Chapter 7 - Victory, but not the Final Victory
Shortly after the strike was transferred to the job, the government placed Colonel Disque, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon, in charge of spruce production. Although the production of spruce was little interfered with by the strike, the lumber companies purposely held it back, to discredit the strikers and make it appear that they were striking against the government, and to force it to aid in breaking the strike.
With the purpose of breaking up and displacing the LWIU, Colonel Disque started the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. Recent investigations of its activities show that to the lumbermen the 4-L's meant Little Loyalty and Large Loot. Army officers, adept in terrorism, with no gentlemanly scruples to hold them from any nefarious design, acted as organizers. Frequently they visited the camps, and all who refused to join the LLLL were accused of being spies, pro-Germans and traitors, and were usually fired oft' the job and beaten by soldiers. In
one case, a man who had the temerity to speak against the LLLL was found dead next morning, hanging from the limb of a tree.
Railway stations in the lumber regions were closely watched by the soldiers, and all men coming in to look for work were searched. By these methods the LLLL succeeded in gaining a membership of some thousands before the spring; but they failed to break up the LWIU, or to stop the strike on the job. Forcing men to join an organization, does not change their principles. A man may wear the LLLL button and still play the "Hoosier" on the job.
Colonel Disque put soldiers to work in the camps ostensibly to aid in spruce production; but as soldiers were placed in many camps where not a stick of spruce was produced, it is evident that the real object was to break the strike. The companies took advantage of the position of these soldiers, to exploit them to the limit, paying them practically no wages, and keeping them in a state of chronic starvation, the food being unfit to eat. If they rebelled it was mutiny Naturally they used the only available weapon -- the slow down system.
Colonel Disque and the lumber barons finally began to realize that they were up against a method of fighting in which they were e hopelessly outclassed. Every method before successful in breaking strikes, had been tried and failed. There remained only one thing to do -- to concede the eight-hour day. March the first, 1918, after official announcements by Colonel Disque on behalf of the lumber barons, the eight-hour clay was recognized in the lumber industry of the Northwest.
The strike was over. The organized power of the lumber workers had won against one of the most powerful combinations of capital in the world. Two hours had been cut from the work day, wages had been raised, and conditions in the camps improved one hundred per cent. The lumber barons claimed they had granted the eight hour day "voluntarily,--for patriotic reasons". In reality they had granted nothing. All they had done was to give the eight-hour day their official recognition, after it had been taken by the direct action of the lumber workers themselves. There was nothing else they could do. The LLLL also claimed the credit. However it is well know that the LLLL was formed, not to win, but to break strikes, and to displace a genuine organization in the lumber industry. It has failed to accomplish either of these two purposes.
It is now over two years since the beginning of the 1917 lumber workers strike anti the prospects for the IWW never looked so bright.
Taking advantage of the inflamed and hysterical state of public opinion during the war, the capitalists of the United States, and particularly the Lumber Trust, carried on a relentless campaign of persecution against the organization Some of the most active members were murdered Many were convicted under the criminal syndicalism laws and received sentences of from one to ten years in the penitentiary; most of these cases were in Idaho. Some were convicted under the Espionage Act, and given sentences varying from one to twenty years in the federal penitentiaries. Members have been held in filthy county jails for nearly two years without trial. Others were deported; scored were tarred and feathered; hundreds were beaten up by in mobs; and thousands were jailed. Criminal syndicalism laws were passed in many states. Nearly all IWW Halls in the country were raided and closed; officials were arrested, and furniture and supplies were seized. Of all the venomous hatred with which privilege fights all that challenges its rule, the IWW was the victim. It was misrepresented vilified, abused and outraged. Thus capitalism paid tribute to its fear of an organized working class. The members were denied the most elementary rights. The masters were willing to commit any crime; from false imprisonment to murder, to kill the IWW But the IWW was not killed. The necessity for its existence is too firmly rooted in the present order of society. Today it its advancing toward its goal with renewed strength and carrying on the work of educating and organizing the workers, with undiminished energy It has demonstrated its fitness to survive, by it's ability to dispense with halls, and carry on its activities on the job. At the present the LWIU has a larger membership in the Northwest than ever before. It has shown what can be accomplished by a suitable form of organization, and up to date tactics.
What has been done in the Northwest, can be done by the lumber workers in other parts of the country. The lumber workers of the Northwest have started on the right track-the road of Job Organization that leads to power and freedom. The LWIU is now firmly established in the Northwest. There must be no slacking of efforts, until every camp and sawmill in that section is one hundred per cent organized. But that is not enough. The lumber workers of the Northwest cannot stand alone, no matter how strongly they are organized. The organized workers of one section of an industry cannot successfully fight the organized capitalists of the entire industry. It is quite conceivable that in the event of another strike, especially in slack times, the Lumber Trust might resort to a general lockout in the Northwest; shut down every camp and saw mill in that entire section, for an indefinite period, and transfer their orders to other sections. The LWIU must carry the fight into all the lumber regions on this continent. It must attack the Lumber Trust in all its strongholds. The lumber workers of the East, and those of the great lumber regions of the South, must be organized. The fight must be to a finish. There is no room for compromise. The organized lumber workers must break the power of the Lumber Trust, or the Lumber Trust will smash the Lumber Workers Industrial Union, or else render it harmless. With this aim, the hired brains of the Lumber Trust are working continuously. They will fight organization both from the outside and from the inside. When the capitalists cannot smash a union, they try to control and transform it into a tool to hold the workers in subjection. Capitalists and their tools are more dangerous when they try to make "friendly" advances, than when they openly fight us. The best defense is aggression. The control of the lumber industry must be taken out of the hands of a group of ruthless twentieth century pirates. It must be taken over by the workers who produce all the wealth in the industry, and who alone are entitled to its benefits.
The organized lumber workers or the Northwest are fighting the common enemy All lumber workers, both organized and unorganized are benefited by their struggles No marl worthy or the name, wants to en joy the benefits secured by organization without doing his share of the fighting. As long as the unorganized lumber workers remain in their present state, they are not only failing in their duty to fight against the tyranny of the Lumber Trust, but are allowing themselves to be used against their organized fellow workers. There is no neutral ground. The supine inertia of the unorganized gives the Lumber Trust it's power, and enables it to resist the efforts of the organized minority. When the organized workers go on strike, the orders are e transferred to a locality where the workers are not organized. In this way the unorganized perhaps unconsciously, play the part of strike breakers. Even when there is no strike, the tendency is for the Lumber Trust to curtail production as much as possible where the union is strong, and speed up where it is weak or non-existent, thus transferring the work from the higher paid to the lower paid men.
One of the most effective methods yet devised to break up unionism is contract or gypo work-a form of piece work. By doing piece work a man may, by means of extra held work, make more than he can by the day. But by so doing he is furthering a scheme to break the union, and put himself once more at the mercy of the bosses. Suppose he does twice as much as the average day worker, he throws another man out of a job. If all lumber workers double their output, one half the number would be needed. The other half would be unemployed. This would increase the competition for jobs. Wages would go down and a man would have to speed up to the limit to hold a job. All the benefits gained by unionism would be lost. The workers would be worse off than ever.
By taking a short sighted view, a man thinks the harder he works on a contract, act, the more money he makes. This may hold good for a short time, but in the long run, the exact opposite is true. When the bosses see a man making much more than the average wages, they cut the piece rate. Soon the gypo finds himself working for same wage he got by the day, or less, and working twice as hard.
Although a piece worker may make more in a day than a day worker, he gets less for an equal amount of work-a smaller percentage of the wealth he produces. Even the conservative craft unions discourage piece work by every means in their power. They have learned by experience that it invariably results in speeding up, throwing workers out of employment, and cutting down wages.
The slow down strike is one of the most effective weapons the workers can use. By doing piece work a man puts himself in a position where it is impossible to use this weapon.
As far as the practical results of his work are concerned, there is no difference between a piece worker and a scab. The same argument applies to the bonus system.
Speeding up is equally injurious, whether on piece work or day work. There can be no peace as long as the Lumber Trust remains in control of the industry. United action by the lumber workers alone can break the hold of these usurpers It is up to every man to do his part. The time has come for the lumber workers in all parts of the continent, governing their actions by common sense and intelligent self-interest, to unite together in one great industrial union, for immediate improvement in hours, wages and conditions, always keeping in view, and striving towards, the final goal--control of the lumber industry.