‘Review of the Facts in the Situation at Goldfield’ by Vincent St. John from Industrial Union Bulletin. Vol. 1 No. 6. April 6, 1907.
The inception of the present situation dates back to August, 1906. The Tonopah “Sun,” published in Tonopah, thirty miles distant from Goldfield, attacked the W.F. of M. and I.W.W. locals of that place with the usual vilification of capitalist papers towards genuine labor organizations. It was the start of the campaign against unionism in Nevada, which State previous to the discovery of gold in these districts, knew but little of the capitalists and exploitation by them.
The attack of the Tonopah “Sun” was met by the Tonopah local of the I.W.W. declaring the paper unfair. The local of the I.W.W. in Goldfield immediately backed up the action by placing the sister-sheet, the Goldfield “Sun,” under the ban also. The I.W.W. Local of Goldfield by committees requested that the W.F. of M. locals of Goldfield, to indorse their action. This was done. No one who in any way patronized the “Sun” here or in Tonopah received any patronage from the members of the W.F. of M. or the I.W.W. This was met by the Mine Owners of Goldfield locking out the members of the W.F. of M., “until such time as the trouble was settled,” meaning the indorsement of the action of the local W.F. of M. be withdrawn. This the miners refused to do and as a consequence the Mine Owners sought to accomplish the same ends by other means. The plan was finally broached to consolidate the I.W.W. Local—Cooks. Waiters. Teamsters, Bartenders and Clerks — with the W.F. of M. This was looked upon with favor by the Mine Owners as they looked upon the I.W.W. local, soon 400 strong, as being the radical organization of the district and the miners 1,500 strong were in their opinion more conservative and they reasoned that, if the 1,500 miners had a voice and vote on any demands made by the 400 radicals and conservativeness of the 1,500 miners could blanket the efforts of the 400 radicals. The miners on the other hand thought they saw an easy, quick and satisfactory solution of what promised to be a serious struggle. It was voted on and carried. The two organizations were merged into the local of the W.F. of M. The Goldfield “Sun” was forced to sell—by the Mine Owners, no doubt—in the interest of harmony. In its place was published a new paper, the Goldfield “Tribune.”
The chief crime of the I.W.W. in Goldfield was that they had secured the eight-hour day with wages from $3 to $5 and board for all restaurant and hotel employes and a ten-hour day with $5 wages for clerks; an eight-hour day with. $6 per day for bartenders. The carpenters and typographical union were the only A.F. of L. unions in the camp of Goldfield at that time. The miners contemplated the amalgamation of these two bodies with the W.F. of M. at the same time, but the same was not done. During the “Sun” trouble some members of the carpenters’ union, which was officered by contracting carpenters who used the organization to monopolize the building contracts of the camps, some members of this union (?) sold the “Sun” on the street—scabbed on the Newsboys’ Union of the I.W.W. The next act was the miners’ demand for an increased wage scale from $4 to $5.50 per shift for a minimum scale of not less than $5 for all work in and around the mines, mills and smelters. This scale, or better, was being paid, at the time the demand was made, December 20, 1906, by all operators with the exception of the Mohawk, Combination and Florence Mining Companies, and possibly one or two other concerns operating some distance out of the camp proper. All others paid at this time from $5 to $7 per day for the different classes of work around the mines and mills. This was brought about by reason of the fact that there were a number of leasers, whose time expired on the 7th of January, 1907. who were desirous of extracting all the ore possible before the expiration of their leases and consequently worked every man that they could squeeze into the workings. The demand then was but the effort of the Union to maintain the wage that this unfortunate circumstance had brought into existence.
The Mohawk and Combination companies refused to pay the scale and shut down. Thereupon these companies, which are controlled by U.S. Senator Nixon of Nevada and the others that he represents, brought pressure to bear upon all other operators to close down also. The power they used was to threaten to use their Influence in Wall Street and elsewhere to stuck the stocks of the smaller operators. They were successful. All but a very few closed down. One of those that did not close down was forced to reorganize by the attack made on them and their stocks.
After three weeks time the Mine Owners, who had in the meantime formed an association, submitted to the union a compromise fixing the wages at $4.50 for unskilled labor on surface, and $5 for all underground men and skilled labor. This was accepted by the miners as the demand for $5 was granted for the big majority of the members who work underground. Work was resumed. The union then inaugurated the eight hour day for all classes of work in the district—clerks, teamsters, stablemen, etc. The demand was complied with by the employers and eight hours became the rule in Goldfield.
Construction of buildings was on the boom in the town, hampered only by lack of material; while around the mines work was scarce, occasioned alike by lack of material and the fact that the leases having expired the companies did not work twenty-five per cent of the men that the leasers did. They worked in a more economical manner. Many men who are miners are likewise carpenters, masons, etc. These attempted to secure work on buildings in town, but were denied the right to work without an A.F. of L. carpenters’ card. Members of the Miners Union were discharged from buildings and the Carpenters’ Union called off its members from the Miners’ Union Hospital because they failed to secure the discharge of Miners’ Union men working there. This brought the question to a crisis. The union, at a regular meeting, at which over one hundred members were present —90 per cent of whom were miners — with three dissenting votes instructed the officers of the union to send a committee to notify all carpenters and other workers that they were expected to become members of the W.F. of M. by seven o’clock the next evening. This was done, and a few complied with the request. The contractor officers had a meeting of the Carpenters’ Union that evening and decided to resist the demands of the W.F. of M. The officers of the W.F. of M. then, pursuant to the instructions of the meeting, called off all men furnishing material, and called out the miners who were working on one mine where the A.F. of L. carpenters refused to join the W.F. of M. This move was met by the Mine Owners’ Association locking out all the miners and the formation of a Business Men’s Association Citizens’ Alliance in disguise—who were forced by the mine owners to lock out all members of the W.F. of M. They then pledged themselves to not hire any more members of the W.F. of M. disguising their real motive under the statement that it was the I.W.W. they were after, whose presence in the miners’ union was having the effect of running that organization—a falsehood out of whole cloth seeing the miners are always in the majority at the meetings, overwhelmingly so. The M.O. and Business Men’s Association then called on the miners to separate themselves from the town workers, sent for A.F. of L. Organizer (?) M. Grant Hamilton, and notified the town workers that they could not go back to work except as members of the A.F. of L. Meetings were called to assist Hamilton in the Montezuma Club, the club room of the “400.” Hired thugs with sawed-off shot guns and Winchester rifles, sixteen in number, sat around the room to lend weight to Hamilton’s arguments (?). For all this his success was practically NIL. He did not secure sufficient clerks or any other members of the W.F. of M. to enable them to get a charter. The stores were reopened by the proprietors, who attempted to handle their business and were in turn placed unfair by the W.F. of M. The only progress made by Hamilton was to organize a mixed local of plumbers and tinners who had lately arrived and had not as yet joined the W.F. of M.
The Mine Owners, through their tools in the Miners’ Union, demanded a referendum vote as to whether the miners should meet separately from the town workers. The tools disclaimed any intention of aiming at a divorce between the membership, but wished only to meet alone by reason of so beclouding the issue. The referendum vote was ordered and the proposition to hold separate meetings carried by about three hundred majority. The result was Immediately hailed by the Mine Owners’ and Citizens’ Alliance papers as the first step toward ripping up the W.F. of M. and the I.W.W. This was on March 21st. They think that they have a majority in the membership of mine workers alone who will not see the real issue and vote to go back to work and assist in forcing the town workers out of their own organization and into the bosses’ organization, the A.F. of L. Whether they will succeed or not remains for the near future to reveal.
On the second day of the lockout a restaurant keeper, John or Tony Silva by name, refused to pay a waitress who quit. The delegate of the Union took up the matter, and failing to secure a settlement, called out the rest of the help. The M. O.- Citizens’ Alliance and the Carpenters’ Union thereupon urged Silva to “stand pat and they would patronize him.” “Don’t let them run your business.” Silva thereupon sent to Tonopah and secured some nonunion help and attempted to run the restaurant. The W.F. of M. placed a picket in front and his patronage became almost nothing. In the evening the delegate of the W.F. of M., M.R. Preston, relieved the picket for the rest of the time the place would be open. Upon his accosting two persons who were about to go in for supper and they going elsewhere, Silva, who observed all through the window, rushed into the kitchen, grabbed up a gun, rushed to the door, pushed the gun into Preston’s face and threatened to shoot him. Preston was compelled to defend himself, and, luckily for him, had a gun, shot in defense and killed Silva. This is what they try to make out as “a cold blooded murder.”
Preston surrendered himself next morning. The Citizen’s Alliance and Mine Owners immediately sought to use this as a pretext to remove all the men who were not agreeable to them from the camp. A notorious bandit and convicted assassin named Jack Davis (“Diamondfield Jack”), gathered about him some seven others who would do his bidding. He pretended to have warrants against ten or fifteen of the most active members, charging “conspiracy to commit murder.” They, without warrant to law, went to the house of Jos. Smith, delegate-elect for the town of the W.F. of M. and dragged him out of bed at 12 o’clock at night; refused him permission to dress, and placed him in the city jail. By this time their plans had become known to us who were on the list, also myself. We got together and awaited their attempt on us. But they never came as they only cared to tackle unarmed and unsuspecting victims.
Diamondfield Jack with those with him next attempted to start a lynching bee, with Preston and Smith as first victims. We placed a guard of our own on the jail and blocked this plan. Their aim was to arrest all those of us who are active in our ranks on trumped-up charges, and then, when we were helpless to defend ourselves, through the connivance of the town authorities, take us all out and lynch us. We are on to their game, however, and they will find that they cannot duplicate Cripple Creek, Telluride and Idaho Springs with us as victims.
The question is the struggle of the classes. On one side stand the organizations of the master allied with his henchmen, the A.F. of L. On the other, a labor organization and its members schooled in the school of experience who propose to fight to the finish the attack of the matter, however he may attempt to disguise it.
VINCENT ST. JOHN. Goldfield. Nev., March 24
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/iub/v1n06-apr-06-1907-iub.pdf