by Robert G. Rodden

New Leadership: Creamer and O'Day

Creamer headed the IAM for only two years. The records do not reveal his reasons for stepping aside. He may have been seeking larger scope for his talents. At that time the IAM's future was still very much in doubt. Te I.P.'s compensation was uncertain and slight. Speaking of this period almost a half century later, an officer recalled "We started out as a fifty cents a month dues-paying organization, with twenty-five cents a month per capita tax and we had nothing but volunteer organizers. We paid our International President eighty-five dollars a month when we had it. Most of the time he was living from hand to mouth and being fed by the members along the line of the road where he was traveling." Creamer later served in the Virginia legislature where he helped to write many of the State's early labor laws. However he kept close ties with his union for the rest of his life, edited the Journal until 1895, was an official IAM delegate at numerous AFL Conventions and for many years served as chairman of the IAM's Law Committee. When he died in 1918 the Journal credited him with drafting much of the IAM's early constitution.

Creamer's decision may also be explained by the limitations then restricting the Grand Master Machinist. In the early years the power of the IAM's chief officers were more ceremonial than real. The Constitution vested executive power in a five member General Executive Board (GEB). . . .The GEB had final oversight over official circulars, strike sanctions, payment of death benefits, appeals, propositions, investments, audits and other union business. They also had power to remove any officer by majority vote for "incompetency or unfaithfulness." The International President and General Secretary-Treasurer were later made members of the GEB, but until it was abolished in the early 1920's General Vice Presidents were primarily organizers rather than administrators in their assigned territories.

When Creamer's successor, John O'Day of Indianapolis, took over as Grand master Machinist in 1892 business and industry were in a deep economic downslide. . . .During the course of a strike against the Carnegie Steel Co. [Homestead, Pennsylvania] 300 armed professional strikebreaker, known as "Pinkertons" tried to outflank union picket lines by landing from barges on the river. The Pinkertons drew first blood, but were pinned down when the steamboat that had towed their barges fled. After hours of gunfire, with many killed and scores wounded on both sides, these private police ran up the white flag. The strike was broken when the governor sent in 8,000 militia at the company's request, ending unionism in the steel industry for decades to come.

New Leadership (Continued)


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of Siouxland Lodge 1426 IAMAW
Greg Enright