Mahler, Herbert

Mahler, Herbert

(1890–1961) labor organizer, radical; born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He left home (1910) to find work in the Canadian West, working as a riverboat pilot and logger until he emigrated to America (1915). In the state of Washington he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), serving as secretary and organizer for several IWW locals in the Seattle area where he assisted longshoremen and loggers. He was secretary-treasurer of the IWW's Everett Defense Committee (1916) and assisted in the acquittal (1917) of Wobblies charged with murder after the "massacre" of November 1916. During World War I he participated in IWW lumber and copper strikes that tied up war materials, even though he believed more in organization of workers than antiwar activities. He was indicted along with 100 IWW leaders in Chicago (1917) and convicted of three counts of espionage and sedition, sentenced to 12 years in prison, and fined $20,000 (1918). He remained in prison until President Calvin Coolidge commuted the sentences of all IWW inmates still incarcerated (1923). Named secretary of the IWW's General Defense Committee after his release, he became general secretary-treasurer (1931), but resigned (1932) over disputes concerning IWW direction. He continued organizing work outside of IWW auspices, moving to New York, and then organizing the Kentucky Miners Defense Committee (1937). His last public appearance was picketing the New Republic (1948) to protest an unsympathetic portrayal of Joe Hill.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.