‘Denver Hotel and Restaurant Workers Organize’ by L.S. Chumley from Industrial Worker (Spokane). Vol. 4 No. 12. June 13, 1912.
Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Local No. 133, Denver, Colorado.
We are aspiring and hopeful of immediate relief as well as the ultimate goal of industrial freedom. To the workers here the philosophy of industrial unionism appears as a bright star of hope in the blackened sky of wage slavery. We Had twenty-five charter members and admitted thirty more at our first regular meeting.
The working conditions in the hotels here are a disgrace to humanity. Long hours, low wages (in some departments no wages at all) and unspeakable sanitary conditions. The writer worked in the Albany hotel for the past nine months and knows conditions there. This is one of the largest hotels here, employing about 200 workers, and is representative of hotel conditions. The average wage is less than a dollar a day and the average workday is eleven hours. Twenty bell boys are employed out of which six or seven receive the munificent sum of twelve dollars per month; two dollars of this “salary” is retained by the hotel to pay for their uniform. No bell hop could ever stand the grind long enough to pay for his uniform in full. The other fourteen receive no wages at all, but work for the miserly tip they can beggar from the already over-charged guest. The only reason a few of the boys are paid is to whip the rest into line by saying “we are satisfied; we are paid wages.” If a bell boy is late in reporting for work he must pay a fine of one dollar to the head bell man—for the privilege of working for nothing.
Two-thirds of the employes are consumptives—many in the last stage. One of the dressing rooms, where fifty or more employes keep their clothes, is in the basement in a room without windows or ventilation. In one corner of this room is what is called a toilet, it is practically an open sewer. One hundred men must use this place; it has not been cleaned in months and the odor from it saturates the clothes to the extent that the guests actually complain of the waiters smelling bad.
Imagine yourself being greeted at the dining room door by a shriveled up consumptive looking head-waiter, escorted to your table where a tall sad waiter takes your order between coughs; your food being prepared in a kitchen the basement that reeks in filth by a tubercular cook; and when you have finished your meal, wiping your mouth with a napkin laundered under the same conditions. Well, this is true here. Perhaps the guests do not realize it—and we are not so interested in their side of the question, but we do know that if the conditions of the workers are improved society as a whole benefits by it.
We are in need of help—not money, but good, live revolutionists, understanding and believing in industrial unionism, to help us organize these hotel workers. There is plenty of hotel work here, such as it is. Personally, I am out of the fight for the present. I have been fired and blacklisted by the Hotel Men’s Association and told that I was a good man to get rid of. I consider this an honor.
The hotel men here are in favor of a part of their employes joining local 14, A.F. of L. a sickly waiters’ organization, a craft union two thousand dollars in debt whose officers boastingly claim that they can make more money by running a bar and gambling game than by trying to get better conditions for the waiters. No wonder the bosses are in favor of it. It is merely a place for the waiters to spend their money and a waiter without money doesn’t have very large ideals about fighting for freedom.
At present we are putting our efforts into organizing. We want a foundation. Our work now is agitation and education. We don’t want any useless slave bleeding, but when we are strong enough we will give the bosses a taste of the “greve perlee” or “sabotage” and I think we will get some of the things we want without losing any time.
Yours for ONE BIG UNION. L.S. CHUMLEY.
The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v4n12-w168-jun-13-1912-IW.pdf