‘The Murder of Fellow Worker Joe Bagley’ from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 11. November, 1920.

Joe Bagley – Murdered Oct. 2, 1920.

Returning from the Agricultural Workers Industrial Union annual convention, fellow worker Joe Bagley was murdered by a parasite while riding the rails.

‘The Murder of Fellow Worker Joe Bagley’ from One Big Union Monthly. Vol. 2 No. 11. November, 1920.

The 10th semi-annual A.W.I.U. had hardly adjourned, when there occurred a tragedy, that has made all feel very keenly the need of a society, that is not based on murder and robbery, but one that is founded and built to satisfy the needs of the workers.

Several harvest workers were aboard an eastbound stock train, going to the potato harvest after the close of the convention, and when they arrived at Hannaford, N.D., Saturday morning, Oct. 2nd, 11 A.M., they were accosted by a Great Northern R. R. Special Agent and ordered to leave the train, which they did without resistance. Then they were ordered to: “Put up your hands,” which they all did. When all had their hands in the air he started to shoot, the first bullet going between the legs of Thos. Brady and the second hitting Joe Bagley in the side, piercing both lung’s and coming out on the other side.

When asked as to why he shot a man down, while the man had his hands in the air, the special agent replied: “What the hell do you care?” The local station agent took occasion to voice his opinion of the affair and was told: “If you don’t shut up, you will get some of the same medicine.”

Bagley was taken to St. John’s Hospital, Fargo, N.D., where he died on Tuesday, Oct. 5th, at 7 A.M.

His death reminds us of the time when the unorganized worker lived in constant terror lest he be a victim to some of the many pitfalls that an insane, money-mad society has created as a part of the environment of the wheat belt.

The wages paid the harvest worker do not permit the payment of railroad fare and to live at the same time, and travel hundreds of miles to and from the harvest fields, to harvest the crops that feed the nation, and no provision having been made for his transportation, he is forced by economic necessity, to adopt any means at hand, that will get him to where work can be had.

He is usually friendless and thousands of miles away from any relatives who might take an interest in him, and is therefore “easy prey” to the various parasitic or depraved elements that are always on the lookout for some victim on whom they can satisfy their depraved desires.

The slums of the big cities are usually scoured by the railroad companies for degenerates that are devoid of all human feeling, in whose hands they place a club, a gun and authority as special agents, supposedly to protect property from theft or destruction. If they only performed these “special duties,” no fault would be found with them, except by those who live by petty thievery; but they usually take great delight in venting their inhuman instincts and desires by “beating up” any migratory worker who happens to fall in their path. If any resistance be offered the victim is sometimes murdered and all witnesses forced to flee in terror, lest they share the same fate.

The “hi-jack” is a petty parasite of the lowest kind, who has not the nerve to hold up a bank or other place, where there is a little danger, but preys on the harvest worker, taking, at the point of a gun, what little money the big parasites have left for him, and then, usually, throwing him off a moving train. In case the victim was without money he generally was subjected to a severe beating.

If the friendless, unorganized migratory worker should happen to get by the railroad bulls, “hi-jacks” or others, that prey on his kind, he has still to face another form of parasite in the form of so-called “union workmen,” who would sometimes take the worker’s last cent or force him to get off the train in some desert, where no work could be had.

This class of animal is usually very “conscientious” about his “duties” and ‘‘job,” if no money was in sight, but if he can get a little money his “job” is usually ‘safe.’ If the worker should happen to present a “union card” of any kind he was told, “I can’t eat that,” and at the same time, in nine cases out of ten, this trainman would have a B.R. T. button on his hat.

When the harvest worker started to organize he, naturally, came in conflict with all parasites, both big and little. An unjust society had forced him to accept the same accommodations of travel that are accorded to the “lower animals” and merchandise, where he had, through no individual fault of his own, been subjected to all sorts of indignities. Therefore he resisted by his organized power all who had taken part in making life miserable for him. Instead of running from every obstacle like a “whipped cur,” as formerly, he has developed the moral courage to make a stand and state his case. Now the railroad trainmen have a thorough respect for him and his organized power and the “hi-jack” has almost disappeared.

While unorganized he was subjected to all sorts of indignities, with no means of helping himself, and now when he is learning how to help himself, the “powers that be” try to frighten him with jails and penitentiaries, even lynchings, and tar-and- feather parties, but it does not scare him a bit, for all the horrors of their jails or other methods of torture are not as bad as the life of an unorganized worker.

So we are still singing:

“The workers’ flag is deepest red,

It shrouded oft our martyred dead;

Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,

This song shall be our parting hymn.”

The murder of Bagley is only another reminder that we have a lot of education and organization work to do yet, before we will be able to establish a society that is based on satisfying the needs of the people.

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_1920-11_2_11/sim_one-big-union-monthly_1920-11_2_11.pdf

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