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Wood V Haywood

In: Historical Events

Submitted By jasontos
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Wood vs. Haywood On January 12, 1912, an army of Industrial Workers of the World went on strike from the Wood Mill. They took to the streets to protest their unfair treatment in the workplace and refused to go back in until they got what they wanted: higher wages, better hours, and proper treatment. Two of the heads of the conflict were William M. “Billy” Wood and William D. “Big Bill” Haywood. Billy Wood was the owner of the Wood Mill and Big Bill, who was considered ‘the Lincoln of labor’, was leading the IWW. Both men and their parties stood their ground until the strike was finally resolved two months later. I intend to ask both men about why they stood by their respected parties and never wavered. What would Wood have done if he was in some of the situations the strikers were in? Why does Haywood stand up for the workers? All these questions will be answered on “American Dream.”

Jewett: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to this week’s episode of “American Dream.” As you all know, each week we bring in a historical figure or figures from America’s past and discuss the issues they lived through. This week, our guests will be William M. “Billy” Wood and William D. “Big Bill” Haywood who both played major roles in the Bread and Roses Strike in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Billy Wood, as he was called, owned the Wood Mill, which was apart of the American Woolen Company. When he died in 1926, he was one of the richest men in America1. Mr. Haywood, who is referred to as Big Bill for his large waist, was brought in as one of the leaders of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. Now without further a due, please shield your eyes as we transport our two guests forward 300 years. Please welcome William Wood and William Haywood.
Haywood: Where in the Sam Hill am I?
Jewett: Mr. Haywood, Mr. Wood, my name is Jewett and you are in the year 2122 in New York City on an i-Vision show called “American Dream.” We brought the pair of you hear to ask you a few questions about the strike you just resolved in Lawrence. After you answer for us, we’ll certainly explain more to you on how you are 300 years into the future. Mr. Wood we will start with you. Why did you not cave into the Industrial Works of the World’s demands from the very start?
Wood: I had no sympathy for the Wobblies. I’m sorry; the members of the union2 might make more sense to you. Anyways, I had no pity for their struggles. I began work in 1870 at the age of 12. My father had just passed from consumption of alcohol, and my mother being a scrubwoman3, needed the money to help the family. I didn’t hate work because work was where my good fortune began. It is whatever you make it: hardship or happiness, a punishment or a pleasure. A man who doesn’t work misses the greatest satisfaction. The Wobblies were whining about working fifty-six and fifty-four hour weeks. Do you know how often I worked seventeen-hour days for six days a week4? All the damn time. I didn’t think they had any reason to be on strike, I thought they should be hard at work. Prior to the strike, we were paying our workers what we could afford to pay them. We were in the red for several years, so it would have made no sense what so ever to pay them the fifteen percent increase that they wanted. They may have had low wages, but they also had a bonus system to increase their pay. They would be rewarded with extra wages for meeting production quotas and if they missed no more than one day per month5.
Haywood: Yes and those incentives lead to a very unsafe work environment. You had sick workers coming in who were in no physical condition to work and you had employees working far too fast to be at a cautious effort. This is why your mill had two accidents every three days!6
Wood: If they were too sick to work or if they didn’t feel safe working at such rapid paces, then they shouldn’t have come to work or worked so fast. Their salaries were not based upon that.
Haywood: They couldn’t afford to not coming to work! Especially since they were only making, four, six, or eight dollars and fifty cents7! Who possibly could have lived on those wages? A strike was necessary and I wish I had been around so it could have happened sooner.
Jewett: Gentlemen, please calm down, we are not here to have an argument, merely a discussion. Now, Mr. Haywood, why did you believe that Mr. Wood was at fault for the strike and why did you get involved in the strike?
Haywood: You see Jewett, I’ve been a rugged country type my whole time. I believe that no man should be put down by someone who has more money than they do. I’ve been traveling around helping laborers fight the good fight and when I was told about the boys and girls here in Lawrence, I came running to help them get what they deserve. Billy Wood’s mill was a very unfair place to work for the workers. I have already mentioned they’re horrid weekly wages and the unfair bonus system, but also it was just a very unsafe place to work. No fourteen-year-old child, let alone adults, should have been subjected to such working conditions. Families simply needed more money to make it worthwhile living in Lawrence, mainly those who travelled from Europe to work here, where they were promised bags full of gold from advertisements8. Citizens of Lawrence needed more money for bills; mainly health related ones. In the year preceding the strike, I believe some-odd 1,524 people died in the town and half were under the age of six and five hundred hadn’t even had their first birthday party9!
Wood: I understand how hard it is to lose a child, seeing as how I myself have lost four10. But like I have said, we were paying what we could afford to in order to not lose our business to the competition. It wasn’t until after the strike had been settled that we all as mill owners decided to give raises to prevent other strikes occurring.
Jewett: First, Mr. Haywood, could you please elaborate a little on the Europeans who came over for work and on what we like to call the American Dream. Then Mr. Wood, could you tell us if you offer the strikers a settlement prior to the final agreement?
Haywood: As I said earlier, many Europeans came to America because they saw advertisements for work here, something they could not find in their homeland. The advertisements led the immigrants to believe that they would be paid in pots of gold. Of course, they didn’t believe they would actually be handed gold, but the idea of work was so promising that they shoved all their belongings into a small bag and crossed the ocean. Not one of these immigrants came to our great nation with the expectations of being treated like dirt at their job. None of them were planning on being called racial slurs all day at the workplace. Many did not see the travel over and the paycheck they received as worth the harassment they put up with and their treatment at Wood’s Mill.
Wood: First of all, we treat all our employees, regardless of ethnicity, with respect. But yes I did offer them a settlement. I told them they would get a pay raise once the economy improved11. Obviously, they declined and the strike continued.
Jewett: So the strike could have ended but the workers held out for even more? I see. Mr. Haywood, without any income, how did the strikers manage to survive? How did they eat? Pay their rent?
Haywood: They certainly weren’t living lavishly like our friend Billy Wood over here, but they weren’t doing that before the strike either. People from all over the country sent money to the IWW to help out the strikers. Fifty dollars here, a hundred dollars there, and one shoemaker even sent seven hundred dollars12! This was able to help to some extent, but one thing that provided the most for those out of work were the soup kitchens. The first one opened on Tuesday, January 23 at Franco-Belgian Hall13. In the morning and afternoon, three long tables were filled with hungry people.
Jewett: How were the children able to deal with all of this?
Haywood: Actually, many of them didn’t have to. A large number of parents took their children to the train station and sent them away to Boston, New York City, and other places where there were wealthy families who were able to support the child and provide it with food, shelter, clothes, and an education14.
Jewett: Would you have considered shipping your children off like this if you were on strike Mr. Wood?
Wood: That is a difficult question Jewett. I love my six children more than anything. I go home to play with them every single night and it would kill me inside to not see them15. Having said that, I do think that if I had to watch them starve in the freezing cold, then I would considering sending them elsewhere for a brief period where they could be taken care of.
Jewett: We’re a little short on time so lets fast-forward a little bit. When did the strike finally come to an end and what were the terms of the deal?
Haywood: The day was Wednesday, March 1316 and I think that my friend Billy Wood over here would like to tell the audience what the agreement was.
Wood: On that day it was announced to the crowd that the workers would receive an increase in wages varying from five percent to the highest paid to twenty percent to the lowest paid. Overtime work would be paid at time and a quarter. The premium system will be so modified that it means an adjustment to the premium every two weeks. No discrimination will be shown against any striker and finally every man will go back to his old job when the strike is declared over.17
Jewett: That sounds like a fair deal for both parties involved. Now it looks like we have time for one more question so we will allow an audience member to ask either of our guests something.
Audience Member: Mr. Haywood, why haven’t you been hiding the right side of your face?
Haywood: I sit like this because I lost my right eye when I was whittling a slingshot with my knife and the knife came up and got me in the eye. The eye is still in my socket, but useless and that’s why I squint like this18.
Jewett: That’s all the time we have for today. I’d like to thank Mr. Wood and Mr. Haywood for their time today and answering our questions. We are now erasing their minds of this encounter and sending them back to 1912! Thank you and see you next week where we will welcome Henry Ford to talk about his car empire! The Bread and Roses Strike was an early example in American history of the little guys finally getting what they deserved. William Haywood stood up for the common man, and even more so the man who had even less than the common man. He brought them from cold, broke, and on strike to a place where they never thought they could be, making decent wages. He worked his hardest to help out the members of the IWW and it paid off. William Wood on the other hand, had to fight off these members the duration of the strike. It doesn’t seem as if he was a bad person, he was just put in a sticky situation where he had to be the bad guy. He couldn’t afford to give the workers the fifteen percent raise they wanted because then he would have to charge more, causing him to sell less. Both men did what was interest of their parties, but in the end it worked out for everyone.

1. Watson, Buce. Bread & Roses. N.p.: Viking Penguin, 2005. Print. Page 20
2. Page 56
3,4- Page 21
5- Page 23
6- page 9
7- page 26
8- page 86
9- Page 27
10- Page 21
11-Page 86
12,13 –Page 87
14- Page 144
15- page 199

16,17- Page 106
18- Page 92

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