Interview with Big Bill Haywood

William Dudley Haywood (February 4, 1869–May 18, 1928) more commonly known as Big Bill Haywood. Big Bill was the founder and leader of the I.W.W (Industrial Workers of the World) and also played a big roll in the figure of the American Labor Movement. During the first two decades of the 20th century, he was involved in many important labor battles, including the Colorado Labor Wars, the Lawrence textile strike, and other textile strikes in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

What is your philosophy on industrial unionism?
I am convinced that the system under which workers worked hard is unfair and unjust. I have seen many men die in unsafe mine tunnels and once I suffered a mine injury the only help and support I got was from my fellow miners. I have differed all my life with the principles and methods of the condemned.

Did working in the mines at a young age inspire you in any way?
Yes it did, and it did in a very big way. When I was working in the mines the president of the Western Federation of Miners (W.F.M.) gave a speech and that inspired me to do something to change the problem. I signed up to be a member of the WFM shortly after and thus beginning my involvement in the American Labor Movement.

How did you feel about being sentenced for 20 years in prison?
I was filled with anger and thought that it was not right for me to be put in jail. As a reaction to my feelings I fled to Russia as soon as I got a chance! Once I was there I served as an advisor to Lenin’s Bolshevik government.

Tell me a little bit about racial unity in the labor movement.
I strongly believe that workers of all ethnicities should organize into the same union! I was one of the first people to back up my idea that we should have racial unity in the labor movement. We are big enough to take in the black man, the white man; big enough to take in all nationalities.

Have your ruthless strike tactics ever failed to succeed?
Yes, many times, but to succeed you have to know what doesn’t work. This was shown in the Paterson Silk Strike when 1,850 of our strikers were arrested. Despite our fundraising efforts the strike ended up a failure.