Radical Solutions to Economic Inequality
By Beverly Gage
Despite its fusty charge, the commission turned out to be one of the most sensational sideshows of the Progressive Era, a cross-country journey through the wilds of American class conflict.
For three years, government commissioners traipsed from city to city asking capitalists, union organizers, and reformers what it was like to work in America, and whether the spoils of industry seemed to be distributed fairly among the rich and poor.
On the West Coast, the Bridge and Structural Iron Workers were blowing up nonunion bridges and work sites. On the East Coast, the radical Industrial Workers of the World were actually winning strikes. In New York in 1914, thousands of people turned out for a rally in Union Square to mourn the deaths of three anarchists who had blown themselves up attempting to build a bomb aimed at John D. Rockefeller Jr., the country’s richest man.