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100 years ago in Spokane: Secretary of labor promises crackdown on ‘alien disturbers’

UPDATED: Fri., March 2, 2018

Local Wobblies were feeling the heat after the U.S. Labor Secretary promised a “general roundup” of “alien disturbers.” (Spokesman-Review archives)
Local Wobblies were feeling the heat after the U.S. Labor Secretary promised a “general roundup” of “alien disturbers.” (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane’s large Wobbly contingent was bracing for trouble after the U.S. labor secretary promised a “general roundup” of “alien disturbers,” including members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies).

The secretary said he would detain anyone advocating sabotage or anarchy, whether Wobblies or not. But particular attention was being paid to Wobbly headquarters in Seattle and, presumably, Spokane.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle summed up the situation up with this headline: “Local Wobblies To Get It In Neck.”

Fred Hegge, the Spokane district secretary for the Wobblies’ Lumber Workers Union, said he was not surprised by the order, but denied the charge of anarchy.

“Our principles are as different as day and night,” he said. “Anarchy stands for individual action and IWW for mass action.”

Asked if the Wobblies advocated sabotage, Hegge said, “Sabotage is a very deep question and it all depends on what you consider sabotage. The capitalistic class has one definition and the IWW has another. The common meaning is destruction of property. We expect to take over the property ourselves one of these days and we don’t want to destroy any of it.”

He said there were many aliens in the organization, since it consisted largely of migratory workers, and “we do not inquire into a man’s nationality when he joins.”

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