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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 9: Working for Freedom
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8

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A Strike of Coal Miners
Segment 8
Wobblies strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts Speaking Out

There was one group of workers who hated Samuel Gompers 's American Federation of Labor. American Separation of Labor, they called it. AFL members were skilled workers, and not everyone was welcome. The I.W.W.—the International Workers of the World, or Wobblies—were completely democratic: anyone could join. Utah's William "Big Bill" Haywood opened their founding convention in Chicago in 1905, when he pounded on a table and said, "Fellow workers, this is the Continental Congress of the Working Class."

Lucy Parsons joined him on the platform. Her husband, Albert Parsons, had been hanged after the Haymarket riot. Lucy knew he had nothing to do with the bombing, so she took her two children and went off and spoke at hundreds of meetings until she sparked a worldwide protest movement. Wobblies had the idea that all workers, not just skilled workers, should be in unions See It Now - A Strike of Coal Miners. Their goal was one big union. At first, most of the Wobblies were miners, from the West. There was an abundance of writers among them, and they wrote poems and songs about their problems and hopes. Just about every member had a copy of the little red IWW songbook; singing seemed to come naturally to them. If a local union needed help, Wobblies would hop into train boxcars, arrive, march, climb on soapboxes, speak, get thrown in jail, and sing Check The Source - "Solidarity Forever": An I.W.W. Song by Ralph Chapin.

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Did You Know?
A railroad man from Indiana, named Eugene Debs, was an important Wobbly founder. Later on in his life he would become head of the Socialist Party, be sent to prison, and run for president from his cell.

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?

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