July 30, 1918: 140 strikers arrested in Superior

On this day across the bay in 1918, authorities arrested 140 striking men who worked on the Great Northern ore dock in Allouez under charges of “coercion and intimidation of other workers.” The strikers were primarily of Finnish descent and members of the Industrial Workers of the World. They demanded higher wages, an eight-hour work day, and overtime pay for extra work. The ore docks were extremely important: the country needed to make steel for the war effort, and shutting down a dock delayed ore getting from the Iron Range to the steel mills in the east. If the strike continued, it was estimated, all 50 mines served by the Great Northern Railway would have to shut down production. Dock workers of Polish, Belgian, and Swedish descent were eager to return to work and blamed IWW members for preventing a settlement over the wage issue. Some even complained that IWW members had visited their homes at night and threatened them with “bodily injury if they returned to work on the docks.” Police raided homes, boarding houses, hotels, arresting the 139 strikers in a single night. Each faced a penalty of either a $100 fine or a month in jail—or both. The strike was settled while the IWW workers sat in jail, and the docks loaded four vessels with a skeleton crew the following day. Meanwhile 126 of those arrested were arraigned in court—all pleading not guilty—and bail in each case was set at $500. There was some talk of sending them back to their home countries. On August 3, however, all but seven IWW strikers were released and the strike was settled. Read more about the IWW in Duluth here.

Superior, Wisconsin’s Great Northern Ore Dock. (Image: Zenith City Press)