(1) The I.W.W. - A Brief History
In the fall of 1904 eight men active in the revolutionary labor movement held a conference. After exchanging views and discussing the conditions then confronting the workers of the United States, they decided to issue a call for a larger gathering.
These eight workers were Isaac Cowen, American representative of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers of Great Britain, Clarence Smith, general secretary-treasurer of the American Labor Union, Thomas J. Hagerty, editor of the "Voice of Labor," official organ of the A.L.U., George Estes, president of the United Brotherhood of Railway Employes, W.L. Hall, general secretary-treasurer U.B.R.E., Charles O. Sherman, secretary of the United Metal Workers, Wm. E. Trautmann, editor of the "Brauer Zeitung" the official organ of the United Brewery Workers of America, and Eugene V. Debs, founder of the American Railway Union, the Socialist Party of America, and staunch believer in the concept of industrial unionism.
Invitations were then sent out to thirty-six additional individuals who were active in radical labor organizations and the socialist political movement of the United States, inviting them to meet in secret conference in Chicago, Illinois on January 2, 1905.
Of the thirty-six who received invitations, but two declined to attend the proposed conference--Max S. Hayes and Victor Berger--both of whom were in editorial charge of socialist political party and trade union organs.
The conference met at the appointed time with thirty present, and drew up the Industrial Union Manifesto calling for a convention to be held in Chicago, June 27, 1905, for the purpose of launching an organization in accord with the principles set forth in the Manifesto. The work of circulating the Manifesto was handled by an executive committee of the conference, the American Labor Union and the Western Federation of Miners.
The Manifesto was widely circulated in several languages.
On the date set the convention assembled with 186 delegates present from 34 state, district, national and local organizations representing about 90,000 members. All who were present as delegates were not there in good faith. Knowledge of this fact caused the signers of the Manifesto to constitute themselves a temporary committee on credentials.
This temporary credentials committee ruled that representation for organizations would be based upon the number of members in their respective organizations only where such delegates were empowered by their organizations to install said organizations as integral parts of the Industrial Union when formed. Where not so empowered delegates would only be allowed one vote.
One of the delegations present was from the Illinois State District of the United Mine Workers of America. The membership of that district at that time was in the neighborhood of 50,000. Under the above rule these delegates were seated with one vote each. This brings the number of members represented down to 40,000. Several other organizations that had delegates present existed mainly on paper; so it is safe to say that 40,000 is a good estimate of the number of workers represented in the first convention.
The foregoing figures will show that the precautions adopted by the signers of the Manifesto were all that prevented the opponents of the industrial union from capturing the convention and blocking any effort to start the organization. It is a fact that many of those who were present as delegates on the floor of the first convention and the organizations that they represented have bitterly fought the I. W. W. from the close of the first convention up to the present day.
The organizations that installed as a part of the new organization were: Western Federation of Miners, 27,000 members; Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, 1,450 members; Punch Press Operators, 168 members; United Metal Workers, 3,000 members; Longshoremen's Union, 400 members; the American Labor Union, 16,500 members; United Brotherhood of Railway Employees, 2,087 members.*
Next page: (2) The Original I. W. W. Preamble
[*] Membership claims for the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, United Metal Workers, and the American Labor Union existed almost wholly on paper.