20th Century, Agriculture, dairy farming, farming, Food, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, omnipresent history, Uncategorized, Unions

Farmers Protest on Capitol Steps

sa5.2 p20

http://www.mnopedia.org/minnesota-farmer-labor-party-1924-1944

1935

“Protesting farmers bring a starving cow and horse to the steps of the capitol to dramatize the desperate conditions in rural Minnesota. Droughts for the last six years have ruined crops and depleted the land. With little growing, farmers don’t have anything to sell. With so little money in people’s pockets because of the depression, prices are low for whatever farmers can sell. Banks foreclose on many farms; others are simply abandoned. Out of this ferment, a coalition of reformers and radicals formed the Farmer-Labor Party.” *

As a backstory to the political theatre of bringing starving animals to this protest in Saint Paul, we need to understand the dire need and impetus of the groups involved. Below, historian George H. Mayer gives a fine summary of the mindsets of Depression Era Minnesota farmers and workers.

“The farmer approached problems as a proprietor or petty capitalist. Relief to him meant a mitigation of conditions that interfered with successful farming. It involved such things as tax reduction, easier access to credit, and a floor under farm prices. His individualist psychology did not create scruples against government aid, but he welcomed it only as long as it improved agricultural conditions. When official paternalism took the form of public works or the dole, he openly opposed it because assistance on such terms forced him to abandon his chosen profession, to submerge his individuality in the labor crew, and to suffer the humiliation of the bread line. Besides, a public works program required increased revenue, and since the state relied heavily on the property tax, the cost of the program seemed likely to fall primarily on him.

At the opposite end of the seesaw sat the city worker, who sought relief from the hunger, exposure, and disease that followed the wake of unemployment. Dependent on an impersonal industrial machine, he had sloughed off the frontier tradition of individualism for the more serviceable doctrine of cooperation through trade unionism. Unlike the depressed farmer, the unemployed worker often had no property or economic stake to protect. He was largely immune to taxation and had nothing to lose by backing proposals to dilute property rights or redistribute the wealth. Driven by the primitive instinct to survive, the worker demanded financial relief measures from the state.” **

Even with bifurcated interests, rural and urban Minnesotans held this coalition together for about twenty six years. They shared the commonality of urgent and real need, and a common narrative of human effort quashed by the manipulations of external economic or political forces. So what were the fruits of this protest iconized by the farmers’ famished cow and the teamster’s hungry horse?

“Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party was the most successful labor party in United States history. Starting in 1918, it was a political federation of labor unions, not just a “labor friendly” political party. The Minnesota Farmer-Labor Association, a grouping of associated unions and farmers, provided the organic connection between labor and the party. Before the party merged with the Democrats in 1944, they had elected three governors, four U.S. Senators, and eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives.” ***

This protest strikes home with me and my father’s experiences in Depression Era rural Minnesota. His father, F.M. Jaracz, lost his farm in Kelliher, MN which drove him to sell moonshine under the cover of his Watkins route. He was busted under the Volstead Act and did eight years of Federal prison. My dad, Le Roy, became a ward of the state and was taken in by F.M.’s moonshine partners; the C.N. Orvis family. 

The Orvis family also lost their farm, and were forced to live in a tiny, one-room rental in a local fishing resort called Runkle’s Cabins. They eventually lost that and lived on the dredging barge where Mr. Orvis was lucky enough to land a job. The family of eight did  not have more than two rooms until World War II.

Dad was raised eating oatmeal, biscuits spread w/ lard, and “boiled dinner”. (Think of a catch-all “stone-soup” with a base of potatoes, rutabaga, and any meat shavings available. He wore ill-fitting hand-me-downs from the five boys, and wore shoes with cardboard soles nick-named “Hoover leather”. All the kids worked odd-jobs because their income for the family was indispensable. 

So we turn and seek Your wisdom, El Gibbor (G-d of Strength); will You remember us when we gain and lose our vitality? Will You forgive our moments of strength when we arrogantly think we no longer need You? Will You forgive our moments of desperate want when we choose to blame You? We have sinned against You in this era of 1935, and still blame You for bad weather, ruined crops, lay-offs, and hiring freezes; have mercy.

We share the motive-conflicts of these ancestors: we simultaneously want You to shield our successes from You so we can own them, and disburse our failures to You or others so we can disown them. Why do we find it so hard to truly acknowledge our present reality? We are terrified to bring our sacred cows and ignoble steeds to the steps of Your capitol. By Your might, give us the grace to show our hands, especially when are dealt a raw deal.

Will You forgive this era its’ judgments made by farmers towards: the state government, the railroads and middle-men, and the wizards of Wall Street? Will You restore to them what was taken in the Depression? May the growers know Your unmerited favor and “ora et labora” to pass Your wisdom into all future farmers of Minnesota!

“The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law.” Psalms 119:61 KJV ****

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** George H. Mayer, The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson, Reprint, (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987) 86-87.

*** Anfinson,Graeme. “A Short History of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party”. 01/07/2014. https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/07/a-short-history-of-the-minnesota-farm-labor-party/

**** https://biblehub.com/psalms/119-61.htm

 

 

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20th Century, Business, Food, History, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, omnipresent history, Unions

First Sit-Down Strike in U.S.

history-1926-george-jay.1498491076

hormelfoods.com

1933

“Workers at George A. Hormel and Company stage the first sit-down strike in the U.S., taking over the Austin meat-packing plant for three days. The tactic works; Hormel agrees to submit wage demands to binding arbitration. The success of this strike re-invigorates the labor movement, which had been in decline through the 1920s.” *

To offer a backstory, we must look at the character and practices of a father and son. George A. Hormel founded the company in 1891, and survived the Panic of the 1893-1897 by setting the standards for success himself. “People talked of Hormel’s passion for efficiency and quality and of his eagerness to work in the plant beside his employees.” Hormel often insisted on doing the key butchering operations himself.**

Jay Hormel was the only son, actually the only child of the G.A. Hormels’. He had an excellent education at Shattuck School for Boys and Princeton University. After schooling he pursued a career as a jazz pianist with some modicum of success. 

Though trained by his father through two years of work at the plant, perhaps he did not retain the personal identity with the town of Austin, his staff, or the business. He married a foreigner, and moved his family out of Austin to a large French style estate. 

Fast forward to the landmark strike. A group of workers at the hog killing floor were unsuccessfully persuaded to join the “voluntary” insurance program being pushed by management. At issue were the further loss of wages, 20 cents per week, and the expectation that those who didn’t join could be fired. The incensed workers shut down the killing floor for only 10 minutes, yet their exasperations had a ripple effect.

In response, hundreds of employees joined the newly formed International Union of All Workers (IUAW), and contributed $600 to achieve its aims. These are out lined below:

“1. An increase in the hourly rate for all workers who are members of the union of 20 cents an hour over and above the rate of November 1, 1933.

2. An increase in pay for those workers on a scale other than the hourly rates so they might receive an increase in pay equal to those on the hourly basis.

3. The abolition of the bonus system and the rate of those affected by the abolition be set by an hourly rate plus a bonus.

4. That when females replace males in the plant, the rate of compensation be the same as that paid to the male workers.

5. An agreement whereby either company or union may present each other with formal requests in writing, the receiving party acknowledging receipt of the request and arranging provisions for a conference within 24 hours of receiving it.” **

The occupation of the plant pushed Hormel into reaching out to both FDR and Governor Floyd Olson for help. Neither of these politicians were in the mood to enact a strike bust, but rather approaching the issue as mediators. Ultimately Governor Olson, without security, calmed the situation and led to the writing of an agreed plan between workers and management. 

Hormel’s attitude towards his employees did a complete u-turn. Instead of seeing workers as his opponents, he saw them as his team. His “Master Plan” was putting out fires before they start; a system of anticipatory welfare capitalism. This plan gained acceptance and trust of laborers so throughly that it pre-empted the necessity of union actions in most cases. When asked by other business men how to deal with labor, Jay Hormel replied; “labor troubles would not occur if business could understand labor.” **

Shall we pray? We give thanks to You, Lord of All Workers, because You truly understand the backstory of everyone who works. We thank You for Your intimate knowledge of each human’s psyche, work ethic, and motives. Will You enhance our watching of this event in history, and bring revelation to Your people everywhere?

Initially we see an example of a father and son, and their differing approaches to the same task of owning and managing a business. We thank you for the leadership style of George Hormel who: lived locally, married a girl from town, and was an active participant in all stages of his company. Will You bless Him, the Hormel family, and those like him in Minnesota’s food processing businesses? It is hard to fault one who leads by practical example. 

We also thank You for the leadership style of Jay Hormel who: thought outside his own town, loved music, and married outside his culture. We thank You that though he originally was known for his weakness to relate to his labor, he discovered that he could change. We give thanks that he was humble enough to learn from his failures in this strike, and grow as a businessman and human being. Will You bless his family and companions in the food trade, both past, present, and future?

We give thanks for the workers and strikers of this event. We recognize their pains and fears in this era. Will You remember those tasks that were done at an immediate and personal loss to them? Will You remember the days and years where they did not complain though they were increasingly chafed at the increase of employer demands with lack of job security? Will You remember how they were faithful to Hormel, and forgive the ways they weren’t? Will You bless them, their families, and generations in their labor to “do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men”? ***

We remember the insufficient nature of the “isms” at play in this event. Will You temper our collectivists to remember the individuals in their ranks? Will You protect our unions from judgments that can chain them to a permanent state of envy? Will You give the capitalist the humility to see that money doesn’t solve the problems of workers hearts and needs for respect? Have mercy on our business. Have mercy on our strikes. May we receive Your contentment whether on the killing floor on making a killing? Amen.

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** Conatz, Juan (2014, July 21)https://libcom.org/history/we-were-poor-people-hormel-strike-1933-larry-d-engelmann

*** Colossians 3:23

 

 

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20th Century, Americana, Communism, History, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history, poverty, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unions

Hunger March 1932

tuul_program_structure_method_history_1929

1932

“In the heart of the Depression, hunger marchers in downtown Minneapolis demand an $8 weekly relief grant.” * 

Minnesotans fared better than most during the first wave of the stock market crash due to the longstanding tradition of private charity. Eventually these reserves were depleted by the sheer numbers of the homeless and unemployed. Below is a citation of the intensity and desperation here by historian Raymond L. Koch:

“After the fall elections of 1930, which saw the Farmer-Labor party gain prominence at the state level of politics with the election of Floyd R. Olson as governor, pressure for action on relief needs rapidly increased from organizations of unemployed persons which had sprouted immediately after the great crash. The day after Olson’s first in- augural speech, a group of Twin Cities Communists arranged a march to the Capitol and staged a demonstration for unemployment relief. They were led by Karl Reeve, district organizer of the Communist party in Minneapolis and leader of a local chapter of the Trade Union Unity League, a Communist-front organization. The group distributed a circular that blasted the American Federation of Labor and the Farmer-Labor party and even accused Olson himself of being a “henchman of the Steel Trust.” Several weeks later the Trade Union Unity League scheduled William Z. Foster, a leading national Communist figure, to speak on March 2, 1931, in the Minneapolis Gateway district, a haven for transients and local homeless and jobless individuals. Mayor William F. Kunze banned the speech, but the league tried to hold a meeting anyway. The result was the “Gateway riot,” as it was called the next day after police broke up the assembled group.”**

For further amplification of the situation read the excerpt below:

“The summer relief crisis reached a peak on July 8, 1932, when approximately seven hundred “hunger marchers” demonstrated again in front of City Hall. They demanded a five-million-dollar appropriation for city relief, an eight-dollar-a-week grant to un- employed workers, and a slum clearance program. Invading the city council chambers, the demonstrators listened to two Farmer-Labor aldermen protest Mayor Anderson’s reappointment of one of the conservative members of the board of public welfare — Mrs. H. S. Godfrey — to another four-year term.”**

Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. We seek Your insights into this snapshot of a vitriolic moment in the history of Minneapolis. Will You come and restore us into a right relationship with You and others so we do not replicate its offenses and judgments?

We begin by repenting of self-reliance instead of looking to You. Maybe we forgot the Lord’s prayer; “give us this day our daily bread”? Or the coin did not drop into our hearts until we reached the point of daily and literal hunger? In any case, Minneapolitans have judged You and Your Church as being an incompetent providers. Will You forgive when and where we have denied Your Greatness and clung to our depression?

It also seems apparent that this conflict was not solely about what relief was given, but who would get the credit. Prior to this crisis, it appears we helped the poor by a team effort between the cities’ board of public welfare channeled through the direct care of private charities. Where the politicians sought to convert welfare into votes; have mercy. Where private charities blew their own trumpets, and diverted gratitude rightfully Yours onto themselves; have mercy. Will You restore us as a people so that we are more concerned about aid reaching the needy rather than being publicity greedy?

Another bone of contention between protesters and philanthropies derived from the question how the aid would be given. Some with a Marxist worldview advocated for aid to be in the form of direct cash payments. Traditionalists sought a solution of workfare; those seeking aid could barter their labor for food or other assistance. Will You forgive this offense to You, and the drive to power that couldn’t bear to experiment with both methods?

Ultimately, these events originated a rift still extant: will we be a people who value independence, or dependence? In either case, proponents of both philosophies may deny or contain misbeliefs about the concept of interdependence. 

Communism has some inherent motive conflicts; it wants equality of outcomes but must rely on capitalism to pay for its programs. It has inherent paradoxical beliefs regarding land and personal property. Simultaneously, it advocates the abolition of private property while seizing the property of those “haves” in order to give it to the “have nots”. It is also interesting to note in this context, that the proponents of a system which hates capital (money), simultaneously agitates for relief to be disbursed in cash rather than barter or another type of exchange in kind. Will You forgive these offenses within the Gateway Riot and the collectivists of the period? 

Capitalism of this era also contains perfidy and forms of double-mindedness. Can a market seek a fair price if it is manipulated by its regulators? How can the Federal Reserve system get by without an audit; ever?  Only twenty years after its creation it eliminates the gold standard that facilitates irresponsible investments, public debt, and the stock market bubble? Over 9,000 private banks that it conditioned to act as fractional reserve lenders went bankrupt; yet it had no motive in eliminating competition? If this is not duplicitous, then it appears intentional and criminal. Will You forgive the offenses by those who have manipulated the markets and the value of money? 

Let us not forget the divisiveness of the Depression that was pushed by the spirit of religion. By this, I mean religion that exists for its own growth rather than humbly pointing seekers to G-d. Imagine the charity that could have happened in this time frame if the Protestants religious leaders of Minneapolis had cooperated with the Catholic leadership of Saint Paul? Imagine the magnanimous state of Minnesota if the leaders of the religion of the Farmer Labor Party had not fought the leaders of the religion of the Democratic Party who fought the leaders of the religion of Republicanism? Too often, we have endured hardship because of pride. For too long, we have suffered rather than compromise with a religious or worldview enemy! In Your mercy, will You forgive us the worship of the mechanics of our religion rather than You? Will You forgive us the bitter judgments of our religious enemies in Minnesota? Will You heal our double-mindedness as a society? We have demanded a gift rather than asked for it from You and our neighbor. Will You make us poor in spirit so we can be rich in love?

 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.*** I John 4:19-21 NIV

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** Raymond L. Koch.“The Development of Public Relief Programs in Minnesota, 1929-1941.” University of Minnesota, 1968.

http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/41/v41i04p153-170.pdf

*** http://biblehub.com/1_john/4-19.htm

 

 

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20th Century, government, Governors, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Labor, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Politics, poverty, Uncategorized, Unions

Olson Becomes Governor 1931

Unknown

January 6, 1931

“Floyd B. Olson takes office as the state’s 22nd governor.” *

Governor Olson was many things to many people, but perhaps he is most known as the leader of the Farmer Labor Party. Why is this so critical to Minnesota, and our collective memory? After Olson’s victory, “the Farmer-Labor Party would emerge as the dominant political force in Minnesota. It became one of the country’s most successful third-party movements.” **

This famed reformer wore his Progressive Socialist agenda on his sleeve, and was happy to distinguish his movement from either Republican or Democratic thought previously known in the North Star state. He clearly advocated for the minimum wage. As a former Industrial Workers of the World unionist, he proudly supported trade unions and their most prized reform; collective bargaining. To properly finance his progressive view of social justice he proposed a progressive income tax. (A progressive tax is simply a plan based on the idea that if you earn more, you should pay more.)

How then would his policy stack up against historic economic theory regarding the utility of the minimum wage? “In economic theory, a price floor creates a surplus in the market place because there is more supply than demand at the set price. This theory applies to the market for labor as well. Some argue that when the minimum wage is raised, more people want jobs because now they are more lucrative. However new jobs are not necessarily created. Based on this standard economic model, when demand for labor is greater than the supply, a labor surplus results, creating unemployment.” *** To interpret, higher wages may attract more to the job market, new jobs are not necessarily created, and based on historical data; there is more unemployment.

Further, what are the strengths and weaknesses of unionism and collective bargaining as proposed by our Governor? Below is a quote by Labor Economics expert James Sherk.

“A union’s monopoly over bargaining makes it a cartel that prevents employers from hiring workers who would do the same job for less than union wages. That benefits union members at the expense of their potential competitors. It also means that state and local governments must pay more to have the same work done. Without providing financing for the mandate, the act will force these governments to either cut services or raise taxes.” **** By definition, a monopoly is the exclusive possession or control over something. So, perhaps it could be more accurately construed as “monopoly bargaining”?

According to the ideals of Governor Olson, for society to progress, it must have the tax base to right social wrongs and lift up the oppressed by the hand of government. “The income tax is the most just tax thus far devised because it is the most equitable tax; it is based on ability to pay,” he added.

Maybe this is why he borrowed from the collectivist visions of Karl Marx? Below are the first five planks of the original German interpretation of the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, please note plank #2.

“1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. 

 2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. 

 3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance. 

 4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. 

 5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with    State capital and an exclusive monopoly.” ******

Shall we pray? G-d, we give You honor as the Authority of Authorities, Provider of All to All, and Justice to all forms of Justice. We remember that Your Dominion is not a matter of talk, but of power. You are the Only Arbiter of Grace and Truth. You are the Only One who perfectly balances Justice and Mercy! 

We acknowledge our separations from You through the leadership of Governor Olson. We chose to follow the false god of Progressivism. We admit that we cannot bring a utopia through humanistic means. We are not able to grant unalienable rights or take them away for that is Your work; Your mystery. Though we try through the ages, we cannot improve upon the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, or by it recitation by Christ in Matthew 22:37.

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ “ *******

Will You forgive us where we failed to love You in this era, and where we failed to receive Your love in return? Our hands hold so tightly to power that we cannot grasp the manna You are giving us today. 

We acknowledge our separations from You in our trust in the minimum wage during the Great Depression. We have limited our neighbor’s right to negotiate a wage with their employer, and infringed upon that individual’s will. Though we try through the ages, we cannot improve upon the divine positive laws of the 10 Commandments. 

To paraphrase, the seventh and tenth commandments tell us to respect and honor the property of others, and to be content with our property. How can we simultaneously respect and honor an employer whom we force to pay us more? How can we respect and honor our neighbor’s will if we interfere with it? Father, where allowed the real pain and discontent of the 1930’s cloud our boundaries and honor for other Minnesotans; will You have mercy?

We acknowledge our offenses to You and our neighbor in putting faith in collective bargaining and unions. (I do not condemn either of these ideas per se.) Chosen collectivism is beautiful and admirable. Look at the example of the early Church

found in Acts 2:44.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” ********

Where collectivism breaks with Your example, perhaps, is that it may negate the will of its’ neighbor. Why should a worker be required to join a union to work? If labor is the possession of each laborer, then forced collectivization could become extortion or ultimatum.

Why should an employer be required by a third party or law to negotiate with his employees on a collective basis? For example, the words ‘labor strike’ do not imply mutual submission with a boss towards a mutually defined goal, but a choice to break that relationship. Where we have broken faith with You, our neighbor, or our leaders through forced unionism or collective bargaining; will You have mercy?

We acknowledge our offense to You and our neighbor through our faith in a graduated income tax. We, as a State, may have required more of our neighbor’s wealth than You. Below, the prophet Malachi reports to the peoples of Judah to give to G-d the 10% flat tax He required.

“You are under a curse–your whole nation–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

If this is to be Your example to us, then is it true that those who fail to participate actually rob You and their neighbor? I’m not thinking here in terms of money, but of themselves. Those who do not invest in society may not develop an interest in society, or experience the gratitude of an unmerited gift from one who invests heavily. The relationship between giver and receiver is broken when it is required instead of choice. Further, for a progressive tax model to be truly even, could it require a non-monetary investment of time in lieu of a financial contribution? Will You have mercy on the uneven nature of our remedies to inequality?

In spite of these pondering prayers, will You bless the heritage of Floyd B. Olson? Will You remember his attempts to relate and create policies that contribute towards a better life for regular Minnesotans? Will You give honor and favor to those who labor at the minimum wage? Will You come to the aid of those who belong to a union, employ union labor, and collectively bargain in good faith? We want society to mature without acknowledging the revenge, envy, and discontent inside? Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on Minnesota! Will You perfect the progress of our inner lives? 

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” *********

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** http://www.mnopedia.org/person/olson-floyd-b-1891-1936

***  https://edgewortheconomics.com/experience-and-news/edgewords-blogs/edgewords/article:02-28-2013-a-9-minimum-wage-and-a-lesson-in-price-floors/

**** Article by James Sherk, Research Fellow, Labor Economics https://www.heritage.org/markets-and-finance/report/mandatory-collective-bargaining-creates-more-problems-itsolves

***** https://www.minnpost.com/minnesota-history/2013/01/gov-olson-80-years-ago-proposed-progressive-taxes-and-unemployment-insuran

*******  Quote of “Manifesto of the Communist Party” Chapter 2 (German original) https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm

******** http://biblehub.com/matthew/22-37.htm

******** http://biblehub.com/acts/2-44.htm

********* http://biblehub.com/malachi/3-9.htm

********** http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/36-26.htm

 

 

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20th Century, Great Lakes, History, Industry, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Logging, Minnesota, omnipresent history, trade, Unions, World War I

Workers Strike at Largest Sawmill in the World 1917

Unknown

1917

“Workers at the Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company sawmill, the largest in the world, strike for higher pay and safer working conditions. Organizers from the radical International Workers of the World spread the strike to the logging camps before police break it up with arrests and force.” *

Minnesota’s history of logging in this era is rife with irony. On one hand, it is a shining example of cooperation and productivity. 

“The VRL Lumber Co. was the largest on earth producing on average a million board feet of lumber a day seven days a week. Production on such a vast scale required an enormous supply of virgin white and red pine harvesting a total of four billion board feet over a 20 year period.” **

On the other hand, this mill was pitifully negligent in its care for its workers’ health and well-being. 

“Toilet facilities were primitive in the extreme. Privies were no more than shallow, open pits with a roof and some poles for seats. Excrement was only rarely treated with lime or even covered with dirt. State inspectors repeatedly and despairingly observed that “there seems to prevail an idea that toilet facilities in a camp are superfluous.””

Safety precautions were ignored, too. Engaged in strenuous manual labor with lethal tools in frigid weather, lumberjacks had an extremely high accident rate. Although immediate first aid was therefore the jacks’ greatest medical need, a survey of logging

camps several years before the strike revealed that “in none . . . were there any facilities for giving first aid to the injured.” **

Below is the an eye-witness testimony regarding the ‘jacks accommodations.

“Prospects of a major IWW walkout were enhanced, however, by the working and living conditions of the lumberjacks. Typically, jacks lived in rough-cut lumber shanties. A bunkhouse 30 feet by 80 feet by 11 feet would house anywhere from 60 to 90 men in rows of double-decked wooden bunks lining each wall. Each individual bed with its mattress of loose straw slept two men. Each jack received two or three woolen blankets from the camp (sheets were unknown). The turnover was so high that four or five men might easily use the same blankets each season. 

Virtually all the beds, blankets, and men were infested with lice. In 1914 inspectors from the State Department of Labor and Industries observed that “the conditions under which the men were housed made it impossible for men to keep their bodies free from vermin.” 

Bunkhouses were ventilated only by doors at each cud and one or two small skylights in the roof. One or perhaps two iron stoves, kept fired all night, provided heat. The poor ventilation compounded sanitary problems.

The men worked 11-hour days in the cold northern Minnesota winter and generally wore two or three sets of underwear in addition to their outer garments. The combination of wet snow and hard labor soaked the jacks’ clothes every day, but the men were without washing facilities either for themselves or what they wore. 

Since most of them put on all the clothing they owned, dozens of sets of wet-from-sweat clothes hung near the stove every night to dry for the next day. The steam from the clothing joined the stench of tightly-packed, unwashed bodies in the bunkhouse, prompting one Wobbly to comment that “the bunk houses in which the lumber jacks sleep are enough to gag a skunk.” **

“Chronology

December 24, 1916

Timber mill workers at the Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company draw up a list of demands.

December 26, 1916

Workers present their demands to the superintendent of manufacturing, Chester R. Rogers.

December 27, 1916

Mill workers decide to go ahead with the strike.

December 28, 1916

Pickets begin at the company’s gates. One thousand workers go on strike. Flying squads (IWW messengers) head north to lumber camps.

January 1, 1917

One thousand lumberjacks walk out of the camps.

January 2, 1917

A thousand more lumberjacks strike. Lumberjacks are banished from Virginia, Minnesota.

February 1, 1917

The lumber strike is officially called off.” ***

So, what was the aftermath of this strike, and how did it improve the lives of lumberjacks and those that worked the sawmill? Below is an excerpt from Wobbly (IWW) records:

“The mill workers returned to their jobs in the last week of January. The lumberjacks held on a bit longer and neither the Virginia and Rainy Lake Company nor the International Lumber Company was able to reopen logging operations until February. What remained of the Wobbly lumber strike leadership gathered in Duluth. On February 1 the leaders called off the strike, claiming a partial victory by way of improved conditions.

Most companies did attend to their camps better after the strike. The ILC bought new blankets for the men and raised slightly the base pay. The quality of food seems to have been improved, too, in most camps. In 1917 the Virginia and Rainy Lake Company spent nearly 20 per cent more per man for food than earlier. Wartime price inflation accounted for part, but not most, of the increase.” ****

What say You of this event and the broken relationships between loggers, their representatives in the IWW, and the V.R.L. company managers and International Lumber Company (ILC) owners? We invite Your timeless knowledge, and graceful judgment into their circumstance Ruach Ha Kodesh. How do we begin to make right this wrong from Your perspective? How have we offended You and the principles of Your kingdom?

You have said clearly through the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians:

“Do I say this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Isn’t He actually speaking on our behalf? Indeed, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they should also expect to share in the harvest.” I Corinthians 9:8-10

We acknowledge, first, our offense to You through the judgments of Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company and the ILC. We offend You as employers when we do not provide a Sabbath rest. We offend You when do not provide for the lives and safety of Your workers. We offend You when we fail to provide food, clothing, and adequate shelter for those in our care. We offend You when profit becomes an idol that forgets the contributions of the employees to the health of the corporation. Will You forgive VRL Co.  and the International Lumber Company in this era, and create right relationships that lead to blessing in our timber industry’s management both in the present and future?

Similarly, we have offended You through the judgments of the lumberjacks and sawmill workers towards the VRL Company’s owners and ILC managers. We offend You when we do not take a Sabbath where it is offered. We offend You when we expect our employer to solve our unmentioned problems, and fail to be proactive in our own needs. We offend You as workers through the misbelief that profit is a given, therefore, the company has unlimited resources to spend on labor. Will You forgive the lumberjacks and millworkers of VRL Co. and ILC of this era, and create new 

interconnections between laborers, labor unions, and executives of our logging industry that lead to present and future blessings for all?

Above all, we especially ask for the release of the victims of the injustices of this era from the prisons of their counter-judgments. We know that there are those who lost life and limb. We know that there are those who were circumstantially hemmed in who felt they had no choice but to submit to abusive work conditions to survive. 

Will You forgive those who were ensnared through the maintenance of offense towards the abuses of Virginia and Rainy Lake Lumber Company and the ILC? Will You give them gifts of grace that look to You for justice, while not resubmitting themselves to abuse? Will You take these judgments and counter-judgments up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Will You remove the log from the eyes of all in the logging industry?

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** http://monarchtreepublishing.com/Ilets/1916-Lumbering-Strike.pdf

** Testimony of Jay Hall; Sixteenth Biennial Report, p. 117; Boose, in International Socialist Review, 14:414

*** Chronology and an excellent brief summary by Anja Witek can be viewed at this MNopedia link. http://www.mnopedia.org/event/iww-lumber-strike-1916-1917

**** https://iww.org/node/1524

 

 

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20th Century, History, Industry, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Labor, Lake Superior, Mining, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Suffering, Unions

Iron Range Strike 1916

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June 3, 1916 to September 17, 1916

“Forty miners walked off the job on June 3, beginning the 1916 strike. The unorganized miners soon realized they needed help. Unlike the 1907 strike, this time the Western Federation of Miners was not interested in organizing the miners. Instead, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) responded, sending in some of their top organizers. Many of the strikebreakers from 1907, ironically, became instrumental in the 1916 strike. The number of strikers swelled to over 8,000. The 1916 strike was marked by violence and repression. Unlike 1907, strikebreakers were not as readily available and other tactics were employed to end the strike. The civil liberties of strikers were violated, mine guards and police used force to intimidate strikers, union leaders were jailed, economic pressure was exerted on merchants who extended credit to strikers, and finally, the Oliver Iron Mining Company refused to negotiate with the strikers. The strike was called off on September 17.” *

Even attempting to intercede for the Iron Range Strike of 1916 is unsettling, Lord. We can empathize with both the ones who own the business, create jobs and make useful products for society, (Oliver Iron Mining Co.),  and those who do the work, (the miners as represented by the IWW). Will You illuminate this moment of history, and lead our prayers and reflections this day, and leave us with a blessing for the future?

Your Word informs of the importance of both why we work, and how we work because it reflects both our character and our assessment of your character. To begin, we work because it is necessary for our survival, and provision for those in our care.

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ “ 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV **

Yet, You also challenge us to take joy in our tasks, and appreciate even the undesirable aspects of them?!

“And do all that you do with all your soul, as for Our Lord, and not as for the children of men.” Colossians 3:23 Aramaic Bible in Plain English ***

Perhaps You want us to take pride in work because it balances our employers reaction of our performance to the pleasure that a job well done gives You?

What’s in Your heart for the working man or woman? What of those who own nothing but their labor? What is the position of Your Kingdom towards their employers?

“Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.” Leviticus 19:13 NLT ****

Your Word connotes that those of us who own a company are obliged by the Owner of All Property to account honestly and pay employees on time. 

So, what heart should a CEO have towards his staffers, laborers, hired hands, and factory workers? 

“For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and, ‘The worker is worthy of his wages.’ “ I Timothy 5:18 BSB****

In Your economic model, the boss is to remember those with noses to his grindstone are essential as employees, and people of infinite worth as human beings. These Scriptures are a counter-balance to the common lie both the executive and small businessman misbelieves while making payroll; “I’m paying these guys way too much.” 

With this in mind, we pray about  this strike. Lord, will You forgive the pain caused to Oliver Mining Company by the judgments of the Wobblies? Will You forgive the discontent of these miners towards their bosses, and indirectly with Your means of provision for their lives? Will You forgive their rebellions against Minnesota statute and the laws of Your dominion? Will You forgive their envy?

Conversely, we remember the sins and separations of the Oliver Iron Mining towards You and its workers. Will You forgive the injustices of the contract labor system? ******* No one should have to participate in graft or bribery to one’s boss to maintain employment! Will You forgive the pain caused to the miners and their unions? (IWW-Industrial Workers of the World and WFM-Western Federation of Miners) Will You forgive their failures as leaders to understand that right principles alone do not make right relationships or satisfy Your chesed?

Your Honor, will You change our defiance towards You in the maintenance of antagonistic relationships between labor and industry? Will You bless the future of mining in Minnesota, and create fellowships between companies and unions that enhance, not limit, the growth of the other? Will You break our strike against Your peaceful resolutions for our workplaces? Amen.

“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” Psalm 89:14 KJV

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**http://biblehub.com/2_thessalonians/3-10.htm

*** http://biblehub.com/colossians/3-23.htm

****http://biblehub.com/leviticus/19-13.htm

*****http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/5-18.htm

******http://biblehub.com/psalms/89-14.htm

*******https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2015/10/breaking-1916-iron-range-strike

 

 

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20th Century, History, Industry, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Labor, Mining, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Unions

Mesabi Range Strike 1907

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July 20, 1907 to August 15, 1907

“The 1907 strike was the first organized, widespread strike on the Iron Range. The immigrant miners—mostly Finnish—had little experience with unions or large-scale strikes. Although the union (Western Federation of Miners)had been planning a strike, the immediate cause was the layoff in July of 200 union members by the Oliver Iron Mining Company. A strike was called on July 20. In early August, strikebreakers were brought in and “deputies” hired to protect them. By mid-August, sufficient numbers of strikebreakers, combined with improved economic conditions, broke the strike.” *

What causes a man to be ready to say “enough is enough” Lord? Like many strikes, the motivations seem to be dangerous working conditions and too little pay. But is there more to this circumstance Lord?

I ran across the person of Charles Moyer, the leader of the Western Federation of Miners from 1902 -1926. This is a quote I found on Wikipedia regarding this strike:

“His experiences with the IWW led Moyer to the conclusion that the federation was too radical. Moyer was especially disturbed by the IWW’s refusal to ally with or endorse any political party, which had been the key to Moyer’s support for the creation of the IWW. In 1908, Moyer led the WFM out of the IWW, taking most of the IWW’s membership (which belonged to the WFM) with him. Concerned that the WFM’s reputation for radicalism was making it difficult to reach collective bargaining agreements, Moyer re-affiliated his union with the conservative American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1911.” **

“This strike was not started by the I.W.W., but has been underway the past six years. We have appealed to every labor official in Minnesota to have the miners on the range organized, but we have been shuttled back and forth between the Western Federation of Miners and other organizations who passed us on again until finally the miners took things into their own hands and went out without organization.” ***                                 M.E. Shusterich A leader of the Mesabi Range Strike

So to briefly summarize the situation, Mesabi’s miners wanted relief from the stains of their labor. One union, the WFM, wished to settle with owners, and those influenced by the more aggressive IWW did not wish to settle. This is much more complex than I originally thought, but I ask You to help me unravel these motive conflicts. Like many of our struggles in life, our motives become less clear when loyalties to multiple relationships are involved.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the Finnish workers. Lord, You have seen how these men worked and know the exact conditions they strained under. Will You give acknowledgement to their labors, and remember the dangers they faced? Will You forgive any envy or discontent in their hearts if that led them to demanding more? Will You forgive their judgements and expectations of their employer; the Oliver Iron Mining Company?

Likewise, will You remember the strains of those in management at Oliver Mining? Will You hear their frustrations of trying to communicate with those who don’t speak the language of business? Will You forgive them their false assessments of these Finnish laborers? Assessments such as, “lazy”, “ungrateful”, and “not man enough for the job” come to mind. 

Another set of issues that added to the fog of this strike were as simple as culture and language clashes. These were readily identified and understood by the Italian Socialist Teofilo Petriella who joined with the WFM to assist with the strike.

“The WFM asked Petriella to organize these ethnically diverse miners on the Mesabi Range. In a 1907 report to the WFM, Petriella noted that the steel trust had earned a net total of $156,624,273, but had only paid out $47,765,540 in wages to the 202,457 men they employed. This was important information the miners needed to know because they had not been given a raise in two years. Unfortunately none of the WFM organizers spoke Slovenian, Italian, or Finnish so they could not effectively communicate with the vast majority of disgruntled workers. Petriella’s arrival heralded a new beginning for the organization efforts because he could address the Italians in their native tongue. He also brought in Finnish and Slovenian speakers to assist in the recruitment drive. With their help, he was able to establish or found new union chapters in Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl, Virginia, Eveleth, and Aurora, plus many other smaller communities in the region. Within these organizations, Petriella split the membership along ethnic lines, which allowed immigrants to organize with their fellow countrymen.****

Will You remember these contributions towards clarity made by Petriella, Lord? Will You forgive the judgments made in this strike based on region? Will You forgive the Northern Europeans their prejudices towards the Southern Europeans, and vice versa? So many of our disputes stem from language and or culture. They did not reach clarity because of imprecise language skills to have a nuanced conversation. Presently, we still have the same problem. Forgive us our failures, past and present, to learn and speak each others’ language. Will You inspire future generations to know each other better by knowing both culture and language?

This event encapsulates the ironies of our human nature and heritage in the conflict of the WFM and the IWW. These two organizations both sought to represent their large memberships in labor disputes. Though their stated purpose was to unify miners, in this case, their conflict with each other left their memberships without representation in Mesabi.

Lord, will You forgive the judgements of the WFM towards the IWW? Will You forgive their assessment of the “radicalism” of the IWW? Conversely, will You forgive the IWW of their judgements of the “conservatism” of the WFM? Will You forgive these internal conflicts of labor leadership that left the miners on their own? Will You show us Your plan to resolve such situations? Will You unify us as Your people and forgive our denial of the other man’s talents? 

When all is said and done, a huge elephant in this room is envy. It reveals itself to be a root cause of many schisms and revolutions, especially driven by the popular socialist thought that justice is necessarily economic equality. Yet, I question if the human heart would be pleased if we ever reached exact and total economic equality.

Why? There are too many examples in history and life where the difference between envy and contentment is a decision of the spirit, mind, will, and emotions. We may not be able to control our environment or living conditions, but we can choose our response.

For example, my wife worked with the Sisters of Charity in Haiti. These nuns owned two changes of clothes and a bucket. That’s it! No other possessions. Yet, they found joy in the midst of squalor, and their contentment brought hope and help to thousands of poor. 

I do not diminish that it’s right to oppose evil. I do not think truth tellers should lose their jobs, be beaten, or even killed for standing up for themselves and others. What I ask of You is that You empower us to oppose evil without becoming evil.

Lord Jesus Christ, You know what it’s like to be poor, homeless, and friendless. Will You give us character that chooses contentment in spite of circumstances? Direct our eyes to You in our seasons of struggle when we are truly powerless and suffering. Will You take this envy from the Mesabi Strike of 1907 up, out, and onto Your cross? Will You be our Heavenly Mediator in our strikes today with oppression, economic injustice, and the envy of our own hearts, and bring a just settlement?

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Moyer

*** Philip Sheldon Foner, History of the labor movement in the United States, 1980, 4th edition, pages 493-494.

**** This quote is from a transcript on “Teofilo Petriella : Marxist Revolutionary” given by Paul Lubotina at Michigan Tech.   http://digitalcommons.mtu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=copperstrikesymposium

 

 

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