This Week in Labor History 024

Frank Little

Frank Little

"An injury to one is an injury to all! So, all together, you diggers and muckers, force the bosses off your back! Put them down to work in the hole with the producers...make them earn a living for a change!"

Quotation by Frank Little, legendary IWW organizer and martyr of the working class

I’m Kevin Cook, and This Week in Labor History

Wednesday, July 31

In Butte Montana in 1917, during his early days as a Pinkerton detective, an Anaconda mine company representative offered Dashiell Hammett (as later recalled by Hammett) $5,000 to kill IWW organizer Frank Little. Hammett said he quit the business that very night. 6 dirty cowards would accept the offer.

Thursday, Aug 1

Frank Little, legendary IWW organizer, free speech activist, working class and anti-war activist was murdered by the capitalists in order to protect long hours, starvation wages, deadly working conditions, and big profits, on this day in 1917. After inspiring striking Butte miners against the Anaconda Company and capitalist greed, a paid group of six company goons pulled IWW leader Frank Little, broken leg and all, from his boarding house in the middle of the night. They dragged him by car for over two miles and hanged the mutilated body from a railroad trestle. As a warning to Butte's workers, the lynchers pinned the old vigilante numbers, 3-7-77, to his clothes and left the body to hang. Today, Little’s Butte gravesite is visited by countless union supporters and friends of labor. His headstone reads; "Slain By the Capital Interests for Organizing and Inspiring His Fellow Men." Little's funeral was the largest in Butte's history.

Sid Hatfield, police chief of Matewan, West Virginia, a longtime supporter of the United Mine Workers Union, was murdered by company goons. This soon led to the Battle of Blair Mountain, a labor uprising also referred to as the Red Neck War.

Friday, Aug 2

In Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1867, sixty striking miners were wounded by police, who were protecting low wages, deadly working conditions and greedy mine owners.

The Great Shipyard Strike of 1999 ended after Steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding ratified a breakthrough agreement. It nearly doubled pensions, increased security, ended inequality, and provided the highest wage increases in company and industry history to nearly 10,000 workers at the yard. The strike lasted 15 weeks.

In 1875, George Vanderveer was born on this date. Vanderveer served as the attorney for the Centralia Wobblies and was one of the few lawyers willing to represent Industrial Workers of the World during and after World War I. He represented the defendants in the Everett and Centralia massacres, as well as workers and labor Unions during and after the Seattle General Strike of 1919.

A 10-month strike against Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel won an agreement guaranteeing defined- benefit pensions for 4,500 Union Steelworkers in 1997.

Saturday, Aug 3

In 1913, four workers were murdered in the “Wheatland Riots” when police fired into a crowd of California farmworkers trying to organize for better working conditions. Two IWW labor leaders, one of whom was not even present at the massacre, were later convicted of murder. They were found guilty of encouraging workers to organize, which “forced officials to shoot and kill.” Working conditions were deadly with no water for the workers, who routinely died of dysentery, malaria and typhoid fever.

15,000 air traffic controllers strike on this day in 1981. President Reagan threatened to fire any who do not return to work within 48 hours, saying they "have forfeited their jobs" if they do not. Most stayed out and were fired August 5. This was the first step in the systematic dismantling of the unions by the new GOP/Republican Party and the beginning of the end for our strong middle class.

Sunday, Aug 4

15,000 silk workers went on strike in Paterson, New Jersey for a 44-hour week and less deadly working conditions.

A successful 15-day strike was launched by 180,000 Teamsters against UPS on this day in 1997 Grievances included excessive reliance on part-time workers. It was the largest U.S. strike in 20 years.

Monday, Aug 5

On this day in 1917 in Butte Montana, 10,000 people lined the streets for the funeral of IWW organizer Frank Little who was "Slain By Capitalist Interest For Organizing And Inspiring His Fellow Men," as his headstone reads. Frank Little is one of the greatest figures in American labor history. He fought for and won free speech rights in Montana and the western states before the ACLU was created. He successfully implemented tactics of non-violent resistance before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and even before Mahatma Gandhi. He successfully implemented farm worker organization before Cesar Chavez. The massive funeral turnout brought federal troops to quash the labor movement in Butte, and in the years to come, the IWW would be hunted down

and persecuted as the capitalists attempted to crush the American worker and the union movement.

13 firefighters, including 12 smokejumpers who parachuted in to help their coworkers, died while battling the Mann Gulch forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Montana on this day in 1949.

Tuesday, Aug 6

Anti-bank riots began in Baltimore, Maryland on this day in 1835.

45,000 CWA and IBEW-represented workers at Verizon began a 2-week strike on this day in 2011, refusing to accept more than 100 concessions demanded by the telecommunications giant.

This Week in Labor History is compiled by Kevin D. Curtis.

For KBMF, I’m Kevin Cook!