Interview, Peter Cole's Blog

Ben Fletcher and Multiracial Union Organizing in Philadelphia

By Philly Socialists

Ben Fletcher was an influential union organizer and orator from Philadelphia who cofounded the Local 8 of the Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union in 1913. The Local 8 was a uniquely interracial union containing African American, Irish American and other European immigrant dock workers that promoted anticapitalist and antiracist ideas.

After traveling across the east coast on behalf of the IWW, Fletcher was charged with treason, with most of the evidence being the IWW’s anticapitalist statements and a single work stoppage which disrupted the WWI war effort.

On Saturday afternoon, we will be joined by Peter Cole, a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He coedited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. He is the founder and codirector of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project.

Sponsored by Philly Socialists. Brought to you by Making Worlds Bookstore and Social Center / Common Notions Press

Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly