‘Report of the General Executive Board of the I.W.W. to the Twelfth Annual Convention’ from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 6. June, 1920.

No section of the left had been hit harder by World War One-era reaction than the I.W.W. This valuable document from that organization’s history by a truncated General Executive Board shows the toll of those years. Thousands of arrests and imprisonments, including of many historic wobbly leaders, combined with mass deportations, resignations, illegality, mounting defense costs, defections to the Communist movement, mob violence, and murder hobbled the organization. However, it retained a substantial core membership and was able to quickly recover in the early 1920s with drives in lumber, agricultural, and maritime industries. By 1923, the I.W.W.’s membership would peak with of 50,000 dues paying members; far larger than the Communist Party.

‘Report of the General Executive Board of the I.W.W. to the Twelfth Annual Convention’ from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 6. June, 1920.

May 10th, 1920, Chicago, Ill.

Fellow Workers—Greetings:

Your General Executive Board in rendering our report to this Twelfth Annual Convention cannot do otherwise than begin by recognizing that this convention is but another milestone on the road to industrial freedom. Many things have happened that have proved to be temporary obstacles in our path the last year. One chief obstacle to the General Office has been the lack of finance at various intervals, due largely to the general draw on the members and also on the workers who contribute funds to the defense of our fellow workers and others who are arrested for their principles of solidarity.

At the first meeting of the General Executive Board, convening on August 14th, 1919, and remaining in conference daily until August 30th, 1919, we found that the total cash in the treasury of both defense and the General Office was on August 1st, 1919, only $7,728.16 (seven thousand, seven hundred twenty-eight dollars and sixteen cents).

From that time on, the General Office funds have been fluctuating, sinking as low as $92.06 (ninety-two dollars and six cents). At the end of November, 1919, a condition existed which did not allow of replenishing the stock of the organization.

Indebtedness of Industrial Unions

This condition can and must be changed immediately. First, is the indebtedness of the industrial unions, which show enormous figures of over $1,000,000. However, the assets of the industrial unions will probably reduce these figures to some extent, but not below the point of their “Credit being bad.” If some means were devised to make prompt payments this would alleviate some of the financial stress of your General Headquarters. Another reason for the lack of funds is that the fifty-cent due stamp, with its fifteen cents per capita, has become too small to meet the financial requirements, even if the payments were promptly made. Your General Executive Board therefore recommends that this Convention take up the vital problems of ways and means to raise the necessary finance to meet an increase of between 200 and 300 per cent for supplies, etc.

Industrial Union Financial Statements

We are of the belief that in order that the General Executive Board and the rank and file of the Industrial Unions may know the exact status of the various unions, in order to take intelligent action throughout the organization, that it is absolutely necessary that a report of the assets and liabilities of the Industrial Unions should be printed in their monthly financial statement at least every three months; we therefore make this a recommendation.

Our desire to have a basis for commencing on a solid foundation can be best judged by the passage of the following resolution, with the added rider, at the G.E.B. meeting held in August, 1919. The resolution was not lived up to:

Moved by King, seconded by H. Bradley, that October 1 shall be set as date to check up all supplies on hand, in all Industrial Unions. Supplies on hand this date and supplies and stamps actually sold previously but not remitted for will be taken as a basis to start new accounts. Carried. (Note—We set this date ahead instead of back, like the Convention, because it is almost impossible to go back and get a check, where it would be easier to work ahead.)

Publishing Costs

Your G.E.B. thinks it advisable to mention here that much of our literature and supplies are today being sold at an actual loss of from one cent to four cents. In one case we mention the new due book, which was figured out at 12 1-2 cents each, but finally cost between 18 and 20 cents, without overhead expense of handling it. Prices will have to be changed to make a balance on these items.


While not making any statement of the abolishing of certain literature, realizes how urgent it is for modern, up-to-date pamphlets on industrial unionism. We believe that if each industrial union had a booklet or pamphlet dealing with specific conditions existing in each industry, which shows clearly every phase, evolutionary and economic, together with the human element, and the necessity of changing the system by organizing industrially within the shop, etc., that we would have literature of a more educational value than some of the old theoretical literature. It was intended to get out ‘Industrial Union Handbooks,” but, again finances prevented us from doing so. We did, however, get out revised editions of some of our older pamphlets and a few new ones, together with several pamphlets in various languages and also many leaflets. We must impress on you the necessity for new literature. New papers were published in the following languages: Bohemian, Roumanian and Croatian. Unfortunately, we had to suspend publication of the Croatian paper for lack of an editor, and the Spanish paper, Swedish paper and Polish paper were suspended for lack of finances. We have fourteen publications at present, nine of which are published in Chicago, four in New York, and one in Seattle. The Board also has given permission (at the request of the “Jewish Unity Conference,” made up of I.W.W. members from various cities) to publish a Jewish paper in New York. The reasons are that there are more Jewish people in New York and because the Jewish paper has been a financial loss in Chicago. Your G.E.B. is also of the opinion that Industrial Union Bulletins are a drawback to the regular publications. and we therefore recommend the following, with the note of explanation:

Moved by King, seconded by Miller, that editors of papers shall be instructed to put the following plan before the membership: That Industrial Union Bulletins shall be published in the various papers instead of each Industrial Union issuing a separate bulletin. Carried unanimously. (Note—The issuance of large printed bulletins by separate Industrial Unions tends to keep down the circulation of the Organization papers and takes quite a lot of money that could be used for other purposes. For instance, if the Industrial Worker acts as the official bulletin of the Industrial Unions in the Northwest, Solidarity for Industrial Unions in the Middle States and the Fellow Worker for those Industrial Unions in the Kast, we will avoid the publication of news items which tend to lower the circulation of the papers and will cut down the expense of the Organization as a whole. We must carry on our work as efficiently as any business firm if we wish to survive. Many leaflets have been printed in various languages at the request of those speaking the language. We find the demand has not been so great after the matter has been gotten out; so, we recommend that those ordering such supplies should be held responsible for its distribution and the financial indebtedness caused by their apathy in circulating such literature.

In our endeavor to divide the items of literature and supplies into what we termed “direct charges” and “consignment charges” your board made a rule which should be adhered to rigidly, that all literature, buttons, pins, card cases, pennants, charters and seals, office supplies and delegates’ supplies should be paid for on delivery, and therefore be classed as “direct charges.” This does not include due books and due stamps, which should be paid for monthly, as they are sold. There can be no excuse for withholding charges on the goods sold during the month, which is against any Industrial Union.


During the year many charters have been issued. Five Industrial Unions have come into being, namely: the Tobacco Workers No. 1150, the Shoe Workers No. 1250, the General Distribution Workers I.U. No. 1300, the Glass Workers I.U. No. 1400, the Foodstuff Workers I.U. No. 1500, together with the issuance of 115 branch charters to the following industries: 12 to the Construction Workers, 36 to the Metal and Machinery Workers, 12 to the Coal Miners, 3 to the Rubber Workers, 6 to the Foodstuff Workers, 2 to the Shoe Workers, 4 to the Railroad Workers, 5 to the Marine Transport Workers, 3 to the Lumber Workers, 1 to the Fishermen, 12 to the Textile Workers, 2 to the Printing and Publishing Workers, 1 to the Furniture Workers, 1 to the Tobacco Workers, 3 to the Bakery Workers, 1 to the Shipbuilders, 1 to the Glass Workers, 1 to the General Recruiting Union, 7 to the Hotel and Restaurant Workers, 2 to Metal Mine Workers.

Resignation of G.E.B. Members

During the year three of your G.E.B. members resigned: Fellow Workers Jackson, Nelson and James King. Fellow Workers John Grady and August Walquist having received the next highest number of votes were called in to fill the vacancies. Grady, being under indictment in Washington, has been unable to function, and the balance of the vacancies will be filled as soon as possible.

During the first meeting of the G.E.B. they decided on two questions of international importance: The decision to send Fellow Worker George Hardy to England, and the affiliation with the Third International.

Fellow Worker George Hardy spent upwards of five months in England and Wales and Scotland and did a great deal to create an atmosphere of good will toward the I.W.W. Hundreds of resolutions of protest were sent to the president of the United States and the Department of Justice, almost half a million pieces of literature dealing with the persecution of the I.W.W. were paid for by the Trade Union movement of Great Britain. Fellow Worker Hardy was a delegate to the Shop Stewards’ Conference, which resulted in their conference deciding to become linked up with the I.W.W., the official communication having been received by the General Secretary-Treasurer of the I.W.W., which was signed by George Peet, the National Secretary and the London Organizer, Dave Ramsey, of the Shop Stewards’ and Workers Committee movement of Great Britain. Much more was accomplished that was reported in our papers, etc., including raising the question on the floor of the House of Commons. Fellow Worker Hardy was also instructed to attend the International Transport Workers’ Conference at Christiania, but was prevented from doing so by the British passport office. Other delegates were present in the place of Hardy.

The Board believed in so far as the Third International was the only Workers’ International that had ever come into existence throughout history that disagreed with the meek and mild parliamentarian programs, that we should show our approval of it as opposed to the opportunism of the Second International, and particularly so because we were convinced that our Russian Fellow Workers in Russia are only maintaining the political character of the first Soviet Government to hold and gain power temporarily during the transitory period from capitalism to industrial communism.

It is hardly necessary to mention that the bitter persecution of our Organization still continues. We know that most of the delegates present have been victims of the wrath of trustified capital. There are, however, many things we cannot leave out, while many very important matters pertaining to this organized persecution (by the various governing bodies, and particularly the state governments, which are using the “Criminal Syndicalist” law) will not be mentioned, as it has become so enormous as to render it impossible to embody it in our report.

Your G.E.B. feels it imperative to report in a general way the fact that the Wichita, Kas., case was lost, with the result of our Fellow Workers being sent to prison at Leavenworth after being held in jail for over two years. Then there was the Krieger case in Tulsa, Okla., with a hung jury and a retrial about to take place, and just as the Organization was making headway in the Northwest the conspiracy of the Lumber Trust, which led a mob of American Legionaries in an attack on the hall in Centralia, Wash., that resulted in the death of four of the attackers and one of our valiant Fellow Workers, Wesley Everest, resulting in the indictment, trial and conviction of seven Fellow Workers at Mentesano, Wash., who were sentenced to from twenty-five to forty years in prison. Thirty-six of our Fellow Workers were sentenced in Tacoma, Wash., to from a fine of $250 to as high as fourteen years imprisonment, with several hundred now in jails in the states in the Northwest. In one case, that of Sand Point, Idaho, we had better luck, having secured an acquittal for seventeen Fellow Workers, only one being convicted, whose sentence was comparatively light. Also an acquittal of three Fellow Workers in Bellingham, Wash., and several hung juries in the Northwest. Many other cases are being tried all over the country.

Butte Strike

The Butte strike, now in progress, has been accompanied by disaster for our Fellow Workers looking to better their conditions, etc., and demanding the release of the political and industrial prisoners. Sheriff O’Rourke and the A.C.M. gunmen fired into 300 striking miners, resulting in the death of Fellow Worker Manning and probable death of three other Fellow Workers. We urge all the workers to stand behind the Metal Mine Workers’ Industrial Union No. 800 in this fight for principle and their demand to open the jail and prison doors.

Your G.E.B. wishes to warn the Convention against such actions as were taken by Harold Lord Varney (the decamped “emotional” aspirant to become a “Great Labor Leader”), who without permission of the Organization Committee of No. 300, while he was functioning as their Secretary-Treasurer, took it upon himself to move the office of No. 300 to New York City. To some extent this caused disruption in the Metal and Machinery Workers’ Industrial Union, which has been over-come to a great extent and normal conditions established.

Industrial District Council

Your Board also decided to leave in abeyance the starting of Industrial District Councils, which were decided on in the last annual convention. This was done because no intimation was given as to their function or how they were to be made up. The Board does, however, feel that these councils have a function when defined and put into operation and could serve as instruments to bring into existence district solidarity, also a stability of action inside the I.W.W. if adopted generally, with full approval of rank and file as to decisions arrived at.

Appointment of Secretary-Treasurer of General Defense Committee

Some criticism was given the Board when they appointed Fellow Worker Haywood to the office of Secretary-Treasurer of the General Defense Committee. We wish to state the condition was such in the Defense Office that it was essential that some one with a knowledge of publicity and handling finance should take office immediately. We could not wait to select. We recognized that it was also necessary to have good speakers on the road, so, summing up, between the demand that Haywood go on the road and our urgent necessity for an efficient Secretary-Treasurer for the Defense, we chose the latter. However, we are glad to report that immediately a marked improvement was apparent, as you will notice in Fellow Worker Haywood’s financial report. It was our intention to replace Haywood as soon as we had secured some one to fill the position, but, as you know, the events following made a successful tour of the country uncertain.

Outlook for the I.W.W.

We have had many things happen in the past year that your Board had cognizance of. The many strikes that became national questions, such as the coal miners’ strike, the steel strike, the New York Harbor strike, resulting in a break-down of solidarity, there was a marvelous spirit of solidarity shown by many groups. In the New York Harbor strike the M.T.W.I.U. No. 8 was on the job, and with the assistance of G.E.B. Member George Speed, who did good work, M.T.W. gained hundreds of members. The steel strike showed the futility of trying to organize hybrid industrial unions under the camouflage of the A.F. of L. The railroad strike proved the workers are tired of long drawn out negotiations that do not get the results the workers are seeking, and particularly so when, as shown in the recent rail strike, with the Brotherhood officials always on the defensive, while the workers are feeling the desire for action. This is a sign of the breaking down of the craft unions, with their inefficient tactics and methods. The Textile strike in New Bedford is an unauthorized strike, but it is a symptom of the never-ending struggle of Labor and a desire of the workers to do something for themselves.

The above is also a criterion of our own slowness and in some cases obvious apathy to our responsibilities. Your Board has watched this condition during the year and has been unable to move. We feel that if the Industrial Unions had paid their indebtedness we could have met with better results during the year. There is no reason for many thousands of dollars lying in an Industrial Union treasury when they owe General Headquarters many thousands of dollars. If our finances were kept circulating we could attend to many things which would bring results; therefore, we again remind you of the obvious duties of the Industrial Unions, in making prompt payments of their per capita and supplies.

The many O.B.U.’s that are being attempted in many industries are going to prove temporary obstacles to real revolutionary Industrial Unionism if we do not cover the fields open to us. Many attempts in the metal industry are being made to form an Amalgamated Metal Workers, and there seems to be no desire to form such a union by the workers. The same holds true of the railroad workers, but in the railroad shops a few have joined the O.B.U. and in some cases, thinking they were joining the I.W.W. We can meet this situation by perfecting our plans and organization to give the workers a tangible plan of unionism. If we do this, the O.B.U.’s will prove short-lived institutions where they are in operation, and the ones in embryo will never develop enough to be known in the field of unionism.

The International Situation

Looking abroad, your G.E.B. thinks the international field has never looked better for a realization of a World International of the Industrial Workers of the World. From all parts of the globe come greetings and affirmances of a desire to adhere to the principles for which we stand. In most cases the organizations take other names, such as the British movement, who call themselves Shop Stewards and Workers’ Committees; the Syndicalist movement of various countries, and the Maritime Workers of South America, who have endorsed the I.W.W. Also an I.W.W. administration has been formed in Chile and Germany. We are glad that the Shop Stewards’ National Conference, held at London, January 10th, this year, voted to become linked up with the I.W.W. It shows the prestige the I.W.W. has gained. These actions, and many other things, including the Australian move toward Industrial Unionism, are directly due to the influence of the I.W.W. propaganda. We might also add the O.B.U. of Canada came into existence because of the demands in British Columbia and the Western Provinces for an Industrial Union.

The coming year ought to be one of progress and one which will see the release from prisons of all the thousands of our fellow workers and of class war prisoners. This can only come about with security for the future by the co-operation of all the units of our administration. We leave the General Defense Secretary to give you a detailed statement of the numbers of our valiant fellow workers who have gone within the prison walls, and hope that a bounteous year is ahead for the realization of our aims—the abolition of the capitalist system and economic slavery, and the establishment of the Industrial Commune. With best wishes,

Yours for the I.W.W.,


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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