Industrial Workers of the World

Industrial Workers of the World


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In 1905 representatives of 43 groups who opposed the policies of American Federation of Labour, formed the radical labour organisation, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The IWW's goal was to promote worker solidarity in the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the employing class. Its motto was "an injury to one is an injury to all".

At first its main leaders were William Haywood, Vincent Saint John, Daniel De Leon and Eugene V. Debs. Other important figures in the movement included Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mary 'Mother' Jones, Lucy Parsons, Hubert Harrison, Carlo Tresca, Anna Louise Strong, Joseph Ettor, Arturo Giovannitti, James P. Cannon, William Z. Foster, Eugene Dennis, Joe Haaglund Hill, Tom Mooney, Harry Bridges, Floyd B. Olson, James Larkin, James Connolly, Roger Nash Baldwin, Frank Little and Ralph Chaplin.

Soon after the IWW was formed William Haywood was charged with taking part in the murder of Frank R. Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho. Steunenberg was much hated by the trade union movement after using federal troops to help break strikes during his period of office. Over a thousand trade unionists and their supporters were rounded up and kept in stockades without trial.

James McParland, from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, was called in to investigate the murder. McParland was convinced from the beginning that the leaders of the Western Federation of Miners had arranged the killing of Steunenberg. McParland arrested Harry Orchard, a stranger who had been staying at a local hotel. In his room they found dynamite and some wire.

McParland helped Orchard to write a confession that he had been a contract killer for the WFM, assuring him this would help him get a reduced sentence for the crime. In his statement, Orchard named Hayward and Charles Moyer (president of WFM). He also claimed that a union member from Caldwell, George Pettibone, had also been involved in the plot. These three men were arrested and were charged with the murder of Steunenberg.

Charles Darrow, a man who specialized in defending trade union leaders, was employed to defend William Haywood, Charles Moyer and George Pettibone. The trial took place in Boise, the state capital. It emerged that Harry Orchard already had a motive for killing Steunenberg, blaming the governor of Idaho, for destroying his chances of making a fortune from a business he had started in the mining industry. During the three month trial, the prosecutor was unable to present any information against Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone except for the testimony of Orchard and were all acquitted.

Many unions refused to accept immigrant workers. This was especially a problem for Jewish and Irish immigrants. This was not true of the Industrial Workers of the World and as a result many of its members were first and second generation immigrants. Several immigrants such as Mary 'Mother' Jones, Hubert Harrison, Carlo Tresca, Arturo Giovannitti and Joe Haaglund Hill became leaders of the organization.

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In 1908 the Wobblies, as they became known, split into two factions. The group headed by Eugene V. Debs advocated political action through the Socialist Party and the trade union movement, to attain its goals. The other faction led by William Haywood, and believed that general strikes, boycotts and even sabotage to achieve its objectives. Haywood's views prevailed and Debs, and others who thought like him, left the organisation.

As James Cannon pointed out: "At the second convention of the IWW in 1906, St. John headed the revolutionary syndicalist group, which combined with the SLP elements to oust Sherman, a conservative, as president and establish a new administration in the organization with a revolutionary policy. He became the general organizer under the new administration, breaking with the WFM on the withdrawal of the latter body and giving his whole allegiance to the IWW." Vincent Saint John now became General Secretary of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Activists in the IWW such as William Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Carlo Tresca, Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, were involved in two major industrial disputes, the Lawrence Textile Strike (1912) and the Paterson Silk Industry Strike (1913). At this time the Industrial Workers of the World had a membership of over 100,000 members.

In 1913 William Haywood replaced Vincent Saint John as secretary-treasurer of the Industrial Workers of the World. By this time, the IWW had 100,000 members. In 1913 Joe Haaglund Hill helped to organize a successful strike at the United Construction Company. During this dispute Hill stayed with some friends in Salt Lake City. While he was there, John G. Morrison, a former policeman, and his son, Arling, were shot dead by two masked gunman in his grocery shop. A few weeks before the murder, Morrison had told a journalist that he had recently been threatened with a revenge attack because of an incident while he was in the police force.

After the shooting, police discovered two men trying to board a departing train at a railroad station near the store. According to the official report, officers Crosby and Hendrickson had to "empty their guns" to prevent the two men from escaping. The men were taken into custody and identified as C.E. Christensen and Joe Woods, two men with arrest warrants in Prescott, Arizona for robbery.

On the night of the murder, 10th January, 1914, Joe Haaglund Hill visited a doctor with a bullet wound in his left lung. Hill claimed he had been shot in a quarrel over a woman. Noting that the bullet had gone clean through the body, the doctor reported Hill's visit to the police. They already knew about Hill's trade union activities and decided to arrest him. Hill refused to say how he got the wound. As a witnesses standing outside Morrison's store claimed that he heard one of the murderers say: "Oh, God, I'm shot." Hill was charged with the murder of Morrison and Christensen and Woods were released from custody.

The police chief of San Pedro, who had once held Hill for thirty days on a charge of "vagrancy" because of his efforts to organize longshoremen, wrote to the Salt Lake City police: "I see you have under arrest for murder one Joseph Hillstrom. You have the right man... He is certanly an undesirable citizen. He is somewhat of a musician and writer of songs for the IWW songbook."

Leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World argued that Joe Haaglund Hill had been framed as a warning to others considering trade union activity. Even William Spry, the Republican governor of Utah admitted that he wanted to use the case to "stop street speaking" and to clear the state of this "lawless elements, whether they be corrupt businessmen, IWW agitators, or whatever name they call themselves"

At Hill's trial in Salt Lake City none of the witnesses were able to identify Hill as one of the murders. This included thirteen-year-old Merlin Morrison, who witnessed the killing of her father and brother. The bullet that hit Hill was not found in the store. Nor was any of Hill's blood. As no money was taken and one of the gunman was heard to say: "We've got you now", the defence argued that it was a revenge killing. However, Hill, who had no previous connection with Morrison, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

Franklin Rosemont has argued: "Nearly all historians have come to recognize as one of the worst travesties of justice in American history. After a trial riddled with biased rulings, suppression of important defense evidence, and other violations of judicial procedure characteristic of cases involving labor radicals, Hill was convicted and sentenced to death."

Bill Haywood and the IWW launched a campaign to halt the execution. Elizabeth Flynn visited Hill in prison and was a leading figure in the attempts to force a retrial. In July, 1915, 30,000 members of Australian IWW sent a resolution calling on Governor William Spry to free Hill. Similar resolutions were passed at trade union meetings in Britain and other European countries. Woodrow Wilson also contacted Spry and asked for a retrial. This was refused and plans were made for Hill's execution by firing-squad on 19th November, 1915.

When he heard the news, Joe Haaglund Hill sent a message to Haywood saying: "Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize." He also asked Haywood to arrange his funeral: "Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah." Hill last act before his death was to write the poem, My Last Will.

An estimated 30,000 people attended Hill's funeral. The instructions left in Hill's last poem were carried out: "And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow/Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again." Hill's ashes were put into small envelopes and on May Day, 1916, were scattered to the winds in every state of the union. This ceremony also took place in several other countries.

In the summer of 1917, Frank Little was helping organize workers in the metal mines of Montana. This included leading a strike of miners working for the Anaconda Company. In the early hours of 1st August, 1917, six masked men broke into Little's hotel room in Butte. He was beaten up, tied by the rope to a car, and dragged out of town, where he was lynched. A note: "First and last warning" was pinned to his chest. No serious attempt was made by the police to catch Little's murderers. It is not known if he was killed for his anti-war views or his trade union activities.

The lawyer representing the Anaconda Company said a few days later: "These Wobblies, snarling their blasphemies in filthy and profane language; they advocate disobedience of the law, insults to our flag, disregard of all property rights and destruction of the principles and institutions which are the safeguards of society.... Why, Little, the man who was hanged in Butte, prefaced his seditious and treasonable speeches with the remark that he expected to be arrested for what he was going to say... The Wobblies... have invariably shown themselves to be bullies, anarchists and terrorists. These things they do openly and boldly."

Lillian Hellman claimed in Scoundrel Time (1976) that Dashiell Hammett, while working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Montana, turned down an offer of $5,000 to "do away with" Frank Little. Hellman recalled: "Through the years he was to repeat that bribe offer (to kill Frank Little) so many times, that I came to believe, knowing him now, that it was a kind of key to his life. He had given a man the right to think he would murder, and the fact that Frank Little was lynched with three other men in what was known as the Everett Massacre must have been, for Hammett, an abiding horror. I think I can date Hammett's belief that he was living in a corrupt society from Little's murder."

William Haywood and the IWW opposed the United States becoming involved in the First World War. However, Haywood did not agitate against it nor forbid members to comply with the draft. Nevertheless, politicians and employers' associations attacked the IWW as disloyal and dangerous. In a series of raids resulted in the indictment of Haywood and most of the union's leadership under the Espionage Act. After a long trial in Chicago, Haywood was sentenced to a fine of $20,000 and twenty years' imprisonment.

As Howard Zinn pointed out in his book, A People's History of the United States (1980): "In early September 1917, Department of Justice agents made simultaneous raids on forty-eight IWW meeting halls across the country, seizing correspondence and literature that would become courtroom evidence. Later that month, 165 IWW leaders were arrested for conspiring to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate others in connection with labor disputes. One hundred and one went on trial in April 1918; it lasted five months, the longest criminal trial in American history up to that time. The judge sentenced Haywood and fourteen others to twenty years in prison; thirty-three were given ten years, the rest shorter sentences. They were fined a total of $2,500,000. The IWW was shattered."

In March 1921, William Haywood jumped bail and fled to the Soviet Union, while most of his co-defendants languished in prison. As Joseph R. Conlin has pointed out: "IWW morale was shattered. Although individuals remembered him affectionally and excused his action without justifying it, his influence on the American Left had all but vanished."

After the war leaders of the IWW were harassed by the police and suffered legal prosecutions. One member was actually taking from a prison and lynched. This approach was highly effective and by 1925 membership had declined dramatically.

The American Federation of Labor, which presumes to be the labor movement of this country, is not a working-class movements. There are organizations that are affiliated with the American Federation of Labor which prohibit the initiation of a colored man; that prohibit the conferring of the obligation on foreigners. What we want to establish at this time is a labor organization that will open wide its doors to every man that earns his livelihood either by his brain or his muscle.

The aspiration to unite the workers upon the political field is an aspiration in line and in step with civilization. Civilized man, when he argues with an adversary, does not start with clenching his fist and telling him, 'smell this bunch of bones'. He does not start by telling him, 'feel my biceps'. He begins by arguing; physical force by arms is the last resort. That is the method of the civilized man, and the method of civilized man is the method of civilized organization. The barbarian begins with physical force; the civilized man ends with that, when physical force is necessary. Civilized man will always here in America give a chance to peace; he will, accordingly, proceed along the lines that make peace possible. But civilized man, unless he is a visionary, will know that unless there is Might behind your Right, your Right is something to laugh at. And the thing to do, consequently, is to gather behind the ballot, behind that united political movement, the Might which is alone able, when necessary, to 'take and hold'. Without the working people are united on the political field; without the delusion has been removed from their minds that any of the issues of the capitalist class can do for them permanently, or even temporarily; without the working people have been removed altogether from the mental thralldom of the capitalist class, from its insidious influence, there is no possibility of your having those conditions under which they can really organize themselves economically in such a way as to 'take and hold'. And after those mental conditions are generally established, there needs something more than the statement to 'take and hold'; something more than a political declaration, something more than the capitalist political inspectors to allow this or that candidate to filter through. You then need the industrial organization of the working class, so that if the capitalist should be foolish enough in America to defeat, to thwart the will of the workers expressed by the ballot - I do not say 'the will of the workers, as returned by the capitalist election inspectors', but the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box - then there will be a condition of things by which the working class can absolutely cease production, and thereby starve out the capitalist class, and render their present economic means and all their preparations for war absolutely useless.

The most serious danger to the American democratic future which may issue from aggressive and unscrupulous unionism consists in the state of mind of which mob-violence is only one expression. The militant unionists are beginning to talk and believe as if they were at war with the existing social and political order - as if the American political system was as inimical to their interests as would be that of any European monarchy or aristocracy.

Whether this aggressive unionism will ever become popular enough to endanger the foundations of the American political and social order, I shall not pretend to predict. The practical dangers resulting from it at any one time are largely neutralized by the mere size of the country and its extremely complicated social and industrial economy. The menace it contains to the nation as a whole can hardly become very critical as long as so large a proportion of the American voters are land-owning farmers. But while the general national well-being seems sufficiently protected for the present against the aggressive assertion of the class interests of the unionists, the local public interest of particular states and cities cannot be considered as anywhere near so secure; and in any event the existence of aggressive discontent on the part of the unionists must constitute a serious problem for the American legislator and statesman.

The unionist leaders frequently offer verbal homage to the great American principle of equal rights, but what they really demand is the abandonment of that principle. What they want is an economic and political order which will discriminate in favor of union labor and against non-union labor; and they want it on the ground that the unions have proved to be the most effective agency on behalf of the economic and social amelioration of the wage-earner. The unions, that is, are helping most effectively to accomplish the task, traditionally attributed to the American democratic political system - the task of raising the general standard of living; and the unionists claim that they deserve on this ground recognition by the state and active encouragement. Obviously, however, such encouragement could not go very far without violating both the Federal and many state constitutions - the result being that there is a profound antagonism between our existing political system and what the unionists consider to be a perfectly fair demand. Like all good Americans, while verbally asking for nothing but equal rights, they interpret the phrase so that equal rights become equivalent to special rights.

My own feeling is that immigrants bring us ideals, cultures, red blood, which are an asset for America or would be if we gave them a chance. But what is undesirable, beyond all peradventure, is our great bottom-lands of quick-cash, low-income employments in which they are bogged. we suffer not because the immigrant comes with a cultural deficit, but because the immigrant workman brings to America a potential economic surplus above a single man's wants, which is exploited to the grave and unmeasured injury to family and community among us.

Petty magistrates and police, state militia and the courts - all these were brought to bear by the great commonwealth of Massachusetts, once the Lawrence strikes threatened the public peace. But what had the great commonwealth of Massachusetts done to protect the people of Lawrence against the insidious canker of subnormal wages which were and are blighting family life? Nor have the trade-unions met any large responsibility toward unskilled labor. Through apprenticeship, organization, they have endeavored to keep their own heads above the general level.

Common labor has been left as the hindmost for the devil to take. For the most part common laborers have had to look elsewhere than to the skilled crafts for succor. They have had it held out to them by the Industrial Workers of the World, which stands for industrial organization, for one big union embracing every man in the industry, for the mass strike, for the benefits to the rank and file here and now, and not in some far-away political upheaval.

There are about one hundred I.W.W. men in jail now with different charges, but all are arrested for the same offense. Only a few of the I.W.W. men have been tried. Some of the best speakers were tried and convicted of vagrancy, by juries of business men. Four of them got six months apiece, although they proved that they were not vagrants. Many of the boys have been imprisoned for fifty-one days, today, without trial. This happened not in Russia, but in sunny California. Frank Little was arrested on the charge of vagrancy.

Frank Little was arrested on the charge of vagrancy. Frank is one of the 94 I.W.W. men confined in a bull pen, 47 x 28 feet. The officers of the state board of health say that there is air enough in the pen for 5 men. Most of the men confined in the bull pen have been out in the open air only once or twice since they were arrested. A good many of the men have been in there 53 days today.

On August 1st, of 1917, in Butte, Montana, a cripple, Frank Little, a member of the Executive Board of the IWW, was forced out of bed at three o’clock in the morning by masked citizens, dragged behind an automobile and hanged on a railroad trestle. Were the offenders punished? No. A high government official has publicly condoned this murder, thereby upholding lynch-law and mob rule.

Traitor and demagogue,

Wanton breeder of discontent -

That is what they call you -

Those cowards, who condemn sabotage

But hide themselves

Not only behind masks and cloaks

But behind all the armoured positions

Of property and prejudice and the law.

Staunch friend and comrade,

Soldier of solidarity -

Like some bitter magic

The tale of your tragic death

Has spread throughout the land,

And from a thousand minds

Has torn the last shreds of doubt

Concerning Might and Right.

Young and virile and strong -

Like grim sentinels they stand

Awaiting each opportunity

To break another

Of slavery's chains.

For whatever stroke is needed.

They are preparing.

So shall you be avenged.

Six men drove up to his house at midnight, and woke the poor woman who kept it,

And asked her: "Where is the man who spoke against war and insulted the army?"

And the old woman took fear of the men and the hour, and showed them the room where he slept,

And when they made sure it was he whom they wanted, they dragged him from his bed with blows, tho' he was willing to walk,

And they fastened his hands on his back, and they drove him across the black night,

And there was no moon and no star and not any visible thing, and even the faces of the men were eaten with the leprosy of the dark, for they were masked with black shame,

And nothing showed in the gloom save the glow of his eyes and the flame of his soul that scorched the face of Death.

Through the years he was to repeat that bribe offer (to kill Frank Little) so many times, that I came to believe, knowing him now, that it was a kind of key to his life. I think I can date Hammett's belief that he was living in a corrupt society from Little's murder.

It was in a boardinghouse in Butte, Montana, in 1917 that the owner, Mrs. Nora Byrne, was awakened one night by voices in the room next to hers, room 30, men's voices saying there must he some mistake here, and then feet in the hall, then men at her door, pushing it open, and Mrs. Byrne, having jumped out of bed, held her door with all her strength as some men with guns pushed it in anyway. They held the gun on her, saying, "Where is Frank Little?" and she told them. Then they went away again, and kicked down the door of room 32 and went in and woke the man sleeping there, who made no outcry or objection and demanded no explanation. Because he had a broken leg, they had to carry him out.

Then, in the morning, he was found hanging from the trestle with a warning to others pinned to his underwear. Some people said his balls had been cut off. The warning came from the Montana vigilantes, though it was hard to see what the citizens of Montana stood to gain from the death of this poor man. Only the mine owners stood to gain from the death of this agitator, a Wobbly. Wobblies were stirring up a lot of trouble among the miners at Butte.

"These Wobblies," said the mine owner's lawyer a few days later, "snarling their blasphemies in filthy and profane language; they advocate disobedience of the law, insults to our flag, disregard of all property rights and destruction of the principles and institutions which are the safeguards of society." He was trying to show that Mr. Little had brought his lynching on himself. "Why, Little, the man who was hanged in Butte, prefaced his seditious and treasonable speeches with the remark that he expected to be arrested for what he was going to say." Perhaps he had not expected, however, to he hanged, but what were decent Americans to do with such rascals?

The mine owner's lawyer, noticing no contradiction, inconsistency or irony, proclaimed that the Wobblies "have invariably shown themselves to be bullies, anarchists and terrorists. These things they do openly and boldly," unlike (he did not add) all the decent American vigilantes who came masked by night. The young Hammett, in Montana at the time, noticed the ironies and inconsistencies with particular interest because men had come to him and to other Pinkerton agents and had proposed that they help do away with Frank Little. There was a bonus in it, they told him, of $5,000, an enormous sum in those days.

Hammett's inclinations had probably always been on the side of law and order. His father had once been a justice of the peace and always went to the law when necessary with confidence, for instance, when his buggy was damaged by the potholes on the public road; and he worked for a lock-and-safe company, and at other times as a watchman or a guard. There was thus in the family a brief for caring about the property of others, putting oneself at risk so that things in general should be safe and secure.

But at some moment - perhaps at the moment he was asked to murder Frank Little or perhaps at the moment that he learned that Little had been killed, possibly by other Pinkerton men - Hammett saw that the actions of the guards and the guarded, of the detective and the man he's stalking, are reflexes of a single sensibility, on the fringe where murderers and thieves live. He saw that he himself was on the fringe or might be, in his present line of work, and was expected to be, according to a kind of oath of fealty that he and other Pinkerton men took.

He also learned something about the lives of poor miners, whose wretched strikes the Pinkerton people were hired to prevent, and about the lies of mine owners. These things were to sit in the back of his mind.

And just as he learned about the lot of poor miners, and about the aims of trade unions, so at some point he learned about the rich. He saw their houses - maybe as a Pinkerton man, or maybe it was back in Baltimore that he noticed the furniture and pictures in rich people's houses, different from the crowded parlor on North Stricker Street, or from the boardinghouses and cheap hotels he stayed in.

The IWW is the only labor organization in the United States which draws no race or color line. There is another reason why Negroes should join the IWW. The Negro must engage in direct action. He is forced to do this by the Government. When the whites speak of direct action, they are told to use their political power. But with the Negro it is different. He has no political power. Therefore the only recourse the Negro has is industrial action, and since he must combine with those forces which draw no line against him, it is simply logical for him to draw his lot with the Industrial Workers of the World.

In early September 1917, Department of Justice agents made simultaneous raids on forty-eight IWW meeting halls across the country, seizing correspondence and literature that would become courtroom evidence. One hundred and one went on trial in April 1918; it lasted five months, the longest criminal trial in American history up to that time.

The judge sentenced Haywood and fourteen others to twenty years in prison; thirty-three were given ten years, the rest shorter sentences. The IWW was shattered. Haywood jumped bail and fled to revolutionary Russia, where he remained until his death ten years later.

In Los Angeles, 27 members of the Industrial Workers of the World were convicted of criminal syndicalism and sentenced to from one to 14 years in San Quentin prison. Seventeen other " wobblies," as the IWW are known, had previously been convicted.

Next day longshoremen held a meeting and went out on strike as a protest. On the second day of the strike ship owners declared that only 200 men were out, the strike a fizzle.

The IWW are making an effort to gain a firm foothold on the Pacific Coast. The July 1 number of The Marine Worker (published free of charge by the Marine Transport Workers' International Union, No. 510; address Box 69, Station D, New York City) gave some indication of the propaganda which the IWW are carrying on in Los Angeles. It is published about 25% in Spanish and carries such slogans as: Boycott all California-made Goods and Motion Pictures. You Cannot Fight the Boss and Booze at the Same Time. Be Like a Mule and Kick if Conditions Don't Suit You; Remember: "An Injury to One is an Injury to All" (motto of the IWW).

The Industrial Workers of the World turned loose another threat. They plan an "early drive on Sacramento," the object of which is to teach that city a "lesson" for the prosecution of IWW members under the criminal syndicalism law of California. The Wobblies would start a "reign of terror." The members would invade the city, fill the jails, start a free speech campaign, parade to the detriment of Sacramento's pride and complacence.

The cause of the threat was the issuance of an injunction by the Superior Court of Sacramento County forbidding the I. W. to act as an organization or as its officers and members. In view of previous I. threats of a similar nature, Sacramento has probably not much to fear.

She began this amazing record by getting arrested on a street corner when she was fifteen. Her father was arrested with her. He never has been arrested since. It was only the beginning for her.

The judge inquired, "Do you expect to convert people to socialism by talking on Broadway?"

She looked up at him and replied gravely, "Indeed I do."

The judge sighed deeply in pity. "Dismissed," he said.

Joe O'Brien gives me a picture other at that time. He was sent to cover the case of these people who had been arrested for talking socialism on Broadway. He expected to find a strong-minded harpy. Instead he found a beautiful child of fifteen, the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. A young Joan of Arc is what she looked like to him with her dark hair hanging down her back and her blue Irish eyes ringed with black lashes. That was how she entered the Labor movement. Since then she has never stopped.

Presently she joined the I.W.W., which was then in its golden age. Full of idealism, it swept the Northwest. They had free-speech fights everywhere. The authorities arrested them and more came. They crammed the jails to bursting.

"In one town," said Elizabeth, "there were so many in jail that they let them out during the day. We outside had to feed them. Every night they went back to jail. At last the wobblies decided that when the jail opened they would not come out. People came from far and near to see the wobblies who wouldn't leave jail."

This part of her life, organizing and fighting the fights of the migratory workers of the West, is the part other life that she likes most. Her marriage did not affect her activities. The arrival of her son did. His birth closed this chapter other life.

My first sight of her was in Lawrence in the big strike of 1912. I arrived just after the chief of police had refused to allow the strikers to send their children to the workers' homes in other towns. There had been a riot at the railway station. Children had been jostled and trampled. Women fainted. The town was under martial law. Ettor and Giovannitti were in jail for murder as accessory before the fact.

I walked with Bill Haywood into a quick-lunch restaurant. "There's Gurley," he said. She was sitting at a lunch counter on a mushroom stool, and it was as if she were the spirit of this strike that had so much hope and so much beauty. She was only about twenty-one, but she had gravity and maturity. She asked me to come and see her at her house. She had gone on strike, bringing with her her mother and her baby.

There was ceaseless work for her that winter. Speaking sitting with the strike committee, going to visit the prisoner in jail, and endlessly raising money. Speaking, speaking, speaking, taking trains only to run back to the town that was ramparted by prison-like mills before which soldiers with fixed bayonets paced all day long. Almost every night when we didn't dine in the Syrian restaurant we dined in some striker's home, very largely among the Italians. It seemed to me I had never met so many fine people before. I did not know people could act the way those strikers could in Lawrence. Every strike meeting was memorable - the morning meetings in a building quite a way from the center of things, owned by someone sympathetic to the strikers, the only place they were permitted to assemble. The soup kitchen was out here and here groceries were also distributed and the striking women came from far and near. They would wait around for a word with Gurley or with Big Bill. In the midst of this excitement Elizabeth moved calm and tranquil. For off the platform she is a very quiet person. It was as though she reserved her tremendous energy for speaking.

The Paterson textile strike followed Lawrence. In Lawrence there was martial law and militia. It was stern, cruel, and rigorous. The Paterson authorities were all of that and besides they were petty, niggling, and hectoring. Arrests were many. Jail sentences were stiff and given for small cause. Elizabeth was also arrested, but set free again The Paterson strike of all the strikes stands out in her memory. She got to know the people, and their courage and spirit were things that none of us who were there could ever forget.

The strike on the Mesaba Range was the end of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's activities as organizer in the I.W.W. Just after the Espionage Act had been passed it happened that we went to the theater together. "If I were in the I.W.W. now," she said, "whether I opened my mouth or didn't I would surely be arrested. It's rather nice to draw a long breath." Next day she was arrested just the same. She was one of the 166 people associated with the I.W.W. indicted for conspiracy.

Defense work was no new thing to her, and from 1918 until recently her major activities have been getting political prisoners out of jail. And since 1921 she has concentrated on the Sacco-Vanzetti case. There has been constant work, there have been arrests, there has been her preoccupation with comrades in jail for their opinions. She comes out of her first twenty years in the labor movement undimmed and undiscouraged.


Industrial Workers of the World

While the Industrial Workers of the World still is a going enterprise, the Marxists Internet Archive wanted to celebrate this organizations coming 100th Aniversary with a History Archive of documents related to it. We do not want to subsititute for the IWW’s own web site at iww.org. We want to compliment it with a mirror of it’s historical documents contained on it and our own additions from the current contents of the Marxists Internet Archive writers archive.

The Industrial Worker Originally titled The Industrial Union Bulletin when it was founded in 1907, The Industrial Worker remains one of the longest continually published radical union or left newspaper in North America. The collection here runs from 1907 through 1913.

The Founding Convention of the IWW—Proceedings This is the original transcription of the proceedings. This is the Merit Publications reprint of the transcription of the convention. First online publication of the transcript.

The Founding Convention of the IWW—Proceedings This is a new transcription of the original proceedings completed by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

The 2nd Convention of the IWW—proceedings held in 1906. Transcribed for the first time by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

The 3nd Convention of the IWW—proceedings held in 1907. Transcribed for the first time by Robert Bills from the Socialist Labor Party of the United States presented in PDF format.

Works by Eugene V. Debs on the IWW:

Historic Pamphlets by the Wobblies of the past:

IWW and its relations with the Communist Party:

Correspondence/Statements/Speeches:
[In chronological order]

“Spokane Fight for Free Speech Settled." [March 6, 1910] Documentation of a little known chapter in the political career of syndicalist-turned-communist William Z. Foster. In November 1909 an intense “free speech” struggle broke out in the Eastern Washington city of Spokane between partisans of the Industrial Workers of the World and city and county authorities. At root was the refusal of the city to allow public speaking on the street by union agitators, or the sale of the IWW’s new Spokane weekly, The Industrial Worker. Dozens of arrests followed, complete with court cases and counter-suits alleging police violence. This article details the final settlement of the Spokane Free Speech Fight by a negotiating committee of four, including Bill Foster. IWW demands were essentially met and prisoners freed under terms of the agreement, in exchange for a largely ceremonial surrender of an IWW National Organizer, who was fighting extradition from Idaho in the neighboring city of Coeur d’Alene.

“Red Flag Waves at Portland,” by J.B. Shea and Ed Gilbert [events of May 1, 1910] Short participant’s account of the 1910 May Day festivities at Portland, Oregon written for the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Some 3,000 members and friends of the radical movement are said to have marched in a procession through the streets of Portland lasting almost an hour, with the march and rally which followed held under the joint auspices of the IWW, the Socialist Party of Oregon, the Finnish Socialist Federation, and the Portland Latvian Club. Approximately 5,000 had assembled in a downtown park for speeches and singing, which included the unfurling of a red flag. Following the assembly a free dance had been held at the Finnish Socialist Hall, complete with refreshments, capping a successful day of festivities. The writers declare such activities to be “not only affairs of passing notice, but are absolutely necessary to the life of the workers."

“Workers and Racial Hate,” by David Burgess [May 19, 1910] Pioneer Washington Socialist and IWW supporter David Burgess expounds upon racial prejudice in general, and Asian exclusion in particular, in this letter to the Editor of the western regional newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World. Burgess notes the similarity between the “alluring but deceptive” claim of the inferiority of Chinese and Japanese workers and the calculated use of racial prejudice by Southern capitalists to subdue black workers “insulting” enough to demand “more of their product.” In extreme circumstances, so-called “race war” — actually “a war of extermination, directed against the more rebellious negroes” — is employed to crush this resistance, Burgess indicates, followed by the calculated use of the Christian message of social peace to subjugate again the disrupted black working class. Working alongside people of other nationalities and races builds “understanding of our mutual interests,” Burgess notes. “I assume that it is the duty of the working class to teach the solidarity of the interests of the working class, regardless of the race that some section of the class happens to belong to,” he declares.

“Our Bourbon Socialism,” by Bruce Rogers [July 30, 1910] Although sometimes dismissed in the popular imagination as anti-political trade unionists, in fact the Industrial Workers of the World was the organizational home of a significant number of revolutionary socialists, such as the author of this piece, Bruce Rogers. Rogers is harshly critical of Milwaukee Socialist Party leader Victor Berger and his associates, for undercutting the righteous radicalism of party Presidential candidate Gene Debs with promises of compensation for nationalized industry and their “placid” commitment to “reforms only." Reforms, in Rogers’ view, “invariably result from economic pressures on the bourgeoisie and so far as the proletariat is considered, their sole effect is to render tolerable if not beautiful the capitalist or wages system.” Instead, Rogers states, “revolution comes about because of the economic experience of the working class, and has for its accomplishment the abolition of the wages system and the entire overthrow of capitalism.” “The essential difference between a reformer and a revolutionist is that one of them means it,” Rogers declares.

“Special News from France,” by William Z. Foster [Dec. 8, 1910] Late in 1909 Left wing Washington Socialist William Z. Foster was dispatched to Spokane to report on an Industrial Workers of the World free speech fight there as a socialist newspaper correspondent. While there he was arrested on the street and served jail time, emerging as a committed member of the IWW. In the fall of 1910 Foster made his way for France to attempt to learn lessons from the ultra-radical, direct action-oriented labor movement there, sending back weekly reports from the scene for the Spokane IWW weekly, the Industrial Worker. This is a representative report by Foster from the pages of that paper. Foster notes that a recent conventional strike of the building trades had failed, but that returning workers had their employers in a tizzy over an organized sabotage campaign involving labor and materials. “The French workers are coming to realize (and to act accordingly) that the way to fight the boss is to put a crimp in his pocketbook, regardless of the means employed,” Foster declares, adding “They are learning the valuable lesson that capitalist property is not sacred, but that it is simply stolen goods.” Foster asserts that “the capitalist has no more right to retain his capital than the burglar now has to retain his swag, and also the capitalists right to life itself is just as sacred as that of the burglar caught in the act.” Once this lesson is absorbed by the working class, “the capitalist system will melt like wax," Foster says.

“The Socialist and Syndicalist Movements in France,” by William Z. Foster [Jan. 24, 1911] Former Socialist turned hardline Syndicalist William Z. Foster takes on a fundamental premise of American socialist ideology in this lengthy article from the IWW press — the notion that the workers’ movement advances through joint party-political and trade union-economic activity. Citing French experience, Foster challenges the idea that political action and direct action are complementary, arguing instead that the intellectual-dominated political movement collaborates with capitalism to expand its own influence at the expense of the working class economic movement. Political socialism and economic syndicalism are held by Foster to be competing and adversarial tendencies. Politicians of every stripe, including Socialist politicians, are said by Foster to manipulate organized workers under the pretext of helping them. Foster asserts that Syndicalists actually see their movement as self-sufficient, solving their problems successfully by “direct action tactics alone.” Rather than attempting to “penetrate” the government to pass ameliorative legislation, as the Socialists would have it, Syndicalist direct action coerces the state into the passage of laws, in Foster’s view. Foster calls upon the IWW as an organization to maintain a policy of “strict official neutrality towards all political parties” and for its members to “vigorously combat the political action theory, be it advocated by the SP or any other ’party.’"

US Officers Raid IWW Headquarters Over Nation. (Associated Press) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Collection of snippets from around the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 5, 1917 coordinated raids against the offices and officials of the Industrial workers of the World. Short reports here from Butte and Great Falls, MT San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Spokane, WA — the last mentioned the city in which these reports were published. Also included is a short interview with Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory, vacationing in Massachusetts, who declares “It is no secret that the Industrial Workers of the World have been under suspicion for some time. The Department of Justice conducted a quiet investigation until I was convinced that we were warranted in taking such action as this. I do not need to say the the raids will be followed quickly by indictments if we find anything to warrant them, and the men will be prosecuted to the extent of the law if they deserve it.”

The Government Stopping Sources of Disloyalty: Makes Many Arrests and Seizes Great Quantities of Printed and Other Documents. (Reading Eagle) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Uncredited wire service report, datelined Washington, DC, which details the massive coordinated raids against national and local offices of the Industrial Workers of the World and the National Office of the Socialist Party of America. The count of cities in which operations were conducted is given as “two dozen” and were said to be “part of a comprehensive plan worked out by the Department of Justice for a roundup of all forces which are preaching sedition, agitating peace in questionable ways, a promoting labor troubles and violence to hinder the production of war materials.” This unsigned article, clearly written by someone with close connections to the Department of Justice, indicates that “many officials are confident German money has backed up a number of the IWW agitators who have been active in the West” and advises “that some prosecutions will follow is accepted as certain.”

Secrecy Shrouds Federal IWW Raids: Administration is Silent on Reasons for Spectacular Invasion of Labor Offices. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Ongoing coverage of the sensational simultaneous federal raids in more than two dozen cities against national and local headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World and the National Office of the Socialist Party. The first report, from The Call’s Washington bureau, indicates that authorities were remaining mum about the reasons for the raids, with Assistant Attorney General Fitts asserting merely that “we wanted to find out whether there have been violations of federal law.” The writer strongly indicates that the mass raids indicate “the administration is going to go to the very limit of the autocratic powers given the President in the Espionage Act to crush the IWW in the mining and lumber industries of the West, and is going to do all that it can to disrupt Socialist organizations everywhere by suppression or intimidation of meetings.” This report is followed by a brief summary of the 8 raids conducted in Chicago and a short report from Detroit announcing that a bomb was purportedly found during the raid of IWW headquarters there. The incident was being used by at least one US Marshal as a rationale for “the internment of all IWW for the period of the war.”

The IWW and the Socialist Party.” (International Socialist Review) [events of Sept. 5, 1917] Summary of the Sept. 5 Raids from Charles H. Kerr’s glossing Chicago-based monthly magazine. The article indicates that raids were conducted against the national headquarters of the IWW and the Socialist Party in Chicago, as well as the sites of “some 20 branch offices of the IWW in different states.” Included are the full texts of substantial official statements by both Executive Secretary Adolph Germer of the Socialist Party and Big Bill Haywood, Secretary-Treasurer of the IWW. Both see the raids as temporarily disruptive but also cause for redoubled organizational efforts that would ultimately lead to membership growth. Text of a lengthy report from the Western organ of the IWW, Industrial Workerz, is also reproduced. The final section of the article provides details of an organized campaign of “persecution and misrepresentation” against the Socialist Party in the state of Minnesota, which included the breaking up of meetings and disruption of a fundraiser picnic by “a bunch of deputies, sheriffs, rowdies, etc., etc.”

Raid on IWW Seen As Blind for Big Attack: Crushing of All Organizations Which Tell Truth is Expected in Washington Circles. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 28, 1917] Socialist Party commentary on the September 28 mass arrests of the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Department of Justice’s operation against the IWW is depicted as a first step, “evidently designed to lull the Socialists to sleep with the belief that the government does not intend to assail, and possibly destroy, their organization.” There follows analysis of the motive for the arrests of the 166 IWW leaders, volition for which is said not to have come from the DoJ, but rather from mill and mine operators of the West and Northwest, their profits impacted by ongoing strikes. This had moved Montana’s Democratic Senator Thomas J. Walsh to return to his home state to study the “battlefield,” where he obtained and studied IWW literature. “Walsh loaded himself up with IWW literature and digested it with the thoroughness with which a chattel-slave-owning judge a generation ago might have digested the anti-slavery literature of those days,” the writer notes, intimating that he, as representative for the mill and mine owners, took the lead in pushing for repression of the IWW as an organization having “no place in the American system. either in peace or in war.”

Haywood and 8 Others Held for Conspiracy.” (NY Call) [event of Sept. 28, 1917] On September 28, 1917 the other shoe dropped on the IWW when the federal grand jury in Chicago returned indictments for 166 leaders and key activists of the organization, charging them with “conspiring against the government.” This initial news report from the Socialist New York Call indicates that about 20 officers surrounded IWW headquarters in Chicago and arrested nearly 70 people for questioning, holding 9 who were named in the indictment. Topping the list was Secretary-Treasurer “Big Bill” Haywood, Solidarity editor Ralph Chaplin, and head of the publicity bureau George Andreytchine. Bails for the nine ranged from $10,000 to $25,000, according to the article.

Raid on IWW Seen As Blind for Big Attack: Crushing of All Organizations Which Tell Truth is Expected in Washington Circles. (NY Call) [events of Sept. 28, 1917] Socialist Party commentary on the September 28 mass arrests of the leadership of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Department of Justice’s operation against the IWW is depicted as a first step, “evidently designed to lull the Socialists to sleep with the belief that the government does not intend to assail, and possibly destroy, their organization.” There follows analysis of the motive for the arrests of the 166 IWW leaders, volition for which is said not to have come from the DoJ, but rather from mill and mine operators of the West and Northwest, their profits impacted by ongoing strikes. This had moved Montana’s Democratic Senator Thomas J. Walsh to return to his home state to study the “battlefield,” where he obtained and studied IWW literature. “Walsh loaded himself up with IWW literature and digested it with the thoroughness with which a chattel-slave-owning judge a generation ago might have digested the anti-slavery literature of those days,” the writer notes, intimating that he, as representative for the mill and mine owners, took the lead in pushing for repression of the IWW as an organization having “no place in the American system. either in peace or in war.”

IWW Secretary Arrested: Hall is Raided by Officers at St. Maries. (Spokane Spokesman-Review) [event of Dec. 22, 1917] Short news account marking the raid of a local IWW hall in a small town in the timber-rich Idaho panhandle and the arrest of the local secretary on the same day that a touring IWW organizer was scheduled to speak. Secretary William F. Nelson was arrested by the Benewah County sheriff and charged with “criminal syndicalism and advocating sabotage.” The raid is said by the news account to have been largely the product of a right wing organization called the Benewah County Defense Council, a group said to be planning “a vigorous campaign to promote patriotism and stamp out disloyalty.” The report notes that “the council will keep a record of all persons who indulge in disloyal talk and who fail to back the government by assisting in war activities.”

Speech on Behalf of the IWW: Boston — February 3, 1918, by John J. Ballam This speech by prominent Boston radical John Ballam touting the merits of the Industrial Workers of the World was transcribed and thus preserved by Federal authorities interested in making a political case against him. Ballam calls the IWW “a battering ram that shall shake from the foundations of society the entire superficial structure, its political and juridical forms, and sweep them away like deadwood of the past as we abolished kings and their courts for potent purposes, and raise upon the foundations of society the structure of industrial democracy.” Ballam is met with applause when he declares “the IWW is comparatively small but it holds within its grasp the means of the destruction of the capitalist system, for it is the only organization that would lay the axe at the root and chop the whole damned fabric down.” Ballam pulls no punches: “I am not a pacifist. I do not deplore this war. I don’t care one snap of my finger for the millions of lives that have been lost I am not a sentimentalist. The working class can give its life and blood if it chooses to, to protect the master class in its ownership of the things with which they crush out the labor and the life of the working class in factory, mill, and mine, but I have no sympathy for them, absolutely none. I have no sympathy whatever for the slave working man who sheds his blood for the master class. The IWW has declared war upon the capitalist class! And they are bitter enemies. War to the knife, war to the hilt, war to the last owner of private property until he shall have gone into the factory, donned overalls with us, to earn his daily bread.”

Bomb Explosion Kills 4 in Federal Building in Chicago Arrests Reported. (NY Call) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] Terse initial report of the Sept. 4, 1918 Chicago Federal Building bombing as published the next morning in The New York Call, Socialist daily newspaper. The event is (apparently wrongly) reported as resulting from a thrown bomb. A correct casualty count of 4 killed and “more than 75 injured” is provided, with the reporter adding the detail “a majority of them slightly.” “The bomb fell just outside the door of the north corridor. The material damage done was not great,” the unsigned report notes. This appears to be the only coverage of the attack which The Call published.

Chicago Federal Building Bombed: Four Persons Killed, 75 Injured: Haywood There at Time: Structure Containing Landis’ Courtroom Damaged. (Morning Oregonian) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] Apparently a national wire news report of the Sept. 4, 1918 bombing of the Chicago Federal Building. Four were killed and 75 wounded when a high explosive bomb concealed in a suitcase and hidden behind a radiator blew out the Adams Street entrance of the building. Many injuries resulted from flying glass generated by windows of the lowest three stories of two buildings across the street being blown in on their occupants. The IWW -- 95 members of which had recently been sentenced in the building -- was immediately blamed for the terrorism and raids and arrests proceeded at once. For his part, IWW Secretary-Treasurer Big Bill Haywood, who was present in the building at the time of the blast, quickly “deplored the outrage” and vehemently denied an IWW connection. “I know that the IWW will be blamed,” said Haywood, “but I am convinced in my own heart that no man of my organization was in any way connected with this matter. It would be insane for an IWW to commit such an act at this time.” An effort by an IWW attorney to win low bail for convicted members pending appeal was summarily denied in the aftermath of the blast.

Bomb Explosion Blamed on IWW: Many Fellow Workers Arrested and Held Following Explosion in Federal Building, Chicago, which Killed 4 and Injured Many. (Defense News Bulletin) [event of Sept. 4, 1918] In the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1918, a bomb ripped through the entrance of the Chicago Federal Building, in which recently convicted IWW Secretary-Treasurer William D. Haywood was appearing in the office of the US Federal Marshal. Four people were killed and about 30 injured in the powerful blast, which rocked the building and was heard and felt for a considerable distance. The IWW was immediately blamed for the blast, with Haywood’s “private secretary” J.W. Wilson targeted by authorities as responsible for the fatal bomb. This article from the IWW’s weekly Defense News Bulletin denounces the “fiendish crime” and details the series of arrests which followed the blast. Lack of motive is made clear: “Looking at the matter from the standpoint of organization and defense work, nothing worse for us could have happened at this time. It was our intention, after filing appeals in behalf of our fellow workers who have been sentenced to Leavenworth, to make an attempt to get a number of them out on bonds pending the appeal. The explosion made it simply impossible for us to do anything further along this line at the present."

Resolution of Micrometer Lodge 460, IAM, to Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson and His Reply. [Feb. 18, 1919] On February 14, 1919, a Brooklyn local of the International Association of Machinists passed a resolution protesting the Labor Department’s decision to deport more than 50 non-citizen members of the IWW from the United States "without due process of law." The group had been the subject of ongoing news coverage as part of a guarded train crossing the country from the Western states where the alien Wobblies had been arrested. Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, defends the administration’s decision to deport the radical unionists. The New York Times quotes his reply in full: “When our own citizens desire to change the form of government they can do so peaceably in the manner provided by the Constitution. If we cannot make progress by the peaceable process by discussing and voting, we are not liable to make any progress by the riotous process of ’cussing and shouting.’ The man who cannot be depended upon to vote right cannot be depended upon to shoot right. Those you refer to as radicals are being sent out of this country because they have been found advocating the overthrow of our Government by force.”

The Comintern and IWW Bail Reimbursement, by Ralph Chaplin [events of Dec. 24, 1920-Jan. 2, 1921] Rare participant’s memoir of the secret 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party of America, held at a farmhouse near Kingston, New York from Dec. 24, 1920 to Jan. 2, 1921. IWW activist Ralph Chaplin was given the task of receiving financial reimbursement promised by Soviet Russia for those who lost money in the bail forfeiture associated with Big Bill Haywood’s defection. Although not himself a true believer in the Communist vision — in contrast to several of his IWW fellow workers such as Haywood, George Andreytchine, Charles Ashleigh, and Harrison George — Chaplin nevertheless joined the UCP in order to attend the secret convention with a view receiving diamonds smuggled from Soviet Russia. The jewels were lost when John Reed was arrested and jailed at the Finnish border and Chaplin’s mission was unsuccessful. Despite his failure, Chaplin did leave us with one of the only accounts of the Kingston convention — reproduced in full here. Includes copious footnotes by Tim Davenport clarifying and correcting Chaplin’s account, which was written more than a quarter century after the fact.


History

Our union was born in July 1905 in Chicago, Illinois as a response to more and more of the economy being controlled by bigger and bigger corporations. In this context, while a few skilled workers enjoyed union protection, the vast majority were insecure, transient, low paid and low skilled, and had no voice.

In the UK today, just over a quarter of all workers – roughly six million people – are in a union. This includes men and women, young and old, migrants, workers of colour, unskilled and service-sector workers in theory, anyone and everyone. But the devil’s in the detail:

Four million of them are in the public sector. The vast majority are in professional, administrative or skilled roles. They work in government, education, defence, healthcare, energy supply and transportation. Many left University with degrees and are now in the middle-income bracket. They are likely to have permanent contracts with pay progression, pensions, sick pay, above minimum holiday and redundancy terms (though these are massively under attack). It is true that today they are more likely to be women than men, and (just about) more likely to be black or Asian than white. But they are very unlikely to be young or recent immigrants.

Amongst the millions of private service sector workers in the UK, only a tiny minority are unionised. Here, minimum-wage – or less – is the norm and 5 million can’t afford to feed our families. Being largely unskilled and replaceable, often with short-term and ‘zero-hours’ contracts, insecurity is king. Subcontracted and on shifts throughout each of the 168 hours in every week, millions work more than one job just to get by. We rent a room from a private landlord in a house that used to be council owned and affordable. We share with other families and get kicked out at a month’s notice. We claim benefits to supplement our income – if we’re here legally – while our bosses make billions. The ‘management style’ consists of threats, aggression and intimidation while verbal abuse and sexual assault at the hands of customers and managers is commonplace. Half the time we don’t even get paid, and we get sacked with no come back.
In other words, a minority have unions, better conditions and at least the potential for resistance (whether they appreciate that or not). The rest of us have nothing. In other words, we find ourselves in a situation with similarities to that which saw Chicago give birth to the Industrial Workers of the World on June 24th 1905.

At that time just 5% of workers in the USA were unionised. If you were white, male and skilled, you might have been a member of your trade – or ‘craft’ – union. Representing only the men doing a specific job in any given industry, each of these unions “looked out for their own”, leaving everybody else to fend for themselves. They were brought together in the elitist, conservative and pro-capitalist American Federation of Labour. Women, migrants and the millions of labourers and unskilled, itinerant workers weren’t welcome. The very few black workers who were in unions were separated from the white workers by law.

That was until 1905, when the radical Western Federation of Miners gathered 300 socialists, anarchists and other radical trade unionists together in Chicago in what would forever after be known as the First Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Chronology of IWW History

    – From Establishment to the Strike at American Locomotive. – The Magonistas to the Murder of Joe Hill. – The Everett Massacre to the Palmer Raids. – Red Trade Union International to the Boulder Dam Strike. – Grey’s Harbor to U.S. Vanadium. – Bleak Years for the IWW. – Revival and Rejuvenation – The Founding of the IOC and its Rank & File Opposition. – The People’s Warehouse to Redwood Summer – Redwood Summer to Stevenson College – From Borders Books to the Neptune Jade. – From Applebees to Tosco.

This chronology will be updated as time passes, of course!

For a detailed chronology of IWW activity outside of the United States, see A Brief History of the IWW Outside the United States of America – by FN Brill (1999).


Industrial Workers of the World - History

Established in June 1905 in Chicago, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a labor organization that sought to organize workers along the lines of industrial unions rather than the specialized trade, or craft, unions of the American Federation of Labor. The new organization, whose members came to be called Wobblies, embraced revolutionary socialism and extended membership to all wage workers regardless of race, creed, color, or sex. It also rejected signing contracts with employers, believing that such agreements limited workers' ability to strike. In addition, the union's advocacy of direct action resistance, or sabotage, gave it a widespread, though undeserved, reputation.

By 1906 the IWW had organized three locals in Oklahoma Territory and two in Indian Territory, but the Panic of 1907 and a decline of a building boom in Oklahoma City killed these efforts. The organization revived in Oklahoma after 1914 as a result of the oil boom and serious problems in recruiting laborers for the state wheat harvest. The IWW's Agricultural Workers Organization (AWO) began its first recruiting efforts in 1915 at Enid in Garfield County. Though initially barely successful, the AWO's experience in Oklahoma led it to develop more sophisticated recruiting methods, such as the traveling job delegate who followed the harvesters from town to town. The new tactics spurred the growth of the AWO, which soon became the largest and financially strongest part of the IWW.

The AWO soon expanded its organizing efforts to include oil-field workers, especially pipeline crews. The Oil Workers' International Union (OWIU) had locals in Tulsa and Drumright by early 1917. But American entry into World War I led to attacks on both the OWIU and the AWO, now renamed the Agricultural Workers' Industrial Union. Businessmen and both state and federal authorities began active anti–IWW campaigns, especially after the labor union was falsely blamed for the Green Corn Rebellion, an antiwar uprising by tenant farmers along the South Canadian River. Attacks on IWW members included the brutal whipping, tarring, and feather of sixteen men in Tulsa in November 1917 and the repeated prosecution of one member wrongly accused of dynamiting a Tulsa oilman's home.

Federal officials also pursued conspiracy charges against members of the OWIU, convicting several in a series of trials in Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, while the Oklahoma Legislature passed a criminal syndicalism law effectively making mere membership in the IWW a crime. After the war the IWW briefly grew in Oklahoma, but several prosecutions of members under the criminal syndicalism law, the appearance of the combine-harvester and improved pipe-laying methods, combined with an ideological split with the organization, doomed any hope of a full revival.

Bibliography

Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (2d ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988).

Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Vol. 4, Industrial Workers of the World (New York: International Publishers, 1965).

Nigel Anthony Sellars, Oil, Wheat, and Wobblies: The Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma, 1905–1930 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society (unless otherwise stated).

Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Nigel Anthony Sellars, &ldquoIndustrial Workers of the World,&rdquo The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=IN023.

© Oklahoma Historical Society.

Oklahoma Historical Society | 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 | 405-521-2491
Site Index | Contact Us | Privacy | Press Room | Website Inquiries


Industrial Workers of the World - History

Established in June 1905 in Chicago, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a labor organization that sought to organize workers along the lines of industrial unions rather than the specialized trade, or craft, unions of the American Federation of Labor. The new organization, whose members came to be called Wobblies, embraced revolutionary socialism and extended membership to all wage workers regardless of race, creed, color, or sex. It also rejected signing contracts with employers, believing that such agreements limited workers' ability to strike. In addition, the union's advocacy of direct action resistance, or sabotage, gave it a widespread, though undeserved, reputation.

By 1906 the IWW had organized three locals in Oklahoma Territory and two in Indian Territory, but the Panic of 1907 and a decline of a building boom in Oklahoma City killed these efforts. The organization revived in Oklahoma after 1914 as a result of the oil boom and serious problems in recruiting laborers for the state wheat harvest. The IWW's Agricultural Workers Organization (AWO) began its first recruiting efforts in 1915 at Enid in Garfield County. Though initially barely successful, the AWO's experience in Oklahoma led it to develop more sophisticated recruiting methods, such as the traveling job delegate who followed the harvesters from town to town. The new tactics spurred the growth of the AWO, which soon became the largest and financially strongest part of the IWW.

The AWO soon expanded its organizing efforts to include oil-field workers, especially pipeline crews. The Oil Workers' International Union (OWIU) had locals in Tulsa and Drumright by early 1917. But American entry into World War I led to attacks on both the OWIU and the AWO, now renamed the Agricultural Workers' Industrial Union. Businessmen and both state and federal authorities began active anti–IWW campaigns, especially after the labor union was falsely blamed for the Green Corn Rebellion, an antiwar uprising by tenant farmers along the South Canadian River. Attacks on IWW members included the brutal whipping, tarring, and feather of sixteen men in Tulsa in November 1917 and the repeated prosecution of one member wrongly accused of dynamiting a Tulsa oilman's home.

Federal officials also pursued conspiracy charges against members of the OWIU, convicting several in a series of trials in Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, while the Oklahoma Legislature passed a criminal syndicalism law effectively making mere membership in the IWW a crime. After the war the IWW briefly grew in Oklahoma, but several prosecutions of members under the criminal syndicalism law, the appearance of the combine-harvester and improved pipe-laying methods, combined with an ideological split with the organization, doomed any hope of a full revival.

Bibliography

Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (2d ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988).

Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Vol. 4, Industrial Workers of the World (New York: International Publishers, 1965).

Nigel Anthony Sellars, Oil, Wheat, and Wobblies: The Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma, 1905–1930 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society (unless otherwise stated).

Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Nigel Anthony Sellars, &ldquoIndustrial Workers of the World,&rdquo The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=IN023.

© Oklahoma Historical Society.

Oklahoma Historical Society | 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 | 405-521-2491
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1905-today: The Industrial Workers of the World in the US

A short history of the US branch of the most revolutionary mass organisation in American history, the Industrial Workers of the World union, the IWW.

The IWW changed American trade unionism forever, being the first big union to organise black and white across entire industries, and calling for the abolition of the wage system and industrial democracy. It was largely defeated by a massive campaign of repression launched by bosses and the government

In late 18th century America, European immigrants with anarchist ideas combined with strong anti-statist traditions of US workers to create a burgeoning anarchist current. By the 1880’s, anarchist influenced ideas dominated the emerging US revolutionary movement, with anarchist groups developing across North America, producing a diverse range of papers and magazines in a myriad of different languages.

It was no accident that anarchists in Chicago were at the centre of a movement that looked to the unions as a means of bringing about an anarchist society. They had been active in the workplace for many years, and had taken a prominent role in the struggle for the 8-hour day that led to the fateful demonstration on May 1st in 1886, after which eight anarchists - the Haymarket Martyrs - were framed and condemned to death.

Anarcho-syndicalist ideas also developed in numerous anarchist groups especially in Paterson, New Jersey where Italian and Spanish anarchists were active. They published numerous articles reporting the development of European revolutionary syndicalism, and created a silk workers’ union which was to later join the IWW. They were also important in helping to spread anarcho-syndicalism amongst western mine workers who were to play such an important part in future developments.

In the manifesto from the meeting in January 1905 that led to the creation of the IWW, the basic principles of anarcho-syndicalism were clearly evident. The main author, Thomas J Hagerty, was influenced by European anarcho-syndicalist ideas.

Political parties
The original manifesto saw no role for political parties, arguing that workers should organise industrially to “take and hold that which is produced through an economic organisation of the working class”. On the basis of the January Manifesto, a convention was organised on the 27th June 1905, again in Chicago.

Early IWW poster.
Click image to see full-size version

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM), led by “Big” Bill Hayward, who chaired the convention, provided the largest presence. The WFM was a radical western industrial union that had in recent years fought a number of bitter disputes with owners who had engaged private armies against workers. There were also in attendance delegates from socialist organisations, including the two main US socialist parties (and bitter rivals), the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the Socialist Party of America (SPA).

The convention produced a preamble that sought to link the immediate struggle to the wider aim of overthrowing capitalism. The main tactic was unambiguous the newly formed IWW was to set about organising workers into “One Big Union”, whose aim was revolution, after which the union would take over the running of society in the newly established co-operative commonwealth. In the build-up to the revolution, the IWW would wage class war against the capitalist class, developing workers’ revolutionary consciousness in the process.

From the outset, the new union condemned racism. The convention declared that any wage earner could be a member regardless of occupation, race, creed or sex. Anti-discrimination and internationalism quickly became part of its culture and two of its major strengths. Racism especially was recognised as a major factor used by capitalism to divide the working class, affecting both black Americans and newly arrived South East Asians and Europeans. The American Federation of Labor (AFofL) was openly racist - for example, it produced stickers drawing consumers’ attention to those goods that had been produced by white workers.

From the IWW’s earliest days, a source of controversy was its stance on political parties. The clause excluding a role for parties in the workers’ struggle had been dropped from the January Manifesto on the insistence of Daniel de Leon, the SLP leader. De Leon, a recent convert to industrial unionism, was much admired by Lenin, who was later to develop the idea of using workers’ economic power to win himself state power in Russia. After much debate, a compromise was reached under which the general strike was included in the constitution as well as a role for political action.

Turning point
At the 1908 IWW convention, a Chicago motion was passed which removed all reference to political activity from the constitution. In response, the SLP delegates formed a rival IWW based in Detroit, which had little impact. This proved to be a turning point. Detached from the SLP, the IWW developed its core revolutionary policies over the next few years. The strategy that emerged stated that in building “One Big Union”, the IWW would seek to “form the new society inside the shell of the old”. In time, the point would be reached where the workers’ organisation would be powerful enough to use the general strike, take over the means of production, and abolish the wage system. In a nutshell, this would lead to the establishment of industrial democracy, in a workers’ commonwealth.

IWW members on strike

The voting strength that had enabled the organisation to escape the influence of the SLP had come mainly from the west coast groups. Over the next few years, it was this vibrant part of the IWW which would create the culture of struggle that formed the central essence of the organisation. Often politicised by anarchism, they despised both capitalism and the state. They also had a deep mistrust of politicians and leaders in general, extending to the IWW leadership. Eastern-based radicals did not look too favourably on the western workers. Dismissed by the likes of de Leon as the “Overalls Brigade”, criticism was not confined to the socialist intelligentsia. Some East Coast anarchists also berated them as “this bunch of pork-chop philosophers, agitators who have no real, great organising ability or creative brain power”.

To organise unskilled workers in the west was no easy task. The western US was far less industrialised than the east. The workers were largely migrant and so had no permanent workplace through which they could be physically organised. As an alternative, western workers made the “mixed local” the basis of their organisation. Centred on the union hall, the mixed local was a geographically based organisation, which included both the employed and unemployed. This contrasted with the workplace-based locals in much of the eastern IWW.

The union hall began to evolve as the centre of working class organisational life, and developed into the local intellectual and cultural centre. Here was to be found the basis of an alternative working class culture centred on the idea of solidarity and struggle. Combining art and politics, the western IWW groups produced plays, poems, songs and cartoons. In meaningful, emotional and personal expressions, Wobblies (as IWW members became known) sought to analyse the world from a working class perspective and create a rich culture of both unity and diversity.

Free speech
From this culture of solidarity and self-respect emerged the famous free speech campaign which propelled the IWW to prominence before the First World War. It grew out of the struggle against employment agencies which operated in gateway towns for the mining, lumber, and agricultural industries in the west. The IWW called for a boycott of the agencies and for workers to be recruited via union halls - similar to the recently successful syndicalist union CGT campaign in France. “Soapbox orators”, the most common form of IWW agitation, set up outside employment agencies to denounce their corrupt practices. The police responded by prohibiting street speaking.

From 1908 to 1916, the free speech campaign became the focus of a bitter battle between the IWW and the US state, during which some 5,000 IWW members were imprisoned. The prisons rapidly filled, forcing the state to back down. In the process of winning the campaign, the IWW also exposed the brutality of the US prison system.

The emphasis on community, culture and free speech did not stop the IWW from taking on the capitalists in the workplace. After a difficult few years, by 1910 the IWW had recovered some of its early strength, organising many strikes. Perhaps the most prominent strike was in Goldfield, Nevada, where the IWW attempted to organise all of the 30,000 population. They won an 8-hour day and a minimum wage of $4.50, before being brutally repressed by the state militia. By 1912, the IWW was strong enough to embark on what became two of the most famous strikes at Lawrence and Paterson.

In Lawrence, a Massachusetts textile town, 30,000 immigrant workers toiled in appalling conditions. Organising was particularly difficult as workers were from over a dozen countries, and spoke many different languages. The Lawrence strike took on an insurrectionary nature from the outset. The IWW made no attempt to play down its revolutionary ideas on the contrary, they sought to raise revolutionary consciousness among workers. The state brought in 1,500 militia, backed up by the police.

Shock waves
During the bitter dispute, these forces used guns, clubs and bayonets to try and force workers back to work, resulting in a number of deaths. Hundreds were arrested, some on false murder charges. Despite this, the IWW organised a tremendous victory, with a pay rise for unskilled workers of 25%. As a result, the American Woollen Federation was also forced to increase wages by 8% across 32 cities. The strike sent shock waves across America and acted as a rallying cry for the unorganised.

Paterson was next, in 1913. As already noted, this silk weaving centre near New York had a strong anarchist tradition. The IWW sought standardised, improved wages and conditions for 25,000 workers. However, after months of ruthless militia activity, with several workers killed and hundreds imprisoned, the strike ended in failure. This was a bitter blow despite the consolation that events in both Lawrence and Paterson had ensured that the IWW was now seen as the formidable organisation.

The IWW’s growth was not just confined to the US. Powerful IWW unions now existed in Australia and Chile, and IWW-influenced unions like the Industrial Workers of Africa and many smaller syndicalist outreach groups sprung up across the globe.

Behind the IWW’s growth and success, however, was a rising controversy over internal democracy. Western locals were concerned that the IWW was too centralised. At the 1911 convention, western delegates had attempted to pass resolutions to limit the power of the General Executive Board (GEB) and devolve it to the regions. Though defeated, the resolutions reflected a growing rift between the eastern and western wings of the organisation.

At the following convention centralisation again reared its head. This time eastern sections argued for the free speech campaign to be brought under GEB control. This outraged the western delegation, reinforcing fears of centralisation.

The 1913 IWW convention is often portrayed as a conflict between anarchist de-centralisers on the west coast and the more socialist centralisers of the east coast. This is too simplistic. The division between east and west in many ways reflected two different cultures based on different conditions. To the eastern IWW, workplace organisation was far more important. The west was far less industrialised, with a large migrant workforce who campaigned on a wide range of issues.

Undoubtedly, anarcho-syndicalism was, and remains, anti-centralisation, so it is not surprising that many found the IWW over-centralised. That is not to say that anarcho-syndicalists would have backed many of the one hundred motions put forward by western delegates. If passed, these would have reduced the IWW to a loose-knit confederation of autonomous groups, with the attendant difficulties of maintaining cohesion.

In the event, the 1913 convention ended in defeat for the western delegation. Not only did their motions fall, but their fear of centralisation was justified by the passing of a motion bringing all publications under the supervision of the GEB. Worst of all, the acrimonious debate left the whole organisation deeply divided.

Cartoon from the New York Globe during World War I, trying to portray anti-war Wobblies as linked to the German Kaiser

The outbreak of World War I led to increased economic activity and a shortage of labour. The IWW took advantage to win concessions and recruit workers, and entered its heyday period. By 1917, membership was 150,000, with large sections and unions in the metal, mining, railway, forestry, agriculture and marine transport industries. From this point on, its success and revolutionary politics combined to bring it into ever-increasing direct conflict with the state.

State repression
From the start, the IWW voiced its total opposition to the war. Hayward declared it was better to be a traitor to your country than a traitor to your class. The IWW continued to organise strike action wherever possible. The state response was a wave of repression.

In September 1917, the state authorities raided all the national, regional and local offices of the IWW. They seized everything they could lay their hands on and arrested every IWW member they could find. Thousands of members, along with other anarchists and socialists, were harassed, arrested, imprisoned and deported as the state attempted to destroy the IWW. The intense, sustained tide of repression continued for the remainder of the war and after.
As well as direct state terror, the IWW was also subject to violence from state-backed vigilantes. Being a wobbly during the war was to risk beating, shooting or lynching – Frank Everett was a victim of one such attack. Legendary union songwriter and Wobbly Joe Hill was framed for murder, and executed. In a cynical move, the state also enrolled the support of reformist unions. Federal labour laws introduced state mediation, the right to collective bargaining for AFofL affiliates minimum pay and the basic 8-hour day. The reformist unions were quick to respond to the state attempt to win them over to the war effort.

In 1919, 23 states introduced criminal syndicalist laws. Overnight, the IWW found itself liable to prosecution all over the country simply for existing. The impact of the state terror campaign on the IWW was serious, but amazingly, not terminal. Despite the IWW’s involvement in the Seattle General Strike, by May 1919, the membership was already down to 30,000.

Internationally repression of the IWW was also on the up – the Chilean White Terror of the capitalist class decimated the organisation there, and large numbers of Australian Wobbly organisers were arrested, imprisoned and/or framed.

Communists
Where state repression had failed to destroy the IWW, internal division was soon to succeed. The dispute was triggered by communist attempts to take over the IWW, which in turn reopened the wounds of the bitter centralisation debate. The western sections opposed the statist communist-influenced GEB’s attempt to affiliate the IWW to the Third International, run from Moscow, and demanded the expulsion of all communists from the IWW. The communists concentrated their efforts on attempting to win over the eastern sections to the idea of statism, though ultimately they were to fail in this endeavour.

The GEB pursued a strategy based on the idea of left wing unity. In 1920, a communist who was attempting to take over the Philadelphia dockers’ local accused the IWW of loading arms for the interventionist troops in Russia. This was a long-standing local, which had been successful in uniting black and white workers.

Though the accusations were later to be found groundless, the damage was done. The GEB immediately suspended the Philadelphia dockers’ local who, appalled that they could have been suspended on the say of one communist, left the IWW stating: “The history of the Philadelphia longshoremen’s union is one of unswerving loyalty. Some have died while hundreds have been jailed as standard bearers of the IWW.”

The IWW began to publish reports of the repression of workers in Russia, which had begun to appear in anarchist papers around the world. Those responsible were then condemned as traitors to the revolution by the growing communist movement within the IWW. The dispute came to a head at the 1924 convention, which soon descended into chaos as fighting broke out between centralisers and de-centralisers.

The de-centralisers put forward the “Emergency Programme”, advocating that the GEB should be abolished, while the centralisers sought more control at regional and GEB level. The communists made the atmosphere worse and the convention ended in a decisive IWW split, with a ‘real IWW’ being set up in Utah (while the Chicago based IWW continued). The split, coming so soon after the state repression, and coinciding with the growing popularity of communism, proved too much. While the Chicago-based IWW was able to resist communist infiltration and did go on to organise major strikes in the coalfields, in Colorado (1927) and Kentucky (1930), these were temporary high points in the decline of the IWW.

The IWW grew from humble beginnings and, in a few short years, was able to shake the foundations of the world’s most powerful state and capitalism’s powerhouse - the United States. In the process, it drew on anarcho-syndicalist ideas from Europe and adapted them to its own unique conditions.

Strength a weakness
The single greatest strength of the IWW was its emphasis on the culture of revolution. Unfortunately, in a relatively

IWW truckers meet and organise in Stockton, 2005

short time this strength was overcome by a combination of state oppression and internal weakness. While the former was clearly inevitable, the latter was borne out of an uncomfortable alliance between an anti-authoritarian, pro-autonomy camp and a centralist camp - a situation made worse by the efforts of the opportunist authoritarian communists. In a nutshell, the IWW’s apparent early strength of appealing to all sharing the same goals and economic tactics, irrespective of political agenda, soon turned into a fatal weakness, as party political opportunists sought to take over and undermine the deep revolutionary politics of the organisation.

1930s-Today
The IWW in the United States was never completely destroyed. A rump organisation, with some isolated industrial strength remained for decades – in one town the IWW continued to print a daily paper in Finnish until 1977!
In January 2005, the IWW’s centenary year, the Sacramento local paper declared on its front page that the “Wobblies Are Back!” as the still very small organisation has begun once again to have industrial successes.
Edited by libcom from an article in Direct Action


Industrial Workers of the World

Perhaps the most important radical labor union in U.S. history, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) continues to attract workers, in and beyond the United States. The IWW was founded in 1905 in Chicago—at that time, the greatest industrial city in a country that had become the world’s mightiest economy. Due to the nature of industrial capitalism in what, already, had become a global economy, the IWW and its ideals quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. The Wobblies, as members were and still are affectionately known, never were as numerically large as mainstream unions, but their influence, particularly from 1905 into the 1920s, was enormous.

The IWW captured the imaginations of countless rebellious workers with its fiery rhetoric, daring tactics, and commitment to revolutionary industrial unionism. The IWW pledged to replace the “bread and butter” craft unionism of the larger, more mainstream American Federation of Labor (AFL), with massive industrial unions strong enough to take on ever-larger corporations and, ultimately, overthrow capitalism to be replaced with a society based upon people rather than profit. In the United States, the union grew in numbers and reputation, before and during World War I, by organizing workers neglected by other unions—immigrant factory workers in the Northeast and Midwest, migratory farmworkers in the Great Plains, and mine, timber, and harvest workers out West. Unlike most other unions of that era, the IWW welcomed immigrants, women, and people of color truly, most U.S. institutions excluded African Americans and darker-skinned immigrants as well as women, making the IWW among the most radically inclusive institutions in the country and world.

Wobbly ideas, members, and publications soon spread beyond the United States—first to Mexico and Canada, then into the Caribbean and Latin America, and to Europe, southern Africa, and Australasia in rapid succession. The expansion of the IWW and its ideals across the world in under a decade is a testament to the passionate commitment of its members. It also speaks to the immense popularity of anticapitalist tendencies that shared more in common with anarchism than social democracy. However, the IWW’s revolutionary program and class-war rhetoric yielded more enemies than allies, including governments, which proved devastating during and after World War I, though the union soldiered on. Even in 2020, the ideals the IWW espoused continued to resonate among a small but growing and vibrant group of workers, worldwide.


American Experience

William Haywood, 1916. Library of Congress

At the turn of the twentieth century, the idea of an organization that could represent all workers — and end major corporations' corruption and exploitation of labor — came to life.

An Imposing Leader
The man who would become that organization's leader and symbol, William Haywood, was a former hard-rock miner, over six feet tall, more than two-hundred pounds, with a glowering glass eye. Haywood delivered the keynote speech at a 1905 meeting of more than 200 socialists and trade unionists that launched the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), nicknamed the Wobblies. Delegates to the founding convention also included Eugene Debs (the leader of the American Socialist Party), Mother Jones (the legendary fighter for miners' and children's rights), Daniel De Leon (the leader of the Socialist Labor Party), Lucy Parsons (widow of Albert Parsons, one of the Haymarket martyrs), and many other stars in the galaxy of labor politics and activism.

"The Industrial Workers is organized not to conciliate but to fight the capitalist class. The capitalists own the tools they do not use, and the workers use the tools they do not own." — Eugene Debs

A Union for the Unskilled
The I.W.W. was "a union based on the principles of Marxist conflict and the indigenous American philosophy of industrial unionism," according to historian Joyce Kornbluh. The Wobblies solicited new members among the most discriminated-against groups of the workforce: unskilled workers, non-whites, immigrants, women, and migrant workers. These working people were barred from the skilled workers' unions that formed the American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.), which tended to support white, male, skilled workers. The I.W.W. hoped to to create "one big union" through which workers would own the means of production and distribution.

Uniting People With Differences
The I.W.W. succeeded in organizing a group of workers who on the surface seemed to have very little in common. "Not least among its accomplishments was the erosion of sexual, racial, and ethnic divisions within the working class," wrote Kornbluh. "The I.W.W. local that controlled the Philadelphia docks, the I.W.W. cigar-makers' locals in Pittsburgh, and the I.W.W. lumber-workers' union in the South were racially integrated." This unification across working class and geographic sectors was remarkable, as these "unorganizables" --women, children, immigrants, transients, and others --somehow formed a cohesive political unit with shared goals. Unlike the A.F.L., which organized workers according to their specialized skills, the I.W.W. organized workers by industry.

Two Philosophies
From the outset, the I.W.W. membership was divided into two camps: socialism and anarchism. The socialists, like Eugene Debs, urged the I.W.W. to get involved in elections and politics, supporting change by working within the system. The anarchists, however, viewed political participation as acquiescence to capitalism, and urged the I.W.W. to advance its cause via "direct action" -- workers' strikes, demonstrations and sabotage. Though internal feuds raged over political action and administrative structure, the I.W.W. managed to adopt a constitution in 1908. In the dramatic language characteristic of its membership, the document read:

"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 working people, and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system. These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry. cease to work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all."


Industrial Workers of the World

Originally Titled, 95 Years of Revolutionary Industrial Unionism, by Michael Hargis—featured in Anarcho Syndicalist Review, #27 and #28. This time line copied from the web site of the Industrial Workers of the World

* Meeting of six industrial unionists in Chicago issues call for a January conference to discuss formation of a revolutionary working class organization.

* January 2: Conference of 23 industrial unionists in Chicago issues an Industrial Union Manifesto calling for an industrial Union Congress to be held in Chicago June 27.
* IWW Founding Convention—June 27: The “Continental Congress of the Working Class” establishes the industrial Workers of the World with cooperation of elements from Socialist Labor Party/Socialist Trades & Labor Alliance, Socialist Party of America, Western Federation of Miners and survivors of International Working People’s Association.

* Haywood, Pettibone and Moyers, WFM leaders, framed for attempting to kill the governor of Colorado.
* Second Convention of IWW abolishes office of president and ousts “pure and simple” tradeunionists.
* Lockout of IWW members in Goldfield, Nevada. Vincent St. John arrested for conspiracy to commit murder in death of a restaurant owner.
* WFM-IWW miners strike against wage cut in Goldfield. Federal troops sent in to crush strike first stay-in strike (3,000 workers) of the 20th Century carried out by IWW at General Electric plant in Schenectady, NY.

* Founding of National Industrial Union of Textile Workers, 1st chartered IWW industrial union.
* Strike at Marston Textile Mill, Skowhegan, Maine
* 3,000 IWW sawmill workers strike in Portland, OR
* IWW smeltermen strike in Tacoma, WA win 8-hour day and 15% pay hike
* Lumber workers strike in Humboldt County, CA, Missoula, MT and Vancouver, B.C.
* Bakers in San Francisco strike
* Lumber workers strike in Montana
* Textile strike at Mapleville, RI
* American Tube strike in Bridgeport, CT

* Textile workers strike, Lawrence, MA
* Fourth convention results in split between political actionists, led by Daniel DeLeon of the SLP, and direct actionists, led by Vincent St. John and J.H. Walsh. DeLeonists set up rival IWW in Detroit and accuse Chicago IWW with “anarchism.”

* Industrial Worker begin publishing in Spokane, WA as the voice of the Western branches of IWW.
* Pressed Steel Car Company workers strike in McKees Rock, PA.
* Sheet and tinplate workers strike in New Castle, PA.
* Solidarity begins publishing in New Castle, PA as organ of Eastern branches of IWW.
* Missoula, MT free speech fight.

* Strike against Standard Steel Car Company in Hammond, IN.
* Strike against Hansel & Elcock Construction in Chicago.
* First reference to “direct action” in IWW publications.
* Strike against Lamm & Company, Chicago clothiers.
* First use of terms “sabotage” and “passive resistance” in IWW publications.
* Meat packers strike in Pittsburgh, PA Show workers strike in Brooklyn, NY.
* Organizing against “job sharks” in Washington State leads to victorious Free Speech Fight in Spokane, WA.
* Brotherhood of Timber Workers, racially integrated union, formed in Louisiana and East Texas.

* IWW Free Speech Fight in Fresno, CA.
* Brooklyn shoe workers strike several shops.
* Strike at American Locomotive.

* Wobblies join Magonistas in insurrection in Baja California, briefly proclaim the Baja Commune. U.S. troops invade Mexico for crush the rebellion IWW-led General Strike in Tampico, Mexico for release of political prisoners crushed by army.
* William Z. Foster leaves IWW and forms Syndicalist League of North America to “bore from within” AFL.
* Socialist Party forbids those who oppose political action or advocate sabotage to belong to the party.
* Bill Haywood recalled from NEC. Many IWWs leave SPA.
* Bread and Roses Strike󈟩,000 textile workers strike in Lawrence, MA, call for IWW leadership. IWW leaders Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovanitti arrested for the murder of striker Anna Lo Pizza.
* Formation of Forest and Lumber Workers Industrial Union.
* IWW textile strike in Lowell, MA (18,000 workers).
* Strike at National Malleable Casting in Indianapolis, IN.
* Lumber workers strike throughout Gray’s Harbor region (Hoquiam, Raymond, Cosmopolis and Aberdeen, WA).
* Strike of railroad construction crews against Great Northern and Grand Trunk lines. IWW establishes 𔄙,000 mile picket line.”
* First use of the term “Wobbly” in IWW publications.
* Strike of organ and piano builders in New York.
* Two-week strike against American Radiator in Buffalo (5,000 workers).
* Unsuccessful national lumber workers strike.
* Strikes at Warner Refining in Edgewater, NY and Corn Products Refining in Shadyside, NJ
* Strike at Avery Implements in Peoria, IL.
* Brotherhood of Timber Workers affiliates with Forest and Lumber Workers Industrial Union, IWW strikes Galloway Lumber Company in Grabow, LA. Three strikers killed and 58 arrested for defending themselves, acquitted in December.
* Textile strike in New Bedford, MA (11,000) Dockworkers strike in San Pedro, CA.
* Tobacco worker strikes in Pittsburgh and McKees Rock, PA.
* Ettor and Gionvanitti trial ends in acquittal.

* Strike instigated by IWW dual-carders in AFL Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union against the Astor and other premier hotels in New York City.
* Patterson Silk Strike—Silkworkers strike in Paterson, NJ (25,000 workers)
* 150 tire builders strike Firestone Tire in Akron, OH
* BTW in 7-month strike against American Lumber Company (1,200 workers)
* Textile strike in Ipswitch, NY
* Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union formed by Philadelphia, PA, longshoremen as a result of spontaneous strike.
* Strike against Studebaker, car manufacturer (6,000 workers) short strikes against Metal Wheel in Detroit and Foyer Brothers in Toledo.
* Strike against Dry Slitz Stogie leads to lockout of 1200 workers in Pittsburgh, PA, 800 IWW cigar workers strike in retaliation.
* Dock workers strike for safety equipment in Duluth, MN set up branch of MTW
* Wheatland Riots—Hop pickers strike against Durst Ranch in Wheatland, CA. Gun battle results in indictment and conviction of IWW organizers Ford and Suhr who are sentenced to 15 years in prison.
* Textile strike in Baltimore, MD undermined by AFL scabs. BTW strike in Sweet Home, LA.

* World War I begins in Europe.
* 3,000 unemployed demonstrate in Detroit IWW gains control of Unemployed Convention in San Francisco. New York unemployed, led by Wobbly Frank Tannenbaum, occupy churches Union Square unemployed riot.
* Sioux City, Iowa, free speech fight.
* IWW Unemployed League organized in Detroit.

* Detroit IWW, aka Workers International Industrial Union, dissolves.
* AWO Established—Agricultural Workers Organization 400 (later renamed Agricultural Workers Industrial Union 110) founded in Kansas City, MO, introduces the job delegate system into IWW.
* Joe Hill Executed—Joe Hill, IWW organizer, executed by copper bosses in Utah.

* BTW dissolves. Victim of 5,000 blacklisted members.
* National Industrial Union of Textile Workers dissolves, its remaining locals affiliate directly to IWW.
* Philadelphia MTW wins recognition at non-union docks without a contract.
* Shoe workers strike 28 shops in Philadelphia Strike of 700 against Solvay Processing Plant in Detroit, MI
* Strike of 3,000 against Kelsey Wheel in Detroit, MI
* Housemaids organized in Denver, CO
* Iron miners strike on the Mesabi Range in Minnesota (6,000 workers)
* Miners strike, Cayuna Range, MI
* Dock workers strike in Two Harbors and Duluth, MN
* Shingle-weavers strike in Everett, WA Miners strike in Scranton, PA
* Vernillion Iron Range out on strike.
* Everett Massacre—IWWs murdered by hired guns in Everett, WA. Seventy-five held for murder of deputy, acquitted.
* IWW Convention adopts anti-war resolution.

* Oil Workers Industrial Union and Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union chartered.
* Longshoremen strike in Philadelphia, PA.
* Lumber Workers Industrial Union established.
* River drivers strike in Fontana River, MT, and win 8-hour day.
* Idaho and Minnesota pass Criminal Syndicalism Laws to counter IWW organizing.
* General Construction Workers Industrial Union formed construction strike in Exeter, CA. Construction strike in Seattle wins IWW hiring hall Construction strike in Rockford, IL
* Speculator mine disaster in Butte, MT leads to strike
* Copper strikes in Arizona in support of Butte
* Lumber workers strike in Spokane district, WA
* Miners strike in Virginia, MN.
* Bisbee Deportation� copper strikers deported from Bisbee, AZ.
* Miners strike Gogebic Range.
* Frank Little Murdered—Frank Little, IWW organizer, lynched by copper bosses.
* Australian IWWs tried for treason for opposing conscription, IWW outlawed.
* Federal agents raid IWW halls and offices nation wide, arrest 165 IWW members.
* LWIU 120 Wins 8-Hour Day—Lumber strike in on the job wins 8-hour day in Northwest timber country.
* General Defense Committee formed to defend class war prisoners.

* IWW lumber workers burn bedrolls and mattresses.
* Chicago trial of 100 IWWs for espionage ends in sentences of 20 years for 15 men 10 years for 35 5 years for 331 year for 12 and nominal sentences for the rest.

* General strikes in Seattle, WA, Butte, MT, Toledo, OH and, Winnipeg, MB.
* MTW strike in Philadelphia, PA.
* Mine workers strike in Butte, MT and Oatman, AZ or 6-hour day.
* Lumber strikes on river drives win clean bedding.
* Lumber workers hall in Superior, WI, attacked by mob but show of force by Wobs turns them back.
* Short-log district lumber strikes include demands for release of class war prisoners and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Russia.
* Centralia Massacre—Mob of Legionnaires attack IWW hall in Centralia, WA. IWWs defend hall with force. IWW Wesley Everest, one of the hall defenders, tortured and lynched by mob. Eight others sent to prison on conspiracy charges.
* MTW branch established in Buenos Aires, Argentina
* IWW administrations established in Mexico and Chile.
* Wichita and Sacramento IWW trials. 2000 class war prisoners.

* Palmer Raids—Palmer Raids round up and deport thousands of alien radicals.
* IWW and British Shop Stewards Movement agree on exchange of membership cards.
* MTW strike in Philadelphia, PA.
* Chilean IWW conducts strike to protest export of food during famine Chilean government launched reign of terror to destroy IWW.
* Communist-controlled IWW General Executive Board suspends Philadelphia MTW on false charges of loading arms for Russian counter-revolutionary Wrangle.

* Congress of Red Trade Union International attended by delegates from IWW and Canadian OBU. Their reports of political domination by Communists convinces IWW not to affiliate.
* 46 IWWs out on bail on the espionage convictions start prison terms. Bill Haywood and 8 others jump bail and flee to Russia.
* IWW hall raided in Tampico, Mexico. General strike forces government to allow it to reopen.
* Philadelphia MTW branch reinstated.

* Joint MTW and ILA strike in Portland, OR, against Fink Hall, sold out by ILA.
* Construction strike on Great Northern Railroad.
* Strike on power projects in Oregon and Washington.
* Metal Mine strikes in Bingham Canyon and Butte.
* Oil Workers Industrial Union drive in Southwest.
* MTW strike in Portland, OR.
* ILA-hired thugs attempt to drive MTW out of Hoboken, NJ.
* Railroad shopmen’s strike supported by IWW Railroad Workers Industrial Union.
* MTW in Philadelphia strike against blacklist and for 44-hour week.
* Construction strike in Hetch-Hetchy project near San Francisco and on Edison Power irrigation project near Fresno, CA.

* Two strikes against Warren Construction Co. out of Fresno.
* Police try to shut down IWW hall in Mobile, AL but free speech fight prevails.
* Strikes to free class war prisoners conducted by IWW in San Pedro, Aberdeen, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Mobile and Galveston, and by Lumber and Construction Unions in Washington and Oregon.
* San Pedro free speech fight

* Emergency Program / Four-Trey Split—IWW splits: Emergency Program-IWW sets up headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
* Thugs raid IWW hall in San Pedro, destroy hall and scald children.

* Philadelphia MTW goes over to ILA due to disillusionment over 1924 split and perceived interference from General Administration.
* IWW coal miners strike in Alberta against UMWA check-off.

* Sacco & Vanzetti Murdered—IWW strikes for Sacco and Vanzetti in Colorado. Sacco and Vanzetti executed in Boston.
* Columbine Massacre—Colorado coal strike leads to Columbine Massacre.

* Police raid IWW hall in Walsenburg, CO, two Wobblies killed.

* IWW drive among coal miners in Illinois gains sizable two-card membership in UMWA.
* Strike against U.S. Gypsum Company near Oakfield, NY.
* MTW branch established in Stettin, Germany.
* The Great Depression Begins—Stock market crashes, beginning of Great Depression.

* MTW rallies 1700 crew members of the Leviathan.
* Harlan County Coal Strike—IWW comes to defense of coal miners in Harlan County, KY charged with murder for defending picket lines during strike.

* IWW-EP dissolves.
* IWW begins organization of unemployed with issue of leaflet “Bread Lines of Picket Lines” and formation of Unemployed Unions in New York, Chicago and Portland, OR.
* Strike at Boulder Dam construction sites.
* Canadian Administration established.

* IWW strike at the Cle Ellum dam project in Washington state.
* Lumber workers participate in strike at Gray’s Harbor.

* Organizing drive among automobile workers in Detroit. Sit-down strike at Briggs Highland plant wins 10% pay hike. Losing strike at Murray Body in September breaks drive.
* IWW hop pickers win strike in Yakima, WA.
* Organizing attempts on WPA construction projects on Mississippi Bridge near New Orleans, at the Los Angeles Aquaduct, Fort Peck in Montana and New York Tunnel.
* Strike at Ferro Foundry in Cleveland, OH.
* Chilean IWW Administration reestablished.

* Cleveland, Ohio, organizing takes off. Strikes at Ohio Foundry, Draper Steel Barrel, Perfection Metal Container, Permold Metal Container, American Stove, National Screw, Cleveland Wire Spring, Republic Brasswin recognition for IWW.
* Charwomen’s strike.
* IWW votes to affiliate with IWA (AIT), then reverses itself.

* Strike at National Screw and National Steel Barrel in Cleveland.
* National Screw unionist Mike Lindway framed on gun charge.
* Lumber workers organize in white pine country.

* Philadelphia MTW refuses to load ships with arms for Franco’s fascist forces in Spain.
* IWW seaman john Kane murdered by International Seaman’s Union (ISU) goons in Houston.
* Lumber workers strike Weyerhauser, win 10% pay hike and camp improvements.
* IWW joins with other libertarian organizations in United Libertarian Organization to sponsor Spanish Revolution newspaper and aid Spanish revolution.

* Construction Workers IU 310 branch wins right to process grievances on WPA jobs in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, California.

* IWW establishes IU310 branch among WPA construction workers, wins free transportation in Watsonville, CA.
* Strike of Filipino fruit pickers.
* New branches in American Brass, Superior Carbon, Globe Steel Barrel and Independent Register in Cleveland.
* IWW branch at American Brass signs contract IWW referendum changes constitution to allow the practice.
* IWW wins NLRB election at Steel Stamping.

* Canadian IWW establishes Fisheries Industrial Union Branch in McDiarmid, ON.

* Strike at American Stove in Cleveland.

* Metal Mine Workers IU210 organizes U.S. Vanadium mine and negotiates 13% pay boost in Bishop, CA. Wins NLRB election in the mine but loses out to AFL in the mill.

* IWW wins 50 cent premium for working at Bishop mine.
* Organization of Federal Aviation in Cleveland job action wins raise at American Stove.

* Wobs forced to join AFL affiliate on a tunnel project in Bishop, CA, because AFL held contract with the contractor
* IU210 signs contract with U.S. Vanadium.

* MTW wins maritime strikes on several ships. British Administration established by MTW.
* IWW Convention adopts “no check-off” rule prohibiting practice of having employers collect union dues from workers’ pay.
* IWW locked out at Jones & Laughlin barrel plant in Youngstown, OH.
* Strike at Schrimer-Dornbirer pump company wins 45 cent/hour pay boost in Cleveland.

* MTW backs British maritime wildcat strike.
* MTW Branch at Galveston, TX, & Houston Towing Co and NLRB victory at Guld Barge & Towing and on the Pasadena and Lynchburg ferries.

* IWW placed on U.S. Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations.

* Cleveland Branches withdraw after IWW referendum refuses to sign Taft-Hartley anti-communist affidavits.

* IWW turns 50, near extinction.

* Organizing campaign among restaurant workers and greenhouse workers in New York City.

* Strike against Hodgeman’s Blueberry Farm in Grand Junction, MI.
* Strike against Cedar Alley coffee house, Berkeley, CA.
* Free speech fight at Roosevelt University, Chicago
* unemployed organizing in Uptown neighborhood forced to retreat in face of SDS JOIN project.

* Agitation among unemployed in San Francisco to gain support for shorter work-week and among apple pickers, Yakima Valley, WA.

* Boston, MA: Resistance anti-draft group joins IWW.
* IWW referendum votes to allow students to join IWW as members of Educational Workers IU 620.

* IU620 Branches established at University of Waterloo, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

* IWW helps to organize creation of “Chicago People’s Park” in opposition to urban renewal.
* Liberated Guardian becomes IWW shop.

* IWW-affiliated Le Presse Popuiaire du Montreal closed by police under War Measures Act.
* San Diego Street Journal El Barrio becomes IWW shop.

* Chicago Seed staff joins IWW as well as staff of the radical center, Alice’s Revisited
* Strike against Hip Products
* Strike against Three Penny Cinema wins contract.
* IWW organizes boycott of University of Illinois (Champaign) Student Union to induce university to buy UFW label head lettuce.
* San Diego, CA: IWW member Ricardo Gonzalves indicted for criminal syndicalism along with two member of the Brown Berets Fascist Minuteman organization fires shots in Street journal offices.
* Silver miners branch established, Ward, CO. MTW branch established among dockworkers in Malmo, Sweden.

* Two week strike against Park International, Long Beach, CA.
* Part-time workers strike at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
* Portland, OR: Boycott organized against Winchell’s donuts to win fired IWW her job back
* Organizing drive at Winter Products furniture factory defeated when eight IWW organizers fired.
* Construction workers job branch in Vancouver refused certification from Canadian Labor Board.

* Controversy over filing union financial statement with federal government (required to participate in NLRB proceedings by the LandrumGriffin Act). Referendum upholds practice.
* Canadian Administration abolished.
* IWW establishes Regional’ Organizing Committees to replace national administrations. ROCs established in Great Britain, Sweden, Canada.
* Strike against Winchell’s Donuts to protest firing of IWW member, Portland, OR.
* Chicago, IL: Organizing drive at McDonalds Restaurants organizing drive at Eclectic Inc. furniture manufacturer.
* State College, PA: Drives at Roy Rogers and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.
* Drive at Pizza Hut restaurant, Arkadelphia, AR.
* Milwaukee, WI: IWW attempt to organize a local at East Side Shop-Rite supermarket thwarted by intervention of Retail Clerks International Union AFL-CIO.
* Chicago IWW member Frank Terrugi killed by military during coup d’etat in Santiago, Chile.
* Unemployed agitation and support for Meatcutter’s strike against Doug’s Shop and Save supermarkets, Orono-Bangor, ME.

* Portland, OR: IWW organizes West Side School and the Albina Day Care Center, force re-hiring of unionist and firing of day care director.
* Metal and Machinery Workers IU 440 Organizing Committee set up in Chicago and launches drive at small metal working shops in the city.
* IWW supports Artistic Woodwork Strike in Toronto and suffer a number of arrests.
* IWW journalist Frank Gould disappeared while covering guerrilla rebellion, Philippines.

* IWW 35th Convention establishes Industrial Organizing Committee to bring together IWW members with organizing skills to help out with organizing drives. Fred Thompson mandated to issue an IOC Bulletin. Nothing comes of it.
* Some New York members set up a “Friends of IWA” group.

* Chicago, IL: Strike support work for striking child-care workers (Augustana Nursery) Cook County Hospital nurses and Capitol Packaging Enforces Boycott of Kingston Mines nightclub to force owner to pay wages earned to a band, which included two Wobs Health Workers IU610 Organizing Committee established Construction Workers job branch established on South Side.
* New York City General Defense Committee establishes international Libertarian Labor Fund to raise money for CNT in Spain. Sponsors tour of North America by veteran anarcho-syndicalist Augustin Souchy. The tour raised over $3000.
* Job branch established at Kochum’s Shipyard, Malmo, Sweden.
* IWW Shop Stewards Committee in AFSCME local at Bangor (ME) Mental Health Institute leads one-day wildcat strike.
* IWW issues solidarity assessment stamp to support CNT reconstruction.

* Chicago’s IU440 Committee takes on organizing drive at Mid-America Machinery, Virden, IL. Majority of workers in the shop, concerned primarily about safety, sign-up in union and demand recognition. Boss locks them out. IWW files ULP charges and pickets the work-site and auctions. Company sues union and organizer for $50,000 each (both suits later dismissed). Wob Rick Wehlitz fired for sabotage.
* IU670 (Public Service Workers) organizing campaign among CETA trainees and Bus Washers in Santa Cruz, CA. For some CETA trainees the IWW won better wages, health and dental benefits, safer working conditions, grievance procedures, legal insurance, paid holidays and vacations, 32 hours’ work for 40 hours’ pay, retirement benefits, profit sharing, and the elimination of sexual, racial and other forms of discrimination. Bus washers: 100% signed up, two fired but company forced to re-hire, and harassment of union members. Finally workers forced to join other union which had previously barred them.
* Branch supports striking auto trades mechanics, Tacoma, WA.
* IU 630 (Entertainment and Recreation Workers) Network Conference establishes a Clearinghouse in Chicago and issues a model contract for use of musicians when landing gigs Branch solidarity with Dresher Manufacturing strikers who were abandoned by Teamster Local 743. Support helps win decent contract.
* La Migra busts Dresher unionists.
* Albuquerque, NM: IU310 (General Construction Workers) drive among Rio Grande Conservancy District construction project. 20 sign authorization cards and 6 join union. 3 workers fired in retaliation.

* Virden, IL: IU440 strike threat forces boss to back down from threatened lay-off. More picketing at auctions costs boss thousands of dollars. NLRB issues directed bargaining order boss appeals. NLRB orders Wob James D’Aunoy re-instated.
* In June IWW strikes Mid-America for recognition but fails to budge boss. Strike called off after three months.
* Chicago: IU610 (Health Care Workers) Committee issues a pamphlet aimed at workers in area hospitals. Propose to form alternative to Health Employees Labor Program (HELP), a lash-up of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 and Teamsters Local 743. The drive is opposed from the beginning by a member of the Chicago Branch who is also a business agent for Local 73. This opposition eventually succeeds in thwarting the IU610 Committee’s efforts to gain Branch support and causes IU610 Committee members to leave the IWW.
* IWW Conference establishes new Industrial Organizing Committee.

* IWW IU660 (General Distribution Workers) organizing begins in Ann Arbor, MI. Defeat lockout at Charing Cross Bookstore. Win NLRB election at University Cellar Bookstore at UM in Ann Arbor and win contract following brief strike. Contract includes significant workers control provisions.
* IWW IU450 (Printing and Publishing Workers) contract signed at Eastown Printing, Grand Rapids, MI.

* Virden, IL: MidAmerica finally agrees to recognize IWW and bargain. However, union has no members left in the shop. Attempts to contact current employees fail.
* Ann Arbor, MI: Workers at Wordprocessors strike, set up independent union—Employees Against Arbitrary Action.
* Organizing drive at Leopold Bloom’s Restaurant takes off. During campaign direct action wins a woman fellow worker her job back after she is fired for complaining about sexual harassment. Union gains voluntary recognition and a first contract, but restaurant goes out of business due to poor management.
* Boston Wobblies actively involved in organization of the independent United Taxi Workers Organizing Committee seeking to escape the clutches of the Teamsters union.

* IWW’s active in reform movement in the Laborers’Union in Alaska (ROOR) and in the Teamsters Union (TDU) in New York.
* Ann Arbor, MI: U-Cellar IU660 Branch signs third contract with workers’ control provisions.
* Round Lake, MN: The IWW-IOC affiliated All Workers Organizing Committee gets about half of the employees at the Sather Cookie Company to sign authorization cards and file a petition with NLRB for an election. United Food and Commercial Workers Union (AFL-CIO) intervenes and IWW retreats to avoid splitting the pro-union vote, according to the committee.

* Houston, AR: IWW Industrial Organizing Committee drive at King Homes,and Castle Truss mobile home manufacturing plants owned by Castle Industries.

* People’s Wherehouse job branch in Ann Arbor wins recognition without election and begins negotiations on first contract gains.
* Chicago, IL: IWW supports boycott of Coca Cola in solidarity with occupation of Coke plant in Guatemala.
* Bellingham, WA: IWW initiates Food for People project to feed unemployed and underemployed. Program ends when powers that be pressure landlords into not renting space.
* IWW, through the Vancouver Unemployed Action Center, initiates campaign against Job Mart Employment Agency which was selling job lists to the unemployed for up to $50. Through a combination of leafleting, pickets and legal action the campaign succeeds in closing down job Mart and getting some of the victims of the scam their money back.
* Rank and File Organizing Committee established to counter IOC.


INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD (IWW)

The INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD (IWW), dedicated to the abolition of capitalism, was active in Depression-era Cleveland largely through the efforts of Frank Cedervall, chief organizer for the Metal & Machinery Workers Industrial Union and his brother, Tor, the branch secretary. Organized in Chicago in 1905, the IWW believed that the working class and the employing class had nothing in common and were destined to be locked in struggle until the workers organized, took over the machinery of production, and abolished the wage system. Though most successful in the West, the IWW organized the stogie workers of Cleveland in 1908 and the rubber workers of Akron in 1912. Considered radical and un-American during WORLD WAR I, the IWW ceased to exist as a union.

In the 1930s a new breed of IWW leaders tempered long-range goals by addressing more traditional trade-union concerns. Frank Cedervall, a plasterer by trade, joined the IWW in 1931 and spent 3 years on the road organizing other workers. When he took over leadership of Cleveland Local 440 of the Metal & Machinery Workers Industrial Union (organized in 1918), Cedervall, with a nucleus of Hungarian tradesmen from the Buckeye-Woodland neighborhood, spearheaded organizing drives in several northeast Ohio plants, including the Ohio Foundry Co., the Draper Mfg. Co., the Cochrane Brass Co., the American Stove Co. (Dangler Div.), Cleveland Wire & Spring, and Natl. Screw. Although Cedervall proclaimed the IWW philosophy from the speaker's platform, he won support among tradesmen by bargaining for concrete benefits such as wages, hours, and union recognition, and built local IWW membership to a peak of 3,000 in 6 years. Despite setbacks, Local 440 became the most powerful IWW local in the country.


Watch the video: Join the Industrial Workers of the World


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