Red November, Black November
Red November, black November,
Bleak November, black and red.
Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,
Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.
Labor’s wrath and hope and sorrow,
Red the promise, black the threat,
Who are we not to remember?
Who are we to dare forget?
Black and red the colors blended,
Black and red the pledge we made,
Red until the fight is ended,
Black until the debt is paid.
— Ralph Chaplin (1932)
This is a somber month for labor.
The Haymarket Martyrs were executed in November. Joe Hill was put before a firing squad in Utah during November. Bueventura Durruti was killed in November. The Centralia, Everett and the First Columbine massacres all occurred in November.
It is for this reason that the Twin Cities General Membership Branch (GMB) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began to put together a yearly social event called ‘Red November, Black November’ (RNBN). Recognizing the importance of this month to organized labor, RNBN is held to remember and reflect on both our own efforts, as well as those who came before us.
November 22nd marked the seventh time RNBN has been held. A $10 ticket ($5 for kids) bought you a pozole dinner with two beverages, along with a full program of reports, music, a kids’ skit, a quiz, raffles and conversation with other IWW members. Although a Twin Cities focused event, Wobblies from Winnepeg, Toronto, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Indiana were in attendance. This year also coincided with an Organizer Training 102 that happened the same weekend.
After dinner, and interspersed with labor songs throughout, attendees heard reports from the outgoing Branch Secretary-Treasurers. The two officers went over some of the better practices they had tried to establish in 2014, as well as announced the branch’s move to a new, larger office in December.
Next were reports from campaigns that members have been involved in over the year. How the #handsupdontship job action came together, contacts with prison laborers and activity from ‘dual-carders’ in education were among some of the things talked about. Extra time was set aside to watch a video greeting recorded by a branch member currently in South Africa.
Moving on to perhaps the highlight of the night was the kids’ skit. Organized by the Junior Wobblies with the assistance of some of their parents and siblings, the skit featured the kids poking fun at the campaigns and experiences of the Twin Cities IWW. As usual, it received a lot of laughter and a standing applause.
A staffer from General Headquarters in Chicago attended, and gave a broad report of what has been going on in the union. This was followed reports from The Organizer editor and the Junior Wobblies. This was the last of the reports.
The event then moved on to a “Trivia Pub Quiz” with the winning table getting an extra entry into the raffle. The raffle, which every attendee got at least one entry in, consisted of a number of prizes, including items from May Day Books, thoughtcrime ink, Recomposition and individual members. The last part of RNBN involved making toasts. Wobblies raised their glasses and saluted each other’s efforts. It was a display of appreciation for tasks not always recognized. This concluded the 7th Annual Red November, Black November.
Twin Cities GMB member, Emmett D said after, “It was a successful event that captured the energy and hilarity of our union. I think a lot of people left feeling energized and excited to see what we can accomplish in the year ahead.”