Legendary wobbly J.T. ‘Red’ Doran and his Los Angeles comrades look strategically towards workers in the burgeoning electric power industry for organizing into the One Big Union.
‘On the Road to Power’ by J.T. ‘Red’ Doran from The Voice of the People (New Orleans). Vol. 2 No. 31. August 7, 1913.
We of Los Angeles have undertaken a Campaign of Education and propose to direct our efforts principally to the organization of the Street Railway employees, the Light and Power Co.’s employees, the Telephone and Telegraph employes and all employees engaged in the manufacture of electrical equipment and appurtenances. On account of the peculiar geographical situation of Southern California the key to the whole industrial field lies in the organization of the above specified workers and once we can control them we can control the whole of this country.
As you know the much advertised Fruit Lands are absolutely worthless without water and water can only be had by pumping. Practically all of the successful pumping outfits are operated by electricity. (The Chamber of COMMERCE don’t inform the suckers that buy land that it takes a fortune to get water on the land or that it would be a fine place IF THEY HAD WATER.)
The Power Factor in this country is ELECTRICITY. It is generated in the hills, hundreds of miles away, and brought into the cities and towns by high tension transmission lines, there “stepped” down or converted into direct current for commercial purposes and every factory, saw mill, lumber-yard, iron foundry, mill, manufactory, street railway, department store or other BUSINESS is absolutely dependent upon it (electricity) for its motive power. Thus by controlling the only Power Factor there is in this country we control all, farm and manufactory alike.
Rumor credits a Mr. Huntington, the controlling influence in the street railway and power business in Southern California, with the statement made at a recent banquet at a prominent hotel in New York City,” I have 5,000 men employed in Southern California and not one a UNION man.” He made some error when he made that statement and he should have consulted the I.W.W. first for, by so doing, he could have saved himself a misstatement. There are MEMBERS of the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS on the job although he may not have known it. And from now on there will be an ever increasing number. The I.W.W. have started on the job and as we NEVER FAIL; there will be some interesting doings here.
The plan of organization is roughly outlined in the following:- We will reach the employees through our newspapers with an article each week and also by personal and hand-bill propaganda. The employee will not be seen with a known I.W.W. nor will he be expected to come to meeting., or visit the hall. His application for membership will be made by mail, accompanied with the necessary fee and dues, a card will be issued to him WITHOUT his name appearing on the page usually given over to “Name, Address, etc.” A separate set of books will be kept with the names of all of the men joining, the Secretary to be the only person to know the names and addresses. And in the regular Day Book, Ledger, etc., will be entered the card number in lieu of a name. Should it ever be found necessary to get in touch with the man that corresponds to a certain number the secretary can refer to the secret INDEX. There can be no real reason for the individual members wanting to know the man that carries card number so-and-so as long as the dues are paid, we don’t care what a man’s name is so long as we know we can rely upon him when necessary. Thus the sneak, stool-pigeon, spotter and detective are rendered useless; they cannot report to the boss any more than the boss himself could find out by visiting at a meeting, and the employees are absolutely safe until such time as the membership decides that it is time to give the BOSS a shot of direct action and to better working conditions. This kind of organizing cannot be beat for the only two persons knowing just who belongs is the individual
himself and the Secretary; the individual will not tell and the Secretary will be tried by a workers court and found guilty if the names leak out. A Secretary who will permit a leak will find himself trying to square it with St. Peter.
Our papers will have a report of what takes place in the meetings so any one may keep in touch with the efforts and progress made. When any member thus secretly, wants to suggest or call to the attention of the organization anything all he has to do is to send it by mail, signing his CARD NUMBER and it will be given the local for consideration. The men here are ripe for organization, but have to be very careful as a perfect system of stool-pigeons exists and the men have to be assured of two things- 1st., That we make it impossible for spies or detectives to learn who is a member and, 2nd., That every wage worker connected with the industry be solicited for membership; this of course means power-house men, switch-board men, linemen, cablemen, car repairmen, trackmen, switchmen, flagmen, telephone girls, telegraph operators, MOTORMEN AND CONDUCTORS and all others, both male and female. And that we are So act as one unit regardless of occupation in the interest of all.
To the wage-slave who can read between the lines and recognizes the various sizes and kinds of wooden shoes that can be made to fit the consistent Industrial Unionist, agitation and organization as herein roughly specified, knows that we are unbeatable and that we can bring home the bacon in Southern California. Since we have publicly stated our intention to organize the street railway-men, the A.F. of L. official sheet here has been urging that the A.F. of L. get busy and better the working conditions of the poor slaves in this industry and also the P.E. Ry. Co. has given some of its slaves an increase of 10 per cent. The working conditions for motormen and conductors are particularly bad; two-bits an hour, 10 hours to make $2.50 and, in order to get in 10 hours, a man will sometimes lay around for 20 hours, being paid only for the hours worked. To the steady slaves is promised a cent an hour increase for each year put in with the company continuously, thus a man starting in at $2.50 for 10 hours will in the course of one hundred years be receiving $3.50 for 10 hours, unless he gets sick, dies or gets fired before that. Some capital(istic) prospect, WHAT?
This kind and method of organization will tend to promote the, papers sub-list as well as to reach the persons sought through the medium of OUR OWN press and that is what we need, literature propaganda in order that those who will read might be taught the full philosophy of the Industrial Unionist. Many members who do not understand what I.W.W. really means are of less actual value than few who thoroughly understand. The one has no CONVICTION, consequently no courage, the other is full of conviction and likewise courage and will advance the cause of INDUSTRIAL FREEDOM at every opportunity.
Yours for the I. W. W. and Liberty,
J.T. DORAN, Organizer. Los Angeles, Calif., July 28th., 1913.
The Voice of the People continued The Lumberjack. The Lumberjack began in January 1913 as the weekly voice of the Brotherhood of Timber Workers strike in Merryville, Louisiana. Published by the Southern District of the National Industrial Union of Forest and Lumber Workers, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World, the weekly paper was edited by Covington Hall of the Socialist Party in New Orleans. In July, 1913 the name was changed to Voice of the People and the printing home briefly moved to Portland, Oregon. It ran until late 1914.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/lumberjack/130807-voiceofthepeople-v2n31.pdf