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Philadelphia Wobblies

(Autumn 2008)

From International Socialism 2 : 120, Autumn 2008.
Copyright © International Socialism.
Copied with thanks from the International Socialism Website.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Peter Cole
Wobblies on the Waterfront: International Unionism in Progressive Era Philadelphia
University of Illinois, 2007

On 14 May 1913 longshoremen on the Philadelphia docks walked out on strike demanding a 10 cent an hour pay rise, a ten-hour day, time and a half for night work and double-time for Sundays. They enthusiastically signed up with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the revolutionary syndicalist trade union known as the Wobblies, confident that this organisation would not sell them down the river. On 17 May “Local 8” (branch eight) of the IWW’s Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union was formed. After a hard fought dispute, that saw violent clashes with police and scabs, the employers conceded most of the union’s demands on 28 May. This began what was to be the IWW’s almost decade long domination of the Philadelphia docks.

This success was achieved at a time when the IWW’s organising efforts elsewhere in the eastern United States were ending in failure. The collapse of IWW organisation in both Lawrence, Massachusetts, where the great strike of 1912 was won, and in Paterson, New Jersey, where the great strike of 1913 was to be lost, demonstrated the difficulties the IWW faced. It led many strikes in the east, but, win or lose, it failed to establish stable workplace organisation. What Philadelphia showed was that this was not inevitable, that the difficulties could be overcome. According to Peter Cole in his Wobblies on the Waterfront Local 8 provided “a model for how the IWW simultaneously could advocate revolutionary ideals, while meeting the more immediate ‘bread and butter’ needs of workers”. If the Philadelphia Wobblies could combine “IWW tactics and ideals, while also dealing pragmatically on issues like hours and labour supply – surely other IWW branches could have done just the same”. Local 8, he argues, “seems to offer a ‘path not taken’.”

What was even more remarkable in the context of the time was the fact that Local 8 was also, as Cole insists, “arguably the most powerful mixed race union of its era”. As he points out, at this time there were only a few unions that organised black workers and most of those were biracial, that is to say that black and white workers were organised into separate locals. This was not the case with Local 8. It was, in line with IWW philosophy, an integrated local and, moreover, insisted that black and white dockers worked in integrated gangs. Just over half of the 4,000 workers who walked out on strike in May 1913 were black, the rest Lithuanian or Polish immigrants and Irish Americans. In these circumstances the union had to satisfy the black workers’ desire for equality and the IWW fitted the bill. Moreover, blacks “made up a majority of the leadership cadre” of Local 8 – men such as Glen Perrymore, Alonzo Richards, Charles Caster, Dan Jones, Joseph White and, most especially, Ben Fletcher. Fletcher was, as Cole writes, “one of the great African Americans of his generation ... He stands in the top echelon of black labour leaders”. [1]

The IWW and black workers

From the time of its foundation in 1905 the IWW was formally committed to the organisation of black workers on equal terms with whites. Not until 1910, however, was it in a position to begin anything like a concerted drive to recruit black workers. According to Philip Foner:

Leaflets and pamphlets were distributed by the thousands to convince the black man that he “has no chance in the old-line trade unions. They do not want him. They admit him only under compulsion and treat him with contempt. There is only one labour organisation in the United States that admits the coloured worker on a footing of absolute equality with the white – the Industrial Workers of the World.”

One leaflet, To Coloured Workingmen and Women, proclaimed, “If you are a wage worker you are welcome in the IWW halls, no matter what your colour. By this you may see that the IWW is not a white man’s union, not a black man’s union, not a red man’s union, but a working man’s union. All the working class in one big union.” The contrast with the American Federation of Labour (AFL) could not have been sharper. In 1910 eight AFL unions formally barred black workers from membership, while most of the other 50-odd affiliates kept black workers out by informal means. Some unions actually had higher initiation fees for black workers. For most black workers a strong union meant the closing down of job opportunities and even the sack if a closed shop was achieved by a union that barred black members.

Even in the South, where the Jim Crow laws enforced segregation, the IWW took an uncompromising stand in favour of equality, urging white workers to recognise that their class interests lay in unity with their black brothers. One IWW appeal asked white workers:

If one of you were to fall in a river and could not swim, and a Negro came along who could swim, would you drown rather than accept his offer of aid? Hardly! That is the IWW position. Labour organised on race lines will drown. Only organised on class lines will it swim.

When white firemen on the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Railroad went on strike in protest against the promotion of black workers to firemen the IWW unreservedly condemned them. Even when black workers took the strikers’ jobs the IWW newspaper, Solidarity, warned that the strikers “are reaping the folly of unworking class conduct. They are getting what they deserved. Unity regardless of race, creed or colour is the only way out.” As far as the Wobblies were concerned when black workers broke the strikes by AFL unions that had excluded them from membership and kept them off the job the AFL had “no one but themselves to blame”. [2]

How successful was the IWW in recruiting black workers, in building working class unity? According to Sterling Spero and Abram Harris, in their The Black Worker, the IWW issued about 100,000 membership cards to black workers during what they describe as “the active part of its life”. [3] Foner considers this an exaggeration but regardless of the exact figure a large number of black workers held IWW cards at one time or another. Nevertheless, for all its aspirations the scale of the problem that racism posed for the working class was too great. For most black workers racism remained the face of the white working class. Even those black workers who were allowed into AFL unions encountered insults and discrimination. When black dockers in Baltimore, members of the AFL-affiliated International Longshoremen’s Association, had their offices remodelled they were expected to employ AFL carpenters and bricklayers whose unions barred black members. [4]

More serious was the East St Louis pogrom in July 1917 when white mobs killed 39 black men and women in an assault intended to drive black workers out of the city. [5] When the AFL convention met in the aftermath of the riot a resolution was proposed directing the executive council to work “to the end that all of the political, civil and economic disabilities so offensive and destructive to the rights of Negroes as human beings and American citizens be removed”. The proposer apologised for bringing such an unsavoury resolution to the convention but excused himself on the grounds that he was obligated to because of the support his union had received from black workers in a recent dispute. The committee on resolutions refused to endorse the resolution and the convention voted to reject “the statements contained in the resolution”. In effect, as one historian has pointed out, the AFL convention had countenanced “inequality and discrimination against the Negroes in America”. The AFL, once again unlike the IWW, refused to condemn the lynching of black men in the South. AFL president Samuel Gompers made clear that this was a matter for Southerners to resolve without “meddlers from outside”. [6]

Things were different on the Philadelphia waterfront. As one black longshoreman, James Fair, put it, “The IWW was the only union accepting black workers freely. They advocated just one thing – solidarity.” [7]

On the waterfront

In the months following the 1913 strike Local 8 waged a low level guerrilla war against the employers, building up its strength and consolidating its hold over the docks. By 1916, according to Cole, with the exception of two docks, “Local 8 maintained job control on all the city’s deep-sea piers.” You did not work if you were not a paid-up IWW member. By the summer of that year the local had over 3,000 members. However, the union’s revolutionary credentials were soon to be challenged. On 6 April 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and joined the bloodbath of the First World War. The American left was overwhelmingly opposed to the war, with the Socialist Party in particular taking a strong anti-war stance. Although most Wobblies were also opposed to the war, after some equivocation, the IWW decided not to campaign against the conflict. Such a stance would, it was felt, invite repression and compromise the opportunities that a war economy presented for building up the organisation. When the general executive board had discussed the issue it had been pointed out that if the union opposed the draft it would be destroyed. The chairman, Frank Little, made the point that they were likely to be run “out of business anyway ... Either we’re for this slaughterfest or we’re against it. I’m ready to face a firing squad rather than compromise.” [8] But no decisive stand was taken.

In Philadelphia the leadership went even further calling a meeting where a succession of union speakers, including Ben Fletcher, urged the need to support the war and to keep the docks working. The meeting, some 600 strong, voted not to strike for the duration. Members were encouraged to register for the draft and the union kept an “honour roll” of members serving in the armed forces at its headquarters. As the United States Shipping Board acknowledged after the war Local 8 members “loaded a large part of the munitions sent to Europe”. [9]

What this highlights is the dilemma of revolutionary trade unionism in a non-revolutionary period. There was always a tension between the needs of revolutionary agitation and the fight to maintain organisation and improve wages and conditions. Outside of a revolutionary situation revolutionary ideas would only appeal to a minority of workers, while maintaining union organisation and winning on “bread and butter” issues required the support of all the workers. One of the reasons IWW locals so often collapsed, even after successful strikes, was that the activists were primarily concerned with revolutionary agitation while the majority of workers were still primarily concerned with better wages and conditions. As James P. Cannon, himself a former Wobbly, put it, one of the main reasons for the failure of the IWW “was its attempt to be both a union of all workers and a propaganda society of selected revolutionists”. The IWW, he argued, was “in its time of glory ... neither a union nor a party in the full meaning of these terms, but something of both, with some parts missing”. [10] The Philadelphia Wobblies, Cole believes, had found the way to overcome this problem, building up a strong union committed to racial equality and class solidarity on the docks. The war put this achievement to the test. To keep the union strong the leadership effectively abandoned their internationalism. This was at a time, moreover, when the reformists of the Socialist Party were taking a determined stand against the terrible slaughter on the Western Front.

Cole, rather shamefacedly, apologises for Local 8’s retreat over the war. Certainly some in the leadership and most of the rank and file actually supported it, but the revolutionaries kept silent. These were men who had proven their credentials many times over, who had often been imprisoned and brutalised by police and vigilantes, men who had made great sacrifices and suffered terrible hardship in the cause. To keep the organisation they had built in the docks intact they compromised their revolutionary politics.

With the declaration of war the United States was swept by a deliberately orchestrated wave of patriotic fervour, of “100 percent Americanism”. In Philadelphia this saw German measles renamed “liberty measles” and sauerkraut renamed “liberty cabbage”. [11] Interestingly, Cole does not discuss the efforts that were made by Philadelphia socialists to oppose the war. In July 1917 socialists distributing anti-war leaflets were attacked in the street: “People ... began to beat and kick them. Before the police could arrive to protect them, the mob had torn off their clothing and divided it for souvenirs.” Subsequent attempts at anti-war leafleting were stopped by police arrests. On 26 August an attempt was made by the anti-war People’s Council to hold an anti-conscription meeting at the Archer Street Theatre, but it was broken up by off-duty sailors and marines urged on by the press. Two days later the offices of the Socialist Party were raided, literature was seized and the party secretary, Charles Schenk, was arrested. His opposition to the war cost him six months in prison. [12] And, of course, the pro-war stance taken by Local 8 did not save them from the repression that was about to engulf the IWW.

When the Wilson administration launched its roundup of the IWW leadership on 5 September 1917, Local 8 was not spared. Six of its leaders were arrested (Ben Fletcher, Walter Nef, John Walsh, Edwin Doree, Manuel Rey and Joseph Graeber). There were no protests, no walkouts on the docks. Even when Nef and Rey were finally sentenced to 20 years hard labour and Fletcher and the others to ten years in August 1918, there was no fight on their behalf. The focus on “bread and butter” issues had kept the union strong, indeed strong enough to survive the imprisonment of its leaders, but where were the politics?

After the war Local 8 maintained its dominance of the docks. This was a period of massive working class revolt throughout the United States, and the Philadelphia waterfront was not exempt. On 26 May 1920 the IWW called its members out on strike, “the largest this part of Philadelphia had ever seen, with close to 9,000 workers out at its peak ... more than 150 ships were immediately idled on the Delaware River and another 100 were soon affected”. Nevertheless the employers stood firm and after six weeks the union admitted defeat. When the employers followed up their victory, they were, according to Cole, assisted “by internal divisions and the insurgent challenge of Communism”. He argues that what became known as the “Philadelphia Controversy” “was as detrimental to Local 8 and the IWW as any open shop campaign or federal raid”. [13] This is not true: the ruling class offensive was decisive in driving back the whole US working class. Union membership fell from 5,110,000 in 1920 to 3,622,000 in 1922. This was a historic defeat in which the Philadelphia Wobblies unfortunately shared.

What of the “Philadelphia Controversy” then? In August 1920 Local 8 was expelled from the IWW because its members were loading the steamer Westmount with munitions destined for the White army fighting the Bolsheviks in the Crimea. Solidarity , the IWW newspaper, declared that the union “would rather face death and dismemberment than stand the disgrace of having its members render any assistance in keeping workers enslaved to the Moloch of capitalism”. Cole is, however, sceptical that munitions were actually being loaded and instead sees the affair as a conspiracy by Communist sympathisers in the IWW out to weaken Local 8 which was an obstacle to their takeover of the union. This is a later invention because there seems to have been no doubt at the time that the allegation was true. James P. Cannon, for example, writing at the time, had no doubt about it: “It seemed unbelievable that the IWW of Frank Little ... could be engaged in this nefarious enterprise – this high treason to the international working class.” [14] Howard Kimeldorf, in his account of the Philadelphia Wobblies, tells a more convincing story. According to Kimeldorf, the IWW general executive board ordered Local 8 to stop loading the Westmount after being approached by Soviet representatives. Ben Fletcher and another union official, Polly Baker, tried to persuade the gang doing the work to stop, but they refused and a meeting called to discuss the issue voted not to take any action. This precipitated Local 8’s expulsion. Once they were expelled Local 8 finally voted to black the ship and was eventually readmitted in October 1920. Certainly this crisis intersected with increasing factionalisation within the IWW, but it can also be seen very much as Local 8 continuing the stance that it had taken during the war. [15] And there were many Wobblies who were not Communist sympathisers who were critical of Local 8.

Local 8 had introduced a $25 initiation fee that was in clear violation of IWW rules. When it was readmitted to the IWW in October 1920 it was instructed to reduce the fee. Refusal led to it being expelled once again in December 1920, an expulsion that was upheld at the IWW convention the following year by 774 votes to 96. As far as the great majority of Wobblies were concerned a $25 initiation fee smacked of the AFL. Eventually the fee was reduced to $2 and Local 8 was again allowed back into the union. [16]

By now it was facing a challenge from the AFL affiliated International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) which had the support of both the employers and the authorities. Presumably in an attempt to see off this threat in October 1922 Local 8 decided to impose the eight-hour day (they worked ten hours), starting work an hour late and finishing an hour early. On 16 October the employers responded with a lockout and set about smashing Local 8 with the full support of the ILA. By the time the dispute was over the ILA had supplied the employers with nearly 1,000 strikebreakers imported from New York. Local 8 was broken and, as is the way in these affairs, far from recognising the ILA the employers decided they preferred the open shop – that no union was even better than a scab union.

Without a doubt Local 8 won substantial improvements for its members, transforming work on the Philadelphia docks and uniting black and white workers, something particularly impressive given the racism of the time. Nevertheless, as a revolutionary organisation it failed to meet the challenge of war and solidarity with the Russian Revolution. These failures, as we have seen, were a consequence of the attempt to build a revolutionary trade union in a non-revolutionary period.

Class war in Philadelphia: the 1910 general strike

It is worth noting one other important weakness of Cole’s book: his focus is so tightly on the Philadelphia waterfront as to completely neglect developments in what was one of America’s major industrial cities. In 1900 there were over 700 factories in the city, employing 246,000 workers, principally in textiles, engineering and shipbuilding. The Baldwin Locomotive works was the country’s largest manufacturer of railway engines, the Brill works was the largest manufacturer of streetcars and the Cramp shipyard had turned the Delaware River into “the American Clyde”, “the shipbuilding capital of the United States”. [17] Moreover, the city was the scene of a general strike in solidarity with striking streetcar workers, a strike that assumed the dimensions of “a mass uprising” according to one historian. [18] The 1910 general strike is not even mentioned by Cole.

Let us look at the development of the class struggle in Philadelphia in this period. In 1899 and 1901 strikes in the shipyards to secure a nine-hour day were defeated, in 1903 nearly 50,000 textile workers struck for shorter hours in “the most stunning effort yet made by Philadelphia labour” and in 1904 the building trades won “one of the most startling victories”. [19] After this there was a period of retreat, but in 1909 shirt-waist workers in Philadelphia walked out in solidarity with those in New York who were striking (“the Uprising of the Thirty Thousand”), and Philadelphia’s streetcar workers also went on strike. The streetcar workers won some improvements but not union recognition, and the company Philadelphia Rapid Transit (PRT) proceeded to set up a rival company union and victimise activists. On 19 February 1910 the PRT fired 173 union members and their union, the Amalgamated Association of Street Car and Electric Railway Men, responded by calling over 5,000 men out on strike.

Streetcar strikes in the United States were often accompanied by considerable violence and loss of life. Companies recruited scabs, often hiring strikebreaking detective agencies to keep a service going. [20] This involved sending vehicles through working class areas where the strikers and their families lived and where support for their cause was strongest. Inevitably the streetcars were attacked with pitched battles with armed scabs and police resulting. Philadelphia was to be no exception. When the PRT imported strikebreakers from New York and Boston violence was inevitable. On 21 February the Philadelphia Ledger reported the events of the previous day:

Cars were smashed, then burned. A score of riots in which policemen, mounted and on foot, used revolvers and clubs, sent more than 100 men and women to hospital and impromtu infirmaries ... Almost simultaneously, in widely separated sections of the city, crowds of men and boys began a determined effort to aid the strikers ... Instances not unlike civil war marked the street disorders.

Over 10,000 people were on the streets fighting the police. Outrage at police conduct was so great that on 22 February there were spontaneous walkouts at building sites and textile and clothing factories across the city, involving some 30,000 workers. On the following day workers at the non-union Baldwin Locomotive works helped strikers demolish a tram during their lunch hour. They stayed to jeer the police who promptly opened fire, wounding two of them. The company’s vice president, William Austin, wrote an incredulous account of what followed:

The police ran the men back into the shop and then trouble began. Before anyone knew what started it we heard pistol shots. I looked out of the office window and saw a long line of policemen, about two dozen, lined up in front of the Willow Street Shop actually firing into the second and third storey shop windows. They were answered by a volley of nuts, bolts, washers, shaft hangers, iron rods, etc, some very heavy, and all calculated to kill if landed on the right spot. The police shot at least 200 shots into the shops. Fortunately no one was hurt on either side, but for a while it was a very serious business. [21]

The April 1910 issue of the revolutionary socialist journal the International Socialist Review actually printed a photograph of the police firing into the Baldwin works (along with another of “A Popular Bonfire” which showed a streetcar being burned by the strikers and their supporters). [22] One consequence of this incident was that large numbers of Baldwin’s workers rushed to join the unions and many of them were to join the general strike.

State police and the National Guard were brought into the city to regain control of its streets. The streetcar workers’ leader, Clarence Pratt, a Welshman, was arrested. In the face of this repression, with workers striking in solidarity, pressure built up for an official response. On 27 February the Central Labour Union (the equivalent of a trades council) called a general strike for 5 March if the PRT had not agreed to negotiations. A “Committee of Ten”, including two Socialist Party members, was set up to manage the strike. On 5 March some 100,000 men and women stopped work and within a few days the number had risen to 150,000. There were 40,000 building workers out, 20,000 engineers (including over 3,000 Baldwin workers), and nearly 40,000 textile and clothing workers. Even piano movers downed pianos. Thousands of non-union men and women joined the strike and over 20,000 of them signed up with the unions. To deter the police and militia from carrying out a feared massacre the Central Labour Union president, John Murphy, warned that any such action would provoke “a carnival of riot and bloodshed that would startle the entire country”. There were union men who “can shoot as straight as any trooper”. [23]

Much of the city was effectively shut down and under police and military occupation. Demonstrations and meetings were banned. When Eugene Debs the Socialist Party leader spoke in the city he had to be smuggled in. The mayor even closed down a production of John Galsworthy’s play, Strife, in the interests of “public order” – but really because the play advocated “arbitration” as the solution to industrial conflict. Streetcars were still run through the city but without stopping and with their scab crews shooting at anyone who came near.

Nevertheless, with the full backing of the mayor and of the city’s business establishment the PRT still refused to negotiate. Inevitably the general strike began to crumble. Proposals to make it state-wide were abandoned when the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labour came under pressure from the AFL leadership. The Committee of Ten finally called off the general strike on 27 March leaving the streetcar strikers to fight on alone. Joseph Cohen, a Philadelphia socialist, wrote in the International Socialist Review that the “aftermath was the washing aside in all directions of hundreds of wage earners victimised for having quit work”. He went on to observe that the general strike had been “the most unexpected affair Philadelphia had ever witnessed ... It was the most magnificent performance ever achieved by the labour of the city.” Nevertheless, a general strike confined to one city was always too likely to be “largely spectacular”. [24]

By the middle of April the Amalgamated Association finally reached an agreement with the PRT. The company, on the verge of bankruptcy, guaranteed no victimisation, conceded a pay rise and acknowledged the right of the men to join the union. However, it still refused to recognise the union. In the course of the dispute over 300 of its streetcars had been wrecked, many of them totally destroyed. The dispute had been “one of the bloodiest and most destructive in the city’s history”. By the time it ended 29 people had been killed, “about half of them in the battles between strikers and scabs and policemen; the rest resulted from the dangerous operation of the cars by inexperienced strikebreakers”. [25]

Without any doubt IWW members participated in these events and they were reported in the IWW press even though it was an AFL affair. The IWW newspaper, the Industrial Worker, pointed out quite correctly that an important factor in the failure to win a complete victory was the refusal of the power workers to support the general strike. As it pointed out, “The men who worked in the powerhouses, furnishing juice with which to run the cars, did more to defeat the striking motormen and conductors than the scab who manned the car.” Nevertheless, Louis Duchez, writing in the paper on 26 March, still argued that even though it had failed the general strike had done more to teach “class consciousness and solidarity than a whole trainload of literature”. From now on “the struggle ... will be fiercer than it has ever been before ... there will be a fight from now on”. [26]

Some last points about the general strike. First of all it was, as we have seen, an AFL affair. A rank and file revolt, provoked by strikebreaking and police brutality, forced or enabled the Central Labour Union to call the general strike. Even the United Textile Workers president John Golden, a man hardly known for his militancy, was swept along by his members’ fury. The general strike was, he proclaimed, “a splendid opportunity to preach the gospel of trade unionism” and indeed his union signed up thousands of new members. [27] This was the same man who two years later was to be immortalised by a Joe Hill song for his attempt to break the IWW strike in Lawrence (A little talk with Golden makes it right, all right). While the official leadership of the AFL was overwhelmingly collaborationist, anti-socialist, right wing and often corrupt, the rank and file clearly included many militants who were engaged in struggle not just with their employers but with their union leaders as well. The AFL unions were themselves the site of struggle. What also has to be recognised, however, is the shameful fact that the AFL unions in Philadelphia operated a ban on black workers. [28] Most of the AFL unions in the city had no black members. This, of course, makes the IWW’s achievement on the docks, whatever criticisms one might have, all the more impressive.


1. Cole, 2007a, pp. 2, 3, 4, 5. Cole has also edited another valuable volume, on Ben Fletcher, Cole 2007b.

2. Foner, 1974, pp. 68, 73–74, 108, 109, 110. For racist firemen’s strikes see Hammett, 1975, and for the 1911 Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Railroad strike see Arnesen, 2001, pp. 37–38. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen did not drop its ban on black members until 1963.

3. Spero and Harris, 1968, p. 331.

4. Spero and Harris, 1968, p. 194.

5. In East St Louis the AFL unions were campaigning against black migration to the city, blaming black workers for the employers’ attacks on wages and conditions. Instead of countering the employers’ efforts to exploit divisions between black and white workers, the unions reinforced them. Eugene Debs, one of the leaders of the Socialist Party, condemned the riot as “a foul blot upon the American labour movement ... Had the labour unions fiercely opened their door to the Negro instead of barring him, and forcing him in spite of himself to become a scab ... the atrocious crime at East St Louis would never have blackened the pages of American history” – from Rudwick, 1982, p. 145. The use of strikebreakers to defeat a strike at the Aluminium Ore Company in April 1917 was widely seen as worsening relations between black and white workers, but as Rudwick shows “most strikebreakers at Aluminium Ore were white” (p. 19). Nevertheless black workers became a convenient scapegoat.

6. Karson, 1965, pp. 76, 140–141. See also Foner, 1974, p. 139.

7. Kimeldorf, 1999, p. 31.

8. Chaplin, 1948, pp. 208–209. Little was, of course, right about the IWW being the victim of repression regardless of what stance it took. He was assassinated by gunmen working for the Anaconda Copper Company in Butte, Montana, on 1 August 1917.

9. Cole, 2007a, pp. 82–83.

10. Cannon, 1955. For Cannon’s Wobbly years see Palmer, 2007, pp. 52–86. See also the discussion in Darlington, 2008, pp. 212–217.

11. Abernathy, 1982, p. 560.

12. Peterson and Fite, 1957, pp. 31–32.

13. Cole, 2007a. p. 127.

14. Cannon, 1992, p. 72.

15. Kimeldorf, 1999, pp. 61–62. He quotes Local 8 veterans complaining that there were union members “breaking down every principle and rule established by the unions”. See also Cole, 2007a, pp. 130–131.

16. John Gambs in his history of the IWW observed that, as well as Local 8, the IWW also suspended its New York bakers’ local for having an initiation fee of $15. He wrote, “The principles involved far more than constitutional matters. It was a question of whether there was any place in the IWW for a group which maintained shop control by charging high fees, which had a relatively large treasury, which devoted its energies to the immediate welfare of a small group rather than to the emancipation of the working class” – Gambs, 1932, pp. 165–166.

17. Harris, 2000, pp. 30–31.

18. Fones-Wolf, 1986a, p. 167.

19. Scranton, 1989, p. 216; Fones-Wolf, 1986a, p. 152.

20. One of the most notorious of these detective agencies was run by James Farley, who “specialised in breaking streetcar strikes, which became endemic [in] the early 1900s” – Jeffreys-Jones, 1978, p. 80. Farley’s notoriety was such that he actually gets a mention in Jack London’s The Iron Heel. According to Farley, the way to break a streetcar strike was to let “the malcontents know that the cars are going to run, and that anybody who gets in the way is going to get hurt. That’s all there is to breaking a streetcar strike” – quoted in Knight, 1960, p. 152.

21. Brown, 1995, p. 217. See also Fones-Wolf, 1986b.

22. Cohen, 1910a, pp. 865, 868. International Socialist Review was very sympathetic to the IWW. Indeed Big Bill Haywood was on its editorial board and was a regular contributor. It provides a remarkable chronicle of class war America, right up until it was suppressed by the Wilson administration in 1918. For the International Socialist Review see Ruff, 1997.

23. Adams, 1966, p. 185.

24. Cohen, 1910b, p. 981.

25. Abernathy, 1982, pp. 549–550.

26. Foner, 1980, pp. 162–163. Duchez was, unfortunately, over-optimistic. In 1913 a 13-week strike saw the unions cleared out of the Baldwin works with hundreds victimised. According to Fred Thompson, in his semi-official history of the IWW (Thompson, 2006, p. 43), there was a small IWW presence at Baldwin’s at this time. It was made up of “dual card holders”, militants who held both an IWW card and the card of their particular AFL craft union. These “dual carders” dominated the strike committee, but to no avail. Later, in 1921, as part of the post-war rollback of union strength, an eight month strike involving 7,000 workers at the Cramp shipyard ended in defeat, mass victimisation and the introduction of the open shop.

27. Weyforth, 1917, p. 35.

28. As late as August 1944 the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Union was to shamefully strike in protest against the employment of black workers as crew. One union leader proclaimed that driving a streetcar was a white man’s job and that black workers belonged “on the roadway”. See Winkler, 1972.


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Harris, Howell John, 2000, Bloodless Victory: The Rise and Fall of the Open Shop in the Philadelphia Metal Trades 1910–1940 (Cambridge University).

Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri, 1978, Violence and Reform in American History (New Viewpoints).

Karson, Mark, 1965, American Labor Unions and Politics 1900–1918 (Becon).

Kimeldorf, Howard, 1999, Battling For American Labor: Wobblies, Craft Workers and the Making of the Union Movement (University of California).

Knight, Robert Edward Lee, 1960, Industrial Relations in the San Francisco Bay Area 1900–1918 (University of California).

Palmer, Bryan, 2007, James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left 1890–1928 (University of Illinois).

Peterson, Horace Cornelius, and Gilbert Courtland Fite, 1957, Opponents of War 1917–1918 (University of Wisconsin).

Rudwick, Elliott, 1982, Race Riot at East St Louis (University of Illinois).

Ruff, Allen, 1997, “We Called Each Other Comrade”: Charles H. Kerr and Company, Radical Publishers (University of Illinois).

Scranton, Philip, 1989, Figured Tapestry: Production, Markets and Power in Philadelphia Textiles 1885–1941 (Cambridge University).

Spero, Sterling, and Abram Harris, 1968, The Black Worker (Atheneum).

Thompson, Fred, 2006, The IWW: Its First Hundred Years 1905–2005 (Cincinnati).

Weyforth, William, 1917, The Organizability of Labor (John Hopkins University).

Winkler, Allan, 1972, The Philadelphia Transit Strike of 1944, The Journal of American History 59.

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Last updated: 16 January 2017