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Wed Aug 28, 2013, 09:29 PM


WOW... No Wonder Free Speech Is Under Attack !!!

In A History of American Labor, Joseph G. Rayback has written,

The Industrial Workers of the World made its first impression upon the nation through its involvement in the "free speech" fight begun in Spokane, Washington, employment center for the casual labor elements of the Pacific Northwest. The fight developed late in 1908 when the I.W.W. launched an extensive speaking campaign with the slogan "Don't Buy Jobs" in the streets around the Spokane employment agencies which had become skilled in the art of swindling men who applied for jobs.[2]

The "job sharks" were so closely tied to the crew boss on many job sites that there would be "one gang coming, one gang working and one gang going." The faster the turnover, the greater the fees that could be generated. From time to time the men would ignore the IWW and seek revenge after an employment shark took someone's last dollar for a job that didn't exist. The Spokesman-Review of January 18, 1909 reported,[3]

Hurling rocks and chunks of ice through the windows of the Red Cross Employment Agency, 224 Stevens St., several members of a noisy mob of between 2,000 and 3,000 idle men were about to attempt to wreck the place about 6 o'clock last evening, when James H. Walsh, organizer of the IWW, mounted a chair and pacified the multitude. In the opinion of the police had it not been for the intervention of Walsh, a riot would surely have followed, as the rabble was worked up to such a pitch that its members would have readily attempted violence. Walsh discouraged violence and summoned all members of the IWW to their hall at the rear of 312 Front Ave. The police dispersed the rest... At the hall Walsh warned the crowd against an outbreak. "There were a lot of hired Pinkertons in that crowd," he said. "All they wanted you fellows to do was to start something and then they would have an excuse for shooting you down or smashing your heads in... You can gain nothing by resorting to mob rule."[4]

For the rest of the summer, IWW street meetings brought more and more working stiffs into the IWW.[5]

The agencies promptly countered by pressuring the city council to pass an ordinance forbidding street speaking. The I.W.W. obeyed the regulation for nearly a year, until Spokane religious groups, which habitually used the streets, secured a new regulation exempting them from the street-speaking ordinance. Angered by the discrimination on behalf of "the Christers," the Spokane I.W.W. renewed its campaign.[2]

The newspaper of the IWW, the Industrial Worker, published the following on October 28: "Wanted—Men to Fill the Jails of Spokane." Then the IWW sent out a notice to all locations, "Nov. 2, FREE SPEECH DAY—IWW locals will be notified by wire how many men to send if any... Meetings will be orderly and no irregularities of any kind will be tolerated."[5]

In one day 150 men were arrested and crowded into jails that could hardly accommodate them. Reinforcements promptly arrived from the surrounding territory.[2]

The Spokane City Council arranged for rock-pile work for the prisoners.[5]

At the end of twenty days four hundred men had been jailed.[2]

Overflowing prisoners were lodged in the Franklin School [then located along Front Street (now Trent)], and the War Department made Fort Wright available for more. Eight editors in succession got out a copy of the Industrial Worker, and then took their turn soapboxing, and went to jail. The IWW's "rebel girl," Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who was fresh out of high school, delayed her arrest by chaining herself to a lamppost. She later charged that the police were using the women's section of the jail as a brothel, with police soliciting customers. When that story was printed in the Industrial Worker on December 10, the police attempted to destroy all copies. Public sympathy began to favor the strikers. When the prison guards would march the overflowing prisoners through the streets to bathing facilities, crowds would shower the men with apples, oranges, and Bull Durham.[6]

The effort brought results: the W.F.M. declared a boycott of all goods coming from Spokane, and taxpayers began to protest against the cost of feeding, housing, and policing the prisoners. When Vincent St. John publicly appealed to all Wobblies to come to Spokane to renew the struggle, city officials capitulated.[2]

The victory for the free speech fight came on March 4. The licenses of 19 of the employment agencies were revoked.[6]

The I.W.W. was granted freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to distribute its literature.[2]

In Labor's Untold Story, Boyer and Morais observed,

The courts became so clogged they could handle little else but free speech cases. The fight for free speech became largely a question of endurance between the lungs and heads of the Wobblies and the stamina of the police. In Missoula and Spokane as in most of the other towns where free speech fights were waged, any citizen could address any assemblage on any street on any subject at any time by the end of 1912.

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_speech_fights

Utah Phillips, 1935 - 2008

Labor Notes' streaming song of the month, August 2004, Phillips' The 1910
Spokane Free Speech Fight, recorded at the Great Labor Arts Exchange, June 2004.
Listen at: http://labornotes.org/node/1662 .


'. . . That's when I met Herb Edwards. Herb Edwards lived in West Seattle. He
was an old IWW organizer, and a Norwegian immigrant, and I wouldn't even try to
do his deep baritone Norwegian accent. He was in the free speech fight in
Spokane Washington in 1910. He told me the story of that free speech fight.

He said "Well we boomed into town from all over the West on the freight trains.
We jungled up in the flops to wait for something to open up when the weather
broke. We'd go down onto the skids, and on Trent Avenue there, and this happened
all over the West. There were little rows of stores called 'labor sharks.' And
you'd go into a labor shark and lay down $4, and that entitled you to a job up
in the logging camp or over in the Coeur d'Alenes and the Silver Valley, see, in

Well, you'd burn up your road stake getting, booming over to the job, and then
you'd be on the job thirty days, for a month, get paid and laid off. Why?

Because the foreman on the job was splitting the fees with the shark in town,
see. It was called perpetual motion. You got one guy going to the job, one on
the job, and one coming back to town, on the damn job. Why the Wobblies said
'Well, we're going to break the power of the labor sharks. We'll build union
hiring halls and control the condition of our labors.'

Well the one in Missoula Montana was burned down by the law, and the one in
Spokane was burned down by the town. Well of course the Wobblies then went down
on the street to soapbox, to street-speak. They set up across the street from
the Starvation Army. . . . . . .'


Get on your feet, all...

8 replies, 1658 views

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply WOW... No Wonder Free Speech Is Under Attack !!! (Original post)
WillyT Aug 2013 OP
Scuba Aug 2013 #1
tk2kewl Aug 2013 #2
marmar Aug 2013 #3
RobertEarl Aug 2013 #4
kenny blankenship Aug 2013 #5
eppur_se_muova Aug 2013 #6
WillyT Aug 2013 #7
WillyT Aug 2013 #8

Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 09:36 AM

2. IT "body shops" are the 21st C labor sharks


They use H-1B visas to hold their employees hostage while getting big kickbacks from the companies they rent people to.

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Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 09:37 AM

3. k/r

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Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 10:56 AM

4. Working man


Taken advantage of and held down, the man has persisted and physically built the infrastructure of this powerful country. 'Twas ever thus.

How dare any government suppress him? How dare we let governments suppress?

Stand up!

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Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 11:04 AM

5. Land of the free, they call it

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Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 04:10 PM

6. Thanks for the history lesson -- sounds like a book to look for. nt

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #6)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 08:35 PM

7. You Are Quite Welcome !!!


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Response to WillyT (Original post)

Thu Aug 29, 2013, 09:51 PM

8. Last Kick From Me...


Thanks Y'all !!!

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