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November 5: The Everett Lumber Massacre

November 5, 2012

Abraham Rabinowitz, 22, was among between seven and twelve members of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) who were killed on a dock in Everett, Washington on this date in 1916, when two boats carrying 300 Wobblies were met with massive gunfire. The shingle weavers of the town, which was a major manufacturer of roofing shingles, had been on strike since the summer, but only one mill was still on strike when the IWW showed up and intensified its organizing work. (The shingle weavers considered themselves skilled workers and generally preferred the American Federation of Labor.) Days before November 5th, some forty Wobblies were rounded up, beaten, and marched to Seattle. When they returned in full force aboard hired boats, they were shot down on the docks by law enforcement and gunmen hired by the mill owners’ Commercial Club. Dozens more Wobblies were seriously wounded, and more than 100 workers (several Jews among them) were arrested for unlawful assembly and manslaughter (for the deaths of two of the gunmen, who were actually killed by friendly fire). Many of those incarcerated were beaten and held in jail until May, but only one had charges pressed, and he was acquitted by jury. The body of Abraham Rabinowitz — described by some sources as a college student — was shipped to New York at the request of his sister. The others were buried at the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, overlooking Seattle, and their graves became the site of mass demonstrations.
“Capitalism stood forth in all its hideous nakedness on that day of red madness, and public opinion was such that the striking shingle weavers had but to persistently press their point in order to win. A conference of prominent men, held in Everett on Monday, decided that the situation could be relieved only by a settlement of the strike. The mill men, when called in, abruptly refused to grant a single demand so long as the men were still out, an attitude they could not have maintained for long. Listening to the false advice of ‘friends of labor’ and ‘labor leaders,’ the shingle weavers . . . returned to their slavery, unconditional surrender being the price they were forced to pay for the doubtful privilege of ‘relieving the social tension.’ But with the pay envelopes that could not be stretched to cover the increased cost of living, the weavers, discouraged to an extent and lacking their former solidarity, were forced to down tools again within a few weeks by the greatest of all strike agitators—Hunger.” —The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Everett massacre, by Walker C. Smith

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