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About The Wageworker. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1904-???? | View Entire Issue (Nov. 13, 1909)
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LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, XOVEMBER 13, 1909
j Interesting Account of Proceedings of Con
vention nov; in Session at Toronto
GOMPERS IS TRYING OUT "CANNON RULE"!
Using "Steam Roller" on Delegates who are
Friendly to Electrical Workers Machine
is Apparently well Oiled
Toronto, Canada, November 10. For the first time in all of its
twenty-seven years of history, the American Federation of Labor is
holding an annual convention under the folds of the Union Jack.
A large majority of the members of the Federation are citizens of
the United States, and of course a large majority of the delegates
to the convention are citizens of the republic over which floats the
stars and stripes, so it is that it seems a little strange to the most
of us to see floating everywhere a flag that is not our own. Here
and there we see a flag of the United States that some one has
flung to the breeze in honor of the visitors, but the Union Jack
floats everywhere. The great convention hall is fairly smothered in
the red flag of Great Britain, and the only flag of our republic is
one that is stretehed across one-half the background of the stage.
There is one thing, however, that is familiar, and that is the
grand old tune, "America." However, our Canadian cousins over
on this side of the line call it "God Save the King," and under the
circumstances we let it go at that. So far as the eye can see there
is not a bit of difference between these Canadian towns and the
towns of our own country. Were it not for an inquisitive lot of
gentlemen at the border, who are known as customs house inspec
tors, one would- not know, where cthe United States left - off and
Canada began. If Toronto's streets were a little dirtier, the police
a bit more officious and inclined to show their authority, and the
saloons a whole lot more numerous, we who live south of the border
would have every reason to believe we were in Omaha or Kansas
City. As it is, the clean streets, the giant "bobbies" who are cour
tesy itself, and the absence of the familiar signs of "buffet,"
"cafe" or "bar," convince us that we are in Canada, where the
people have an instinctive respect for the law, and where drinking
is largely confined to tea, 'arf-an'-'arf and ale.
Leaving Lincoln Friday evening, I arrived in Chicago Saturday
morning, and there the delegates and visitors en route for Toronto
began meeting. It was at the Dearborn street depot that I met
Fitzgerald, Reid, Murphy and Potter of the "seceding" electrical
workers. There also was Charley Fear of Joplin, Mo., O. P. Smith
of the Indiana State Federation, "Big Ike" Hornbrook, the iceman
of Evansville, Ind. ; Editor Stewart of the Cedar Rapids, la.,
Tribune; Al Urick, president of the Iowa State Federation of
Labor, and others too numerous to mention. About all we talked
of between Chicago and Toronto was the case of the Electrical
Workers. Urick was representing the Des Moines central ' body,
and didn't know whether he was going to be recognized or not.
Stewart was representing the Cedar Rapids central body, and he
was up against it because the body's charter had been revoked be
cause it dared to stand by the loyal electrical workers of that town
Pouchot of Des Moines, representing the Iowa State Federation of
Labor, knew that he was up against it because the Iowa charter
had been revoked because that splendid body of fighting unionists
had refused to throw out the representatives of the only organized
electrical workers in the state. It was a delegation of "insurgents'
who were fighting mad.
We arrived in Toronto Sunday morning and most of us regis
tered at the Grand Union hotel first, because it was the first good
one we came across, and, second, because it came nearer fitting our
purses than the King Edward or the Prince George. King Edward
wanted $6 a day for a very ordinary room and "eats," while Prince
George asked the same, with rooms not quite so good and a table
that was full of silverware and a lot of flunkies ready to do any
thing for a tip. We let the Federation officers stop with George,
while we stopped at a place where we only have to pay $2 a day.
The room of the Lincoln delegate which is the humble writer
promises to be long remembered. It is No. 101, and it is in there
that the "insurgents" and "secessionists" have been holding their
meetings. The first one was Sunday night, and among others in
attendance were James Reid, president of the "seceding" Electrical
Workers, Murphy, the secretary-treasurer, Potter of the executive
board, Fitzgerald, second vice president, and other I. B. of E. W.
officials; Urick, president of the Iowa State Federation, myself,
president of the Nebraska State Federation; Egan, of the Ohio
State Federation, and a score of others. Practically every man
with the exception of the electrical workers, was a delegate, but
only two or three, the writer among the number, from bodies hold-
ng charters. The rest were from bodies whose charters had been
revoked. The meeting was for the purpose of framing up some way
of getting the fight on the convention floor. We laid a , smooth
plan and Monday morning we were at Massey hall in a body.
Alas, for the plans of men! The man who was to make the
first motion when the credentials committee had finished, either
took stage fright or got cold feet, and before we could fill the
breach President Gompers had run the steam roller over us. With
out giving us a show for our white j alleys, a lot of splendid union
men, representing strong, militant union bodies of the west, were
unceremoniously dumped in order to make room for the representa
tives of 5,000 electrical workers, who have been hanging to the
coat-tails of Gompers, Morrison, Duncan and Grant Hamilton.
O, it was a handsome specimen of the steam roller! And the
way the machine worked would have done credit to Judge Wright,
against whose arbitrary decisions President Gompers a little while
later was so bitterly inveighing. And the machine which worked
'automatically" when it worked in favor of the executive council
didn't turn a wheel when it was against the interests of the council
Of course we had to meet some more and frame up another
plan. The tmth .of the matter ia, the Reid faction of the electrical
workers is up against a stone wall. The McNulty crowd had kow
towed to the executive council, and for months the best organizers'
of the Federation have ignored the real needs of the general work
ers in order to spend all their time, hammering union men who have
stood loyally by the electrical workers who insist that they, not the
executive council of the A. F. of L., shall say who their officers
They may be able to strangle us; they may be able to muzzle
us so far as the Toronto convention is concerned, but simple truth
demand the statement that if "the present system of tactics is pur
sued a few months longer, the labor movement in America will re
ceive a backset that will take a decade to overcome. It does not
look good to see the victims of judicial tyranny exercising the same
sort of tyranny that they so loudly denounce. Yet Judge Wright's
actions were not more arbitrary than have been the actions of Sec
retary Morrison during the past four months, nor more arbitrary
than the decisions of President Gompers last Monday morning.
As I write this letter the bulk of the delegates and visitors are
taking a trolley ride around Toronto, but a few of us are working
away. We are framing up a protest against the seating of the dele
gates of the McNulty crowd, basing our protest on the fact that
the McNulty crowd is not in good standing on' account of non-payment
of dues. We can easily prove our contention by the files of
the Federationist and the constitution itself, but we have every
reason to believe that the "machine," which is so insistent upon
observing the constitution when it serves machine purposes, will
mentally amend it when it best suits their purpose so to do. As
Tim Campbell said, "What fell is de constitution bechune fri'nds?"
It is pretty chilly up here, but it will require more than weather
conditions to explain the "cold feet" of a great many of the dele
gates who a few weeks ago were so loudly protesting against arbi
trary methods. One man who was of the crowd between Chicago
and Toronto was going to simply rip things apart as soon as the
convention opened. Today he is the loudest advocate of "dis
cipline" and "harmony" there is in the whole convention. But
there are a few of us who were here for a specific purpose, and we
are going to keep hammering away at it, no matter what obstacles
we meet. If the guarantee of trade autonomy means anything at
all, now is the time to make it plain.
The convention opened at 10 o'clock Monday morning. The
parade was not a big one on account of a drizzling rain. But
Massey hall, a splendid auditorium, was well filled when President
Gompers called the convention to order! We had an address from
'his lordship," the mayor, and from the secretary to the minister
of labor. Both were SDlendid pffort.s The.
Dominion Trades Congress spoke briefly, and then the credentials '
committee reported. The report was all cut and dried, and a lot
of the western boys, and some from Ohio, Indiana, New York and
Michigan, fell outside of the breastworks. The two best state fed
erations in the United States were unceremoniously "dumped,"
Iowa and Ohio. They had refused to be bulldozed bv the
council and were therefore deprived of their charters. The pleasant
bit of fiction whereby the writer was seated as a delegate from the,
Lincoln Central Labor Union is known to readers of The Wage
worker. And as he is about the only one from the states of Iowa,"
Nebraska and South Dakota who is in sympathy with the "in
surgent" electrical workers, he has his hands full.
In the afternoon President Gompers read his annual address.
He began at 2 o'clock and finished at 5:45 in good form. The re
ports of Secretary Morrison and Treasurer Lennon were brief.;
President Gompers reviewed the famous or infamous injunction
case, and the way he handed things to the injunction judges was
good to hear. He brought the convention to its feet a couple of
times by his biting denunciation of government by -injunction and,
mind you, this only an hour or two after he had given the conven
tion a sample of arbitrary action that made Judge Wright look like
two-spot. But the "old man" is a scrapper, and despite the
package he handed us we love him.
Monday night we headed a delegation before the credentials
committee to make another fight, and once more we bumped against
the machine and were flattened out in approved style, .. 1
Tuesday morning's session was devoted to listening to the re
port of the executive council. That is, Vice President Duncan
spent three hours reading it, while the delegates moved about, con:
versed and struggled to keep warm in the chilly hall. At noon the
convention took a recess until Wednesday morning. This afternoon
the trolley ride for some, but for others of us, nothing but work.
I have met a number of prominent workers in the industrial
field. Agnes Nestor, president of the Glove workers, little, bright
as a dollar, and constantly on the lookout for the best interests of
her fellow craft workers, is a general favorite. She has promised
to visit Nebraska as soon as we can arrange for the visit, and she
sent her regards to the splendid little band of union gloveworkers
in Lincoln. The Lincoln Gloveworkers' Union is the only union of
that craft between Chicago and San Francisco, and of course Miss
Nestor is interested in its welfare. '
Mrs. Raymond Robins, president of the Woman's Trades Union
League, is here, a fit helpmate for her brilliant husband. . With
means at her command to live on the Lake Shore Drive of Chicago,
she prefers to live among the workers and spend her time and
means, in laboring for their social and industrial uplift. It is an
inspiration to listen to her words of wisdom and cheer.
Rev. Charles Stelzle,. the machinist-preacher, is a fraternal dele
gate from the Presbyterian board of church and labor, and he is
hail-fellow-well-met with all the -delegates, including Jere Sullivan
of the Bartenders' Union. '
Tim Healey of the steam engineers is hunted up by everybody.
If there was ever a worker in the ranks of unionism it is "Big
Tim." Bluff, hearty, decisive and as brave as a lion, Healey looks
the typical fighter for the cause of the toiler. - .
Tom Lewis, of the United Mine Workers, the successor of John
Mitchell, looks more like a divinity student than a miner, but when
he talks he puts more fire into his words than a divinity student
would be expected to hand out. Lewis is something of an "in
surgent, and everybody is looking to see him spring a sensation
before the convention is half over. ,
"Big Bill' Mahon of the Street Railway Association, is here,
there and everywhere, shaking hands and handing out words that
make a fellow feel good. As a "cheerupathist" Mahon has it on
all the rest of 'em.
Secretary Frank Morrison, who would look like a Catholic
priest if he didn't show such a wide expanse of white shirt-front, is
the busiest man in Toronto. He has a corps of assistants bigger
than President Taft's bodyguard.
Of course Uncle Sam Gompers is the big man of the conven
tion, even if he is built on short lines and wide out. The old man
may have a big weight of years on his shoulders, but he is full of
fire and energy, and there seems to be a hundred good fights left in
him. One doesn't hear at this convention the usual talk about
electing his successor. As long as the old man is under court fire
he can count on the Federation standing behind him as one man.
And if he has to go to jail there'll be something doing in the "land
of the free and the home of the brave." (
Well, I hear signs of a committee approaching, and that means
I must cease these maunderings and get busier on more important
work. The convention will probably be in session until the last of
next week, and it will be business all the time.
In the meanwhile we are living in hopes that sooner or later
we will be able to dodge the steam roller and accomplish some
thing along the lines laid out for us.
WILL M. MAUPIN.
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