The Everett Massacre occurred 100 years ago this Saturday.
It was the bloodiest labor dispute in Northwest history.
It’s something even some people who grew up here don’t know about. But it’s important.
The short version:
The International Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”) was (and is) the most radical labor group America ever had. Its ultimate stated goal was not to reform the capitalist system but to replace it with a “workers’ society,” built around “one big union of all the workers.” The IWW had gained a local foothold among loggers. It attracted the interest of many (abused, underpaid) workers, and the ire of corporate leaders and the politicians they owned.
In 1916, IWW people wanted to intervene in a months-long strike by workers at a Everett shingle mill. The strikers weren’t just looking for more money, but to reform a factory setup that led to amputated fingers through saws and respiratory deaths from breathing sawdust.
The strikers were violently opposed by Snohomish County Sheriff Donald McRae and the Everett Police.
On Nov. 5, 1916, some 250 IWW organizers came from Seattle to Everett on the steamships Verona and Calista. They intended to stage a public demonstration supporting the strikers.
Sheriff McRae and some 200 volunteer “citizen deputies” met the Verona at the dock. Harsh words were exchanged. Someone fired a first shot. Other shots came in response.
Five Wobblies and two “deputies” were killed. Others were deliberately injured when they were forced to run a gauntlet of anti-union goons.
National Guard troops were sent to Everett.
When the Verona returned to Seattle (the Calista didn’t even try to land), 74 IWW members were arrested. One, teamster Thomas Tracy, was charged with the deputies’ murder. An IWW trial lawyer achieved his acquittal.
No deputies were arrested or charged.
(Everett Herald) (SeaTimes) (Everett Public Library) (HistoryLink) (UW Libraries) (The Stand)
There’s a commemorative concert tonight at the historic Everett Theater (my ol’ childhood movie spot). It includes Jason Webley, Kevin Murphy (Moondoggies), Tomo Nakayama, and even NY composer Kate Copeland.
A new documentary by Denise Ohio about the incident, Verona: The Story of the Everett Massacre, screens Saturday at the Everett Public Library and Sunday at the Everett Theatre.