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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

IWW Yearbook 1912

This is a chronological database of campaigns, strikes, and labor related events as recorded in the Industrial Worker. It was researched by Michael Hanley. Start by reading his highlights report. Below that is the database.

Highlights 1912 by Michael Hanley

This was the year that began to reveal the potential of the IWW to reach workers that the AFL unions could not or would not organize. The textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts would last for months and prove to be one of the IWW’s greatest successes, yielding higher wages, new members, and world-wide attention. The Industrial Worker followed the strike closely as well as the subsequent trials of IWW leaders Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti.  The year also saw new free speech fights in the West, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory verdict, and many strikes, including a walkout by black and white timber workers in Louisiana.

This was a banner year for free speech movements instigated by the IWW. Extended confrontations occurred in Aberdeen, WA, New Bedford, MA, San Francisco, San Diego, and Oakland. Most of these events began when the IWW members attempted to hold public meetings on street corners. The assumption was that the First Amendment would protect their assembly rights, but increasingly strict local ordinances and police presence made having those meetings more and more difficult. According to the Industrial Worker, the IWW would try to follow the rules by acquiring the necessary permits and contacting authorities to warn them well in advance of their meetings, but they still met with resistance. In all of the cities where free speech became a serious issue in the Industrial Worker, peaceful demonstrations would often turn into riots or mass arrest situations. Many articles in the Industrial Worker detailed eyewitness accounts of unsanitary conditions in the jails and prisons where demonstrators were locked up. Some city officials such as in Manchester, NH, gave up the fight and allowed the IWW to have their space within a matter of days. Other cities, such as San Diego, had free speech conflicts that lasted for over a year. In addition to its length, San Diego’s free speech conflicts were also notable for the authorities’ use of vigilantes against IWW demonstrators.

[read full report/close report]

The articles referenced in the database can be found in the online copies of Industrial Worker digitized by Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library Project at

Date Title Place State Description
1/5/1912 Longshoremen Strike Boston MA 2,500 Boston longshoremen began a general strike to demand a wage increase.
1/11/1912 Thugs Made to Back Up Brawley CA Three workers in Brawley, CA, were arrested because of suspicions that they had stolen a pig. They were later released because the local sheriff was unable to find substantial evidence.
1/11/1912 Protest Against Aberdeen Thugs Oakland CA I.W.W. members in Oakland, CA, planned a protest in solidarity with members participating in the free speech fight in Aberdeen, WA.
1/15/1912 Workers Are Persecuted Brawley CA Almost everyone involved in the pig-stealing situation in Brawley was arrested again.
1/17/1912 Victory for I.W.W. in Aberdeen! Aberdeen WA After a long struggle for free speech rights in Aberdeen, WA, the I.W.W. was able to successfully obtain the right to assemble and publicly speak.
1/18/1912 Police Fight Frisco I.W.W. San Francisco CA An attempt to hold an I.W.W. meeting on the streets of San Francisco was thwarted by a series of police arrests.
1/18/1912 Assistance Is Needed Holtville CA An I.W.W. man was kidnapped near Holtville, CA, and taken to Mexico by two Mexican and two American officials without warrants or any other papers.
1/25/1912 The Textile Strike Lawrence MA The textile strike in Lawrence, MA, continued with a parade that was free from conflict.
1/25/1912 Big Strike in New England Lawrence MA The strike in Lawrence, MA, caused a group of riots in woolen mills that caused several workers, police officers, and citizens to sustain minor injuries.
1/25/1912 "Not Guilty" New York City NY A jury found the defendants involved in the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire not guilty.
1/30/1912 Rah-Rah Scabs University of Michigan MI Firefighters and coal wheelers at the University of Michigan went on strike. They were replaced by students.
2/8/1912 Unemployed Invade San Diego San Diego CA Members of the I.W.W. and the Socialist party publicly demonstrated in San Diego in order to push back against a new city ordinance limiting free speech.
2/8/1912 Militia Used On Strikers Lawrence MA The strikers and mill owners in Lawrence have not come close to reaching an agreement.
2/8/1912 San Francisco Justice San Francisco CA Those arrested in San Francisco free speech demonstrations were sentenced to a $10 fine or 10 days in prison.
2/15/1912 Class War Rages In Lawrence Lawrence MA The American Federation of Labor expressed interest in taking over as the representative organization for the strike in Lawrence.
2/17/1912 New Hampshire Jails Speakers Manchester NH Fearing an impending strike similar to Lawrence, mill owners in New Hampshire sent police to arrest free speech demonstrators in the Hampshire district.
2/18/1912 Oakland Meeting Oakland CA A meeting was held at Hamilton Auditorium in Oakland, CA among members of the I.W.W. and the Socialist party to discuss issues surrounding the Lawrence strike.
2/19/1912 Strike Meeting in Seattle Seattle WA To show solidarity with the Lawrence strikers, workers conducted a meeting in Seattle in order to strategize and take up collections to fund the strike.
2/21/1912 Ettor Bount Over to Grand Jury Salem MA A judge ruled that Ettor and Giovannitti would be bound over to a grand jury on a charge of accessory to murder.
2/22/1912 Silly San Diego Fights I.W.W. San Diego CA Ninety men and women were jailed in San Diego after demonstrating against the new free speech ordinance, which took effect on February 8, 1912.
2/23/1912 Was Easy to Whip Manchester Manchester NH A public meeting of over 5,000 went uninterrupted by authorities in Manchester, NH, signaling a victory for the I.W.W. and free speech activists.
2/26/1912 Change Tactics In San Diego San Diego CA A large parade was held by radicals in San Diego to protest free speech suppression as well as unsanitary conditions in the jails for incarcerated demonstrators.
2/29/1912 Report of Lumber Workers' Convention This article delivers a summary of the topics and resolutions at the lumber workers' convention.
3/3/1912 Workers Outraged In Oakland! Oakland CA Riots broke out in Oakland, CA, after the I.W.W. attempted to stage public protests of police regulation. It resulted in several injuries and six arrests.
3/3/1912 Minneapolis Meeting Minneapolis MN Two Lawrence strike meetings were held in Minneapolis, MN.
3/4/1912 Organizer Thompson Murderously Assaulted Lawrence MA An attempt on the life of the General Organizer of the I.W.W. was made in connection with the Lawrence strikes. He was critically injured and there were very few initial clues left behind.
3/7/1912 Lawrence Fight Stirs Nation Lawrence MA The textile worker strike in Lawrence continued. The mill owners offered a wage increase of 5 to 8 percent, but the I.W.W. stood by its demand for 15 percent.
3/9/1912 Solidarity Shown in Parade New York City NY A parade was held in New York City to show solidarity with the strikers in Lawrence.
3/10/1912 Every Little Bit Helps Spokane WA I.W.W. members in Spokane, WA, held a Lawrence strike protest meeting.
3/14/1912 Strike On At Hoquiam, Wash. Hoquiam WA Mill workers in Hoquiam, WA, began a strike and picketing for increased wages
3/14/1912 Oakland Thugs Active Oakland CA Several attempts to use legally allowed public meeting space to protest free speech violations were disrupted by police presence. This came to a head when police broke up a regular Socialist meeting which occurred indoors.
3/14/1912 Extra Police in San Diego San Diego CA More police officers and more arrests have been added in connection with the free speech demonstrations occurring in San Diego.
3/21/1912 Strike Still On At Lawrence Lawrence MA The textile strike in Lawrence, MA, continued. More children were being sent to other parts of the country, more small demonstrations occurred, and more unsuccessful negotiations were offered and examined.
3/25/1912 Raymond Mob Raids Hall and Deports Strikers Raymond WA Several hundred men in Raymond, WA, went on strike in solidarity with movements in Hoquiam and Aberdeen. In response, a mob invaded their indoor headquarters and arrested many of the strikers.
3/28/1912 Lumber Workers Strike Spreads Grays Harbor WA The I.W.W. lumber strike slowly spread throughout Grays Harbor, resulting in more arrests and increased membership within the I.W.W.
3/28/1912 What Frisco Is Doing San Francisco CA Multiple meetings have been held in San Francisco to show solidarity with the Lawrence strikers.
3/31/1912 Police Commit Murder in San Diego San Diego CA A free speech demonstrator died due to injuries inflicted upon him by police officers in San Diego,
4/11/1912 Strike Spreads To Tacoma Seattle WA Mill workers in Tacoma, WA, walked out of work in solidarity with the Grays Harbor strikers.
4/11/1912 Colorado Coal Miners CO Coal miners in northern Colorado won their strike.
4/15/1912 Strike at Bovill, Idaho Bovill ID All of the workers at Potlatch Lumber Company in Boville, ID, went on strike seeking better food and a pay increase of 25 cents.
4/21/1912 Construction Strike at Salem Salem OR Oregon Electric Railway workers went on strike, with the I.W.W. at the helm, to negotiate wages, hours, and food.
5/1/1912 Monster May Day Parade in Lawrence Lawrence MA Five thousand I.W.W. members in Lawrence, MA, marched in a large May Day parade.
5/23/1912 Chicago Freight Handlers Strike Chicago IL Freight handlers, checkers, and receiving clerks in Chicago went on strike for better wages and a small increase in holiday time.
6/20/1912 Construction Strike at White Salmon, Wash. White Salmon WA Employees at the Northwestern Electric, Co.'s damn began a strike under the leadership of the I.W.W.
6/23/1912 Hoodlums Interrupt Covington Hall Carson LA A mass meeting on a public road in Carson, LA, was interrupted by a gang of "hoodlums" who used loud noisemakers to make sure that I.W.W. speakers could not be heard.
6/28/1912 Street Speaking Stopped In New Bedford New Bedford MA An I.W.W. organizer speaking to a crowd of 1,500 on the streets was interrupted and forced to disperse by police officers.
7/15/1912 Big Textile Strike in New Bedford, Massachusetts New Bedford MA The I.W.W. teamed up with the United Textile Workers to help textile workers in New Bedford, MA, to go on strike to protest an unfair wage deduction rule.
7/18/1912 Kirby's Thug's Shed Worker's Blood! Grabow LA Employees of the Southern Lumber Operators' Association who chose to strike were suddenly attacked by "thugs" who were allegedly sent by their employer.
7/18/1912 The I.W.W. and the Los Angeles Building Trades' Strike Los Angeles CA The I.W.W. and the American Federation of Labor are in conflict regarding how to deal with the exclusivity of craft unions.
7/25/1912 Seattle Protests Seattle WA Members of the I.W.W. and the Socialist party held a protest and distributed pamphlets in protest of the imprisonment of Ettor and Giovannitti.
8/22/1912 Pittsburg Police Thugs Brutally Club Workers Pittsburg PA Five thousand Socialists clashed with police after they tried to break up an open air meeting.
8/24/1912 Loggers Strike For Better Grub Deep River WA Loggers in Deep River, WA, went on strike in protest of poor food.
8/28/1912 Cleveland Declines With Thanks Cleveland OH Police arrested four I.W.W. members on August 28th in Cleveland, OH, for publicly preaching anarchy.
9/7/1912 War in Minneapolis Minneapolis MN Twenty I.W.W. members were arrested in Minneapolis, MN, for speaking publicly on the streets.
9/15/1912 Big Demonstration in Boston Boston MA At least forty thousand people held a large protest in Boston, MA, to demonstrate against the Ettor and Giovannitti trial.
9/17/1912 A Great Convention Chicago IL The seventh annual I.W.W. convention was held. It was the organization's largest single gathering since 1904.
9/26/1912 The Duluth Street Car Strike Duluth MN Craftsmen who work on street cars in Duluth, MN, went on strike in order to protest the firing of employees who were instrumental in the attempted formation of their union.
10/5/1912 One Big Parade San Francisco CA The I.W.W. held a 5,000-person parade in San Francisco, CA, that managed to completely block traffic on Market street.
10/6/1912 Portland Again Portland OR An Ettor-Giovannitti demonstration was held in Portland, OR, using the combined forces of the Socialist party and the I.W.W.
10/17/1912 Strike of Piano Workers New York City NY Piano workers in New York City went on strike, bringing the local piano industry to a halt.
10/31/1912 On To Little Falls, New York Little Falls NY Textile workers in Little Falls, NY, have gone on strike in solidarity against wage cuts and the passage of a 54-hour workweek law.
11/11/1912 A Steel Trust Lock-Out Algoma Iron Works locked employees out after they requested a time and a half rate for overtime and Sundays off. 
11/18/1912 Thirteen Hundred Timber Workers Out On Strike Merryville LA 1,300 timber workers in Merryville, LA, went on strike against the American Lumber Company's decision to fire anyone who served as a witness for the defense in the Grabow Riot trial.
11/21/1912 I.W.W. Tailors Strike at Frost & Co. Seattle Seattle WA Tailors at Frost & Co. in Seattle, WA, went on strike to protest employer discrimination against I.W.W. members.
11/21/1912 Riot In Butte, Mont. Butte MT A small crowd of socialists in Butte, MT, was attacked by an angry mob, which caused a riot.
11/21/1912 Buffalo Hotel Workers Strike Buffalo NY Hotel workers in Buffalo, NY, went on strike.
11/24/1912 Ettor and Giovannitti's Closing Words to the Jury Salem MA Ettor and Giovannitti were allowed to speak their final words to the jury during their trial.
12/1/1912 Men Strike On Oregon Road OR 125 railroad workers went on strike in Portland and Eugene in protest against a proposed wage cut of 50 cents.
12/5/1912 Another Craft Victory Minneapolis MN Waitresses working at the Eureka restaurant in Minneapolis, MN, went on strike against poor food and in favor of a $1 per week wage increase.
12/12/1912 Free! By the Mighty Power of United Labor! Salem MA The Ettor and Giovannitti ended in an acquittal.