Bill Haywood's Book: The Autobiography of William D. Haywood

By William D. Haywood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE LAWRENCE STRIKE

A MEETING had been arranged by the I.W.W. in New York, for my homecoming. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the chairman and in her opening remarks she said the meeting was to welcome me back home. I told the audience that, while I fully appreciated the splendid reception they were giving me, I had really not been away from home. In all my travels I had been with the working class in different countries. I told them of the labor movement in France, England, the Scandinavian countries and Italy. I did not neglect to mention the effect of long-time contracts on the typographical workers of Denmark, and also explained the difference between the syndicalist movement of France and industrial unionism in America.

In its early years the I.W.W. had shared the history of the Western Federation of Miners; it was now writing history of its own. The free speech fight in the West had excited the imagination of the working class throughout the country. The organization was growing in New York as elsewhere. The steel workers in the East and the lumber and agricultural workers in the West were being organized by the I.W.W. Small groups of workers who had become imbued with the spirit of industrial unionism were organized on the east side in New York. Workers who had been overlooked in other organizations found their place under industrial unionism.

Joseph Ettor, one of the most successful organizers of the I.W.W., was responsible for most of the eastern organization, in which he was ably assisted by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Many shoe workers had been organized in Brooklyn. The United Shoe Workers of the A. F. of L. had a few members in different shops. They had there, as elsewhere, signed a contract with the manufacturers, and were working for less wages than the I.W.W. or the individual workers. To prevent their pay being reduced to this level, the I.W.W. called a strike.

An amusing incident occurred in this strike. A former member of the I.W.W. had been severely injured in a street car accident and

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