Fletcher, Benjamin Harrison (1890-1949)
Ben Fletcher, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1890, was the most important African American in the most influential radical union of his time, the early 20th century, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Fletcher became active in the IWW while working as a longshoreman, loading and unloading cargo ships. In 1912 he joined the union, nicknamed the Wobblies, and Socialist Party. Quickly, Fletcher became a popular leader and speaker, winning many accolades for his oratory style and arguments for overthrowing capitalism, the Wobblies' ultimate goal.
Fletcher proved the most prominent leader of Local 8, the IWW branch of Philadelphia longshoremen, organized in 1913. Fletcher and his union seemed to prove one of the Wobblies' central tenets: the union could overcome racial and ethnic divisions that employers encouraged. In Local 8, thousands of African Americans and West Indians belonged to and led an organization that also included thousands of European Americans and European immigrants. The union integrated work gangs, meetings, social gatherings, and leadership posts—all unusual in American labor history.
During World War I, Fletcher and other IWW leaders were targeted by the federal government because of the union's anti-war stance. Though Local 8 called no strikes during the war, the government feared its power and more generally the influence of the IWW. Fletcher was the sole African American among over one hundred Wobblies tried and convicted in 1918 for treason. Though no evidence was brought against him specifically, Fletcher was sentenced to ten years in a federal penitentiary and a $30,000 fine. As the judge announced the sentences, Wobbly leader "Big" Bill Haywood reported, "Fletcher sidled over to me and said: ‘The Judge has been using very ungrammatical language.' I looked at his smiling black face and asked: ‘How's that, Ben? He said: ‘His sentences are much too long.'"
Fletcher served three years in federal prison, his sentence commuted in 1922. Fletcher's release became a celebrated cause among black radicals, championed by The Messenger, co-edited by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. Afterwards, Fletcher remained committed to IWW ideals, though never again played an active role in the union.
Ben Fletcher died in Brooklyn, New York in 1949 but the union he led, Local 8, became a model for the effort to establish interracial equality in the early 20th Century.
History of the Association is a work in progress
The Association of probation Supervisors Celebrated its 50th year in 2014. It is the strength of the coalition between our Membership-Supervising Deputy Probation Officers, Supervising Detention Supervisors, and Supervising Transportation Deputies as well as our continued relationship with SEIU 721 that affords us our strength and unity. In 2017 our Association formed Lodge 702 Fraternal Order of Police, with this came a Legal Defense Fund that will offer legal services to our members who decide to join the Lodge as well. Below is a brief history our Association dating back to 1969 which is taken directly from our second contract.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Employee Relations Ordinance of the County of Los Angeles and applicable State law, Joint Council of Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Association/Los Angeles County Employees Association was certified on December 10, 1969 by County’s Employee Relations Commission (Employee Relations Commission File No. 23-69) as the majority representative of County employees in the Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Employee Representation Unit (hereinafter “Unit”) previously found to be appropriate by said Employee Relations Commission. Management hereby recognizes Joint Council of Supervising Deputy Probation Officers Association/Los Angeles County Employees Association as the certified majority representative of the employees in said Unit. The term “employee” or “employees” as used herein shall refer only to employees employed by the County in said Unit in the employee classifications listed in Article 7, Salaries, as well as such classes as may be added hereafter by the Employee Relations Commission. Notwithstanding the above, if Management and Joint Council agree on exclusivity, then it will become effective in this Unit.
It is the purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding to promote and provide for harmonious relations, cooperation and understanding between Management and the employees covered herein; to provide an orderly and equitable means of resolving any misunderstandings or differences which may arise under this Memorandum of Understanding; and to set forth the full and entire understanding of the parties reached as a result of good faith negotiations regarding the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment of the employees covered hereby, which understanding the parties intend jointly to submit and recommend for approval and implementation to County’s Board of Supervisors. Take note that there were only two classes of probation Supervisors, the SDPO's and the Transportation Supervisors. The Salary in 1972 was: SDPO $1170.00-1485, and the Transportation Supervisors' pay scale was $819-1020.00