Joe Hill was executed a hundred years ago. He was killed by a firing squad in the Utah State Prison. Joe, a member of the International Workers of the World (the IWW), was a union man. He was troublesome to the powers that be, those monied interests that don’t want workers asking for too much.
Since the police were most often on the side of the money and not the worker, they were sent in to break up strikes and labor disputes, often with force. It isn’t hard to believe they could have framed Hill for a murder to shut him up. As history shows, it worked exactly the opposite way, and Joe Hill became a martyr to the labor movement.
I was a union man for over 30 years. In Utah that branded me as something of a troublemaker. Utah is a right-to-work state, and business owners think people should be content to earn minimum wage and live in poverty.
Pat Bagley, cartoonist and historian, whose work appears in The Salt Lake Tribune, did this series on Joe Hill in early September, 2015. I like Bagley’s work and have shown it before, and I want to share this with you. I hope someday Bagley will expand this into a graphic novel.
Copyright ©2015 The Salt Lake Tribune.
Joe Hill was a songwriter, and when he was gone he had songs sung about him.
Pete Seeger sings “Joe Hill.”
Utah Philips sings a couple of Joe Hill’s songs: