‘First of May in Minneapolis’ by E.W. Latchem from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 6. June, 1920.

‘First of May in Minneapolis’ by E.W. Latchem from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 6. June, 1920.

On May 1st, 1919, when the workers of Minneapolis attempted to celebrate International Labor Day, their parade was broken up several times by the police and other willing tools of the money interests, but they always succeeded in reforming and managed to continue their parade until their destination had been reached. All speaking was stopped by the police, but that did not seem to dampen the spirit of the workers, as will be seen from what happened on May 1st, 1920.

Only about two thousand participated in 1919, but as a result of police opposition all unions in Minneapolis took part in one gigantic parade on May 1st, 1920, with the result that close to 10,000 workers were participants in the largest and most enthusiastic May Day celebration that Minneapolis ever had. Not a word was said in regard to this by most of the local news perverters. Only one paper had the decency to mention the affair, in spite of the fact that it was one of the most important events of the day.

The parade was headed by the World War Veterans in uniform; next came a large thirty-foot banner inscribed “One Big Union.” Other banners were: “The Kaiser in a Palace in Holland; Debs in Jail in the United States; Is This Justice?” “Political Prisoners Have Been Released in Japan, France, Great Britain and Germany; Why Not Here?” “We Fought for Democracy ‘Over There’ and Now Have to Fight for a Living Wage When We Get Back.”

Most of the paraders marched by industries and left their craft banners at home as evidence of the uselessness of that form of organization. The only exceptions were the Printers, Bricklayers and Wood Workers and Cabinet Makers.

A donkey carried a placard inscribed: “I and all my relatives work in an open shop,” which created quite a hit except among those who were put in the “donkey class.”

Some of those in charge attempted to turn the speaking into a “campaign rally’ to boost some local aspirants for different political offices and relegate all other speakers to the rear and have the crowd tired out before any genuine working class speakers could get the platform, and they succeeded to a certain extent; but when W.F. Dunne, editor of the Butte Daily Bulletin, managed to get the floor he lost no time in explaining how the Workers’ International Labor Day had been desecrated by those who had no other desire except to get into office, no matter how, and that those who would stoop to misuse Labor’s holiday would need watching.

This parade was handled by the Craft Unions and may be taken as evidence of the state of mind of members of those unions, who are beginning to see the need of a union that will fit in with the needs of present-day society.

The following editorial from the Minneapolis Labor Review, official organ of the Minneapolis Trades and Labor Assembly and Building Trades Council, fits well together with the parades, and the two of them together are additional signs that the I.W.W. has not worked and suffered in vain for the last fifteen years:


The American Federation of Labor is the organization which has brought to the workers of America the benefits which they now have. If it had done nothing else than to have obtained the eight-hour day it must be admitted that this is a long stride ahead from the times workers toiled from sun-up to sun-down.

But changing industrial conditions and changes in the organization of industry make it imperative that the form of organization be changed to make the Federation function most effectively. The annual convention of the Federation will be held in Montreal in June. There is among the rank and file of organized labor an almost universal demand for industrial unionism. It is bound to come, and it ought to come from the next convention. Business is organized into great industries. To emancipate itself labor must be organized industrially instead of by crafts.

Your International this convention will have delegates at this convention. Has your organization sent them a resolution requesting that they stand for industrial unionism? Have you written the International a personal letter? You should do both. Make it so plain to the next Federation convention that the delegates cannot fail to understand the concerted demand for a change in the form of organization. Make it so unanimous that they can not truthfully say that they did not take the action because the rank and file did not want it.

And meanwhile, don’t neglect to explain to the worker near you who may not understand, just why industrial unionism is NECESSARY, AND WHY HE SHOULD ADVOCATE IT.

One Big Union Monthly was a magazine published in Chicago by the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World from 1919 until 1938, with a break from February, 1921 until September, 1926 when Industrial Pioneer was produced. OBU was a large format, magazine publication with heavy use of images, cartoons and photos. OBU carried news, analysis, poetry, and art as well as I.W.W. local and national reports. OBU was also Mary E. Marcy’s writing platform after the suppression of International Socialist Review., she had joined the I.W.W. in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://archive.org/download/sim_one-big-union-monthly_1920-06_2_6/sim_one-big-union-monthly_1920-06_2_6.pdf

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