1892: How to Deal with Scabs

Switchmen's JournalCLEVERLY CAPTURED

A very clever piece of work was recently done by Thomas I. Kidd in preventing the bosses putting an end to the strike of the St. Louis machine woodworkers for a shorter working day. Mr. Kidd is the general secretary of the national organization of the woodworkers and is the executive head of the order. Having learned that a large number of non-union men were being gathered up in Chicago to be shipped to St. Louis Mr. Kidd sauntered into the headquarters and giving a fictitious name was promptly enrolled by the bosses eager for all the skilled woodworkers who could be found. Then Mr. Kidd casually enquired if they were meeting with success and was told that everything was going all right to break the backbone of the strike into small fragments. Growing confidential as he warmed up to the subject the boss asserted that the strike was as good as lost and gleefully informed Mr. Kidd that the proprietors had raised a large sum of money to smash the wood worker’s organization into smithereens.

When the train with a special car filled with the non-union men pulled out of Chicago for St. Louis the three bosses in charge retired to the sleeper to dream of success on the morrow, of the triumph of starvation wages, of big profits, of strikes with broken backbones and labor organizations smashed flatter than a plutocrat’s conscience. It is just possible that they would have been less serenely confident had they known that the official head of the organization they were fighting was aboard the train and that two of his trusty lieutenants were among the men they had employed. As the train

neared St. Louis and morning toilet began Mr. Kidd entered the car and engaging in conversation with a little group in one corner broached the question of the rightfullness of taking the places of the strikers. He dwelt upon the fact that the strikers were fighting the battle of all who toil; that the machine woodworkers of the country are underpaid and over worked; that the hodcarriers received better pay and have shorter hours; that to take the places of the strikers meant the continuance of poor pay; that the strikers were heroically struggling for justice; “and,” he concluded, “for my part I will never take the place of any man who is honestly trying to better his condition.” “I’m with you, by thunder” said a sympathetic listener. “Here two.” and “count me in.” said the others. Then the little group got into the middle of the car and stated the case. “Well, if you won’t go to work we won’t either,” was the general sentiment, and the day was won. At this interesting juncture the boss who had hired Mr. Kidd under his alias made his appearance. “Here comes the boss” whispered some of the men. “Well let him come now” and as the breaker of strikes and smasher of organizations walked in the man he had been so confidential with the day before handed him a card which read: Thos Kidd. General Secretary of the Machine Wood Workers Industrial Union. The confiding boss stared blankly at the bit of pasteboard but as the train stopped at Third St. he managed to gasp out, “We’ll get off here, boys.” “No, we’ll go on to the depot, boys” said the secretary, and the boys went. A few of them accepted an invitation to breakfast with the boss, but not a soul went to work. Later in the day they assembled at the strikers’ hall, where a scheme for finding them work was promptly put into operation. Mr. Kidd’s plan of annihilating scabs is one of the happiest ever formed. The nerve it required and the skill displayed challenge the admiration of everybody.

Switchmen’s Journal Vol. VII, No. 5 (September 1892)

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