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Episode Info: The I.W.W. was a tough, militant, radical union, and its very existence terrified business owners, factory bosses, and the entire U.S. government. Since its founding, the law had been out to get the Wobblies. In 1919, as a record number of Americans went on strike for better wages and working conditions, would the union be able to help them? Would the union even survive? The Wobblies were so famous for singing that they repeatedly published their lyrics in "The Little Red Songbook," which contained Wobbly sayings and organizing advice as well as songs. "Big Bill" Haywood was tough and physically imposing, but he had a big heart and a gift for communicating with workers. Samuel Gompers was leader of the IWW-rival the American Federation of Labor. He cultivated a reputation for the organization as reasonable and cooperative--and achieved many results for his members. Pinkerton agent James McParland took over the investigation of the murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, and his handling of the main suspect was, shall we say, questionable. McParland was one of the country's most famous Pinkerton agents, known for his infiltration of the Molly Maguires--so famous, in fact, that Arthur Conan Doyle modeled a character in his novel The Valley of Fear on McParland and imagined a conversation between Sherlock Holmes and the real detective. The trial of multiple Wobbly leaders for the murder of Frank Steunenberg garnered nationwide--even international--press attention. The most successful IWW-led strike was the "Bread and Roses" strike in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Many of the strikers were women, seen here on the picket line. IWW organizers urged the strikers to remain peaceful no matter how much the police and state militia threatened them. The strikers generally remained non-violent, although in one confrontation between the two groups a young woman was shot and killed. It remains uncertain who was responsible, but IWW organizer Joseph Ettor was placed on trial. No evidence connected him to the murder, and he was aquitted. Joe Hill was an uneducated, unskilled Swedish immigrant with a remarkable gift for songwriting--in an adopted language, no less. He was convicted of murder and executed by firing squad in 1915. His death can be seen as matter of perverse stubbornness in the face of officialdom--he refused to explain how he had received a gunshot wound on the night a former policeman was killed. Or it was a blatant miscarriage of justice in which a man with no connection to the the murder victim became a convenient scapegoat. Or perhaps it was both. In any case, Hill became a martyr to the Wobbly cause. This remarkable image shows striking miners and those considered their allies being loaded up into cattle cars on the morning of July 12, 1917 by the sheriff of Bisbee, Arizona and the self-appointed Citizens' Protective League. The men were told if they attempted to return to tow...
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