History of the Labor Movement in the United States - Vol. 4

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview
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On the Eve of America's Entrance into World War I

The United States was already at war with Germany for a month when the verdict in the Tracy case was handed down. Thus we have come to the end of our study of the I.W.W. from its inception to America's entrance into World War I. (We will, of course, meet the organization in subsequent volumes.) Before taking leave of the Wobblies, let us have a look at the I.W.W. as the nation entered the war.


On the eve of the war, the bulk of the I.W.W.'s membership and the main centers of its activities were West of Chicago. At this time, the I.W.W. was a flourishing organization and a power in the harvest fields and was becoming one in the lumber industry of the Northwest. It was also beginning to make headway among the construction workers, the metal miners, and the workers in the oil fields of the Southwest.1* In the East and Midwest, however, the picture was far different. The I.W.W.'s only center of strength here was among the waterfront workers of Philadelphia. In 1916, the Marine Transport Workers No. 8 had raised their wages from $1.25 to $4 a day, time-and-a-half for overtime and double time for Sundays. (The scale for longshoremen in February 1917 was 40 cents an hour for straight time, for men working on oil 50 cents an hour, and on powder 60 cents an hour.) Not only did the union, with its 4,000 members in and around the Philadelphia docks, unite Negroes, whites, Spanish and other workers of different nationalities, but it assisted

In the fall of 1916 the I.W.W. initiated a vigorous campaign to organize Arizona's four metal-producing districts, which supplied 28 per cent of the nation's copper. The fruits of the campaign did not come, however, until June and July, 1917.

On March 6, 1916, the I.W.W. chartered the Construction Workers Industrial Union No. 573. It had originally been organized by the A.W.O.


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