Legendary union "radical" and one of the founders of the IWW
William D. Haywood, who later became better known as "Big" Bill Haywood, was born 4 February 1869 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of a former Pony Express rider. It was the same year the transcontinental railroad was linked to Promontory Summit in Utah. Brigham Young was still president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Indian Wars were still being fought on the Great Plains.
Though a better bit of historical foreshadowing is that was the year of the Avondale Mine Disasterthe first major coal mine disaster in the United States which happened when a fire broke out in a mine shaft in Pennsylvania, blocking off the only escape and air for 110 miners who perished (suffocation). It led to legislation concerning safety and ventilation of mines. That the legislation looked good on paper but did relatively little to better the lives of the workers it purported to help is further foreshadowing for the man who would become, perhaps, the best known unionist of his time.
Around age nine, while whittling himself a slingshot, he had a knife accident that left him blind in his right eye. He never had a glass replacement made and pictures of him usually show him posed in a three quarter view with his left eye toward the camera. This, no doubt, added to his presence and aided his larger than life appearance. Not only a big man, he gave loud, impassioned speeches that fired up his listeners, inspiring action.
Western Federation of Miners
Before the age of ten, he began working in the mines (like so many before and after, children were often forced into work to help support the family). Considering the typical working conditions of mine workers, it isn't surprising that he became interested in unionization. He was also influenced by the 1886 Haymarket events and the Pullman Strike of 1894.
In 1896, while working in a silver mine on northern Idaho, Ed Boyce, president of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), gave a speech. The speech and ideas inspired Haywood and he joined the union. He threw himself into things, taking part in activities and helping organize. Within a few years he became Secretary Treasurer of the union. He spent time traveling throughout the West, working to organize and unionize workers. He had joined during a period when there was increasing strife and conflict between miners and owners, making representatives of the union even more undesirable. It wasn't uncommon for Haywood to have to travel in secret through the camps to avoid being arrested (or worse).
In 1902, Boyce stepped down from his position with the WFM. He hand-picked Haywood and Charles Moyer as his succesors. The two were opposites in that Moyer tended toward caution and patience, favoring negotiation, while Haywood preferred action and confrontation (not unlike his personality), being quick to call a strike. This sometimes led to a degree of friction between the two.
One of the key demands that they rallied the miners around was something that is taken for granted today: the eight hour day. In the nineteenth century, what would today be considered horribly long hours (and necessarily overtimesomething almost unheard of at the time) was commonplaceas common as the six day work week. This was a time when knocking down the work day to ten or twelve hours was considered a blow for the worker. Mining camps had rules that workers had to put in ten hours of work undergroundthat time did not cover the time spent in transport up and down the shaft, itself. In addition to that, they had to work thirteen out of fourteen days.
Haywood and the WFM would rally the miners by the cry of "Eight hours of work, eight hours of play, eight hours of sleep, eight hours a day!" They were successful in their work, helping bring about a law in Utah for the eight hour daythe first in the nation.
But, as noted, despite that success, things were tense in Colorado where conflict between the miners and owners began to have its own body count. In the confrontations between miners and the owners, thirty-three people died. One important incident involved the bombing of a train in 1904 where thirteen nonunion workers were killed while waiting for it. Because of his fiery rhetoric and confrontational tactics, Haywood was suspected but never charged. But this incident would come back into Haywood's life a few years later.
"Trial of the Century"
It was just after Christmas, 1905. Former governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, comes home from work, opens his gate to enter the property and a bomb explodes. Within hours he dies.
An investigation was quickly launched to determine the culprit. A man staying at a local hotel was soon arrested and identified as one Harry Orchard. Following a long interrogation by both the police and Pinkerton detectives, Orchard confessed to being responsibleon orders from the WFM. He went on to confess to other incidents, including the Colorado station bombing, the previous year. He also claimed the actions were directly ordered by both Moyer and Haywood (and another of the WFM top ranking officials).
Ignoring such legal niceties as extradition, the Pinkertons went out and in a "secret raid" arrested the three men in Colorado (in what was essentially a kidnapping). They were herded onto a private train and brought, nonstop, to Boise (Idaho) the next day. According to one of the detectives, they "would never leave Idaho alive" (www.pbs.org).
Haywood appealed the arrest, understandably, on the grounds that it was an illegal kidnapping. While the appeal worked its way through the courts he kept himself busy in the Idaho prison system. While there he designed posters for the WFM, read books (including Upton Sinclair's The Jungle), took a correspondence course in law, and even ran for Colorado governor on the Socialist ticket. When the case came to the Supreme Court, it was decided that, while the "abduction" of the men was wrong and regrettable, the arrests should stand.
The plan was to try the men separately, Haywood being first. In summer 1907, he went on trial for conspiracy to murder Steunenberg. The prosecution admitted that their sole intention was the death penalty. The trial was billed by the press as the "trial of the century" (one of many such onesseems there's about one or two each decade). On the prosecution's side waswith no taint of impropriety or bias, no doubtWilliam Borah, who in addition to being a newly appointed US Senator, had been a close personal friend of the victim. For the defense was famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow (who would be involved in at least two other "trials of the century": the Scopes trial and the Leopold and Loeb case). His legal fees were paid by donations (many of them small) by union members from throughout the country.
Orchard's testimony was the heart of the case against Haywood. He described his "arrangement" with the WFM and often cited Haywood as being the "force behind the violence" (www.pbs,org). Darrow spent time pointing out Orchard's criminal history and his arrangement with the Pinkertons to avoid execution for the testimony. Another flaw in his claims was that there was no other evidence presented to back up the story.
Darrow portrayed Haywood as a victim. A conspiracy of mine owners who wished to "silence Haywood's radical voice in support of miners" (www.pbs.org). Haywood unequivocally stated that he was innocent and told of the many times he had been singled out as a target by both owners and the government.
The case went to jury at the end of July 1907. There were rumors around midnight that it was 11-1 for a conviction, with the lone holdout close to changing the vote. Confident of a "win," the Idaho Statesman even prepared the headline for the decision to convict (something along the lines of "Dewey Defeats Truman" one imagines).
The next day, the jury had reached its decision. The verdict was read: "we, the jury in the above entitled case, find the defendant...not guilty." It was said that Haywood "jumped to his feet, crying and laughing at the same time. After hugging supporters, he ran to shake hands with each juror" (www.law.umkc.edu). There were complaints that the WFM somehow rigged the outcome through bribes or death threats, but nothing came of it.
Industrial Workers of the World
The trial had caused the friction between Haywood and Moyer to increase and it eventually led to Haywood leaving the union in 1908. At that point, he threw his time and effort into the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the "Wobblies," a name of uncertain origin).
The IWW was a union intent on bringing all workersincluding the unskilled and recently immigrated who the American Federation of Labor, a trade union, felt to be "unorganizable"under the same union in order to have them better protected ("safety in numbers") and to give them more power with a bigger voice. From their point of view, the way trade unions worked was "a horrible example of an army divided against itself in the face of a strong combination of employers" (Zinn). They wanted "one big union" (a slogan), which would make "an injury to one an injury to all" (www.iww.org).
Haywood was in attendance when it was created in Chicago in 1905. Other speakers at its formation were leader of the Socialist Party Eugene V. Debs (who would later leave the organization because of its increasing radicalness) and Mother Mary Jones ("Mother Jones") who was an organizer for the United Mine Workers of America (she would help organize during the events later known as the Ludlow Massacre). They stated that:
The aims and objects of this organization shall be to put the working-class in possession of the economic power, the means of life, in control of the machinery of production and distribution, without regard to the capitalist masters. (Zinn)
Further example of the inherent radicalism of the union can be found in the preamble to its constitution that was drawn up that day:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life....
Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old. (www.iww.org)
Strong stuff. And clearly the main reason why the owners of factories, mills, mines, and other places of employment feared and hated them. Ties to socialism and anarchism (even communism to some degree) didn't help. Nor the fact that many of the members were from that lower class of the recently immigrated that was already looked at with disdain by both corporate and middle class America.
Like Haywood (who became head of the IWW in 1915), the group preferred action over negotiation and promoted what it called "direct action," meaning
industrial action directly by, for, and of the workers themselves, without the treacherous aid of labor misleaders or scheming politicians. A strike that is initiated, controlled, and settled by the workers directly affected is direct action.... Direct action is industrial democracy. (Zinn)
And while violence was never to be initiated, the IWW had no problem fighting back with equal violence if (it deemed it) necessary. In a strike against US Steel in 1909, the strikers fought back against the state troopers, promising to "take a trooper's life for every worker killed" (Zinn). And the group was subject to numerous attacks, beatings, and arrests in their attempts to organize workers and strikes. The IWW was instrumental in the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, in which Haywood played a role when the two organizers that had been sent were (unjustly) accused of inciting murder and jailed.
The IWW never had more than five or ten thousand members at any given time (the peak was probably during the Lawrence strike, which ran as high as 15,000 due to the large number of people involved). Over the years of its "golden age" before its decline, there was probably less than a million that had membership. On the other hand, Haywood and the IWW was inspirational and instructional for other workers and the demands that were met eventually made an impact on far more lives.
World War One
When World War One broke out, both Haywood and the IWW were against the United States' entry (the IWW was the only union that was adamant against going to war). On the other hand, the received idea that the war was yet another example of American patriotic response is incorrect.
World War One actually was felt to require its own "marketing" division (propaganda, properly speaking) to get the spirit of patriotism whipped to the proper level so that the war would not only be supported but people would choose to fight (when the numbers of voluntary recruits were inadequate, conscription was used). President Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information in order to instill these "correct" feelings toward America's decision to go to war (now the media, itself, fulfills the role with today's "wars," giving them catchy names and slogans, special graphics, and their own theme music).
The most outspoken people against the war tended to be the sort of "radicals" that Haywood fell into: communists, socialists, anarchists, union types, and (of course) pacifists like Jeannette Rankin, the only member of Congress to vote against going to war in both in 1917 and 1941 (the latter time being the single dissenting vote). As could be expected, Haywood saw the war in labor/economic terms, as can be seen in this statement from the IWW in 1915:
With the European war for conquest and exploitation raging and destroying the lives, class consciousness and unity of the workers, clouding the main issues, we openly declare ourselves the determined opponents of all nationalistic sectionalism, or patriotism, and the militarism preached and supported by our one enemy, the capitalist class. We condemn all wars, and for the prevention of such, we proclaim the anti-militarist propaganda in time of peace and, in time of war, the General Strike in all industries. (www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk)
Further evidence of an often unmentioned resistance to going to war is shown by the government feeling it necessary to pass two acts to counteract those sentiments (which it must have felt threatened by, otherwise there would be no need for the legislation).
The Espionage Act was passed in 1917. It was started out sounding like an act related to spying and giving information pertaining to national defense to the enemy in time of war ("information" defined very broadly). But it also made it illegal to cause "insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty...or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the US" (qtd. in Zinn).
It essentially became a way to quiet the voices of dissent, whether in person or in print. There was a provision making "every letter, writing, circular, postal card, picture, print, engraving, photograph, newspaper, pamphlet, book, or other publication, matter or thing, of any kind, in violation of any of the provisions" considered "nonmailable matter" and barred from transport or delivery through the mail. The same went for anything (the same very broad scope of items) "advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States" (www.multied.com).
The second piece of legislation was the Sedition Act. It expanded the parameters of the prior act to include anything that one could
willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States...or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully...urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production.... (www.lib.byu.edu)
Basically, free speech could be capriciously eliminated with imprisonment (both carried large fines and up to twenty years incarceration). Any antigovernment writing, speeches, demonstrations, or actionseven if they were not explicitly antigovernment, since it was arbitrarywere subject to legal action by the police/government. It was also a convenient bludgeon to dispense with some of the rabble that caused labor trouble for American companies.
Haywood, who, in addition to his socialism ("socialism is so plain, so clear, so simple that when a person becomes an intellectual he doesn't understand socialism"), was an atheist, once saying that Christianity was "all nonsense, based on that profane compilation of fables called the Bible" (www.law.umkc.edu). These things, along with union agitation and his reputation, made him disliked (or worse) by those in the non-working classes. Once the war began, his statements against it and, particularly, calling for strikes during wartime, made him a marked man.
Haywood also told people to resist conscription and for workers in defense industries to slow down work. In 1918, he was arrested and charged under the acts (federal agents raided the IWW New York City headquarters the following year). During his trial he said that "I am very much opposed to war, and would have the war stopped today if it were in my power to do it. I hope, if it be necessary, that every man that is imbued with the spirit of war will fight long enough to drive the spirit of hate and war out of his breast" (www.law.umkc.edu). Regardless, he was convicted. After spending time in federal prison (Leavenworth), he was released on bail while his case was on appeal. In 1921, he jumped bail and left the country.
Haywood went to Russia and joined the Bolshevik revolution. Along with journalist John Reed, writer of Ten Days That Shook the World (1920, about those events), Haywood became an important part of the revolution that led to the formation of a new government and the Soviet Union. He was considered a "trusted adviser" and a spokesman for the "achievements in worker opportunity claimed by Marxist theorists and Vladimir Lenin" (www.pbs.org).
Having hit middle age, Haywood began to experience health trouble and his influence in Moscow waned with it. Some historians claim he became dissatisfied with the direction the Soviets were taking the government (abuses of power and repression). While this might be true, it might also be an apologetic.
He died 18 May 1928. His ashes were divided in half, some placed at the Kremlin, near the remains of Reed and Lenin's tomb, the rest buried in Chicago near the monument for the Haymarket Massacre.
(Sources: www.pbs.org/joehill/faces/bill_haywood.html, www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/haywood/HAY_BHAY.HTM, www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhaywood.htm, Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States 1980, 1999: twentieth anniversary edition, Act legislation from www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1918/usspy.html and www.multied.com/documents/EspionageAct.html)