‘News from Alaska’ from the International Socialist Review. Vol 17 No. 10. April, 1917.

‘News from Alaska’ from the International Socialist Review. Vol 17 No. 10. April, 1917.

WHEN the Alaska Labor Union was organized a year ago its membership grew so rapidly that in four days there was no hall in Anchorage big enough to hold meetings in. The need of a hall was keenly felt, so got a lot and started to build a 50×100 ft. place of our own.

All the men volunteered to help, and different gangs were organized, some to cut logs, others to haul them home on bobsleighs, others to hew the logs, and still others to erect the building. The first photograph printed here will show you the beginning of our labors and the sturdy fellows that performed them, and the second shows our hall finished. It took us twenty-two days to build the structure, the largest of its kind in Alaska. It was the pride of the whole country, but the enemies of unionism and working class organization made a bonfire of it last fall, but the Alaska Labor Union has built another 50×130 feet, two stories high and costing $35,000. We are growing stronger and bigger in spite of all they ·can do.

In November, 1916, the U.S.T.S. “Crook” arrived. in port of Anchorage, Alaska, with a capacity cargo of supplies for the government experimental railroad. Among other things was a lot of beef.

Now, any sane person shipping beef from the States to Alaska would put it in cold storage; not so aboard the “Crook.” Some of the meat was stored in the coal bunkers and as a result it was rotten when discharged, and black as the coal. It was so bad that fifty quarters were burned in one day. Government efficiency! Some of the railroad workers are sleeping in tents and others are “living” in floorless cabins filled with cracks; neither are very comfortable in zero weather. The pencil-pushers and slave-drivers have it soft and enjoy two or three or four room cottages, but these do not consider themselves of the working class. They are drawing salaries. Any old gunny-sack contractor would be able to outfit his men better than Uncle Sam has done here. But, of course, the times are hard! There are so many calls for battleships and preparations for war that little things have to go.

Even the dynamite is rotten, though we have to pay $10.00 for fifty pounds of 40% strength stuff. Some of it is not fit to put in a bore. They have a log cabin government hospital and a tent for overflow, and the workers go in the tent affair and the pen-pushers and over-lords go to the cabin: Some of the boys who had been operated on in the tent said they nearly froze to death during the night; bedding was scarce.

One Russian worker was operated on three times for the same ailment and steadily grew worse, and Uncle Sam fell down on compensation. He was offered a month’s wages and free fare Outside and no further treatment. The union took the matter up with the Russian consul at Seattle and notified the Anchorage Boss. Then our fellow worker got a free pass Outside, a free opera1ion and compensation till he was able to work again.

A worker broke his arm while working for a station gang, but he never got one cent from Dear Old Uncle.

Forty of the boys in khaki are stationed here to protect Uncle’s property. They are the pick of a couple of hundred and are excellent sharpshooters. The pencil-pushers have also organized a rifle club and have over 4,000 rounds of ammunition and are becoming sharpshooters, too. There is continual practice going on. But nothing will scare the boys so they will not demand 50 cents an hour and better conditions when the next season opens.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v17n10-apr-1917-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf

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