Several of Shawnee businessmen were the guest of general officials of the operating department of the Rock Island on August 30, 1922. They were given a tour through the shops and over the property, followed by a dinner with the shop employees in the eating house operated by John J. Grier. He oversaw the eating houses for the entire system.

ROCK ISLAND OFFICIALS ENTERTAIN BUSINESSMEN

Several of Shawnee businessmen were the guest of general officials of the operating department of the Rock Island on August 30, 1922. They were given a tour through the shops and over the property, followed by a dinner with the shop employees in the eating house operated by John J. Grier. He oversaw the eating houses for the entire system.

To the visitors, the officials made the following statements and pointed out the way work was being done in each department:

“Beginning July 27, up to which time no attempt to employ men other than the foreman was made. A force has been gradually hired until this time with 345 men at work in the shops, and 35 additional men were hired yesterday, from 20 to 45 men being added every day,” they announced.

“The coach shop is now being used as sleeping quarters for the men, accommodating for more than 300 men. Double-deck cots are now being installed to provide additional capacity. Work has also begun on a 46 x 100 addition to the shop, which will be used for dormitory and lounging room purposes. Shower baths and other facilities will also be installed.”

“As to the men who left the employment of the road,” the representative of the general manager announced that all the good men who wished to return to work could do so, while the positions were open. However, they said with the employment of new men, those positions may not be open for long.

Shop employees were in the streets of Shawnee during the evenings. They claimed there was no trouble, and none anticipated. There was no disposition to discriminate against them in the stores and businesses throughout the city.

GOVERNMENT GETS ORDER RESTRAINING ALL STRIKERS

The U.S. Government obtained a temporary federal order on September 2, 1922. The order restrained striking railroad shop men, their officers, and affiliated bodies throughout the country from interfering in any way with the operation of the nation’s railroads. The restraining order hearing on which was set for September 11, was issued by Federal Judge James H. Wilkinson. It came upon the petition of U.S. Attorney-General Harry M Daugherty. He went to Chicago from Washington to argue for the action.

He said the underlying principles involved in the action was the “survival and the supremacy of the government of the United States.” He declared that the request was not aimed at union labor. The attorney-general said that the step was necessary to the preservation of the unions themselves. At the same time, he asserted that the government expected to use its authority to prevent the labor union from destroying the open shop.

W.H. Johnson, president of the International Association of Mechanics said, “the leaders will not abate the effort to make the strike effective despite any action taken by the courts.”

R.M. Jewell, head of the shop crafts, issued a statement, from his headquarters that night. “The defendants, in refusing to accept the Labor Board’s decision cutting wages,” Daugherty said, “have repudiated the Labor Board and its authority and hold the Labor Board and the government of the United States in contempt.”

He called attention to the declaration of the president before Congress that “the government can have no chart for its course except the law,” the attorney-general continued. “There are statutes forbidding conspiracy to hinder interstate commerce. There are laws to assure the highest possible safety to railway service. It is my purpose to invoke those laws, civil and criminal, against all offenders alike.

“Shall the American people suffer,” he asked. “Shall property be destroyed; shall commerce be destroyed; shall laws be broken; shall society be disorganized; shall prosperity and all labor cease and the poor be in want because employers and employees engaged in interstate commerce, obligated to the government and the people, by a great obligation than that which rests upon any other set of men in the country, because of a dispute between them refuse to obey the law? The answer is that if they cannot agree, others will be given the privilege and protection of performing this service, who will agree with the government and obey the laws of government.”

HUGE MEETING HELD AT CONVENTION HALL

Because of the unanticipated presence of several hundred shopmen and members of their families, it was impossible to hold the meeting planned at the Shawnee Club Room. Thus, it was moved to the Convention Hall on October 1, 1922. Primarily, the meeting was called to hear the report of the committee sent to the shops to investigate and report on the actual conditions. However, the report was given in full, but also, the U.S. marshal and a representative of the railroad company each spoke without reservation and with vigor.

Marshal Alva McDonald announced that “from this moment on, I am going to stand for no foolishness in Shawnee and am going to enforce the terms of the injunction to the letter.”

Robert Ford, representing the Chicago offices of the Rock Island wound up a very emphatic speech with the remark that, “By God, I am going to tell you that if the Rock Island shops are not permitted to function in Shawnee, they are going to be taken where they can do so.”

E.V. Mashburn, chairman of the committee which visited the shops and at dinner with the men, told the meeting in detail of what was learned. He said that 386 men were at work and that they were not the “scum” of the cities but were up to the general standard to be found in any walk of life. Some were college men, others from the farms of the county, and a few who he would not consider desirable.

Marshal McDonald was then called to the platform and said: “There are men in this union in Shawnee who are outlaws and violate the laws of the government and the city. The time has come when it has got to stop. You, nor no one else, is going to deny a man the right to work. The government is going to protect the men who work here when on the streets of this city.”

An interesting scenario had developed in the town of Shawnee and on the streets. There were several attitudes about the strike, but they basically fell into two categories: those who discriminated against the strikers and those who did the same to the replacement workers.

McDonald went on to say, “Throughout this district, I have arrested over 100 striking shopmen. Five were arrested in El Reno for burning a bridge over which a passenger train was about to pass. Seventeen out of 22 men for whom warrants were issued were arrested for beating up five men. Fourteen of these men pleaded guilty, and not one was convicted in court.

“The time has come when the beating up of men on the streets of Shawnee must stop. Every feature of the injunction is going to be enforced from this moment. The men at work are going to be protected if we have to put a guard clean around the town. I haven’t arrested a man here for beating up a shop worker who has not been a union member.

 (These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming sometime before Christmas. All three volumes are more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.