Chapter 38 continues
The story so far: Katka prevails in a showdown with Augustine Stone.
Mr. Stone stormed off into his motorcar. The townspeople stayed glued to their spots. They watched as the sheriff summoned his “First Council.” They were not from the prisons. They were from Biwabik and the neighboring towns. Katka recognized a few of the men, all of them large in stature. The tallest man appointed to the First Council was former bouncer Moose Jackson. Katka had never spoken to him, but she knew who he was. He was the man who had beaten Milo to a bloody pulp before he had come to live with Anton and Lily. Now this man would be in charge of the deputies who would patrol Biwabik and the mining towns surrounding it. She drew a quick sketch of him. As she drew, Moose Jackson caught her looking at him and he smiled. Then he grabbed his crotch, raising his eyebrows up and down.
It began to rain. A fast downpour with giant droplets of water. Katka’s clothes were soaked in moments. People scattered across the street and took shelter under the awnings of buildings.
Then, as quickly as it came, the rain stopped. Katka shivered. Even when Paul put his arm around her, she could not shake the chill. She knew with absolute certainty that her life was about to change.
While the hung-over criminals were being deputized in Biwabik, approximately two thousand workers were lining up in Virginia for a rally and strike parade. It had not rained a drop there, although it was humid and overcast. Milo, Andre, Carlo Tresca and Johan Koski spoke. Each organizer did his best to help the strikers know that the union understood their needs and they had a plan for meeting them. Johan Koski, using a bullhorn supplied by the Wobbly organizers, spoke first in English, then in Finnish. “We know the businesses around here, they been told not extend credit to strikers. We know that you are hungry. The Finns in my community have set up co-operative grocery stores. You can exchange food and services there to get you by. If you have nothing to exchange, tell someone at the co-op and other arrangements will be made.”
Milo spoke in Slovenian and English. “We must keep our numbers high at the picket line. I know: It is not easy to see our old friends cross the line and get a paycheck that is two times higher than what it would be if we weren’t striking. They are benefitting from our sacrifice and that is not fair. But so it goes. When workers unite, when they form under the big union, the companies all-a-sudden find gold coins in their pockets. All-a-sudden they can pay the wages they said they couldn’t afford. When ordinary workers like us band together, workers everywhere, even workers not in a union, reap the rewards. I hear our strike is in the newspaper all the way in the east, in Michigan, in Ohio, in West Virginia. The companies there are giving in to worker demands because they are afeard their workers will form unions and strike like we are doing. We are hungry, yes. Now. Here. But we are heroes everywhere.”
Carlo Tresca spoke in Italian and English. He explained what he imagined was going on in Biwabik, with the deputizing of criminals. He explained that this was common practice and the thugs would be used to terrorize the workers. “We will form our own force,” he said, “to police your neighborhoods and protect our workers from harm. We do not have enough guns, but we expect to get some sent here in the next weeks. Big Bill Haywood himself from the IWW promised and he is a man of his word. We have already set up a network of spies who are informing us of company plans. If you hear anything, you must tell a strike leader immediately. It is possible that the brute deputies will arrive today to disrupt this rally. If they try to give you a flier, do not take it. If they speak to you, you cannot understand them. Understood?”
Tomorrow: Chapter 39 continues.