Chapter 31 continues
The story so far: Strike organizers are told, “Don’t be forgetting the ladies.”
Andre turned to Katka. “Adeline says all the women read your paper. She also says everyone knows it’s you and Lily who write it.”
“It’s a small town, dearie,” Adeline said, smiling. “What did you think?”
“The real question is,” Andre continued, “will your paper convince the women to support their husbands through this strike, even if things get tough?”
“The Iron Range Ladies Journal will be your cover. Being the primary reporter, now that Lily has the baby to care for, will give you journalist status and therefore access to the union meetings, even though you are not a union member. However, you are here because we need another publication, too. The writer must remain anonymous. We want you to call it The Official Strike Bulletin of the Mesabi Strikers and you will need to publish it as often as we need, sometimes in great haste.”
“I suggest Strike Bulletin.”
He laughed. “I am nothing if not verbose.”
Adeline Sherek, the midwife, spoke. “Katka has means of distribution established.”
“Who is it?” Andre asked.
“I cannot tell you,” Katka said, “because I do not know. Lily said the publisher wished to remain unknown. We drop off the papers and he picks them up before dawn.”
“I know him,” Adeline Sherek said. “We can trust him.”
“Consider yourself hired, Miss Kovich. Take out your notebook and pen. This is for your own education, but it’s important.” Katka did as she was told.
Andre gestured around the room. “All the folks you see here,” he told her, “are old Wobblies, members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Except for Milo here. New, but — as you know — valuable. The IWW has already sent Paul Schmidt here, from headquarters. They will be sending more of their best organizers today. They are set to arrive in Biwabik on the four o’clock train. They will send Carlo Tresca, an anarchist and labor organizer. He will take care of the Italians, but he also speaks perfect English and is a fiery speaker. Sam Scarlett and Joseph Ettor will come. Probably more. Maybe they will even send Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. When this meeting is over, I will give you some literature. You will read up on these men and women.”
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. At Ellis Island, the woman with the black hair and blue eyes … her name was Elizabeth. Anton had told her that much. Katka recorded her name in her notebook. She would ask Paul about her later.
Katka wrote down the names and double-checked the spellings. Then she listened as Johan Koski and William Jarvi went over the demands the strikers would vote on. There was some discussion, some arguing, but by the end of the hour, Katka read her notes out loud to the group:
1. Miners will earn $3.50 per day for work in wet places, deep underground. $3 per day for dry places in the underground mines. $2.75 per day for surface workers.
2. Eight hours constitutes a day’s work.
3. A miner’s workday begins when they arrive at the mine, not when they arrived at their mining location, which takes a long time.
4. Miners will be paid twice per month, not once.
5. The contract system will be abolished. Miners will be paid for the amount of time they work as opposed to how much ore they load each day.
6. Miners to be paid immediately after discharge.
7. Discontinuance of Saturday night work.
8. Abolition of private mine police.
9. Running water will be installed in all of the location houses.
10. If injured on mining property, married miners who have wives would be afforded the same access to hospital care as miners who are unmarried.
11. Miners who are injured at work will be paid their daily wage while they recover and will be able to resume work in the same mine when they return.
The last three demands were not proposed by Koski and Jarvi. They were proposed by the midwife, Mrs. Sherek. “You want the women’s support, you got to support the women,” she said.
Two hours later, they all left the field bunker in agreement. The big union meeting would take place that night, at the Finnish Socialist Hall. Not all Finns on the Range were members of the Socialist Party, but all were welcome at the hall, the largest building near Biwabik. Still, it would not be nearly big enough to house the massive crowd of miners who would assemble that night to listen to the IWW organizers now en route to Biwabik.
Tomorrow: Chapter 32 begins.