You are on page 1of 24

Woolworth 1


“All that serves labor serves this nation…There is no America without labor. To

fleece one is to rob the other.” This statement was made by President Abraham Lincoln. He

was speaking at a time in American history where there was still slavery in the United States.

His address spoke to the importance of labor to America, and how the rights of the worker

have to be protected. President Lincoln did not survive long enough to see the corporate

consolidations gain a foothold in American industry, nor the rise of the unions which were

created to fight for the rights of the wage-slaves of the working class.

This paper is about the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies

(a moniker that they embraced). No one knows with certainty where the term Wobblies came

from, but the I.W.W. website gives credence to the word coming from a Chinese worker who

could not pronounce the “w” sound, so I.W.W. became “I Wobble Wobble,” when he spoke

of his union (I.W.W). This may or may not be true, but it does illustrate one of the basic

tenets of the Wobblies: all workers are workers and they deserve to be unionized, despite sex,

nationality, or race. The I.W.W. was the only union that openly embraced unionizing women

and immigrants during the period of this paper’s investigation, 1905-1913. The former date

is when the I.W.W. was first organized, and the latter is just before World War I started; by

then the Wobblies’ influence in America was declining. This is not to say that the I.W.W.

was not effective past 1913; this year was chosen because it was the year that signaled the

failure of I.W.W. ideology. The union itself remained minorly active until 1924.

This paper is divided into three main sections. The first section is a discussion of

corporate hegemony. To explain what this term means, I shall explore the notion of

hegemony and how it relates to corporate structure in a few broad strokes. I will also discern

the difference between ideology and hegemony. There are numerous books dedicated both to

hegemony and ideology, and it is not my purpose here to add to these ongoing arguments.
Woolworth 2

Instead, I will place the notion of hegemony into an argument based on the corporate

structure of the early twentieth century and how it reflects upon workers’ rights.

The second section is brief, but important. This section will serve to show how

unions were viewed in America through their representation in popular magazines. I will

show how these representations take a hegemonic stance the topic of workers’ rights because

they come from an institution.

The final section will deal solely with the I.W.W. I will focus primarily on the

ideological expressions of One Big Union and One Big Strike. There are multiple ideological

agendas disseminated by the I.W.W. during this time period, but the others will not serve the

purpose of this paper. In discussing I.W.W. ideology, I will use the terms “capitalists” and

“working class” rather than the “bourgeoisie” and the “proletariat.” This is because an

exploration of the Marxist class discourse is not the goal of this paper; therefore, I will

consciously (pun intended) not use the terms bourgeoisie and proletariat (unless it is

contained within an I.W.W. quotation) in order to distance this paper from the discourse of

class. The term class, as used in this paper, will be expressed as I.W.W.’s organization of the

workers as a unified class; this will be explored further on in the paper.

Instead, this paper shall explore the I.W.W. as an organization that existed to fight

corporate hegemony. It is through hegemony that the working class was subjected to the

stagnant wages and deplorable working conditions in the early twentieth century. Trying to

fight against this corporate hegemony, the I.W.W. developed the ideological stances of One

Big Union and One Big Strike. It is these ideological stances that will be examined through

the songs, speeches, and strikes of the I.W.W. from its inception to the year of its greatest

failure, the Paterson Strike of 1913.

Corporations on the Rise
Woolworth 3

At the turn of the twentieth century, the mode of doing business was evolving. Prior

to the twentieth century, business consisted primarily of entrepreneurial enterprises that

existed to serve a mostly self-sufficient agrarian society. Then the age of consumerism

arrived. A wide selection of manufactured goods became available as capitalist’s

streamlined production and formed corporate consolidations; by joining together multiple

corporations into a consolidation, the capitalists needed less management to run their

businesses while producing a wider array of products. The Census of 1900 revealed for the

first time in American history that industrial wealth had surpassed agricultural wealth by five

billion dollars; in addition to this, the census-data also revealed that twelve million persons1

now worked in the “mechanical trades” of the industrial work force (Bloomfield 15). In

1897-1903 (just before the founding of the I.W.W. in 1905), the number of corporate

consolidations grew from only twelve to three hundred five and the assets of these

consolidations grew from under one billion dollars to over seven billion dollars in worth (16).

The incorporation of a business allows it to function as an entity entirely independent

of those who own it (the shareholders) and those who direct its day-to-day actions (the board

of directors). The corporation becomes “an artificial person, endowed by law with all the

legal attributes of a real human being. It can make binding contracts, sue, or be sued in its

own name and on its own behalf…A corporation is a formidable institution, with a legal

existence separate and distinct from the individuals who created it” (Dugger 9-10). A

corporation can merge with other corporations; spin off various subsidiaries to transact

business; takeover other businesses; and most importantly, the owners enjoy the benefits of

limited liability. “Stockholders are not personally liable for any damages caused or debts

incurred by the corporation. If the corporation strikes it rich, the stockholders stand to gain,”

but conversely, if the company is responsible for a disaster that involves paying out a

1 The 1900 Census revealed that the population of the United States was 76 million, the
workforce consisted of 24 million gainfully employed persons aged 10 years or older.
Fisk, Donald.
Woolworth 4

settlement, “the shareholders’ loss is limited to the amount they paid for the stock” (Dugger

11-12). Therefore, the very nature of a corporation is to exist as a profit yielding entity for

shareholders while at the same time limiting shareholder financial responsibility.

Corporate Hegemony

The incorporation of American businesses created “the most effective institution in

the West, and, except for the state, the most powerful one as well” (Dugger 9). It is necessary

to explain how a corporation is an institution to fully understand the impact of this statement.

To do this, I will briefly discuss the concept of cultural hegemony and its relationship to


The discursive idea of cultural hegemony2 is that an institution is a dominant agent

which instills a system of values, beliefs, and morality in people through its social and

intellectual prestige; ultimately this system becomes consciousness for the working class

(Cantor 7).3 An institution can be any entity that inculcates consciousness in the public; such

examples of institutions are the state, privately owned television stations, magazines, schools,

churches, corporations, family, etc. These institutions will invariably garner the support from

its citizen subjugates through the “manufacturing of consent among the population at large,

so that the masses would regard their own assent as spontaneous” (Freeden 20). Hegemony,

simply put, promotes the idea that the public will adopt the consciousness created for them

through cultural institutions without their knowledge that this process of inculcation is taking


Through the description above, hegemony may appear to be synonymous with

ideology. Ideology is an active social force itself which categorizes and organizes human

2 Hegemony as described by Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937); he wrote about the Fascist
Italian State and its “civil servants,” in The Prison Letters.

3 Milton Cantor offers this to describe the dominant values of capitalism under the
discourse of Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony.
Woolworth 5

experience within a social order (Eagleton 77).4 In very general terms, ideology is the

unspoken culmination of morality, mores, and knowledge in a society that is unconsciously

accepted as such by the social subjects within a society. Ideology can exist because the social

subject’s think that the way things are can only be the way that they are; this is because of

shared knowledge and experiences.

Hegemony and ideology are two rather distinct ideas that are used concurrently within

the discourse of cultural hegemony. Contemporary critic Terry Eagleton illustrates this

distinction when he writes in Ideology: an Introduction, that “There is thus an immediate

difference from the concept of ideology…hegemony is a broader category than ideology: it

includes ideology, but is not reducible to it” (112). He makes the distinction that ideology

has to be coerced upon an individual whereas hegemony does not. He explains that

“Hegemony, then, is not just some successful kind of ideology, but may be discriminated into

its various ideological, cultural, political and economic aspects” (113). Hegemony and

ideology exist within the same paradigm; but as Eagleton espouses succinctly, hegemony

raises ideology from merely a system of ideas “to ideology as lived, habitual social practice –

which must then presumably encompass the unconscious, inarticulate dimensions of social

experience as well as the workings of formal institutions” (115).

Now that the basics of hegemony have been explained, we can examine the statement

by economist William Dugger that the incorporation of American businesses in the twentieth

century created “the most effective institution in the West, and, except for the state, the most

powerful one as well” (9). Since corporations are considered hegemonic institutions, they

must instill consciousness upon the public. Dugger maintains that we live in a society of

corporate hegemony. He supports this by examining corporations in the latter part of the

4 Eagleton’s “social order” is the class system laid out by Marx and Engels in The
German Ideology, 1848. According to their theory, ideology consists of three parts: it is
grounded in the false history of ideas that are designed to distract people from their
actual social conditions; the ruling class ideas formulate the consciousness of the non-
dominant class; and last, ideology is the battlefield for class struggle, which includes
consciousness and politics.
Woolworth 6

twentieth century. “Hegemony can take in a variety of forms, depending on which institution

is dominant…Any institution can dominate the other institutions in a society. The

corporation does so in twentieth-century America” (8). In Dugger’s analysis, hegemony

leads to conformity because people are not allowed to shape their own characters (4). The

shaping of independent character is not possible when the beliefs and values of a corporate

structure are ingrained into its worker’s consciousness. Constant exposure to corporate

culture makes the worker become “degraded by in some sense by the corporation” (5).

Dugger explores the idea of hegemonic manipulation being responsible for the degradation

that workers feel under corporate life by citing a study which states that “‘Many whips are

inside men, who do not know how they got there, or indeed that they are there’” (5)5.

Corporate culture results in corporate hegemony, and is consequently a means of

social control. “Corporate culture is a set of shared beliefs and values inculcated in the

corporation’s employees. The corporate culture reinforces and reshapes the employee’s

general desire to do well into a compulsion to get ahead, through loyalty and hard work for

the corporation” (Dugger 33). What happens when a worker realizes that corporate culture

has an undue influence on his life, and being alone, he does not have the strength to

overcome said influence? One answer is to join a union.

Institutions and Unions

Historian Maxwell Bloomfield wrote that “All workers were visualized as essentially

child types, who needed the guidance of the managerial classes…The proper relationship

between Capital and Labor was one of partnership, in which the ‘adult partner, Capital’

should guide and protect its ‘infant’ charge” (76).6 This derogatory view of the American

worker by the fourth estate was not uncommon in the era of union growth. Bloomfield found

5 C. Wright Mills, White Collar p.110

6 Bloomfield examines magazine articles from 1900-1914 in an attempt to quantify the
perceptions of pre WWI American. Here, he is reflecting the stance taken by Outlook
Magazine, June 24, 1911, which stated that Labor “is an infant in his logical faculties,
though a giant in strength.” Bloomfield, p.77.
Woolworth 7

representations from not only Outlook, but also Cosmopolitan, North American Review, and

American Magazine that portrays the wage earner as someone who needs a capitalist to make

decisions for him because he is too infantile to do so. Unions were portrayed negatively in

magazine culture because they sought to limit capitalist power. This is an instance of an

institution (magazines owned by capitalists) sculpting the hegemonic consciousness in the

American people through announcing that the intellectual status of the American working

class was below that of his capitalist boss; this empowered the prestige of the capitalist class.

One aspect of unionism that was panned in magazines of this era was the walking

delegate. The walking delegate was a union representative who worked directly for the union

and was not affiliated with any of the industries in which he organized the workers. This was

because prior industry workers that were bold enough to attempt to organize for workers’

right were promptly fired (Bloomfield 82). Popular magazines, instead of heralding the

walking delegate as a resolute man brave enough to walk into the line of fire repeatedly,

portrayed him as a man who would instead walk into a business and “used his bargaining

position to blackmail employers…he dragooned unwilling workers to join a union through

use of force and threats…he allied himself with the ‘riffraff’ element in every labor

organization in order to foment strikes and other forms of industrial violence” (80). These

magazines allied themselves with a conservative ethos that capitalist culture was good for the

American working class.

A union representative was “pictured as an unprincipled racketeer bent on serving his

personal interests and ready to abscond with union funds at the drop of a hat” (Bloomfield

83). The representative was vilified continually in both Cosmopolitan and The American

magazines in articles written about various strikes (83). This helped to construct the popular

hegemonic view of the union, its representatives, and its walking delegates as wholly corrupt

organizations that existed strictly for profit while disrupting business.
Woolworth 8

To curtail the rights’ of unions, there was a debate about the existence of unions as

unincorporated entities by the capitalists. Unlike corporations, unions could not be sued for

the actions of its members. The capitalists argued that the incorporation of unions would

allow unions to acquire more respect from the civilian population because they would be

allowed redress of grievances against employers for contract breaches. Incorporation would

also force unions to realize both conservative and nonviolent agendas (Bloomfield 85).

Union representatives fought against this because of the fear of litigation and a distrust of the

judiciary (85). If a union was forced to incorporate, any litigation against a union would

require a defense that could deplete union funds. There was also a fear that union funds

could be seized as a result of a court case against a union. In effect, incorporation would

destroy unions through monetary means, or, in the case of an individual union member

defying a judge’s orders, a union could be demolished (86). Without the legal and fiduciary

responsibility of an incorporated entity, the continued existence of unions provided ample

fodder for magazine articles and stories meant for public consumption.

The I.W.W. and One Big Union

“‘Fellow workers, this is the Continental Congress of the Working Class. We are

here to confederate the workers of this country into a working-class movement in possession

of the economic powers, the means of life, in control of the machinery of production and

distribution without regard to capitalist masters’” (Kornbluh 1).

Those words were spoken by William D. Haywood to a rapt audience in Chicago on

June 27, 1905, at a meeting of the Industrial Workers of the World. At this three day

meeting, the I.W.W. began formulating their Manifesto7. The Congress consisted of almost

two hundred delegates from thirty-four different politico-economic organizations including

“socialists, anarchists, radical miners, and revolutionary industrial unionists” (Kornbluh 1).

This audience was assembled based on the premise that “the working class, if correctly

7 180,000 copies of the completed Manifesto were distributed on November 29, 1905.
Thompson, p.16.
Woolworth 9

organized on both political and industrial lines, were capable of successfully operating the

country’s industries” (1).

The size of the audience had grown considerably from the twenty-three people who

represented nine unions at the first meeting of the I.W.W. held six months earlier in January

(Thompson 15). At the Congress, the I.W.W. had delegates which pledged over fifty

thousand workers as members (21). The I.W.W. had the vision that the different labor

movements, instead of being organized as separate entities, could be properly organized into

a singular labor movement that protected the values of the working class. It was the goal to

organize every worker in the United States as a member of a working class union without

regard to race, sex, or job type. The I.W.W. gave support to the unrepresented members of

the working class: “the immigrant and

migratory workers, the unskilled, the

unorganized and unwanted, the poorest and

the weakest sections of labor,” and tried to

organize them into this singular labor

movement that would come to be known as

One Big Union (Reshaw 26).

The song “One Big Industrial Union,” by G.G. Allen illustrates the Wobbly ideal of

One Big Union as a worker utopia which will “set the wage slave free…with every victory”

(Allen 25). The song situates the political and economic ideals of the I.W.W. together in a

simple tune of four verses and two choruses. It starts with the following verse, which tells

the worker to gather into a group and sing a song together, for both themselves, and others,

who may not have yet joined the Wobbly cause. It then expresses the ideology of worker

emancipation promised by One Big Union8.

Bring the good old red book, boys 9, we’ll sing another song.

8 The full version of the song is included in the Appendix, p.21.
Woolworth 10

Sing it to the wage slave who has not yet joined the throng

Of the revolution that will sweep the world along,

To One Big Industrial Union. (Allen 24)

The song continues, challenging the proletariat to earn his emancipation by joining the

revolutionaries in the I.W.W. The song also uses examples of Wobbly actions, such as the

Paterson Silk Strike of 1913, to reify the ideology of One Big Union as being achievable.

The song ends with the words “till you finally must be / In One Big Industrial Union.” The

use of the word must denotes that ultimately there will be no other choice for the worker but

to be a member of One Big Union.

One Big Strike

The Wobblies taught that One Big Union could be achieved by means of a general

strike so big that it would force the capitalists to capitulate to their demands. In his speech

The General Strike, Wobbly leader William Haywood states that a strike hurts the capitalist

“in the place where he keeps his heart and soul, his center of feeling – the pocketbook”

(Haywood 46). Haywood envisioned a general strike for America involving all industries.

This One Big Strike would be nonviolent and result in the dispelling of class in America

through organizing everyone as laborers equal to one another to serve the good of all. For

One Big Strike to be successful, Haywood relied on the idea that during a strike, the capitalist

withdraws his financial support from a business. This is different from the worker, who after

being constantly subjected to the hegemony of corporate capitalism, has been taught to

preserve the “capitalist’s interest in the property” (48). He stated that the worker was

“always looking after the interest of the capitalist, while a general strike would displace his

(the capitalist) interest and would put you (the worker) in possession of it” (49). Haywood

stressed in his speech that the workers already had possession of the capitalist property in

9 The Little Red Songbook
Woolworth 11

their hands every time they show up to work, all they had to do is strike together as one to

take control of it.

Wobbly songwriter G.G. Allen penned a tune which espoused the ideology of

Haywood’s speech entitled “The One Big Strike”10. This song is unique to The Little Red

Songbook because the author penned music and lyrics rather than just utilizing a satirical

twist on a known tune. This song is written as a direct appeal to the American Federation of

Labor worker to join the cause of One Big Strike.

Now we have no fight with members of the old A. F. of L.

But we ask you use your reason with the facts we have to tell.

Your craft is but protection for a form of property,

And your skill that is your property you’re losing, don’t you see.

Improvements on machinery take tool and trade away,

And you’ll be among the common slaves upon some fateful day.

Now the things of which we’re telling you we are mighty sure about;

O, what’s the use to strike the way you can’t win out? (Allen 58)

In addressing the A.F.L. unionist directly, Allen does something remarkable. He crafted a

song which surpasses union politics by embracing the working class as a whole, regardless of

which union they belonged to, by appealing not only to the risk to job security promised by

the development of new machinery, but also to the worker’s craft. In the last verse of the

song, Allen embraces the A.F.L. worker directly by stating “With the General Strike in

progress and all workers stand as one / There will be a revolution – not a wheel shall run”

(59). He is proselytizing to the A.F.L. worker here in hopes of standing in unity with him

during the One Big Strike.

Craft Unity

10 See Appendix, p.22.
Woolworth 12

The craft referred to in Allen’s song is an important point of digression that needs to

be fully explained. The I.W.W. thought it fundamental that all workers should be considered

as one working class, and therefore everyone would belong to One Big Union. This stance

ran contradictory to the other unions which supported craft division11. Craft division was the

unionization of separate jobs in a factory based solely upon the tool used or job done during

production (i.e. assemblers, steamfitters, machinists, etc.). This ran contrary to One Big

Union which wanted to unionize all members of a factory as one craft dedicated to the output

of a product. Craft divisions, according to the Manifesto of the I.W.W.:

Foster political ignorance among the workers, thus dividing their class at the

ballot box, as well as in the shop, mine and factory. Craft unions may be and

have been used to assist employers in the establishment of monopolies and the

raising of prices. One set of workers are thus used to make harder the

conditions of life of another body of laborers. Craft divisions hinder the

growth of class consciousness of the workers, and foster the ideas of harmony

of interests between employing exploiter and employed slave. They permit

the association of the misleaders of the workers with the capitalists…and the

permanent enslavement of the workers through the wage system. (I.W.W. 9)

Under I.W.W. tenets, One Big Union stood against the divisiveness among workers; it

promised that craft division would be eliminated and thereby help all workers organize as a

singular class in the fight against wage slavery.

According to one of the I.W.W.’s founders, William Trautmann, the economic gains

that the enjoyed from the turn of the century to 1904 was primarily because everybody in a

factory would strike together at the same time (Trautmann 18-19). In his 1911 essay Why

11 The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was the largest union in the United States
during the I.W.W. years with about 2 million members and it supported the individual
unionization of crafts; they were comedically referred to by the Wobblies as the American
Separation of Labor because of their stance on craft separation. The Knights of Labor
was in its last stages as its membership totals were rapidly declining in 1905.
Woolworth 13

Strikes Are Lost, Trautmann explains how craft division not only divides the working class,

but also makes any substantial gains for the worker impossible.

This division was apparent in the way that the American Federation of Labor and the

Wobblies worked together. When the I.W.W. conducted a strike, it was met with not only

the expected resistance from the capitalists, but also the A.F.L. itself. In Schenectady, N.Y.,

the I.W.W. organized the first stay-in strike of the twentieth century by the Metal Workers at

General Electric in February, 1906. The A.F.L. promptly filled the positions of the strikers

by sending in scabs12 to work for the striking I.W.W. workers at G.E. (Thompson 24). These

Factions were authorized by Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor,

in an attempt to put the I.W.W. out of the union business despite less than ten percent of the

workforce was unionized at the time (Ginzberg 37). Gompers continued to use scabs in other

strikes, and the A.F.L. successfully put a boycott on I.W.W. workers in certain industries in

St. Louis and Butte, Montana (Thompson 24).

In 1908, the I.W.W. underwent a great schism. The then leader of the I.W.W., Daniel

De Leon, who was also the founder of the Socialist Trade & Labor Alliance, left the I.W.W.

for its lack of radical reform (Thompson 40). With him he took a good portion of the

membership and founded the short-lived Detroit I.W.W. which disbanded in 1925 (39-40).

What remained was only a small portion of the formerly large I.W.W.; there were five

thousand Wobblies left in the union. These members were all dedicated to the cause of the

One Big Union, and after the exit of De Leon, would continue their efforts without affiliation

to a public party (39-40).

The year 1908 also marked a significant change in the way the Wobblies dispersed

their ideologies. One Wobbly organizer, J.H. Walsh, discovered the power of the song. He

had to hold meetings with workers in the street in an attempt to bypass employer “sharks”

(Thompson 38). It was familiar practice for these sharks, who worked for the capitalist

12A scab is a worker who works a job left vacant by a striking worker.
Woolworth 14

owners, to hire only laborers that were willing to pay a fee to work. Once the fee was paid,

the worker was typically allowed to work until s/he received the first paycheck. Then the

worker was promptly fired so that if they wanted a job, they need to pay the fee again

(Kornbluh 68). The job sharks became aware of Walsh’s street meetings and contracted the

Salvation Army band to play music so loud next to the meetings that they could not take

place. Instead of giving up, “Walsh and his fellow workers hit upon the device of making

parodies to be sung to the music furnished freely to them by the Army. Thus the tradition of

the ‘singing I.W.W.’ grew out of this with the employment sharks” (Thompson 39). Walsh

soon gathered a group of delegates to travel with him on his way from the west coast to

Chicago by train. At stopping points along the rails, Walsh and the delegates used the

opportunity to soap box and sell song cards which were a precursor to the I.W.W.’s collection

of tunes releases in 1909 as The Little Red Songbook. This helped to disperse the I.W.W.

ideologies to crowds across the country in an attempt to combat corporate hegemony.

Lawrence and Patterson

The I.W.W. had been organizing the textile industry since 1907.13 In 1908, the

Wobblies formed the first National Industrial Union of Textile Workers based upon the

founding ideologies of One Big Union and One Big Strike. The textile workers were “were

men and women who had been educated into unionism with lectures on the history of the

labor movement, with study classes in economics, with union fundamentals handed to them

in leaflets and strike talks” (Thompson 54). This created a textile union full of workers who

understood what could be accomplished through industrial unionism.

This became apparent in 1912 during the strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Changing technology in the way looming was done had created a situation the economically

benefited the textile mill owners in 1911. With the new four loom machinery, the weaver

could run more looms at once which created more “cuts” of a material at a substantially lower

13 The Wobblies had been responsible for the textile strikes in Skowhegan, Maine, and
the three month strike in Mapleville, Rhode Island in 1907. See Thompson, p.53.
Woolworth 15

cost. Due to this, factory production had doubled, but the prevailing weekly wage was

stagnant with an average worker earning just under nine dollars a week ($.16 per hour)

(Thompson 55). The average wage for manufacturing in America in 1910 was twenty cents

an hour (Ginzberg 35). A new state law went into effect on New Year’s Day of 1912 that

limited the number of hours worked per week in Massachusetts to fifty-four, which was down

from the standard fifty-six hour work week at the mills (55). When the workers received

their first paychecks of the year, they were down thirty two cents because of the reduction in

hours; in fiscal terms of 1912, the amount removed from the worker paycheck was enough to

buy about ten loaves of bread (55). A strike was called and “‘Better to starve fighting than to

starve working’” became motto of the Lawrence Strike (Renshaw 135).

Within two weeks, over twenty five thousand workers at the mills were striking14

representing at least twenty-five nationalities (Ginzberg 136). There were clashes with the

Lawrence police, an assembled militia, and the National Guard who were called out to

enforce the ‘peace.’ The strike lasted nine weeks; three hundred and twenty five people were

arrested with three hundred and twenty convictions on minor offenses. Haywood and other

Wobbly leaders stayed in Lawrence to promote solidarity through passive resistance

(Kornbluh 158). One striker died from a police bullet fired into the crowd of peacefully

parading strikers; the striker parade was one of the means of passive resistance that Haywood

promoted (Thompson 57). For the first time in strike history, the union used its funds to send

the strikers’ children away from militia laden city of Lawrence by train to other families who

would care for them while the strike was still in effect15. The children traveled in ushered

groups and each carried an identification card (57). On February twenty-fourth, the trains

were blocked by the militia carrying rifles with bayonets. That day, the strikers who had

14 There were approximately 40,000 mill workers in the town of Lawrence which had a
population of just under 86,000 people. Kornbluh, p. 158.

15 The I.W.W. and its supporters could only afford to recompense the striking workers
about $.33 a week each, so the children had to be sent away to a family that could afford
to feed them and protect them from violence. Thompson p.57.
Woolworth 16

brought approximately one hundred fifty children to the train to be sent off were beaten; and

the children who ran towards the train were clubbed (Kornbluh 161). It was reported in

Solidarity16 that:

There was a hideous struggle. The women fought and kicked and scratched

with the mad frenzy of mothers fighting for their young. The police clubbed

them and choked them and knocked them down. Finally the officers pitched

the women and children into a great arsenal wagon and drove them off, a

screaming, fighting wagon load, to the police station were the little ones were

booked as neglected children. (Thompson 58)

This caused a public outrage all over America. “Protests from every part of the country reach

Congress as newspaper and magazine articles focused national attention on the conflict”

(Kornbluh 162). Congress called for an official investigation into what transpired in

Lawrence. Reports of holding back pay at Lawrence, and even charging five to ten cents a

week for clean drinking water were brought to light. As a result, President Taft called for an

investigation into the industrial working conditions around the country (162).

The strike finally broke on March thirteenth. The workers were given a raise of one

to two cents per hour depending on their job and pay rate. This strike, albeit heated, showed

the power of the I.W.W. to mount a large strike and succeed in gaining pay increases for their

workers. Strikes soon followed in Lowell (18,000 strikers) and New Bedford (15,000

strikers) in an attempt to gain like wage increases (Thompson 59). The National Industrial

Union of Textile Workers was making headway with the I.W.W. and things were looking up

for textile workers briefly.

One Big Strike was realized in Paterson in 1913. The new looms that were replacing

the older technology elsewhere in the northeast were brought into Paterson.17 Based on what

16 An I.W.W. publication, number 114

17 Paterson, NJ. Population of 124,000 in 1913, and about 25,000 worked in the silk
mills. Kornbluh, p.197.
Woolworth 17

happened in other mills, the workers anticipated lay-offs and lower wages as a result of this

new technology. The workers supported the idea of getting rid of the new looms in order to

maintain work levels. They also demanded an eight hour day with higher wages. At this

time, the silk workers of Paterson belonged to the United Textile Workers union. The leader

of the U.T.W., John Golden, did not show up to support his workers, but William Haywood

had arrived. When none of the workers’ demands were met, Haywood organized One Big

Strike for the first time when all twenty five thousand silk workers abandoned their looms in

the mills to join the strike on February twenty-fifth (Kornbluh198).

The strike lasted until September twenty-fourth. During this time, fourteen hundred

seventy-three strikers were arrested, and five strikers were killed (Thompson 61). The strike

got some additional publicity by way of John Reed, a newspaper reporter from New York

City by way of Harvard. He traveled to Paterson to experience the strike first hand and was

arrested while talking to some strikers outside a worker’s home. The publicity of the arrest of

a Harvard boy alongside of striking immigrants was immense, it had garnered more press

than the hundreds of strikers who had been arrested before him in Paterson (Kornbluh 201).

Reed was released four days after his incarceration. Being partial to the Wobbly cause, Reed

decided to organize a pageant for the Silk Workers in an attempt to raise funds. Maintaining

support for the strikers had pushed the I.W.W. fund reserves to their limits. Reed financed

the pageant with donations from wealthy individuals whom he knew in New York City that

were supportive of the cause. He solicited enough funds to rent Madison Square Garden for

one night.
Woolworth 18

To prepare for the pageant, he taught over one thousand textile workers to sing songs

from The Little Red Songbook and re-enact strike scenes from Paterson (Kornbluh 201). On

the night of June seventh the pageant occurred. In Madison Square Garden there was a large

backdrop on which was painted a large silk mill with several smaller mills beside it. There

were also ten foot high electric lights that spelled out I.W.W. on each side of the Madison

Square Garden Tower which “could be seen from miles away” (201). Over fifteen thousand

people showed up for the performance. Many of the floor seats were not sold, so the crowds

lining the sidewalk were let in free if they had an I.W.W. membership card. The program for

the pageant stated that “The pageant represents a

battle between the working class and the capitalist

class conducted by the Industrial Workers of the

World…it is a conflict between two social forces”

(202). It was a conflict between hegemony and One

Big Union. Newspaper reviewers were moved by the

spectacle of the pageant, and during its finale, the

audience sang “Internationale,” a protest song written

in 1871, with the cast (202). Because not all of the

seats were sold and the audience being comprised of

mainly poor workers, the pageant was a financial

failure and only lasted one night.

In July the strike came to an end. The factory owners began, with the ribbon weavers,

approaching individual crafts in hopes of reaching a settlement. When the ribbon workers got

their demands met, the strikers broke up into three hundred shop units to bargain and the

strike was over. This destroyed all hopes for an industry wide settlement and at the same

time was a startling blow to One Big Strike. It was the grandest strike of the I.W.W.’s storied

history, and it was a failure.
Woolworth 19


The Industrial Workers of the World membership fell considerably after 1913. The

labor gains that were won by twenty five thousand strikers in Lawrence were represented by

only seven hundred I.W.W. members at the end of 1913 (Thompson 63). The failure in

Paterson was the death knell for I.W.W. membership. At its peak in 1913, the Wobblies had

about one hundred thousand members (Renshaw 22). More importantly, Paterson was a

failure of Wobbly ideology. Paterson was supposed to trigger the One Big Strike leading to

factory take-over’s all across America as the working class realized what could be achieved

when working together under One Big Union. Paterson was the first actualization of the One

Big Strike, and through its failure on ideological grounds, it was ultimately responsible for

the failure of the I.W.W. as a union.18

However, before 1913, the Wobblies were the voice of the repressed and

unrepresented workers. They embraced every worker, regardless of nationality, skin color, or

sex, as being representative of a single class of workers. This idea was a reaction to the

corporate hegemony of capitalist America which inculcates workers to produce more goods

for less money in order to make a business profitable. During the era of the Wobbly, there

were few legal restrictions on how the capitalist owners could use the working class to

achieve this goal. There was wage discrimination between races, sexes, and ages. The

national minimum wage or forty hour week was not legislated until decades later and there

were very few laws regulating the working conditions. This is why union representation was

needed. The union made gains in employer-employee relations long before the United States

Government passed legislative regulations.

The union helped workers to realize that the institutional conditioning that they were

used to was unacceptable. The wages were too low, the hours too long, and that the

employee could do nothing about it acting alone. The corporate institution told the worker

18 According to the I.W.W. website, there are still some 2,000 members worldwide.
Woolworth 20

that he was worth x dollars an hour for the labor he produced; he could work x amount of

hours per week at this wage, and he should ask for nothing more. The government, by not

stepping in, tacitly enforced the hegemonic consciousness in the worker. And the magazines,

another corporate institution, reflected in their articles and stories that the worker was getting

what he deserved and that the will of the capitalist was best.

The I.W.W. tried to change this hegemony through One Big Union and One Big

Strike. These were ideological stances on how the working class could overcome the

hegemony instilled in them by the capitalist class. Through songs, speeches, and strikes, the

I.W.W. spread their ideas of organizing all workers as a class. The songs themselves carried

the ideological messages of the I.W.W. farther than union halls could as they became

anthems sung from coast to coast, spreading by word of mouth alone.

Due largely in part to Paterson, the I.W.W. failed to overthrow the capitalists and

obliterate the class system. As a result, corporate hegemony exists now more than ever.

However, because of the efforts of the I.W.W. and other unions, there are now legal

regulations in place that attempts to lessen the power that corporations have over the working

class; a working class which is now separated wholly by craft division.
Woolworth 21

One Big Industrial Union
by G.G. Allen
(Sung to the tune “Marching Through Georgia”)

Bring the good old red book, boys, we’ll sing another song.
Sing it to the wage slave who has not yet joined the throng
Of the revolution that will sweep the world along
To One Big Industrial Union.

Hooray! Hooray! The truth will make you free.
Hooray! Hooray! When will you workers see?
The only way you’ll gain your economic liberty,
Is One Big Industrial Union.

How the masters holler when they hear the dreadful sound
Of Sabotage and direct action spread the world around;
They’s getting ready to vamoose with ears close to the ground,
From One Big Industrial Union.

See the harvest String Trust they would move to Germany.
The Silk Bosses of Paterson, they also want to flee
From strikes and labor troubles, but they cannot get away
From One Big Industrial Union.

You migratory workers of the common labor clan,
We sing to you to join and be a fighting Union Man;
You must emancipate yourself, you proletarian,
With One Big Industrial Union.

Hooray! Hooray! Let’s set the wage slave free.
Hooray! Hooray! With every victory
We’ll hum the workers’ anthem till you finally must be
In One Big Industrial Union
Woolworth 22

The One Big Strike
Words and Tune by G.G. Allen

Now we have no fight with members of the old A. F. of L.
But we ask you use your reason with the facts we have to tell.
Your craft is but protection for a form of property,
And your skill that is your property you’re losing, don’t you see.
Improvements on machinery take tool and trade away,
And you’ll be among the common slaves upon some fateful day.
Now the things of which we’re telling you we are mighty sure about;
O, what’s the use to strike the way you can’t win out?

Tie ‘em up, tie ‘em up; that’s the way to win;
Don’t notify the bosses ‘till hostilities begin.
Don’t let them use their gun-men, scabs and all their like,
What you need is One Big Union and the One Big Strike.

Why do you make agreements that divide you when you fight
And let the bosses bluff you with a contract’s “sacred right,”
Why stay at work when other crafts are battling with the foe,
That your interests are identical it’s time that you did know.

The day that you begin to see the classes waging war
You will join the biggest tie-up that was ever known before,
With the General Strike in progress and all workers stand as one
There will be a revolution – not a wheel shall run.

Tie ‘em up, tie ‘em up; that’s the way to win;
Don’t notify the bosses ‘till hostilities begin.
Don’t let them use their gun-men, scabs and all their like,
What you need is One Big Union and the One Big Strike.
Woolworth 23

Works Cited

Allen, G.G. “One Big Industrial Union.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed. Joyce

Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.

Allen, G.G. “The One Big Strike.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed. Joyce

Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.

Bloomfield, Maxwell. Alarms and Diversions: The American Mind Through American

Magazines 1900-1914. Netherlands: Mouton & Co., 1967.

Cantor, Milton. The Divided Left: American Radicalism 1900-1975. Ed. Eric Foner. New

York: Hill and Wang, 1978.

Chaplin, Ralph. “Solidarity Forever.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed. Joyce

Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.

Dugger, William M. Corporate Hegemony. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Eagleton, Terry. Ideology: An Introduction. New York: Verso Press, 1991.

Freeden, Michael. Ideology: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University

Press, 2003.

Fisk, Donald M. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 30 January 2003. 2 December 2009

< >.

Ginzberg, Eli. The American Worker in the Twentieth Century. New York: The Free Press,


Haywood, William. “The General Strike.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed. Joyce

Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.
Woolworth 24

Industrial Workers of the World. “Manifesto.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed.

Joyce Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.

Industrial Workers of the World. I.W.W. 30 November 2009 <>.

Kornbluh, Joyce, ed. Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ann Arbor: The University of

Michigan Press, 1964.

Renshaw, Patrick. The Wobblies. New York: Doubleday, 1967

Thompson, Fred. The I.W.W.: It’s First Seventy Years 1905-1975. Ithaca: Industrial

Workers of the World, 1976.

Trautmann, William. “Why Strikes are Lost.” Rebel Voices: An I.W.W Anthology. Ed.

Joyce Kornbluh. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.