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Newspaper Page Text
SATURDAY, NOV. 20th, 1920.
My Own Shop
Some facts about Shingle Weavers and their work.
By Three Fingered Ole.
The manufacture of shingles is one of the
largest branches of the lumber industry. In north
ern California, Oregon and Washington there are
many hundreds of shingle mills employing from
half a dozen to two hundred men.
The work is exceptionally dangerous and the
cedar dust is a cause of lung diseases. Shingle
weavers become victims of "shingle weavers
asthma", a disease that has sent many of our
craft to an untimely grave. The chief danger of
the trade however, lies in the risk of losing fing
ers, hands and whole arms by coming in contact
with the saws. Sawers, knee-bolter men, cut-off
men, knot -sawyers and clippermen run constant
chances of being mangled in this manner.
Owing to the piece-work system that prevails
in this industry the machines ai'e speeded to the
limit of human andurance. The machine sets the
pace, the men keep up if they can. Day, labor is
practically unknown. When you consider that we
must work with our hands within touching dis
tance of the saws, at a terrific rate of speed, you
realize the risk to our fingers. The shingle weaver
who has not lost at least one finger is the exep
tion, those who have lost several are the rule.
In this state, Washington, we have a State In
dustrial Insurance which sometimes pays us as
much as 30 or 40 dollars for a finger. One of our
boys just got back to work after six months lay
off due to losing four fingers and half his thumb.
He got $350.00 and cannot work as efficiently as
before, and certainly not at any other trade. The
insurance is paid out of a tax collected from
the employers based on a percentage of their year
ly payroll. This method fools some weavers into
believing that the State is their friend until they
lose a finger or two.
The greatest battle was for the eight hour day
in the summer of 1917. Previous to this date the
10 hour day had prevailed. But in justice to all the
boys who helped win that fight I should go a little
way into another branch of the lumbering in
dustry, that of the logging operations in the woods
and also in the saw mills.
Up to within a few years before 1917 the work
ers in these three branches of one industry were
as far apart as the poles. Only the weavers were
organized. The lumber mill men and the loggers
were considered by the weavers as hopeless and
unorganizable. They associated little together in
spite of the fact that they were often living in
the same camp. The weavers were a proud lot and
more independent in action.
But the activity of the I. W. W. with its message
of Industrial Unionism had been steadily under
mining this separatist condition and at this time
had pretty thouroughly saturated these three
groups ; to such an extent in fact, that many weav
ers held both an A. F. of L. and I. W. W. card.
The L W. W. had succeeded in organizing the
un-organizable. They had outposts in eveiy logging
camp, on every skid road could be met the job
delegates coming and going, going at the orders
of the boss and coming in from the employment
office. The I. W. W. had completely turned these
loggers and mill men into militant agitators.
Of the two organizations, the I. W. W. in the
woods was the far stronger of the two and more
revolutionary. The Industrial Wrker, then edited
by fellow worker McDonald, now in Leavenworth,
did splendid constructive work just previous and
during the strike which occurred in July.
Altho the voters of the state had renounced the
eight hour day at the previous election, the work
ers in this industry were ready at this time to try
for it on their own strength. The strike was called,
the weavers going out first, followed instantly by
the L W. W. in the lumber mills and logging
camps. With the supply of raw material cut off
by the loggers, there was no possibility of the
strike being lost thru the hiring of scabs. It was 1
the greatest display of solidarity ever seen in this
industry and within two months the eight hour
day was the regular thing, and the men were mak
ing more per day than before under the ten hour
Owing to the I. W. W. organization, we had an
industrial strike and of course our chances for
success were multiplied many fold thereby. The
shigle weavers may thank this much maligued or
ganization for the fact that we now work two
hours less each day and live all around better
lives for it.