Everett Massacre
October 17, 2005 1:15 PM   Subscribe

On Nov. 5, 1916 five Wobblies (probably really twelve) and two citizen deputies were killed during the Everett Massacre. The Wobblies had traveled up from Seattle in order to support a mill strike. The first link is the to the Everett Public Library, where there are also mug shots of wanted Wobblies and a great page of I.W.W. propaganda posters. The University of Washington also has a nice set of primary sources on the massacre, including great contemporary newspaper accounts of the tragedy. At the I.W.W. Reading Room you can scroll down to PDF files of The Everett Massacre, a History of the Class Struggle in the Lumber Industry - by Walker C Smith, 1916. (Sorry, no anchor tags.)
posted by OmieWise (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
lots to look at here, nice work Omie.
posted by nola at 2:43 PM on October 17, 2005

Good FPP!
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:51 PM on October 17, 2005

The origin of the nickname "Wobbly" is unclear. Some believe it refers to a tool known as a "wobble saw", while others believe it is derived from an immigrant's mispronunciation of "IWW" as "eye-wobble-you-wobble-you". The most likely explanation is that the term was first used pejoratively by San Francisco Socialists around 1913 and adopted by IWWs as a badge of honor. In any case, the nickname has existed since the union's early days and is still used today.

Because you know you were wondering.
posted by smackfu at 2:55 PM on October 17, 2005

It's true, I was.
posted by caddis at 2:57 PM on October 17, 2005

I.W.W.=I Won't Work...lefitie bastards! fortunately, we have rid the nation of most of the unions and we can let the free market set wages and benefits.
posted by Postroad at 3:14 PM on October 17, 2005

...and we can let the "free" non-union market set cut wages and benefits.

fixed, for your pleasure.
posted by wah at 3:19 PM on October 17, 2005

For more information about people who were killed so that they could understand that capitalism is indeed good for them, see:

The Matewan Massacre, and the John Sayles movie about it.

The Ludlow Massacre

Too lazy to come up with more links.
posted by dsword at 3:21 PM on October 17, 2005

we can let the free market set wages and benefits
Please do not feed this troll.
posted by caddis at 3:25 PM on October 17, 2005

It's plain to see he's already fat offa that pie in the sky.
posted by eatitlive at 3:29 PM on October 17, 2005

I'm from Everett. This is probably the most interesting thing that has ever happened there, except Kenny Loggins went to high school there.

Interestingly, when we learned about the Massacre in school, the wobblies were the heros of the tale.
posted by evilcupcakes at 3:51 PM on October 17, 2005

" 'we can let the free market set wages and benefits'
Please do not feed this troll.
posted by caddis at 3:25 PM PST on October 17 [!]"

I suspect through witty language he's using a trope that involves an incongruity between what is expected and what meant. I forget what that word is...

It's a real shame this occured, but I'm almost nastolgic for those days. At least there was some solidarity between working folks. Today - in the USA - someone will describe in detail their sexual proclivities but you'll never find out how much money they make.

I'm pretty conservative, but I'm very pro-union. Mostly because while my mom was being tossed to the sharks my dad's union was there for us after he died. Oh, that and my union got me my job back when I was laid off. Oh and.. (etc)

There seems to be this idea that many modern unions are corrupt or in league with business, etc.

/back on topic -
I'm wondering how close the lineage is between the IWW and the Molly Maguires...?
Molly Maguires
posted by Smedleyman at 3:55 PM on October 17, 2005

There seems to be this idea that many modern unions are corrupt or in league with business, etc.

after the wobblies were violently and oppresively destroyed for all practical purposes, the unions which were allowed to survive were the ones which worked in collusion with capital. so yeah, there seems to be this idea and it has a historical basis. any union which does otherwise will likely meet the same fate as the wobblies, too.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:01 PM on October 17, 2005

See also the Centralia Massacre, also a November anniversary.
posted by Araucaria at 4:11 PM on October 17, 2005

Very good post; Woody Guthrie was a big supporter of the wobblies and wrote a song about them.

I agree that if we were to organize today as the wobblies did we would most likely meet their fate, care of the Blackwater Mercenaries and their ilk.

I guess 'muricans have made a choice between actively organizing and resisting or living quietly (for the most part) in subservience as their rights and freedoms are whittled away.

Here's to the Wobblies. May they never be forgotten, and perhaps inspire us all to rise again against those who would oppress and disenfranchise citizens and workers everywhere.
posted by mk1gti at 4:27 PM on October 17, 2005

Good post, and good to recognize why we have the labor laws that exist and protect workers today (hear that Postroad, thanks to these guys you have enough fingers to type a quick response!).
posted by iamck at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2005

Not to derail what is an excellent post, but I hope I am not the only one who thought of these things.

I didn't see anything in there explaining why on earth they would call themselves "Wobblies". Maybe that sounded cool last century? Because I can't imagine anyone calling themselves that today and being taken seriously. This may sound facetious, but I'm really curious if it had other connotations.

Imagine a scene from the "talkie" Office Space:
Peter: Has anyone ever called you a 'Wobbly'?
Neighbor: No. No, man. Shit, no, man. I believe you'd get your ass kicked sayin' something like that, man.

posted by Eideteker at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2005

The Cat Likes Cream and Sab Cat were IWW sabotage slogans. I think it came from a strike against the Copeland Lumber Co. -- which had a black cat as the company logo. The picture isn't great, but the cat can be barely made out. A Sab Cat was a sabotage operative. "The Cat Likes Cream" means pay up or else.

The last place in the world you can find anything out about the Centralia Massacre is Centrailia. It's still a taboo subject today. There is a statue in the city park dedicated to the lynchers killed by the Wobs.
posted by warbaby at 4:36 PM on October 17, 2005

Alas, I had my tongue in cheek. I helped orn]ganize a union and I lost my job of some 25 years because of a strike that I helped bring about...If you think the US has nice labor laws then you ought to do some research! The U.S. and South Africa are the only two nations in the industiralized world where a worker on strike can be replaced by a scab permanently. Now, if you go on strike and are told Get back to the job or you are permanently replaced, guess how many of your brothers and sisters will continue to support the strike.

In passing: the IWW still exists. Search them. They are headquartered in Chicago, though with a very small membership. But heck, sign up, get a card, and show it to your boss
posted by Postroad at 4:40 PM on October 17, 2005

omie, this post was worth it just for the mug shots. Your posts have been just top notch! Thanks for the history lesson.
posted by snsranch at 4:43 PM on October 17, 2005

Great post OmieWise--but what about the wonderful songs? No wobblie post is complete without mention of the Little Red Songbook (cover image), of workers' songs, many wittily adapted from popular ditties of the day. "Dump the Bosses Off Your Back" (click the arrow to play) was a fixture at Wobbly meetings. "The Preacher and the Slave" (streaming audio version at this page) is a pithy critique of religion and the worker. And Hallelujiah, I'm a Bum is just funny as hell.
posted by LarryC at 4:51 PM on October 17, 2005

I learned about the Everett Massacre in Melvyn Dubofsky's excellent history of the IWW, We Shall Be All, which I bought in a pirated Taiwanese edition almost 30 years ago (and how such a book was allowed to be printed in the then virulently anti-leftist Republic of China passeth my understanding). Dubowsky sums it up well:
Who fired the first shot is really unimportant. What is significant is that public authorities and private citizens had attempted to deny Wobblies their constitutional right to land at a public dock and to speak in Everett. Even more significant, Everett's leaders decided to deny those rights through the use of force... Of further significance was the refusal of federal authorities, despite appeals from Haywood, the AFL, and influential West Coast citizens and reformers, to intervene on behalf of the rights of American citizens, who happened to be powerless workingmen. The federal government's refusal to intervene on the IWW's behalf in 1918 would take on added import only a year later, when, at the instigation of businessmen and politicians, federal officials would actively repress the IWW.
I used to hero-worship the Wobblies in a big way. Great post!
posted by languagehat at 4:51 PM on October 17, 2005

Eideteker: I didn't see anything in there explaining why on earth they would call themselves "Wobblies". Maybe that sounded cool last century? Because I can't imagine anyone calling themselves that today and being taken seriously.

The majority of active Wobblies today are anarchists (though a number are in the Socialist Party). There are probably about 1,250 people who pay dues monthly and a total of around 2,000 who've paid dues in the last few months at any given time. As a union, it's marginal; the IWW has the South Street Workers Union in Philadelphia that is working to create a neighborhood-wide union, and the Starbucks Workers Union in Manhattan is struggling for recognition. For the majority of its members, the IWW is not a bargaining union in the typical sense.

Most of the Wobs I've met - and I've met quite a few, I paid dues for a few months but am not current - are proud of the union's heritage, and to call themselves Wobblies.

On preview - Postroad: In passing: the IWW still exists. Search them. They are headquartered in Chicago, though with a very small membership. But heck, sign up, get a card, and show it to your boss

The IWW headquarters are located in Philadelphia for the remainder of the year. It will be moving come the beginning of next year, I think to somewhere in Ohio.
posted by graymouser at 4:53 PM on October 17, 2005

Thanks OmieWise! Excellent FPP!
(On a personal note, my grandfather used to print up pamphlets for the Wobs, unbeknowest to his boss. I always thought he was fairly conservative and didn't find this out until after he died. Completely changed my perception of him.)
posted by maryh at 5:19 PM on October 17, 2005

I played an Oktoberfest weekend gig in Centralia a few years back, and the band spent the weekend daytime wandering around looking at the dueling monuments to the event, which forms the basis of a chapter in John Dos Passos 1919, and which is credited, along with the other shootouts of the Wobbly War, with jumpstarting a pretty-much forgotten era of repression against socialists of all stripes. The staff at the historical museum were forthcoming but cautioned us against striking up a conversation with a local on the topic, as the descendents of dead on both sides still live in the twin communities.

in 2001, The Washington State Historical Museum also displayed a collection of labor-movement graphics that were the life's work of a Museum docent who started out as a Wobbly and created most of the imagery we associate with the movement. Following a long prison sentence, he became a rabidly anti-leftist member of the AFL-CIO, I beleive as a Teamster. Here are my pix of the show. I have forgotten the man's name, but believe the exhibit credited him as the original author of "Solidarity Forever."
posted by mwhybark at 5:31 PM on October 17, 2005

It's a shame the union movement in America has gone the way it's gone. The disgraceful "You've got 5 minutes to clean our your desk before security escorts you off the premises" industrial relations laws are one result of that.

A few weeks back, Steve@ posted a link in #tapes about a union who had hired temps to protest outside a Walmart - and were paying the temps less than they would earn had they been working in the store.

My first reaction was not to the wage issue - it was towards unions hiring temps! As protestors! What's that supposed to prove? Around here, unions put temps in sacks and throw them in rivers. Well they used to...Australia is slowly but surely going the same way as the US, it seems.
posted by Jimbob at 5:39 PM on October 17, 2005

> And Hallelujiah, I'm a Bum is just funny as hell.

Peculiarly, my mother used to sing this to me as a lullaby when I was an infant. I've no idea how a Wobbly anthem made it to Liverpool though. Perhaps Burl Ives covered it, along with his bastardized Big Rock Candy Mountain?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:18 PM on October 17, 2005

posted by Postroad at 7:07 PM on October 17, 2005

Thanks for the links everyone. I posted this because I had just finished 1919 by Dos Passos and was on my way out to discuss the book and had been boning up on my labor history. It's great to see all the stuff everyone posted to make this a thread with great breadth.
posted by OmieWise at 7:19 PM on October 17, 2005

remember, remember, the 5th of november. KABOOM
posted by Satapher at 8:11 PM on October 17, 2005

The Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan (a social protest archives) has a very cool Wobbly exhibit right now as well, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wobbly solidarity.
posted by Sidthecat at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2005

But... the wobblies were wrong. So-called 'collusion with capital' has gotten us better working hours and better labor standards in general. Strong unions fighting for change within the system, rather than class warfare (which, after the Soviet Union, Fascism, and everything else, turns out to be pretty barbaric) really does make us better off. Sure, we're not doing perfectly now, but the strides that have been made were made by other unions, unions that knew what was worth fighting for... and what wasn't. The whiff of nineteenth-century grassroots socialism may be alluring to us young folk so long as we forget history, but our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived through four wars, one civil, two hot, and one cold, in order to learn that that stuff is hopeless romanticism that gets people killed senselessly; I don't think it's a good idea to forget it now.

To play the devil's advocate for a moment...
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 PM on October 17, 2005


The Wobblies weren't wrong. The AFL before the Wobbly era was narrow and craft-oriented, and largely quite racist. The AFL organized on craft lines within a shop, rather than in an entire shop. By contrast, the IWW organized on an industrial basis - working to get entire shops, and indeed entire professions, in "one big union." The whole-shop model caught fire in the '30s with the CIO, and the IWW's influence was a large part of that.

Collaborationist unions worked within the same model that saved capitalism during the New Deal and the Great Society. Now, like those programs, they're being torn apart - and again the unions are going to have to change or die. I hope they learn to change, because sadly the IWW is not going to ride to the rescue.
posted by graymouser at 8:35 PM on October 17, 2005

(sigh. my heroes....)

now where's that damn cop?

/shameless rip-off
posted by RedEmma at 9:33 PM on October 17, 2005

I too recommend checking out Utah Phillips:


Saw him "perform" a couple weeks ago; he tells interesting stories about the IWW and being a train-riding hobo, shares some semi-corny jokes, and has sing-a-longs including "Hallelujah I'm a bum" and "'The Preacher and the Slave":

"Work and pray, live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die, that's a lie!".

it was time very well spent. I told him after that we'd gone on strike and walked our first picket line in June, and he told us that 'direct action' is always the way. Right on, Utah.

Great FPP, thanks OmieWise.
posted by NorthernSky at 11:12 PM on October 17, 2005

Wobbly drinking night [I know, I know] is one of the things I miss most about living in Seattle, thanks OmieWise.

There are women of many descriptions
In this queer world, as everyone knows.
Some are living in beautiful mansions,
And are wearing the finest of clothes.
There are blue blooded queens and princesses,
Who have charms made of diamonds and pearl;
But the only and thoroughbred lady
Is the Rebel Girl.

That's the Rebel Girl, that's the Rebel Girl!
To the working class she's a precious pearl.
She brings courage, pride and joy
To the fighting Rebel Boy.
We've had girls before, but we need some more
In the Industrial Workers of the World.
For it's great to fight for freedom
With a Rebel Girl.

Yes, her hands may be hardened from labor,
And her dress may not be very fine;
But a heart in her bosom is beating
That is true to her class and her kind.
And the grafters in terror are trembling
When her spite and defiance she'll hurl;
For the only and thoroughbred lady
Is the Rebel Girl.

posted by jessamyn at 4:07 AM on October 18, 2005

I am totally the only person who's never heard of the Wobblies, apparently. =( <-- Sad face!
posted by Eideteker at 6:41 AM on October 18, 2005

For the record, I have an IWW union card. Though it expired a long time ago. Any other wobs here?
posted by warbaby at 6:55 AM on October 18, 2005

"So-called 'collusion with capital' has gotten us better working hours and better labor standards in general"


Know how much vacation time the Germans get?

on a tangent - I wonder how well a Western union would do were it organized like a Tong.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:10 AM on October 18, 2005

Man, it's clear to me that the MeFi userbase is not representative of the general population.

Chalk up another former red-card holder here. There have been, what, maybe 4000 (optimistically) members passing through the IWW in the last 10 years or so, and how many of them have popped up here?

For those of you who have come and gone, I point you to James P. Cannon's The IWW. Excellent analysis of one the most militant working class movements in US history.
posted by Charlie Bucket at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2005

I've got a card from years ago, I always liked the cool little stamps I'd get when I paid my dues.
Now my union dues go to IATSE and AFSCME.
posted by Floydd at 9:48 AM on October 18, 2005

the IWW still exists. Search them. They are headquartered in Chicago, though with a very small membership. But heck, sign up, get a card, and show it to your boss.

i checked on this long ago. there is exactly one wobbly in my entire state. i live in a so-called "right to work" state. employers are empowered to ignore any union here. and as a state employee, showing a union card to my boss would get me fired, as it is illegal in my state for state employees to unionize.

as howard dean said, it is several times more difficult to form a union in the u.s. than it is to form a corporation.

"So-called 'collusion with capital' has gotten us better working hours and better labor standards in general"

wrong. the eight hour work day came about due to the wobblies. woodrow wilson took credit for it, even though he was the author of the "reign of terror" which really kicked off the murder spree on unionists. other than osha, which industry feels obligated to ignore in many cases, working conditions have been eroding ever since. things got dark for unionism when reformism replaced class struggle (c.f., Randolph Bourne). the wobbly aim of *worked owned industry* is still a valuable ideal (c.f. Ralph Chaplin).

Smedleyman, how different do you think the IWW was from a Tong? What differences would be important?
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:14 PM on October 18, 2005

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