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"Father" Thomas J Haggerty

By x364955 - October 26, 2011

Father Thomas J. Haggerty was a Catholic priest in rural New Mexico, co-founder of the IWW, and a champion of working people.

Haggerty was born in 1862, and ordained a priest in Chicago in 1895. Haggerty was rumored to be a socialist even before his ordination, and was consequently problematic for the Church. He was soon transferred to the Archdiocese of Dallas, and was stationed in Paris, Texas, where it was likely assumed he could not get into trouble.

While serving in Paris, TX, Haggerty witnessed the mistreatment of Mexican railroad laborers, and was outraged; He responded by translating socialist tracts into Spanish and distributing them to the laborers. The railroad bosses did not take kindly to this, and sent goons to intimidate the firebrand priest. Haggerty did not back down. To the contrary, he told the goons "Tell the people who sent you here that I have a brace of Colts and can hit a dime at twenty paces." This likely precipitated Father Haggerty's transfer 1n 1903 to the even more obscure Santa Fe Archdiocese, where Haggerty served as Associate Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The Church had unwittingly transferred Haggerty into a hotbed of Activism.

Las Vegas, New Mexico was a pivotal point in the resistance to the invasion and colonization of the Hispanic and Indigenous communities by carpetbaggers from back east. A little more than a decade prior to Haggerty's arrival, the Hererra brothers, Juan José, Niconor and Pablo, founded the Gorras Blancas, a vigilante organization dedicated to armed resistance against efforts to break up and privatize the common lands of Las Vegas and surrounding communities. The Herreras also founded an independent branch of the Knights of Labor union, named Los Caballeros de Trabajo, and founded an independent populist political party, el Partido del Pueblo Unido. By the time Haggerty arrived, the Gorras Blancas had been suppressed, el Partido del Pueblo Unido was no more, and Pablo Herrera had been assassinated in the town plaza. Juan José had fled the state, and died the same year that Haggerty arrived in Las Vegas, NM.

Father Haggerty wasted no time in taking up the torch passed by the Herrera brothers. He became the editor of the American Labor Union's newspaper, the Voice of Labor, and was eventually suspended from parish duties by the Santa Fe Archdiocese after he helped organize a miners revolt in southern Colorado. Haggerty's detractors claimed he was defrocked, but documents do not support this claim, and Haggerty denied it; When the accusation was made at organizing meetings and speeches, Haggerty would reply that he was “as Catholic as the Pope.”

On June 27,1905, Haggerty, along with many others including William D. ("Big Bill") Haywood, Daniel De Leon, Eugene V. Debs, Thomas J Haggerty, Lucy Parsons and "Mother" Mary Harris Jones, co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. Haggerty authored the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, and also was responsible for creating the chart of organized labor known as “Father Haggerty's Wheel.”

Haggerty believed in direct action and grassroots organizing to empower American workers, and took a dim view of those socialists reformists who sought change through political means. Haggerty referred to such derisively as “slowsialists.” He summed up his view of voting as an avenue of change, in these terse words- "The Ballot Box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation of the working class, and in my opinion it never will."

Father Haggerty faded from public view not long after the IWW was founded. He is believed to have returned to Chicago where he eked out a living teaching Spanish. His mark on the IWW, and on the American labor movement, is indelible.