Intent on infiltrating the Six Companies’ work force, members of the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, arrived on the Boulder Canyon Project Reservation in May, 1931. The IWW had reached its peak in 1917 and had been slowly dwindling since the onslaught of WWI when their mission to abolish capitalism through strength in numbers became irrelevant. However, the IWW recognized the Boulder Canyon Project as the perfect opportunity to cause a ruckus and attract America’s attention and increase recognition of the little man, also known as the thousands of Six Companies’ workers.
In a February, 1931 issue of Industrial Solidarity, the IWW’s newspaper, the organization proclaimed that, “We hope to have this dam job one hundred percent organized before it is half completed and be in a position to dictate under what conditions and wages the construction workers will build this gigantic monument of human accomplishment.”
For several months, the IWW members, led by Frank Anderson, waged war on Six Companies, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the city of Las Vegas, and were so confident of their success that they revealed their ultimate goal of convincing all workers to go on strike via a Las Vegas Age article printed July 10, 1931. But by the night of July 11, the IWW had changed their story, insisting that their intent was not to strike, but to ensure the workers “better hours, more pay, safer working conditions, and living improvements” (Stevens, 2008). But even then, Six Companies workers recognized that association with the rebellious IWW would hurt their chances of having their demands met. So, a committee was formed and elected leader L.L. “Red” Williams, who submitted the worker’s list of demands to project manager Frank Crowe at 10:00am on August 10, 1931.
Exactly 24 hours later, Frank Crowe declared that all Six Companies workers were released from their positions, could pick up their final paychecks, and would need to promptly exit the Reservation. Not wanting to wait around for the trouble to start, 1,200 of the 1,400 workers fled to Las Vegas. Visit us to find out how, despite controversy, the magnificent Hoover Dam was built.