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Industrial Workers of the World

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Title: Industrial Workers of the World  
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Subject: Syndicalism, Anarchism in the United States, General strike, History of socialism, Socialist Party of America
Collection: Anarchism in the United States, Anti-Capitalist Organizations, Communism in the United States, History of Anarchism, History of Socialism, History of the United States (1865–1918), History of the United States (1918–45), Industrial Workers of the World, Labor-Related Organizations, Peace Organizations, Rank and File Labor Unions, Socialism in the United States, Syndicalism, Timber Industry Trade Unions, Trade Unions Established in 1905, Trade Unions in the United States
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Industrial Workers of the World

IWW globe logo: the letters I.W.W. separated by three stars, above a graticule hemisphere. Logo encircled by the text,
Full name Industrial Workers of the World
Founded June 27, 1905 (1905-06-27)[1][2]
Members 3,020 (2014)[3]
Key people Notable members
Office location Chicago, Illinois, United States
Country International
Website .orgIWW

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international, radical industry of their employment. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism," with ties to both socialist and anarchist labor movements. The origin of the nickname "Wobblies" is uncertain.[4]

The IWW promotes the concept of "One Big Union", and contends that all workers should be united as a social class to supplant capitalism and wage labor with industrial democracy.[5] They are known for the Wobbly Shop model of workplace democracy, in which workers elect their managers[6] and other forms of grassroots democracy (self-management) are implemented. IWW membership does not require that one work in a represented workplace,[7] nor does it exclude membership in another labor union.[8]

In the 1910s and early '20s, the IWW achieved many of their short-term goals, particularly in the American west, and cut across traditional guild and union lines to organize workers in a variety of trades and industries. At their peak in 1923, IWW membership has been estimated at about 40,000.[9] However, the extremely high rate of IWW membership turnover during this era (estimated at 133% per decade) makes it difficult to state membership totals with any certainty, as workers tended to join the IWW in large numbers for relatively short periods (e.g., during labor strikes and periods of generalized economic distress).[10]

Nonetheless, membership declined dramatically in the 1920s due to several factors. There were conflicts with other labor groups, particularly the 1924 schism, from which the IWW never fully recovered.[9][11]

In 2012, the IWW moved its General Headquarters offices to 2036 West Montrose, Chicago.[12]


  • History 1905–1950 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Political action or direct action? 1.2
    • Organizing 1.3
    • Government suppression 1.4
    • Organizational schism and afterwards 1.5
  • Activity after World War II 2
    • 1949–2000 2.1
    • 2000-present 2.2
  • Outside the US 3
    • In Australia 3.1
    • In the UK 3.2
    • In Canada 3.3
    • In Germany, Switzerland, Austria 3.4
    • Africa 3.5
  • Folk music and protest songs 4
  • Lingo 5
  • Notable members 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
    • Archives 9.1
    • Books 9.2
    • Documentary films 9.3
    • In fiction 9.4
  • External links 10

History 1905–1950


Big Bill Haywood and office workers in the IWW General Office, Chicago, summer 1917.

The IWW was founded in Chicago in June 1905 at a convention of two hundred socialists, anarchists, Marxists (primarily members of the Socialist Party of America and Socialist Labor Party) radical trade unionists from all over the United States (mainly the Western Federation of Miners) who were opposed to the policies of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

The convention, which took place on June 24, 1905, was then referred to as the "Industrial Congress" or the "Industrial Union Convention"—it would later be known as the First Annual Convention of the IWW.[13] It is considered one of the most important events in the history of industrial unionism.[13]

The IWW's founders included William D. ("Big Bill") Haywood, Daniel De Leon, Eugene V. Debs, Thomas Hagerty, Lucy Parsons, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, Frank Bohn, William Trautmann, Vincent Saint John, Ralph Chaplin, and many others.

The IWW's goal was to promote worker solidarity in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the employing class; its working class, as only about 5% of all workers belonged to unions in 1905, but also was organizing according to narrow craft principles which divided groups of workers. The Wobblies believed that all workers should organize as a class, a philosophy which is still reflected in the Preamble to the current IWW Constitution:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a [14]
Framed, formal document featuring various IWW themes, cursive body text, hand-filled forms and a stamped seal.
The first IWW charter in Canada, Vancouver Industrial Mixed Union no.322, May 5, 1906.

The Wobblies differed from other union movements of the time by its promotion of general strike as the means by which the wage system would be overthrown and a new economic system ushered in, one which emphasized people over profit, cooperation over competition.

One of the IWW's most important contributions to the labor movement and broader push towards social justice was that, when founded, it was the only American union to welcome all workers including women, immigrants, African Americans and Asians into the same organization. Indeed, many of its early members were immigrants, and some, like Carlo Tresca, Joe Hill and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, rose to prominence in the leadership. Finns formed a sizeable portion of the immigrant IWW membership. "Conceivably, the number of Finns belonging to the I.W.W. was somewhere between five and ten thousand."[15] The Finnish-language newspaper of the IWW, Industrialisti, published out of Duluth, Minnesota, was the union's only daily paper. At its peak, it ran 10,000 copies per issue. Another Finnish-language Wobbly publication was the monthly Tie Vapauteen ("Road to Freedom"). Also of note was the Finnish IWW educational institute, the Work People's College in Duluth, and the Finnish Labour Temple in Port Arthur, Ontario which served as the IWW Canadian administration for several years. One example of the union's commitment to equality was Local 8, a longshoremen's branch in Philadelphia, one of the largest ports in the nation in the WWI era. Led by the African American Ben Fletcher, Local 8 had over 5,000 members, the majority of whom were African American, along with more than a thousand immigrants (primarily Lithuanians and Poles), Irish Americans, and numerous others.

The IWW was condemned by politicians and the press, who saw them as a threat to the market systems as well as an effort to monopolize labor at a time when efforts to monopolize industries were being fought as anti-market. Factory owners would employ means both non-violent (sending in Salvation Army bands to drown out speakers) and violent to disrupt their meetings. Members were often arrested and sometimes killed for making public speeches, but this persecution only inspired further militancy.

Political action or direct action?

In 1908 a group led by Yellow IWW" eventually took the name Workers' International Industrial Union, which was disbanded in 1924.

Cartoon symbol of a black cat in a fighting stance
The black cat symbol, created by IWW member Ralph Chaplin, is often used to signify sabotage or wildcat strikes.


A small red cardstock booklet bearing the text,
A Wobbly membership card, or "red card"

"The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands - the ownership and control of their livelihoods - are set at naught, we can have neither men's rights nor women's rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease."

Helen Keller, IWW member, 1911[16]

The IWW first attracted attention in mounted a particularly brutal counter-offensive.

Black and white photograph of a large crowd of people, a few holding signs above the crowd, displaying IWW acronyms and slogans.
1914 IWW demonstration in New York City

By 1912 the organization had around 25,000 members,[19] concentrated in the Northwest, among dock workers, agricultural workers in the central states, and in textile and mining areas. The IWW was involved in over 150 strikes, including the Lawrence textile strike (1912), the Paterson silk strike (1913) and the Mesabi range (1916). They were also involved in what came to be known as the Wheatland Hop Riot on August 3, 1913.

Between 1915 and 1917, the IWW's silent agitators from the IWW.

Building on the success of the AWO, the IWW's lumberjacks and other timber workers, both in the deep South and the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, between 1917 and 1924. The IWW lumber strike of 1917 led to the eight-hour day and vastly improved working conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Even though mid-century historians would give credit to the US Government and "forward thinking lumber magnates" for agreeing to such reforms, an IWW strike forced these concessions.[21]

From 1913 through the mid-1930s, the IWW's Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union (MTWIU), proved a force to be reckoned with and competed with AFL unions for ascendance in the industry. Given the union's commitment to international solidarity, its efforts and success in the field come as no surprise. Local 8 of the Marine Transport Workers was led by Ben Fletcher, who organized predominantly African-American longshoremen on the Philadelphia and Baltimore waterfronts, but other leaders included the Swiss immigrant Walter Nef, Jack Walsh, E.F. Doree, and the Spanish sailor Manuel Rey. The IWW also had a presence among waterfront workers in International Longshoremen's Association up and down the West Coast.

Wobblies also played a role in the sit-down strikes and other organizing efforts by the United Auto Workers in the 1930s, particularly in Detroit, though they never established a strong union presence there.

Where the IWW did win strikes, such as in Lawrence, they often found it hard to hold onto their gains. The IWW of 1912 disdained collective bargaining agreements and preached instead the need for constant struggle against the boss on the shop floor. It proved difficult, however, to maintain that sort of revolutionary enthusiasm against employers. In Lawrence, the IWW lost nearly all of its membership in the years after the strike, as the employers wore down their employees' resistance and eliminated many of the strongest union supporters. In 1938, the IWW voted to allow contracts with employers,[22] so long as they would not undermine any strike.

Government suppression

Black and white photograph of a speaker rallying a large crowd. In front of the stage, facing the audience, are several signs, in various languages, displaying demands.
Joseph J. Ettor, who had been arrested in 1912, giving a speech to barbers on strike

The IWW's efforts were met with "unparalleled" resistance from Federal, state and local governments in America;[9] from company management and labor spies, and from groups of citizens functioning as vigilantes. In 1914, Wobbly Joe Hill (born Joel Hägglund) was accused of murder in Utah and, despite only circumstantial evidence, was executed in 1915. On November 5, 1916 at Everett, Washington a group of deputized businessmen led by Sheriff Donald McRae attacked Wobblies on the steamer Verona, killing at least five union members [23] (six more were never accounted for and probably were lost in Puget Sound). Two members of the police force — one a regular officer and another a deputized citizen from the National Guard Reserve — were killed, probably by "friendly fire".[24]

Many IWW members opposed United States participation in Frank Little championing continued agitation, Ralph Chaplin brokered a compromise agreement. A statement was issued that denounced the war, but IWW members were advised to channel their opposition through the legal mechanisms of conscription. They were advised to register for the draft, marking their claims for exemption "IWW, opposed to war."[26]

In spite of the IWW moderating its vocal opposition, the mainstream press and the U.S. Government were able to turn public opinion against the IWW. Frank Little, the IWW's most outspoken war opponent, was lynched in Butte, Montana in August 1917, just four months after war had been declared.

The government used World War I as an opportunity to crush the IWW. On September 5, 1917, U.S.

  • Official website
  • International Directory of regional and local branches
  • IWW Starbucks Workers Union
  • IWW Jimmy John's Workers Union
  • IWW Sisters' Camelot Canvassers Union
  • NYC IWW Newsletter
  • Jim Crutchfield's IWW Page current and historical documents
  • Paul Buhle, "The Legacy of the IWW", Monthly Review
  • Staughton Lynd, "The Wobblies in Their Heyday, a Hard-headed History of the IWW", Monthly Review Magazine
  • Songs of the workers to fan the flames of discontent The famous "little red songbook" 32nd ed. April 1968
  • 1954 LPSongs of the Wobblies:
  • Strikes! Labor History Encyclopedia for the Pacific Northwest, a collection of resources on IWW activity in the region, including their role in the 1919 Seattle General Strike and farm worker organizing in the early 1900s.
  • Interview with British Wobblies,, 2013.

External links

  1. ^ Yoshie Furuhashi. """Peter Rachleff, "An Injury to One: A Film by Travis Wilkerson. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  • For the Win by Cory Doctorow introduces a nascent union of Internet workers called the IWWWW or Webblies, inspired by the IWW Wobblies. True to the IWW concept of share and share alike, this book is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In fiction

  • The Wobblies. Directed by Stewart Bird, Deborah Shaffer, 1979. DVD 2006 NTSC English 90 minutes. (Includes interviews with 19 elderly Wobblies)
  • An Injury to One. A Film by Travis Wilkerson, 2003 First Run Icarus Films. English 53 minutes. Chronicles the 1917 unsolved murder of Wobbly organizer Frank Little in Butte, Montana, during a strike by 16,000 miners against the Anaconda Copper Company. The film connects "corporate domination to government repression, local repression to national repression, labor history to environmental history, popular culture to the history of class struggle," according to one review.[1]

Documentary films

  • The Founding Convention of the IWW — Proceedings. New York: Merit Publishers. 1969. p. 616. Library of Congress Catalog Number 70-85538. 
  • Brissenden, Paul F. (1920) [1919]. The IWW: A Study of American Syndicalism (Russell & Russell, New York, 1957 ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. 
  • Buhle, Paul (ed.). Wobblies: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. Nicole Schulman. Verso.  
  • Cole, Peter (2007). Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. University of Illinois Press. p. 256.  
  • Dubofsky, Melvyn. We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World. [1969] First paperbound edition. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Books, 1973.
  • Duda, John, ed. (2009). Wanted! Men to Fill the Jails of Spokane: Fighting for Free Speech with the Hobo Agitators of the Industrial Workers of the World. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr.  
  • Flank, Lenny (2007). IWW: A Documentary History. St. Petersburg, Florida: Red and Black Publishers. 
  • Green, Archie (1993). Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes. University of Illinois Press. p. 534.  
  • Green, Archie, ed. (2007). The Big Red Songbook. David Roediger, Franklin Rosemont, and Salvatore Salerno. Charles H. Kerr. p. 538.  
  • Higbie, Frank Tobias (2003). Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880–1930. University of Illinois Press. p. 280.  
  • Kornbluh, Joyce L., ed. (1988) [1964]. Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology (Charles H. Kerr with new introduction and essays ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 419, illustrated.  
  • McClelland, John, Jr. (1987). Wobbly War: The Centralia Story. Washington State Historical Society. 
  • Moran, William (2002). Belles of New England: The Women of the Textile Mills and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove. St. Martin's Press. p. 320. 
  • Rosemont, Franklin, ed. (2005). Dancin' in the Streets: Anarchists, IWWs, Surrealists, Situationists and Provos in the 1960s as Recorded in the Pages of Rebel Worker and Heatwave. Charles Radcliffe. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr.  
  • Rosen, Ellen Doree (2004). A Wobbly Life: IWW Organizer E. F. Doree. Introduction by Melvyn Dubofsky. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. p. 256.  
  • St. John, Vincent (1917). The I. W. W.: Its History, Structure & Methods. I. W. W. Publishing Bureau. 
  • Thompson, Fred (1955). The I. W. W.: Its First Fifty Years. Chicago: IWW. 
  • Thornton, Steve (2013). A Shoeleather History of the Wobblies: Stories of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Connecticut. The Shoeleather History Project. p. 150.  
  • Tyler, Robert (1967). Rebels of the Woods: The I. W. W. in the Pacific Northwest. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon Press. 


  • Industrial Workers of the World Collection predominantly, 1950s-1970s at the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs.
  • Documents, Essays and Analysis for a History of the Industrial Workers of the World. Online archive at the Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved April 16, 2005.
  • Industrial Workers of the World Records, 1906–1944, undated. Approximately .05 cubic feet of textual materials, 1 microfilm cassette (negative). At the Labor Archives of Washington State, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.
    • Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection. Circa 1910's-1940's. 121 Photographs (2 boxes); varying sizes.
    • John Leonard Miller Papers. 1923–1986. circa 3.75 cubic feet plus 2 sound cassettes.
    • Eugene Barnett Oral History Collection. 1940–1961. .21 cubic feet (1 box), 3 sound cassettes (154 min.), 1 transcript (24 pages).
    • Pacific Northwest Labor History Association Records. 1971–1995. 1.83 cubic feet (3 boxes).
  • IWW Publications and Ephemera at Newberry Library


Further reading

  1. ^ "IWW Chronology (1904–1911)", retrieved January 13, 2012
  2. ^ "Minutes of the IWW Founding Convention", retrieved January 13, 2012
  3. ^ US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 070-232. Report. Report submitted September 30, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "What is the Origin of the Term Wobbly?". Industrial Workers of the World. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  5. ^ "Preamble to the IWW Constitution". Industrial Workers of the World. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  6. ^ Parker, Martin; Fournier, Valérie; Reedy, Patrick (August 2007). The dictionary of alternatives: utopianism and organization. Zed Books. p. 131.  
  7. ^ "(1) I am a student, a retired worker, and/or I am unemployed; can I still be an IWW member?"
  8. ^ "(2) I am a member of another union; can I still I join the IWW?"
  9. ^ a b c d Saros, Daniel (2009). Labor, Industry, and Regulation During the Progressive Era.  
  10. ^ Brissenden, Paul (1920). The I. W. W.: a study of American syndicalism (Thesis). Columbia University. 
  11. ^ Renshaw, Patrick (1967). The Wobblies: The Story of the IWW and Syndicalism in the United States. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. p. 286.  .
  12. ^ "IWW General Headquarters". Industrial Workers of the World. 2012-07-06. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  13. ^ a b Brissenden, Paul Frederick (1919). The I. W. W.: a study of American syndicalism. Columbia University. p. 67. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Preamble to the IWW Constitution"., Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  15. ^ "Finnish-American Workmen's Associations Auvo Kostiainen". 1919-11-22. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  16. ^ Helen Keller: Rebel Lives, by Helen Keller & John Davis, Ocean Press, 2003 ISBN 1-876175-60-5, pg 57
  17. ^ "Short history of Pressed Steel Car Company". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  18. ^ Arksey, Laura (2005-09-04). "Spokane — Thumbnail History at ''''". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  19. ^ Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Vol. 4, The Industrial Workers of the World 1905–1917, International Publishers, 1997, page 147
  20. ^ Henry E. McGuckin, Memoirs of a Wobbly, Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1987, page 70
  21. ^ One Big Union. 1986. 
  22. ^ The I.W.W.: Its First Seventy Years, 1905–1975, Fred W. Thompson and Patrick Murfin, 1976, page 100
  23. ^ The Tacoma Times November 6, 1916 page 1 also reported 20 IWW and 20 Everett citizens were wounded
  24. ^ "Although the exact circumstances are unknown, it is thought that both deputies were struck by friendly fire." Deputy Sheriff Jefferson F. Beard at the Officer Down Memorial Page.
  25. ^ Peter Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood (1983), pages 241.
  26. ^ Peter Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood (1983), pp. 242–244.
  27. ^ a b Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the IWW. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Books, 1973; pg. 406.
  28. ^ Dubofsky, We Shall Be All, pg. 407.
  29. ^ [1] Chapman, Lee Roy. "The Nightmare of Dreamland." This Land Press. Published Sept. 1st, 2011. Accessed Jul. 27, 2014.
  30. ^ See:"Wesley Everest, IWW Martyr" Pacific Northwest Quarterly, October 1986
  31. ^ Tyler, Robert L. (January 1967). Rebels of the woods: the I.W.W. in the Pacific Northwest. University of Oregon Books. p. 227. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  32. ^ Lee, Frederic S.; Bekken, Jon (2009). Radical economics and labor: essays inspired by the IWW Centennial.  
  33. ^ US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 070-232. (Search) Report submitted September 30, 2014.
  34. ^ Industrial Workers of the World: annual returns. UK Certification Officer.
  35. ^ Philip Dawdy, "A Union Shop on Every Block", Seattle Weekly, December 7, 2005. Retrieved September 24, 2006.
  36. ^ Damon Agnos, "Back to the Future: Starbucks vs. the Wobblies", Seattle Weekly, May 4, 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  37. ^ Caitlin Esch, "Wobblies Organize Brooklyn Warehouses", Brooklyn Rail, April 2007.
  38. ^ Krauthamer, Diane. Taming Wild Edibles February 3, 2008.
  39. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (January 20, 2010). "Wild Edibles Settles With Workers' Group Pushing Boycott". New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  40. ^ Kapp, Trevor (August 19, 2011). "Immigrants win $470,000 settlement for wage fight from Pur Pac, major Chinese restaurant supplier". New York Daily News. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  41. ^ Massey, Daniel (2011-08-21). "Food industry: promise, problems". Crains New York. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  42. ^ Posted by Wobblybarista (2008-07-06). "List of cities and countries that participated in the July 5 actions". Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union (IWW). Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  43. ^ " - About". Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  44. ^ a b Moberg, David, Culture: Power to the Pictures, In These Times Magazine, 19 July 2005
  45. ^ Turner, Industrial Labour and Politics: The Dynamics of the Labour Movement in Eastern Australia 1900–1921, p 56–58 p 64–66, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1965
  46. ^ Turner, Industrial Labour and Politics: The Dynamics of the Labour Movement in Eastern Australia 1900–1921, p 150, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1965
  47. ^ a b Turner, Ian (1965). Industrial Labour and Politics: The Dynamics of the Labour Movement in Eastern Australia 1900–1921. Canberra: Australian National University Press. 
  48. ^ Oliver, Bobbie (1995). War and Peace in Western Australia: The Social and Political Impact of the Great War 1914–1926. Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. p. 81.  
  49. ^ "Flowers For the Rebels Faded". Workers' Online Issue 102. Accessed November 12, 2007, archived January 16, 2013 from original.
  50. ^ Farrell, Frank. "Grant, Donald McLennan (1888–1970)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 75–76. Accessed November 16, 2007.
  51. ^ "Bump me into Parliament". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  52. ^ "Crichton Campus". IWW Scotland. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  53. ^ "Canadian Socialist History Project". 1919-06-11. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  54. ^
  55. ^ Kornbluh, Joyce L., Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1964 p.131
  56. ^ Mark Leier, Where the Fraser River Flows: The Industrial Workers of the World in British Columbia. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1990, 35, 54 n 8.
  57. ^ Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer (directors), The Wobblies (1979).
  58. ^ Helen Keller (1916-01-16). "Why I Became an IWW". Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  59. ^ Radicalism in the States: The Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and the American Political Economy, Richard M. Valelly, 1989, pp. 100.
  60. ^ Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, Peter Carlson, 1983, pp. 78.


See also

Former lieutenant governor of Colorado, Noam Chomsky, Tom Morello, mixed martial arts fighter Jeff Monson and anthropologist David Graeber.

Notable members of the Industrial Workers of the World have included:

Notable members

The origin of the name "Wobbly" is uncertain.[4][56][57]


The Finnish IWW community produced several folk singers, poets and song-writers, the most famous being Matti Valentine Huhta (better known as T-Bone Slim), who penned "The Popular Wobbly" and "The Mysteries of a Hobo's Life". Slim's poem, "The Lumberjack's Prayer" was recorded by Studs Terkel on labor singer Bucky Halker's Don't Want Your Millions. Hiski Salomaa, whose songs were composed entirely in Finnish (and Finglish), remains a widely recognized early folk musician in his native Finland as well as in sections of the Midwest United States, Northern Ontario, and other areas of North America with high concentrations of Finns. Salomaa, who was a tailor by trade, has been referred to as the Finnish Woody Guthrie. Arthur Kylander, who worked as a lumberjack, is a lesser known, but important Finnish I.W.W. folk musician. Kylander's lyrics range from the difficulties of the immigrant labourer's experience to more humorous themes. Arguably, the wanderer, a recurring theme in Finnish folklore dating back to pre-Christian oral tradition (as with Lemminkäinen in the Kalevala), translated quite easily to the music of Huhta, Salomaa, and Kylander; each of whom have songs about the trials and tribulations of the hobo.

One Wobbly characteristic since their inception has been a penchant for song. To counteract management sending in the Salvation Army band to cover up the Wobbly speakers, Joe Hill wrote parodies of Christian hymns so that union members could sing along with the Salvation Army band, but with their own purposes. For example, "In the Sweet By and By" became "There'll Be Pie in the Sky When You Die (That's a Lie)". From that start in exigency, Wobbly song writing became common because they "articulated the frustrations, hostilities, and humor of the homeless and the dispossessed."[55] The IWW collected its official songs in the Little Red Songbook and continues to update this book to the present time. In the 1960s, the American folk music revival in the United States brought a renewed interest in the songs of Joe Hill and other Wobblies, and seminal folk revival figures such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie had a pro-Wobbly tone, while some were members of the IWW. Among the protest songs in the book are "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" (this song was never popular among members), "Union Maid", and "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night". Perhaps the best known IWW song is "Solidarity Forever". The songs have been performed by dozens of artists, and Utah Phillips performed the songs in concert and on recordings for decades. Other prominent IWW song-writers include Ralph Chaplin who authored "Solidarity Forever", and Leslie Fish.

Booklet cover with large title,
Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent: The "Little Red Songbook"

Folk music and protest songs

The " recent (2012) meeting of fellow workers in [54]


A Regional Organizing Committee has recently been formed for the German speaking countries of Europe, with many translated IWW documents and 16 city contacts in Germany, Switzerland and Austria as of May 2009.

In Germany, Switzerland, Austria

Among current and more notable IWW shops in Canada is the buskers, street vendors, or panhandlers are welcome to join the Ottawa Panhandlers' Union.

Today the IWW remains active in the country with numerous branches in Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Fredericton and Montréal. The largest branch is currently in Edmonton.

Relief Camp Workers' Union and the On-to-Ottawa Trek was once a Wobbly, although during the On-to-Ottawa Trek he was with the One Big Union. He was also a friend of another well-known Canadian, Ginger Goodwin, who was shot in Cumberland, British Columbia by a Dominion Police constable when he was resisting the First World War. The impact of Ginger Goodwin influenced various left and progressive groups in Canada, including a progressive group of MPs in the House of Commons called the Ginger Group.

[53] The IWW was active in Canada from a very early point in the organization's history, especially in Western Canada, primarily in

In Canada

In 2013 an IWW branch was established for the first time in Wales.

In 2011, the IWW representing cleaners at the Guildhall won back-pay and the right to collective negotiation with their employers, Ocean. Also in 2011, branches of the IWW were set up in Lincoln, Manchester and Sheffield (notably workers employed by Pizza Hut).

In 2007, IWW branches in Glasgow and Dumfries were a key driving force in a successful campaign to prevent the closure of one of Glasgow University's campuses, (The Crichton) in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire.[52] The campaign united IWW members, other unions, students and the local community to build a powerful coalition. Its success, coupled with the ongoing Blood Service campaign, has raised the IWW's profile significantly since early 2007.

The IWW has branches in a number of major cities and several organizing groups around the UK alongside two growing industrial networks for health and education workers. The largest branches are found in Glasgow, Starbucks workers. In the same year its health-workers' network launched a national campaign against cuts in the National Blood Service, which is ongoing.

In 2005, the IWW's centenary year, a stone was laid (51°41'598N 4°17.135W Geocacher), in a public access forest in Wales, commemorating the centenary of the union. As well, Sequoias were planted as a memorial to US IWW and Earth First! activist Judi Bari. 2006 saw the IWW formally registered by the UK government as a recognised trade union.

During the decade after World War II, the IWW had two active branches in London and Glasgow. These soon died off, before a modest resurgence in northwest England during the 1970s. More recently, IWW members were involved in the Liverpool dockers' strike that took place between 1995 and 1998, and numerous other events and struggles throughout the 1990s and 2000s (decade), including the successful unionising of several workplaces, such as support workers for the Scottish Socialist Party. Between 2001 and 2003, there was a marked increase in UK membership, with the creation of the Hull GMB. During this time the Hull branch had 27 members of good standing, being at that time the largest branch outside of the US.

The IWW was present to varying extents in many of the struggles in the early decades of the 20th century, including the UK General Strike of 1926, and the dockers' strike of 1947. A Neath Wobbly who had been IWW active in Mexico trained volunteers who went to the International Brigade to fight against Franco but did not return.

The British Advocates of Industrial Unionism, founded in 1906, supported the IWW. This group split in 1908, with the majority supporting DeLeon and a minority around E. J. B. Allen founding the Industrialist Union and developing links with the Chicago-based IWW. Allen's group soon disappeared, but the first IWW group in Britain was founded by members of the Industrial Syndicalist Education League around Guy Bowman in 1913.

Although much smaller than their North American counterparts, the BIROC (British Isles Regional Organising Committee) reported in 2006 that there were nearly 200 members in the UK and Ireland out of a total membership of around 5,000.[44]

In the UK

"Bump Me Into Parliament"[51] is the most notable Australian IWW song, and is still current. It was written by ship's fireman William "Bill" Casey, later Secretary of the Seaman's Union in Queensland.[47]

Today the IWW still exists in Australia, in larger numbers than the 1940s, but due to the nature of the Australian industrial relations system, it is unlikely to win union representation in any workplaces in the immediate future. More significant is its continuing place in the mythology of the militant end of the Australian labour movement.[49] As an extreme example of the integration of ex-IWW militants into the mainstream labour movement one might instance the career of Donald Grant, one of the Sydney Twelve sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit arson and other crimes. Released unbowed from prison in August 1920 he would soon break with the IWW over its anti-political stand, standing for the NSW Parliament for the Industrial Socialist Labour Party unsuccessfully in 1922 and then in 1925 for the mainstream Australian Labor Party (ALP) also unsuccessfully. But this reconciliation with the ALP and the electoral system did not prevent him being imprisoned again in 1927 for street demonstrations supporting Sacco and Vanzetti. He would eventually represent the ALP in the NSW Legislative Council in 1931–1940 and the Australian Senate 1943–1956.[50] No other member of the Australian IWW actually entered Parliament but Grant's career is emblematic in the sense that the ex-IWW militants by and large remained in the broader labour movement, bringing some greater or lesser part of their heritage with them.

People holding signs near a banner demanding,
IWW members picket in Sydney, June 1981

By the 1930s the IWW in Australia had declined significantly, and took part in unemployed workers movements which were led largely by the CPA. The poet Harry Hooton became involved with it around this time. In 1939 the Australian IWW had four members, according to surveillance by government authorities, and these members were consistently opposed to the Second World War. After the Second World War, the IWW would become one of the influences on the Sydney Libertarians who were in turn a significant cultural and political influence

The IWW continued illegally operating with the aim of freeing its class war prisoners and briefly fused with two other radical tendencies – from the old Socialist parties and Trades Halls – to form a larval communist party at the suggestion of the militant revolutionist and Council Communist Adela Pankhurst. The IWW, however, left the CPA shortly after its formation.

The IWW was well known for opposing the First World War from 1914 onwards, and in many ways was at the front of the Unlawful Associations Act. Eighty six IWW members immediately defied the law and were sentenced to six months imprisonment, this was certainly a high percentage of the Australian IWW's active membership but it is not known how high. Direct Action was suppressed, its circulation was at its peak of something over 12,000.[47] During the war over 100 IWW members Australia-wide were sentenced to imprisonment on political charges,[48] including the veteran activist and icon of the labour, socialist and anarchist movements Monty Miller.

Australian anti-conscription poster, 1916

The early Australian IWW used a number of tactics from the US, including free speech fights. However, there early appeared significant differences of practice between the Australian IWW and its US parent; the Australian IWW tended to co-operate where possible with existing unions rather than forming its own, and in contrast with the US body took an extremely open and forthright stand against involvement in World War One. The IWW cooperated with many other unions, encouraging industrial unionism and militancy. In particular, the IWW's strategies had a large effect on the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union. The AMIEU established closed shops and workers councils and effectively regulated management behaviour toward the end of the 1910s.

Australia encountered the IWW tradition early. In part this was due to the local De Leonist SLP following the industrial turn of the US SLP. The SLP formed an IWW Club in Sydney in October 1907. Members of other socialist groups also joined it, and the special relationship with the SLP soon proved to be a problem. The 1908 split between the Chicago and Detroit factions in the United States was echoed by internal unrest in the Australian IWW from late 1908, resulting in the formation of a pro-Chicago local in Adelaide in May 1911 and another in Sydney six months later. By mid-1913 the "Chicago" IWW was flourishing and the SLP-associated pro-Detroit IWW Club in decline.[45] In 1916 the "Detroit" IWW in Australia followed the lead of the US body and renamed itself the Workers' International Industrial Union.[46]

In Australia

Outside the US

As of 2005, the 100th anniversary of its founding, the IWW had around 5,000 members, compared to 13 million members in the AFL-CIO.[44] Other IWW branches are located in Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

The Portland, Oregon General Membership Branch is one of the largest and most active branches of the IWW currently. The branch holds three contracts currently, two with Janus Youth Programs and one with Portland Women's Crisis Line.[43] There has been some debate within the branch about whether or not union contracts such as this are desirable in the long run, with some members favoring solidarity unionism as opposed to contract unionism and some members believing there is room for both strategies for organizing. The branch has successfully supported workers wrongfully fired from several different workplaces in the last two years. Due to picketing by Wobblies, these workers have received significant compensation from their former employers. Branch membership has been increasing, as has shop organizing.

IWW in Washington D.C.

On July 5, 2008, the union busting, in particular the firing of two union members in Grand Rapids and Seville. According to the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union website,[42] pickets were held in several dozen cities in more than a dozen countries.

Also in 2006, the IWW Bay Area Branch organized the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas. The Union has been negotiating for a contract and hopes to gain one through workplace democracy and organizing directly and taking action when necessary.

In 2006, the IWW moved its headquarters to Cincinnati, Ohio, and in 2010, headquarters was moved back to Chicago, Illinois.

The union has also participated in such worker-related issues as protesting involvement in the war in Iraq, opposing sweatshops and supporting a boycott of Coca Cola for that company's alleged support of the suppression of workers rights in Colombia.

Besides IWW's traditional practice of organizing industrially, the Union has been open to new methods such as organizing geographically: for instance, seeking to organize retail workers in a certain business district, as in Philadelphia.

In May 2007, the NYC warehouse workers came together with the Kosher food distributor, and Wild Edibles, a seafood company. Over the course of 2007–08, workers at both shops were illegally terminated for their union activity. In 2008, the workers at Wild Edibles actively fought to get their jobs back and to secure overtime pay owed to them by the boss. In a workplace justice campaign called Focus on the Food Chain, carried out jointly with Brandworkers International, the IWW workers won settlements against employers including Pur Pac, Flaum Appetizing and Wild Edibles.[38][39][40][41]

In New York City, the IWW has been organizing immigrant foodstuffs workers since 2005. That summer, workers from Handyfat Trading joined the IWW, and were soon followed by workers from four more warehouses.[37] Workers at these warehouses made gains such as receiving the minimum wage and being paid overtime.

The city of Berkeley's recycling is picked up, sorted, processed and sent out all through two different IWW-organized enterprises.

Between 2003 and 2006, the IWW organized unions at food co-operatives in Seattle, Washington and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The IWW represents administrative and maintenance workers under contract in Seattle, while the union in Pittsburgh lost 22-21 in an NLRB election, only to have the results invalidated in late 2006, based on management's behavior before the election.

In Chicago the IWW began an effort to organize bicycle messengers with some success.

Three red flags with globe logos being held above a crowd of people.
IWW flags at a 2007 rally in Seattle.

In September 2004, IWW-organized short haul truck drivers in Stockton, California walked off their jobs and went on a strike. Nearly all demands were met. Despite early victories in Stockton, the truck driver union ceased to exist in mid-2005.

[36][35] In 2004, an IWW union was organized in a New York City

In the early 2000s, the IWW organized Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics, a fabric shop in Berkeley, California. The shop continues to remain an IWW organized shop.

Members in good standing (legal records)


The IWW has stepped in several times to help the rank and file in mainstream unions, including saw mill workers in Fort Bragg in California in 1989, concession stand workers in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s, and most recently at shipyards along the Mississippi River.

IWW organizing drives in recent years have included a major campaign to organize ACORN, various homeless and youth centers in Portland, Oregon, sex industry workers, and recycling shops in Berkeley, California. IWW members have been active in the building trades, marine transport, ship yards, high tech industries, hotels and restaurants, public interest organizations, schools and universities, recycling centers, railroads, bike messengers, and lumber yards.

Memorial service

A group of seven people stand near the entrance of a  building.
Three IWW General Secretary-Treasurers: Mark Kaufman, Jeff Ditz, and Fred Chase, at a funeral for a friend.

In the 1990s, the IWW was involved in many labor struggles and free speech fights, including Redwood Summer, and the picketing of the Neptune Jade in the port of Oakland in late 1997.

In the 1960s, Rebel Worker was published in Chicago by the

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the IWW had various small organizing drives. Membership included a number of cooperatively owned and collectively run enterprises especially in the printing industry: Ann Arbor was also home to the Peoples Wherehouse which was believed to be the largest shop at the time (1980s).

The 1960s Civil Rights Movement, anti-war protests, and various university student movements brought new life to the IWW, albeit with many fewer new members than the great organizing drives of the early part of the 20th Century.

The IWW membership fell to its lowest level in the 1950s during the Second Red Scare. In 1955, the IWW was listed by the US government as one of many Communist-led groups.

The Wobblies continued to organize workers and were a major presence in the Executive Order 9835, which offered no means of appeal, and which excluded all IWW members from Federal employment and federally subsidized housing programs (this order was revoked by Executive Order 10450 in 1953). The Cleveland IWW metal and machine workers wound up leaving the union, resulting in a major decline in membership once again.


Activity after World War II

At the beginning of the 1949 Smith Act trials, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was disappointed when prosecutors indicted fewer CPUSA members than he had hoped, and – recalling the arrests and convictions of over one hundred IWW leaders in 1917 – complained to the Justice Department, stating, "the IWW was crushed and never revived, similar action at this time would have been as effective against the Communist Party."

By the mid-1920s membership was already declining due to government repression and it decreased again substantially during a contentious organizational schism in 1924 when the organization split between the "Westerners" and the "Easterners" over a number of issues, including the role of the General Administration (often oversimplified as a struggle between "centralists" and "decentralists") and attempts by the Communist Party to dominate the organization. By 1930 membership was down to around 10,000.

Organizational schism and afterwards

Members of the IWW were prosecuted under various State and federal laws and the 1920 Palmer Raids singled out the foreign-born members of the organization.

A wave of such incitement led to vigilante mobs attacking the IWW in many places, and after the war the repression continued. In Centralia, Washington on November 11, 1919, IWW member and army veteran Wesley Everest was turned over to the lynch mob by jail guards and lynched. Although a myth was created six months after the events that Everest was castrated, the historical record does not support it.[30]

They were all convicted — even those who had not been members of the union for years — and given prison terms of up to twenty years. Sentenced to prison by Judge Landis and released on bail, Haywood fled to the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic where he remained until his death.

In 1917, during an incident known as the Tulsa Outrage, a group of black-robed Knights of Liberty, a short-lived faction of the Ku Klux Klan, tarred and feathered seventeen members of the IWW in Oklahoma. The IWW members had been turned over to the Knights of Liberty by local authorities after they were convicted of the crime of not owning war bonds. Five other men who testified in defense of the Wobblies were also fined by the court and subjected to the same torture and humiliations at the hands of the Knights of Liberty.[29]

in 1918. Kenesaw Mountain Landis One hundred and one went on trial en masse before Judge [28] An IWW newspaper, the

This echoed the view, expressed at the IWW's founding convention, that war represents struggles among capitalists in which the rich become richer, and the working poor all too often die at the hands of other workers. [25]

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