New in the Voices of Labor Store

Big Bill Haywood is in the house.

William Dudley Haywood (February 4, 1869 – May 18, 1928), better known as “Big Bill” Haywood, was a founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and a member of the executive committee of the Socialist Party of America. During the first two decades of the 20th century, he was involved in several important labor battles, including the Colorado Labor Wars, the Lawrence Textile Strike, and other textile strikes in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Haywood was an advocate of industrial unionism, a labor philosophy that favors organizing all workers in an industry under one union, regardless of the specific trade or skill level; this was in contrast to the craft unions that were prevalent at the time, such as the AFL. His belief that workers of all ethnicities should be united also clashed with many unions. His preference for direct action over political tactics alienated him from the Socialist Party leadership and contributed to his recall from the party’s executive committee in 1913.

Never one to shy from violent conflicts, Haywood was frequently the target of prosecutors. His trial for the murder of Frank Steunenberg in 1907 (of which he was acquitted) drew national attention; in 1918, he was one of 101 IWW members convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 during the First Red Scare. In 1921, while out of prison during an appeal of his conviction, Haywood fled to Bolshevik Russia, where he spent the remaining years of his life.

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