Hellraisers Journal: W. F. of M. Convention Demands Investigation Into Murder of Organizer Alex Obremski

He knew he was taking his life in his hands
in going to Trinidad, but as he was ordered there
he would not shirk his duty.
-Henry Morris of Pueblo on murder of
WFM Organizer Alex Obremski

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Hellraisers Journal, Saturday June 29, 1907
Denver, Colorado – W. F. of M. Convention Wants Investigation

From the Albuquerque Evening Citizen of June 15, 1907:

WILL INVESTIGATE THE SHOOTING
OF A MINER
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Murdered Western Federation Organizer
May Have Been Victim of Conspiracy.
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LETTER CONTAINS STRONG ALLEGATION
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WFM button

Denver, Colo., June 15.-The Western Federation of Miners’ convention today received a communication from a member in Las Animas county, suggesting an investigation of the killing of Alexander Obrenski [Obremski], a Federation organizer, by Juan Eskinas [Espinosa], at Rugby, Colo., about one month ago [May 18th].

The killing was alleged, at the time, to have occurred in a barroom row, but the writer of the communication suggested that it was the result of a conspiracy to injure the Federation.

Strong Statement.

He makes the statement that the row was not participated in by the organizer, but that the belligerents managed to gather around Obrenski, and before he could get away a shot was fired, and he fell to the floor, [..and..?] The fighters melted into obscurity immediately.

The writer of the letter is a well known miner and the fact that he was an eye witness of the tragedy leads the officials of the Federation to urge that the matter be investigated.

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Notes from the Fifteenth Annual Convention
of the Western Federation of Miners
Odd Fellows Hall, Denver

June 15, 1907, Sixth Day-Morning Session:

The Secretary then read the following:

No. 44.

Trinidad, Colorado, May 27, 1907.

Mr. M. E. White,
Trinidad, Colorado.
Dear Sir: You have asked me for my opinion as regards the death of Alexander Obremski who was murdered at Rugby, Colo., on the evening of the 18th day of May, 1907.

After careful investigation into the evidence which I heard at the coroner’s inquest, I have come to the conclusion, and I think I am correct in it, that Obremski was killed after careful deliberation on the part of his assailant. I find from the evidence that while to a casual observer it might appear that Obremski was killed by some drunken Mexican who desired to become a bad man. I am convinced that the murder was a premeditated one, because the murderer, after having been identified by those present, denied having fired the fatal shot, but testified in his own behalf that he had been set upon and beaten by one Pio Michelh and exhibited before the coroner’s jury his head which was pretty badly cut up.

Now I think that after Juan Espinosa, the accused murderer of Obremski, committed the crime that he was advised by friends to deny all knowledge of the affair and that he either inflicted upon himself the wounds which he had, or had some friend do it.

Now when I attempted last week in the District Court to have Espinosa plead, the court gave him time to obtain counsel which was alright, but which I think will take until next September, and I doubt very much that if the people here and the friends of Obremski do not take an active interest in the prosecution of Juan Espinosa that he will ever be punished, because I have already heard statements from some of the prominent officials of Las Animas County that as Obremski was only an agitator it did not make much difference whether or not he was killed or by whom he was killed.

The murder of Alex Obremski was one of the most cold blooded murders that was ever perpetrated in the history of Las Animas County, and I think that his friends should use every means within their power to bring the accused Juan Espinosa to a speedy trial that he may be convicted of the crime for which he is charged and while the witnesses are all present and their knowledge of the events of that fatal night are clear in their memory.

Yours very truly,
EARL COOLEY.

CHAIRMAN STODDEN: If there is no objection, this will go to the Special Committee.

[Emphases added.]

From June 17, 1907, Seventh Day-Morning Session:

The Secretary then read the following:

No. 75.

Trinidad, Co1o., June 10, 1907.

To the Officers and Members, General Executive Board, Western Federation of Miners.

Dear Sirs and Brothers: I desire to submit to you the following brief report of my acts since being in charge of the office at Trinidad, Colorado, for the Union-at-Large up to June 10th, 1907.

Upon careful investigation and going around the camps, your first organizer in the field misrepresented the aims and objects of the Western Federation of Miners, and the men joined under misrepresentations. I find that the men were promised sick benefits for themselves and families. and other promises which attracted the ignorant class, who, finding that they were fooled, commenced to work against the organization, and made it very hard for your next organizer, Brother Peretto, to work against this sentiment.

Since January 1st, 1907, I have devoted a good deal of time in reinstating these men and explaining the objects of our union. and I am glad to report that this is having effect.

Another obstacle, is the opposition and jealousy of the United Mine Workers, who are maintaining a large staff of organizers to influence the miners not to join us, also most of our members, upon going to work in the U. M. W. A. closed shops, were made to put up a full initiation fee, and in some places, an extra fine of $5.00 for being members of the Western Federation of Miners; this, also had an effect on the organizing work, as non-union miners leaving this district received a better reception and treatment than Western Federation of Miners men in the locals of the U. M. W. A.

The opposition of the companies and the deputies is fierce, and the camps are closed against your organizers. On the 18th of May, your organizer. Alex Obremsky, was shot down in cold blooded murder, and it is up to you to devise ways and means to see that his murderer is given the dues coming to him and to get at the bottom of this murder.

Your organizers spent about two months of their time altogether in establishing a union among the wage slaves at Pueblo, where an organization was badly needed. Much credit is due for the three hundred members initiated here in the last five months, and at Pueblo. to the faithful and diligent work of your organizer, Brother James Peretto, and the late Brother Obremsky who took their lives in their hands in the work of educating the slaves of this district.

I have, up to June 10th, received from all sources for initiations, reinstatements and dues, $2,361.50. I have forwarded to Acting Secretary-Treasurer, James Kirwan, $2,011.00, the balance being commissions,

As to the future work here, it is uphill work, the miners mostly Slavs, and with more opposition from the U. M. W. A. and Mine Operators. largely problematical, and the educational feature is about the only benefit which the organization can bestow upon these men. The miners initiated here and who left this field, are doing good work for your organization in the East, and it is this agitation back East in the camps of the U. M. W. A. that is causing the U. M. W. A. to take notice that Industrial Unionism and the true economic movement is bound to bring the miners together under one banner sooner or later.

With best wishes to the Convention, and may the deliberations result in bringing together the wage slaves into a true, economic movement. I remain

Yours in Union,
(Signed) M. E. WHITE.

At the killing of Brother Obremsky, up to date, I found that he had collected $26.00.

[…..]

The Secretary then read the following:

No. 76.

Denver, Colo., June 15, 1907.

To the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Western Federation of Miners:

Fellow Workers: I hereby submit my report as organizer for the Union-at-Large in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties, Colorado, which appointment I received from Brothers Moyer and Haywood two years ago.

During the past year all of my time has been fully occupied as organizer and the records will show a substantial increase in the membership at large in my District, especially since the Executive Board at its meeting in last December authorized the opening of a central office in Trinidad, Colorado. This office was established by Executive Board Member Frank Schmelzer, who promptly recognized the need of such an office.

The conditions of my District at the present are of a peculiar nature and make a certain line of tactics necessary. This owing to the fact that the men now employed in my District were formerly members of the United Mine Workers of America, who are fully convinced that they were sold out by their leaders in the last strike.

On this account they are inclined to join only the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World, in which organizations they have the fullest confidence. The condition of those men at the present time is pitiful in the extreme. The same class that has kidnaped and imprisoned Brothers Moyer, Haywood and Pettibone has reduced the workers of my district to a state of bondage; they are denied the right of belonging to any labor organization, to say what they shall receive for wages, where they shall trade, and conditions are such at this time that an organizer for a labor organization of the type of the Western Federation of Miners cannot procure board or lodging if his mission becomes known to the Mine Owners‘ Association. Conditions, taken altogether, are worse than in any other mining region that I know of.

On first beginning my work in the District, I found that the miners, who are mostly Italians and Slavs, numbering about 7,000 or 8,000, were demoralized, owing to the loss of the coal strike and to their conviction based upon what seems to be absolute proof that they were sold out and betrayed by the officials of the United Mine Workers of America, which organization has seven organizers speaking different languages, who are not making any headway, because the workers are convinced that their real object is to hinder the work of organizing carried on by the Western Federation of Miners, and it is a matter of intense satisfaction to me to be able to assure you that they are becoming educated to such an extent that they will no longer stand for a membership in a Union controlled by the capitalist class.

In certain parts of my District the Italians and Slavs are too much scared to openly belong to the Union, and they can be induced to hold membership only in the Union-at-Large.

However, as a result of the efforts of the Western Federation of Miners to organize in this District. it is now possible to organize a local union with about one hundred members at Walsenburg, which would include the Toltec, Pictou and Rocky Mountain camps. There are in the District at this time a large number of Poles who are ready to be organized as they realize the need of organization and I am confident that all that is necessary is that you should send a capable Polish organizer who can explain to them in their own tongue the special advantage of the form of organization of the Western Federation of Miners and of the Industrial Workers of the World. I have been requested by them to bring before the Fifteenth Annual Convention the case of Alex O’Brinsky, a Polish organizer and a member of the Western Federation of Miners, who was brutally murdered by a Mexican employed by the mine operators, to whom he had made himself offensive by his agitation among their employes, and his efforts to organize them. I would recommend as strongly as I can that the Western Federation of Miners take up this matter in order that justice may be done, and I have assured the workers in my District that the Western Federation of Miners stands ready at all times to do as much for the humblest member of the organization as it is now doing for its general officers.

While it is well that we should have as many members at large as we can possibly secure, at the same time I would suggest that the organizers be empowered to form locals whenever the opportunity presents itself to them.

After two years of experience among the Italians, Slavonian and Polish workers in my District, I feel it my duty to say that they insist on belonging to only such an organization as Industrial Workers of the World, and that they fully indorse its principles as shown in its preamble and its form of organization. I have no additional recommendations to make, being confident that the Western Federation of Miners will at all times do its duty towards the class it represents, and I will say in conclusion that I will gladly reply to any questions asked of me, as it is impossible to condense in an ordinary report the experience of two years of active effort among the wage slaves of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company’s camps of Southern Colorado.

Fraternally submitted,
JAMES PERETTO.

CHAIRMAN W. T. STODDEN: If there is no objection, this will go to the Committee on Organization.

[Emphases added.]

From June 20, 1907, Tenth Day-Morning Session

The Secretary then read the report of the Organization Committee on Resolutions Nos. 75 and 76.

Nos. 75 and 76.

Denver, Co1o., June 17, 1907.

To the Delegates and Members of the Fifteenth Annual Convention, Western Federation of Miners.

Fellow Workers; We, your Committee on Organization, submit the following report on Resolutions Nos. 75 and 76: That the reports of M. E. White and James Peretto be accepted, and offer the following recommendations:

(a) That the organizer-at-large be authorized to form local unions wherever advisable.
(b) That a Polish organizer be sent to the Walsenburg district.
(c) That the Western Federation of Miners prosecute the murderer of our organizer, Brother Alex Obremsky, to the full extent of the law.

(Signed),
ROY COOK. No. 164,
F. H. LITTLE, No. 159,
JOE RILEY, No. 7,
H. C. MEISNER, No. 23,
W. T. QUINN, No. 144,
CHAS. BUNTING, No. 180,
ED. MOORE, No. 190,
I. W. SHANER, No. 229.

JOHN C. WILLIAMS (90): I make a motion that the report of the committee be concurred in and the request complied with.

A DELEGATE FROM No. 1 [Butte]: I second the motion.

CHAIRMAN FRED CLOUGH: It has been moved and seconded that the report of the committee be concurred in and the request complied with. Are you ready for the question?

Question called for.

CHAIRMAN FRED CLOUGH: All those in favor of the motion will signify by the usual voting sign.

Contrary.

CHAIRMAN FRED CLOUGH: The motion is carried, and it is so ordered.

[Emphasis added.]

From the Appeal to Reason of June 1, 1907:

MURDER OF AN ORGANIZER

Henry O. Morris, the well known Socialist of Pueblo, who is ever on the alert in the interest of the movement, writes of another cold-blooded crime committed against organized labor by the minions of the Mine Owners’ association. The letter of Comrade Morris follows:

Two days ago Alexander Obrinsky [Obremski], a young Slav [Polish], organizer of the United Mine Workers of America [Western Federation of Miners], was murdered as he was standing talking with a friend in a saloon near Trinidad, Colo. He had just stepped inside when three men, said to be Mexicans in the employ of the Colorado Fuel and Iron company, came in and one of this number drew a revolver and, stepping up behind Obrinsky, shot him through the head, killing him instantly. It is openly charged that the killing was done at the instigation of the Mine Owners’ association, which has warned all union organizers to keep away from Trinidad and the adjacent coal camps. Of course, nothing will ever be done to the murderer, although he is in custody, because the courts of Colorado are now owned by the Mine Owners. When in Pueblo a few days before the tragedy Mr. Obrinsky told a friend that he knew he was taking his life in his hands in going to Trinidad, but as he was ordered there he would not shirk his duty.

The Inner Circle of the Mine Owners’ association has another murder to its credit.

Such crimes have followed closely in the wake of the class struggle in Colorado, the object of most of them being the destruction of organized labor. Under the “law and order” administration of the flint-faced freak now drawing salary as governor while serving the mine and smelter trust, it is perfectly safe to murder a labor organizer, and there is no probability that the criminal in this case will suffer the least punishment. Bur such cases are not wholly without compensation. A day of reckoning is coming as certain as the sun shines. Mark it!

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SOURCES

Used as source for correct spelling of name:
Essays in Colorado History, Issues 5-10
Colorado Historical Society, 1987
(Search with “alex obremski” reveals signature: “Alex. Obremski.”)
https://books.google.com/books?id=_ngjAQAAIAAJ

Albuquerque Evening Citizen
(Albuquerque, New Mexico)
-June 15, 1907
https://www.newspapers.com/image/76525997/

Official Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention
Western Federation of Miners of America
-Held in Odd Fellows Hall at Denver, Colorado
-June 10-July 3, 1907
https://books.google.com/books?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ
June 15, 1907, 6th Day-Morning Session
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA206
-Letter re Murder of “Alexander Obremski”
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA219
June 17, 1907, 7th Day-Morning Session
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA251
Report of M. E White of Trinidad, Colorado
-addresses murder of organizer, “Alex Oremsky”
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA253
Report of Organizer James Peretto
-addresses murder of organizer, “Alex O’Brinsky”
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA254
June 20, 1907, 10th Day-Morning Session
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA361
Resolutions Nos. 75 and 76 re murder of “Alex Obremsky”
https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=wq03AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&pg=GBS.PA371

Appeal to Reason
(Girard, Kansas)
-June 1, 1907
https://www.newspapers.com/image/67586876/

IMAGE
WFM Button
https://www.nps.gov/kewe/learn/historyculture/museum-guide-5.htm

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