Des Moines based Red Wing Workers Organization document from late 70s

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Here’s a PDF of a document written as an update to the activities of Des Moines-based Red Wing Workers Organization. They were a libertarian socialist group that was strongly influenced by feminism.

Here’s what’s happening in Des Moines

Update + idea on Dubuque Pack

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment


It’s been quite a long time since this blog has been updated. I started this blog when I was still living in Iowa, and while the interest is still there, the time isn’t. For those who are interested, I moved from Iowa in Spring of 2011 to Madison, WI to briefly work for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in assisting their efforts in trying to get a general strike going in response to the right-wing Governor’s efforts to crush unions. Another IWW organizer and I wrote a report of our activity called The general strike that didn’t happen: a report on the activity of the IWW in Wisconsin.

After that, Minneapolis was my destination, which is where I currently reside. Most recently, I’ve been the co-editor of The Organizer, the official blog of the Twin Cities IWW General Membership Branch, assisted with union campaigns, and helped run Recomposition, a website that centers on stories about and by workers themselves.

For a long while, writer’s block consumed me, and all writing, and nearly all editing, came to a halt. Finally snapping out of that, all sorts of ideas have come back to me. One of them is rooted in one of the places that could be considered home, Dubuque, Iowa.

Moving to the Dubuque area in the early 90s, The Pack always held a special place in the way I thought of the town. As I became older, and familiar with books and stories that centered around oral histories from working people like Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-class Organizers or The American Worker, I became more indepthly interested about the people who used to work there.

Although never having taken on a project this large, I’m interested in trying to sketch a project like this out. What kind of people worked there? Where did they originally come from? What were their lives like? What was there experience working there? What were the conditions? What did they do to make these conditions better?

If you’re from Dubuque and are seeing this, what are your thoughts on this?

-Juan Conatz

Iowa Labor History Workshop

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment

From History Workshop, No. 17 (Spring, 1984), pp. 196-197

The first Iowa Labor History Workshop was held on 16 April 1983, at the Iowa City Public Library, co-sponsored by the Iowa City Local of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. About 50 trade unionists, students, and historians attended.

The first panel concerned the Iowa Labor Oral History Project. For the last several years, the Iowa State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has sponsored and financed an oral history project with the goal of re-claiming the history of the Iowa labor movement during the last fifty years. Greg Zieren, a former interviewer for the project, discussed his experiences as an interviewer, and talked in some detail about perceptions of social class in Iowa and the experience of packinghouse workers at the Wilson Plantin Cedar Rapids. Ellis Hawley, a historian at the University of Iowa, commented on the usefulness of the project from the point of view of a professional historian. Read more…

Categories: Labor

Postal Workers Fight for a Good Contract

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below is from the August 1st, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing these.

By the Revolutionary Student Brigade

Postal workers across the U.S. are gathering fury which may lead to a strike over the new contract announced last week by union leaders and the U.S. Postal Service.

The new contract contains no changes in the layoff clause; no changes in the cost of living allowance or health benefits; and no changes in the productivity requirement, or age of retirement.

“The contract is no good and we’re going to start a campaign to strike,” announced a representative of the National Committee for a Good Postal Contract. Read more…

Anarchism: Practical De-centralization

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below is from the February 6th, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing these articles.

By Central Iowa Anarchists

People often have the notion that anarchists seek to do away with any organization of society.  This, however, is a mistaken notion.  Anarchism doesn’t stand for no organization, merely a different type of organization.  It would have society organized on an equalitarian, de-centralized, and self-managed basis.

In previous historical periods when even the most technologically advanced nations were still grappling with the problems of material scarcity, the anarchist ideal of an equalitarian society often merely reduced itself to equality of poverty.  This would almost invariably bring about the deep-seated tendencies to restore a new system of privilege.  However, with the continual improvement and refinement of technology, the immense productive forces of modern capitalism have brought us to the brink of a post-scarcity world, and laid the material basis for an equalitarian society. Read more…

Categories: Anarchism

Endless War

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below was originally published in the February 6, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing it.

Ames Teach-In

  Phoenix Party held a teach-in Sunday, January 26, at the Collegiate Methodist Church.  The teach-in was held in conjuction with a national demonstration against the United States’ imperialistic Indo-China policies. The purpose of the each-in was to inform the people of the corruption and fascism of the Thieu regime.

Moderator, Nancy Baumgardner, welcomed an estimated crowd of fifty people and introduced the first speaker, Jim Newcomer, a member of the political science faculty. Read more…

Categories: Anti-War, Student

Notes on the Muscatine Button Workers’ Strike

June 17, 2011 1 comment

From a letter Pearl McGill wrote home from Chicago on April 25th, 1911:

“They had all the hardest Union workers on the black list. The factory where I worked had the most. They had eight men, and me. I was the only girl in the factory they wouldn’t take back. So because there were so many discriminated against the rest of them that could have gone back wouldn’t go until the [manufacturers] will take us all back and deal fair with us. They don’t want to recognize the Union at all but they will have to before they ever start those factories up again.”

The whole factory stuck by a number of blacklisted organizers who you could count on your fingers. My how times change…

And it seems like the other “girls” in the Muscatine button factories weren’t as involved in the union as McGill was. But:

“The militia got out in the streets at Muscatine the other day to break the crowd away from one of the factories and some of the girls caught a solider boy up on fourth street and took his gun and cap and coat away from him and beat it. Ha! Ha!” (from the same letter)

It definitely wasn’t because they weren’t militant enough. I wonder what (or who) stopped them from joining?

McGill Family papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City

Many thanks to Jean Burns for donating her family’s letters, and assistant curator Janet Weaver for telling me how to not break the rules.


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