I am speaking for the working class, and I am a partisan of the workers.
-Big Bill Haywood
Friday May 14, 1915
Washington, D. C. - Big Bill Haywood Speaks for Working Men, Women, and Children
Big Bill Haywood
During the coarse of his testimony before the Commission on Industrial Relations
, Big Bill Haywood, Secretary-Treasurer of the Industrial Workers of the World, was questioned by Commissioner Harris Weinstock, a California businessman. Fellow Worker Haywood explained how government might operate when the working people have a voice through their union, as opposed to the present system of government under which most working men and women, and all working class children, are disenfranchised.
"I AM A PARTISAN OF THE WORKERS"
Commissioner Weinstock. Well, then, will you briefly outline to us, Mr. Haywood, how would you govern and direct the affairs under your proposed system of 100,000,000 of people, as we are in this country to-day?
Mr. Haywood. Well, how are the affairs of the hundred million people conducted at the present time? The workers have no interest, have no voice in anything except the shops. Many of the workers are children. They certainly have no interest and no voice in the franchise. They are employed in the shops, and of course my idea is that children who work should have a voice in the way they work—in the hours they work, in the wages that they should receive—that is, under the present conditions children should have that voice, children who labor.
The same is true of women. The political state, the Government, says that women are not entitled to vote—that is, except in the 10 free States of the West; but they are industrial units; they are productive units; from millions of women. My idea is that they should have a voice in the control or disposition of their labor powers, and the only place where they can express themselves is in their labor union halls, and there they express themselves to the fullest as citizens of industry, if you will, as to the purposes of their work and the conditions under which they will labor. Now, you recognize that in conjunction with women and children.
The black men of the South are on the same footing. They are all citizens of this country, but they have no voice in its government. Millions of black men are disfranchised, who if organized would have a voice in saying how they should work and how the conditions of labor should be regulated. But unorganized they are as helpless and in the same condition of slavery as they were before the war.
This is not only true of women and children and black men, but it extends to the foreigner who comes to this country and is certainly a useful member of society. Most of them at once go into industries, but for five years they are not citizens. They plod along at their work and have no voice in the control or the use of their labor power. And as you have learned through this commission there are corporations who direct the manner in which those foreigners shall vote. Certainly you have heard something of that in connection with the Rockefeller interests in the southern part of Colorado. You know that the elections there were never carried on straight, and these foreigners were directed as to how their ballot should be placed.
They are not the only ones who are disfranchised, but there is also the workingman who is born in this country, who is shifted about from place to place by industrial depressions; their homes are broken up and they are compelled to go from one city to another, and each state requires a certain period of residence before a man has the right to vote. Some States say he must be a resident 1 year, others say 2 years; he must live for a certain length of time in the county; he must live for 30 days or such a matter in the precinct before he has any voice in the conduct of government.
Now, if a man was not a subject of a state or nation, but a citizen of industry, moving from place to place, belonging to his union, wherever he went he would step in the union hall, show his card, register, and he at once has a voice in the conduct of the affairs pertaining to his welfare. That is the form of society I want to see, where the men who do the work, and who are the only people who are worth while—understand me, Mr. Weinstock, I think that the workingman, even doing the meanest kind of work, the workingman is a more important member of society than any judge on the supreme bench; than any other of the useless members of society. I am speaking for the working class, and I am a partisan of the workers.