not sure exactly what you are referring to here.

      She was a member of the Communist Party during the period that she thot of as her "second life."

      She was arrested for violating the Smith Act and served more than 2 years in federal prison (Alderson) after being convicted of same. This was for "teaching and advocating," not for any actual crime.

      Her entire "Statement at the Smith Act Trial" is here:

      WE NEVER FORGET For March: Francis Estep, UMWA Martyr

      by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 04:55:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  She wrote a book about this experience: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        diomedes77, RiveroftheWest

        My Life as a Political Prisoner
        The Alderson Story

        Here is a small portion of her speech at the trial:

        My travels as a Communist speaker have taken me all over the country.  I saw the fruits of a lawless, aggressive, brutal and ruthless capitalism which garnered profits for a few at the expense of the many.

        Our country is a rich and beautiful country, fully capable of producing plenty for all, educating its youth and caring for its aged. We believe it could do this under Socialism. I saw great forests cut down and the denuded land left with blackened stumps; miles of top soil blown and washed away, and fertile fields became like a desert.

        I have seen textile workers who wove beautiful woolen fabrics shivering for lack of warm clothing, and coal miners living in cold shacks in company towns, and steel towns that were armed camps.  I saw men black-listed, driven from town to town, forced to change their names because they had dared to try to organize a union.

        We will prove to you that it is not the Communists who have advocated or practiced force and violence but that it is the employing class which has done both throughout the history of my life in the American labor movement, like General Sherman Bell who said in Colorado during a miner’s strike “To Hell with habeas corpus; we’ll give them post-mortems.”

        We will prove to you that --
        -- We will prove to you that it is not the working people  nor we who flaunt the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but that is has always been done by the employing class.  We will prove that we are fighting here for our constitutional and democratic rights, not to advocate force and violence, but to expose and stop its use against the people.

        WE NEVER FORGET For March: Francis Estep, UMWA Martyr

        by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 05:18:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Today (7+ / 0-)

    the textile workers are spread across the word, but need Ms. Flynn more than ever.

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 08:53:10 PM PDT

  •  Thanks again, JRaye (6+ / 0-)

    I've been on the road this week so I've missed a lot of diaries. Glad to catch this one while waiting at the airport to return home.

    Nicely done.

    I wish all of our corporate Dems would read these diaries.

    While overall living conditions are different, the tactics by which the companies constantly work to get something for nothing, squeeze the employees to fatten the exectuives, and pit the employees against each other, it all still rings true right to this day. And without vigilance, we will continue to slide--as we have been for 3 decades now--right back to we were early last century.

    How naive and complacent they are.

    Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

    by Words In Action on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 02:59:52 AM PDT

  •  What is outsourcing but another scab system? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, diomedes77, RiveroftheWest

    Who says things have changed?

    Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

    by Words In Action on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 03:03:20 AM PDT

    •  No, Words in Action (4+ / 0-)

      Poor workers in other countries are not scabs, they are our fellow workers.

      Only when they actually cross a picket line are they scabs. And when the strike is over, they stop being scabs and we need to get back to trying to organize them.

      Some of the strikers who were slaughtered at Ludlow in 1913, had been scabs in the 1903 strike. The Labor Hero and Martyr, Louie Tikas, for one.

      Scab is the #1 worst thing one we can call a fellow worker, and we need to be very careful how we use it.

      WE NEVER FORGET For March: Francis Estep, UMWA Martyr

      by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 04:39:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you JayRaye for saying this!! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, bluesheep, RiveroftheWest

        They are our fellow workers, exploited by capitalists in both multinational corporations and in domestically owned businesses. They are not crossing picket lines and we never can fall into divide and rule arguments advanced by those whose interests are served when we are divided by colour, by gender, by ability, by sexual preference, by country of birth. United we fight, divided we crawl!

        Our enemies are not our fellow workers that are being exploited, our enemies are the ones that are destroying our  incomes, endangering our lives through the elimination of health and safety legislation, those that insist that "we" cannot compete against workers who are being grossly exploited due to low wages and bad working conditions. It is not workers overseas that are responsible for the destruction of jobs with good incomes and benefits. That is those who are in power both economically and those that serve their interests politically and mainstream economists who sole role is to provide the justifications for the destruction of the social welfare state and workers conditions of work and income standards. Do not fall for divide and rule!

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 04:58:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  PS WiA (3+ / 0-)

        Please don't feel that we are attacking you.
        I know that your heart is with the working people.

        Many people unfamiliar with how bad an insult the word "scab" is, misuse the word.

        It is the worst thing that can be said about a fellow worker, akin to "traitor."

        It does not mean non-union worker.
        It only refers to a worker who willingly and knowingly crosses a picket line where workers are on strike. (It is OK to cross an informational picket line, after you have gone over and talked with the picketers.)

        Here is how Jack London described scabs in a poem written in 1913:

        Ode To A Scab

        After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

        When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with. Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his Master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab hasn't.

        Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British Army. The modern strikebreaker sells his birthright, his country, his wife, his children, and his fellow men for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust, or corporation.

        Now Joe Hill would disagree with London about the devil closing the gates of hell to the scabs:

        WE NEVER FORGET For March: Francis Estep, UMWA Martyr

        by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 07:32:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  not true at all (4+ / 0-)

      One of the reasons why the US labor movement collapsed was because the American workers decided that they were "partners" with the American corporations, and the "foreign workers" were their enemy.  As a result, the company "negotiated" one give-back after another, stuffed it all into their pockets--then moved all the factories anyway.

      The American unions should have remembered what the word "solidarity" means.  Or at least they should have remembered what the word "whipsawing" means.

      There is only one way to prevent whipsawing, and that is to organize the workers EVERYWHERE. The entire idea of a nation-based labor movement is now outmoded, ineffective and obsolete. In a corporate world, we must instead become company-based rather than geographically-based. In a world made up of multi-national companies who owe loyalty to no government and have no nation, there simply is no such thing anymore as an “American worker” or a “Chinese worker” or a “Somali worker”. There are only “Ford workers” or “Honda workers” or “British Petroleum workers”—and they all do the same work for the same employer and have the same interests, whether their factory happens to be located in Tennessee, Tibet or Timbuktu. And if a Ford worker in Detroit gets X dollars an hour to do a job, then a Ford worker in China or Thailand had better be getting the same X dollars an hour for doing the same job—because if he's not, then guess where the factory will be going?

      It’s an elementary lesson that the American unions ignored. Instead of organizing all Ford or US Steel workers across the world to face their common employer, the unions have ignored foreign employees completely or even treated them as enemies; instead of raising the foreign wages to match ours, the AFL-CIO preferred to work with its corporate “partners” to pass protectionist laws to keep them away. So the American labor movement bears a large part of the blame for its current situation. By fighting for “American workers” and allowing workers in other countries to be reduced to virtual slavery, the AFL-CIO guaranteed that every boss in the US would move his factories overseas to the cheap labor.

      What the labor movement must do instead is to follow the companies wherever they go, to any country, and organize all the workers there. One company, one union, one contract, one wage scale—no matter where you are. That cannot happen until American workers give up their attachment to outdated nationalism. The only way the corporate bosses can be beaten is if all their workers stick together, organize together, and fight together, no matter what country they happen to be located in. That is what “solidarity” means.

      It used to be that “workers of the world, unite!” was just an idealistic political slogan.  Today, it is our only survival strategy.

  •  a wonderful subject (4+ / 0-)

    my mother's second husband had been in the strike, and called himself a communist, although his two sons became teaching professors and between the three of them  accumulated a good deal of capital

    he always talked of those days with great fondness and pride, and was gratified when it was made a part of the film "Reds"

    i'm always trying to learn the key to getting the american workers to insist on the living wage, etc., and have to guess that their lives just aren't as awful now;

    it still stinks for the worker, but now they give him/her just enough to keep working, and enough debt keeping up to never be secure

  •  when I was a Wobbly living in PA, I was invited (4+ / 0-)

    each year by the historical museum at the Botto House in Paterson to give a speech at their annual labor gathering.

    I gave my standard IWW stump speech, modified it just a wee bit. It was very short, very to the point, and it ALWAYS pissed off the mainstream AFL-CIO union reps who were there. It went like this:

    "When I was in school, I was never taught anything about the history of the labor movement. At best, we are taught that some kindly old men in Congress decided one day, out of the goodness of their hearts, to pass laws granting rights and protections to unions and workers. It wasn’t until after I got out of school that I learned that labor in the US has a history, and it is a history of warfare and struggle. And Paterson is part of that history.

    "We need to keep in mind a few fundamental things.  The business interests aren’t in business to give us jobs.  They’re not there to make money for us.  They are there to make money for themselves. We are not humans to them.  We are equipment.  We are an expense—and the over-riding interest of any business is to cut the expenses. We are no different to them than a computer terminal or a pallette jack or a lump of raw material. We are just something else that they have to pay for if they want to make money.  Just another thing that they buy as cheaply as they can, use until it wears out or breaks down, then throw away and buy a new one.  And when they buy a new one, they don’t care what color it is or what language it speaks or what country it comes from.  All they care is “Can it make me money better than that one over there?”

    "We need to keep in mind those words that the IWW spoke from this very balcony 100 years ago; “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.  Between these two classes, a struggle must go on, until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, and abolish the wage system.”

    Thank you very much, and Solidarity Forever."

    •  Thank You! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This message needs to be driven home again and again:

      We are an expense—and the over-riding interest of any business is to cut the expenses. We are no different to them than a computer terminal or a pallette jack or a lump of raw material. We are just something else that they have to pay for if they want to make money.  Just another thing that they buy as cheaply as they can, use until it wears out or breaks down, then throw away and buy a new one.
      I do sometimes wonder if things don't need to get worse for many so there is less to lose before we in the working class take more risks. But I also see the developments of co-ops all over the country, thriving of credit unions and things like local currencies and time-banks. And that gives me some hope.

      In any case, we certainly do need to increase awareness about the proud history of organized labor in the US, and we need to continue in that tradition.

      Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

      by bluesheep on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:40:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That was some good speaking there, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Fellow Worker Lenny. Sounds like you did us proud!

      WE NEVER FORGET For March: Francis Estep, UMWA Martyr

      by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 06:49:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Work For Higher Pay in May (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, RiveroftheWest

    Unions, strikes, protests: Where have they all gone? After a century we still don't have an effective way to ensure a living wage. We have to do better.

    That's why I've declared May First "New Jobs Day", a day where you can take action to increase the number of jobs and what they pay. I'm asking people to take a pledge on May Day that they will go looking for a higher paying job in the month of May.

    Spread the word. If all workers simultaneously sought higher wages then wages would go up. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. No amount of police brutality or newspaper rabble rousing can stop workers from looking for better jobs.

    Make the law of supply and demand work for you.

  •  Any system that requires endless (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, RiveroftheWest

    protest and fight, endless strikes and vigilance, is beyond deeply and profoundly flawed.

    It's unworkable and unsustainable.

    Capitalism has never been workable. It's always required slavery of one form or another and it gave slavery itself second life with the invention of the cotton gin.

    Its structure is a permanent obstacle in the way of social justice. Its structure creates economic apartheid, naturally. It will always present a major conflict between ownership and labor, ownership and consumers, and ownership and sustainable ecology.

    It can't be reformed. Especially when it owns, as it does, the levers of reform. Its horrific effects can only be slightly, fractionally mitigated.

    Why not start with a system with social justice baked in from the start? Why accept one that requires so much sacrifice (blood and treasure) to even gain tiny, fragmented, easily lost and incremental gains?

    •  Hence the preamble of IWW constitution: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      diomedes77, RiveroftheWest
      The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.  Between these two classes, a struggle must go on, until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, and abolish the wage system

      WE NEVER FORGET Modestino Valentino who lost his life in the Paterson Silk Strike

      by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 11:51:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's well said. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I 100% agree.

        The people should own the means of production. But, by that, I don't mean political parties should own them. I mean, the actual people. All of us. Having someone "represent" our interests isn't enough, and too often leads to takeovers. We need real democracy, including the economy -- actually, especially the economy, as it's grown far too much in importance since the cancer of capitalism spread everywhere.

        I do, however, believe one's home should remain outside the commons. All "business" should be owned by the people. But our homes should be our own. This seems logical and "right" to me.

        There was never a real purpose for private ownership of the means of production. It never served society, just ownership. But private ownership of one's lodgings? I think that makes perfect sense.

        Anyway, great diary. It's important to remind everyone of Labor as it once was.

        •  The IWW is not a political party. (0+ / 0-)

          It is a union.

          Anyway, I agree with everything you said. I would even say that small businesses are all right.

          The major means of production should definitely  not be in the hands of Corporations.

          And the one-party state owning and controlling everything (in the name of the people) didn't work out so well either.

          The IWW view is not really all that clear, but leans more toward the workers in direct control of industry thru their One Big Union (the IWW). But they don't like being call syndicalist either, so go figure.

          And thank you for the complement, diomedes.

          WE NEVER FORGET Modestino Valentino who lost his life in the Paterson Silk Strike

          by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:42:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I know. It's a union. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Different animal. I was speaking more generally, and aspirationally.

            I love the idea of real craftspersons and artisans -- single proprietors. The genie is out of the bottle, but I wish we could return to those days. Local economies. Local farms. Craftspersons and artisans making furniture, tools, metal and woodwork, etc. etc.

            Update this. Add democracy and full civil rights, etc. Direct democracy. But return to quality over quantity. The earth can't support the quantity anymore.

            And that's the other major problem with capitalism. It needs to Grow or Die. And we have -- obviously -- a finite planet, with finite resources. Consumerism runs directly into that wall.

            Eventually the earth is going to force us to downsize radically. We should do this on our own before we're forced to.

            •  I know what you mean about quality, exactly. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              We are killing ourselves and our planet by seeking quantity over quality. And what can we workers do? Until we are able to seize the means of production, we must eat, and to eat we must work, which means we have to produce the crap the boss tells us to produce.

              I was raised partly by my grandparents in a home where the furniture had all been made by hand by my great-grandfather, a Danish cabinet maker. Few people have seen beautiful furniture like that. Yet we were back woods farmers. You didn't have to be rich back then to have beautiful furniture.

              Yes, definitely, we need to get back to quality over quantity, but as long as we have a capitalist economic system, that won't happen.

              WE NEVER FORGET Modestino Valentino who lost his life in the Paterson Silk Strike

              by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 02:04:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Wasn't she a proxy for Stalin? (0+ / 0-)

    I just found in Wikipedia that she joined the American Communist Party in 1936, when Stalin was waging his purges. I don't know that she disowned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact of 1939.
    She was expelled from the national board of ACLU, 1939 I think.
    I can agree that the Smith Act violated the First Amendment, but why paper over her bad points. She endorsed an extremely bad regime.
    Not to say she did not do good things early in her career.

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:07:19 PM PDT

    •  "proxy for Stalin" (0+ / 0-)

      that's the extent of your ability to analyze the CP USA?

      Won't even waste my time responding further.

      WE NEVER FORGET Modestino Valentino who lost his life in the Paterson Silk Strike

      by JayRaye on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:11:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "not wasting my time?" (0+ / 0-)

      I am trying to broach some discussion of the negative side. Since at least 1967 when I became a Democrat I have encountered people who react to criticism of the USSR or the CP USA as McCarthyism.
      The ACLU in 1940 had a national board instituting a policy of excluding advocates of totalitarian regimes. In 1968 this was decided to be unnecessary.
      Why not discuss whether Elizabeth Gurley Flynn should have allied herself with the CP USA?

      Censorship is rogue government.

      by scott5js on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 01:34:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site