Speech by William D. Haywood at the Founding Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1905.

Delivered on July 7, 1905 at the Ratification Meeting that founded the Industrial Workers of the World following its inaugural conference in Chicago. The chair of the meeting was Luella Twining.

Speech to the Founding Convention of the I.W.W. by William D. Haywood from the Proceedings of the First Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, New York Labor News Company, 1905.

Fellow Workers:—The first thing that it is necessary for me to say to you this evening is to correct the introduction of out little chairlady. I am not the president of the Western Federation of Miners, but am holding the position of secretary-treasurer at the present time. The president of the Western Federation of Miners is as close to me, however, as any man can be, and I very much regret that you will not this evening have the opportunity of listening to the president; a man who has suffered as much for the cause of labor as any man in this country was ever called upon to suffer.

Western Federation of Miners leaders Charles Moyer, William D. Haywood And George Pettibone.

The theme for this evening is “Industrial Unionism.” For nearly two weeks there have been assembled in this hall over 2 men and women gathered in your city for the purpose of organizing, not a rival to the American Federation of Labor, not a rival to any other organization—but to organize a labor movement for the working class. Those of us who have studied conditions in this country recognize the fact that up to the launching of this organization there was not a labor organization in this country that represented the working class. (Applause). This industrial union is an organization that stands with the gates wide open to take in every man and woman, and, if necessary, child, that is working for wages with either brain or muscle. (Applause). This organization is broad enough in its scope to take in the men who works in the sewer, or our journalistic friends here on the platform who think that they are professional men. (Applause). There are a great many professional men who don’t know the difference between a professional man and a laborer. For instance—begging the pardon of the journalists—there are some scrub reporters that are working on a police assignment who imagine they are professional men working for a salary. They get about $15 a week, and are lucky at that. There are a great many skilled artisans that are getting $3.50 and $4 a day, who recognize their position as workingmen, and their remuneration, their compensation, as wages. (Applause). I simply want to demonstrate that a $3 a day hod-carrier is just as good as a $15 a week reporter, and it does not make a bit of difference whether he is a negro or a white man. (Applause). (A voice:—”As long as he is a union man”). It does not make any difference whether he is an American or a foreigner. (Applause). Although I am an American, it is no fault of mine. I am still of the opinion that an American is just as good as a foreigner as long as he behaves himself, and no longer. (Laughter.)

With Joseph Ettor.

The organization that has been launched in your city recognizes neither race, creed, color, sex, or previous condition of servitude. (Laughter). We came out of the west to meet the textile worker of the east. We men of the west are getting more wages per day than those men are getting. We recognize the fact that unless we bring them up to our condition they of necessity will drag us down to theirs. (Applause). We propose that this industrial movement shall provide, for every man and woman that works, a decent livelihood. Is that something worth working for? Now, understand me—or rather, do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that this organization is going to improve the condition of purely the skilled workers, the bricklayer, the carpenter or the type-setter; but I mean that we are going down in the gutter to get at the mass of the workers and bring them up to a decent plane of living. (Applause). I do not care the snap of my finger whether or not the skilled workers join this industrial movement at the present time. When we get the unorganized and the unskilled laborer into this organization the skilled worker will of necessity come here for his own protection. (Applause). As strange as it may seem to you, the skilled worker to-day is exploiting the laborer beneath him, the unskilled man, just as much as the capitalist is. (Applause). To make myself better understood, the skilled laborer has organized for himself a union, recognizing that in unity there is strength. He has thrown a high wall around that union which prohibits men from joining the organization. He exacts that a man to become a member of the labor union must of necessity serve an apprenticeship to develop his skill. What for? For the benefit of the union? No, but for the benefit of his employer, who is a member of the Citizens’ Alliance (applause), and who is trying to crush out of existence that same union that has endeavored to develop skilled mechanics for the benefit of the capitalist class. (Applause). What I want to demonstrate to you is that the skilled mechanic, by means of the pure and simple trades union, is exploiting the unskilled laborer. I think that will be easy for me to do. The unskilled laborer has not been able to get into the skilled laborer’s union because that union exacts that a man must needs have served a term of years as an apprentice. Again, there are unions in this country that exact an initiation fee, some of them as high as $500. There is the glass blowers’, to be specific, how long would it take a man working for a dollar or a dollar and a quarter a day and providing for a family, to save up enough money to pay his initiation fee into that union? Why, he might just as well figure on a trip to “Paree.” To demonstrate the point that I wanted to get at, it is this: That the unskilled laborer’s wages have been continually going down, that the prices of commodities have been continually going up, and that the skilled mechanic through his union has been able to hold his wages at a price and upon a scale that has insured to him even at these high prices a reasonably decent living; but the laborer at the bottom, who is working for a dollar or a dollar and a quarter a day, has been ground into a state of destitution. (Applause.)

With Jack Whyte,right.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this condition does not exist as generally throughout the west as it does here and farther east, and especially is this true in the camps where the Western Federation of Miners is thoroughly organized, because in those camps we have established a minimum wage of $3 a day for every man or boy that is employed around the mines. Now we have no objections to a man getting as much more as he can, hut we exact that he shall get at least those decent wages that will justify him in maintaining a family and doing it respectably, and we are coming here to Chicago and we are going further east to see if it is not possible to bring the common laborer up to a plane something like we enjoy in the mining camps of the west. (Applause). And that can only be brought about by organization. Not an organization with $500 initiation fee; not an organization that demands that you shall serve a three years’ apprenticeship to any trade for the benefit of a member of the Citizens’ Alliance, but an organization that has the doors wide open so that any man that is working at any calling can come in and join hands with us. (Applause). Though we are enjoying very good conditions, we recognize, as I stated before, that our conditions can only be maintained by upholding the conditions or endeavoring to uplift the fellow who is at the bottom.

Now, don’t get discouraged, folks, you of the working class, because here in Chicago you have lost some strikes. Remember that you never could have lost those strikes if you had been organized industrially as the workers in Russia are organized (applause)—organized into an organization that takes in every man, woman and child working in an industry. For instance, in the packing plants, the butchers’ organization was one of the best organizations in this country, reputed to be 50,000 strong. They were well disciplined, which is shown from the fact that when they were called on strike they quit to a man. That is, the butchers quit, but did the engineers quit, did the firemen quit, did the men who were running the ice plants quit? They were not in the union, not in that particular union. They had agreements with their employers which forbade them quitting. The result was that the butchers’ union was practically totally disrupted, entirely wiped out. Now, presuming that every man around the packing houses, from the printer to the pig sticker, belonged to one union; that when they went out on strike the engineers, firemen and men that ran the ice plants all quit; that millions of dollars of produce were in a state so that it would rapidly perish, don’t you believe that those packing house companies would have capitulated? Don’t you believe that if to-day the organized workers of your great city would not go on strike, but that they would stay home for three or four days, that the teamsters would win the strike that they are now engaged in? (Applause). One union man is no better than another union man, and any union man that will stand back because a company has an agreement with him, and who will scab on his fellow union man, he may be a union man, but in my opinion he is a technical scab. (Applause). On the Santa Fe Railroad some time ago the telegraphers went out on strike, and they presented their grievance to the company. The company says: “We cannot do anything for you.” They appealed to the different brotherhoods of railroad men. Those various brotherhoods appointed their grievance committees to see the management. When they went to the management the management said to them: “Gentlemen, haven’t we schedules with you?” The committee said “Yes.” “Well,” said the company, “you carry out your schedules with us and we will attend to the telegraphers.” They attended to the telegraphers to the extent that there is not a union telegrapher on the Santa Fe system. Then the machinists went on strike on the same system, and they appealed to the brotherhoods, and the brotherhoods in the same manner appealed to the management The management called their attention to their agreements, and told them to attend to their business and carry out the rates and rules of those schedules, and they would attend to the machinists; and the machinists to-day are the victims of the sacred contract of the union man with his employer. There never was a contract so sacred, drawn up between a union and an employer, but what the employer would break it if he felt it was to his interest to do so. (Applause.) So that in my opinion and in the opinion of the delegates that have assembled here, no union will have the right or be empowered to enter into a contract with any company or corporation unless that contract is in keeping with and to the welfare of the general labor movement. (Applause.)

Bill Haywood, William Trautman, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn with strikers.

Some of the labor leaders of this country have been quoted as saying that it is possible for the capitalist, the corporationist—or the employer, if you will—to get together with the working-men and adjust the conditions that exist between them. Some of them have said that if we only sit down at a table and look each other in the eye and talk these matters over that there would never be another strike. Well, now, that proposition of looking each other in the eye suggests to me that out in Colorado and further west this is a sort of a poker player’s game. (Laughter).

A man sitting behind a full hand of four aces looks the other fellow in the eye and tries to make him believe he has only got two deuces. (Laughter.) Now, the capitalist is always ready to sit down and look the other fellow in the eye, and he has always got the best of it. Why? Because he owns the tools that the other fellow works with. (Applause). Without the tools the other man could not live, and when a man or a company or corporation has possession of the tools, the means of production, the economic power, the means of life, he has your life absolutely in his possession. (Applause). Why, folks, rather than be one of the residents of the ghetto down here, a place that I was through last night I would rather be a big buck nigger on a plantation in the south before the days when chattel slavery was wiped out. Why? Because—size me up pretty well now—I would be worth about $3,000 to a plantation holder. It would be to his interest to provide me with good shelter, with suitable clothing, with proper food, with proper medical attendance, because I represent to him a monetary value of $3,000. Suppose I was to go to some plantation owner to-day-and we have not any slavery in this country. He would size me up and he would say: “You are worth just about $2 or $1.50 a day to work on this ranch. If you get sick you take care of yourself. If you die it is no loss to me. I care nothing about your family. Your little pickaninnies, there is no value to them. Your little red-headed girl does not represent five cents of value to me.” Is this system more cruel than that of slavery days? A hundred thousand times more. (Applause). The wage system is worse than chattel slavery.

Workers at the Trade Dollar Mine of Silver City Idaho, Bill Haywood standing seventh from left, turned to the side as usual. 1890s.

Now, are there any of you who feel that your interests and the capitalist’s interests are identical? Don’t you know that there is not an employing capitalist or corporation manufactory in this country that if it were possible would not operate his or its entire plant or factory by machines and dispose of every human being employed? (Applause). The corporation does not hire you. The employer never looks at your face; he never looks you in the eye. He cares nothing about your feelings. He does not care anything about your surroundings. He cares nothing about your twinges of anguish or your heartaches. He wants your hands and as much of your brain as is necessary to attach yourself to a machine. (Applause). Remember, that to-day there are no skilled mechanics. Down in the packing house there are no butchers. There is a train of specialized men that do just their part, that is all. The machine is the apprentice of yesterday; the machine is the journeyman of to-day. The machine is rapidly taking your place, and it will have you entirely displaced pretty soon, and it is a question as between you and the capitalist as to who is going to own and control and manipulate and supervise that machine. (Applause.)

That is the purpose of this industrial union. Now, let no man make a mistake. While we are going to do everything that we can to improve and take advantage of every opportunity that is offered to us to improve the condition of the working class as we go along, the ultimate aim of this organization is to get control of the supervision of industry. (Applause). We propose to say to the employing class what the hours of labor shall be and what the remuneration shall be. We are the people who do the work, and we have got tired of those who do nothing but shirk, reaping all of the benefits. That is the definition of industrial unionism; the absolute control and supervision of industry. And when the working class are sufficiently well organized to control the means of life, why then the system that the speaker before me told you about, the ownership of legislatures and senates and militias and police will be of little avail to them, because a condition such as exists in Chicago at the present time could not exist: The army or police that would raise a hand, a club or a gun against a workingman would have to leave this community or starve to death. (Applause). And we are going further than that. We are going to say to the employer: You must take your place in the productive system of this country or you will starve. (Applause.)

Now, remember, that we fellows out west were once east; that if we don’t know what we are going up against, our fathers probably did. My great great-grandfather lived in Boston. My great-grandfather came as far west as Ohio. My grandfather lived in Iowa. My father carried the mail in Colorado before there was a railroad. I have been still farther west, until they told me that it was only a few miles to the rolling billows of the Pacific, and I concluded that the Haywood family had better turn back, that we had been driven to the frontiers until there were no more frontiers. So I have come back to Chicago, and am still on the frontier; that is, on the frontier of this industrial union movement, which I hope to see grow throughout this country until it takes in a great majority of the working people, and that those working people will rise in revolt against the capitalist system as the working class in Russia are doing to-day. (Great applause.)

Proceedings of the First Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, Chicago June 27 – July 8, 1905. Published by the New York Labor News Company, 1905.

Stenographically Reported by W. E. McDermutt, Revised and Approved by Wm. E. Trautmann, Secretary of the Convention.

Contents: Publisher’s Note, Index of Subjects, Index of Speakers, First Day Morning Session, First, Day Afternoon Session, Second Day Morning Session, Second Day Afternoon Session, Third Day Morning Session, Third Day Afternoon Session, Fourth Day Session, Fifth Day Session, Sixth Day Morning Session, Sixth Day Afternoon Session, Seventh Day Morning Session, Seventh Day Afternoon Session, Eighth Day Morning Session, Eighth Day Afternoon Session, Ninth Day Morning Session, Ninth Day Afternoon Session, Tenth Day Morning Session, Tenth Day Afternoon Session, Eleventh Day’s Session, Appendix. 616 pages.

PDF of full book: https://books.google.com/books/download/Proceedings_of_The_annual_Convention_of.pdf?id=ifRQAQAAMAAJ&output=pdf

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