A wonderful snapshot of a ‘small’ I.W.W. action, one of many thousands engaged in by its activists, led by ‘Big Jim’ stark in a cedar timber camp in Northern, Minnesota in the winter of 1911.
‘Big Jim Stark in Action’ from Industrial Worker. Vol. 2 No. 47. February 9, 1911.
United Action Wins Day
THE LOST IS FOUND.
Big Jim Stark in Action—Direct Action in the Camp—No Bluffs Go in too I.W.W.
Fellow Workers: It has been some time since you have heard from me, but you can rest assured that I have been pounding away for industrial unionism. I have been working in this camp only a week; however, in that time there has been enough discontent stirred up, so that the men have walked out this morning to a man. Here are the details:
This is a cedar camp and all the men, with a few exceptions, work by the piece. Now the company has a man to check the poles and posts. This checker happened to be an ignorant wage slave with a capitalist mind, who looked after the interests of the company very closely. He would cull poles and posts on the men, and afterwards the teamsters would skid the culls and then of course the company would sell these socalled culls with their other timber. In that manner they would able to get about one fourth of their timber cut for nothing. Now conditions are so in this camp that if a man works a hump on his back he can make a dollar a day. However, that was more than I could make, but I decided to stay here anyway and do some agitating. Held a meeting in the camp Saturday night, gave the boys one hour and 20 minutes of industrial unionism. They all agree that it is the dope.
Monday morning all went to work as usual, the checker with them. The checker checked up three or four of the boys anything but satisfactorily. They came into camp that night and there was pow-wowing in seven different lingoes. Then they asked me to talk to them, which I did, and there and then the men decided that the checker must go. The next morning (Tuesday, January 31) not a man went out to work. In came the boss, and he said: “What’s the matter men? Why haven’t you gone out to work?” As I had been elected spokesman, I replied: “You either tie a can on the checker or every man in this camp goes down the line; and furthermore, if you don’t comply with our wishes we will see that you don’t get any men from Minneapolis or Duluth, as we have large locals there of the I.W.W., and they will see that the employment sharks don’t send any men here.”
The boss thought we were bluffing, and he said: “All right, boys; you can all go down the line.” So we walked, out. We held another short meeting and demanded of the boss that he check us all up, which he refused to do. This was just what we wanted, as now we will stay right here in camp and board with the company until they will settle.
In the meantime we were going to get a lawyer to force the company to settle. We were also intending to send telegrams to Minneapolis and Duluth to the locals there to stop men from coming here, and we were in the cook shanty getting a lunch before going to town to do these things when in comes the boss, and says: “Well, men. If that’s all that is ailing you—the checker—go back to work and I will fire the checker.” The boys came into the bunkhouse and said they would not go to work until they saw the checker go down the road, which happened shortly. We held another short meeting, showed the men the need of industrial unionism, and will be able to get at least 20 members as soon as I can get proper papers due books, etc.. from my local at Duluth.
Will have each new member here subscribe at least six months to the Worker. This country is beridden with employment sharks, and the agitation against them must be kept up in the cities, and if we had more agitators in the camps in this country it would not be long before we would have JOB CONTROL. This outfit ships men from the American Labor Agency of Minneapolis, 225 Second street south. Wage workers, stay away from acre, as we have got our hands full now trying to get better conditions from the boss. They also ship men from Duluth. but I don’t know the name of the office. With best wishes to all reds, I remain.
Yours for ours, JAS. J. STARK,
Care of T. M. Partridge Lumber Company, Camp No. 10. Mizpah, Minn.
P.S.—There are 75 men involved in the above trouble.
The Industrial Union Bulletin, and the Industrial Worker were newspapers published by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from 1907 until 1913. First printed in Joliet, Illinois, IUB incorporated The Voice of Labor, the newspaper of the American Labor Union which had joined the IWW, and another IWW affiliate, International Metal Worker.The Trautmann-DeLeon faction issued its weekly from March 1907. Soon after, De Leon would be expelled and Trautmann would continue IUB until March 1909. It was edited by A. S. Edwards. 1909, production moved to Spokane, Washington and became The Industrial Worker, “the voice of revolutionary industrial unionism.”
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrialworker/iw/v2n47-w99-feb-09-1911-IW.pdf