Events moved quickly to their culmination, justifying the worst of Lizzie’s fears. The shops were seething with discontent, and agitators seemed fairly to spring out of the ground; some of them paid by Jerry Coleman, no doubt, others taking their pay in the form of gratification of those grudges with which the profit-system had filled their hearts. Noon-meetings would start up, quite spontaneously, without any prearrangement; and presently Jimmie learned that men were going about taking the names of all who would agree to strike.
The matter was brought to a head by the Empire managers, who, of course, were kept informed by their spies. They discharged more than a score of the trouble-makers; and when this news spread at noon-time, the whole place burst into a flame of wrath. “Strike! strike!” was the cry. Jimmie was one of many who started a procession through the yards, shouting, singing, hurling menaces at the bosses, challenging all who proposed to return to work. Less than one-tenth of the working force made any attempt to do so, and for that afternoon the plant of the Empire Machine Shops, which was supposed to be turning out shell-casings for the Russian government, was turning out labour-union, Socialist, and I. W. W. oratory.
Jimmie Higgins was beside himself with excitement. He danced about and waved his cap, he shouted himself hoarse, he almost yielded to the impulse to jump upon a pile of lumber and make a speech himself. Presently came Comrades Gerrity and Mary Allen, who had got wind of the trouble, and had loaded a whole edition of the Worker into a Ford; so Jimmie turned newsboy, selling these papers, hundreds of them, until his pockets were bursting with the weight of pennies and nickels. And then he was pressed into service running errands for those who were arranging to organize the workers; he carried bundles of membership-cards and application-blanks, following a man with a bull voice and a megaphone, who shouted in several languages the location of union headquarters, and the halls where various foreign language meetings would be held that evening. Evidently someone had foreseen the breaking of this trouble, and had been at pains to plan ahead.