Originally Titled, 95 Years of Revolutionary Industrial
Unionism, by Michael Hargis - featured in Anarcho Syndicalist
Review, #27 and #28.
- Meeting of six industrial unionists in Chicago issues call for a
January conference to discuss formation of a revolutionary working
- 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
- 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
- Lumber workers strike in Humboldt County, CA, Missoula, MT and
- 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
- 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 - 25,000 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 "1,000 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
- 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
- Patterson Silk Strike - Silkworkers strike in Paterson, NJ
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 - 1200 copper strikers deported from
- Miners strike Gogebic Range.
- Frank Little Murdered - Frank Little, IWW organizer, lynched
by copper bosses.
- Australian IWWs tried for treason for opposing conscription, IWW
- Federal agents raid IWW halls and offices nation wide, arrest 165
- 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 33;1 year for 12 and
nominal sentences for the rest.
- General strikes in Seattle, WA, Butte, MT, Toledo, OH and, Winnipeg,
- 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
- IWW and British Shop Stewards Movement agree on exchange of
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- IWW joins with other libertarian organizations in United Libertarian
Organization to sponsor Spanish Revolution newspaper and aid Spanish
- 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
- 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,
- 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
- IWW placed on U.S. Attorney General's List of Subversive
- 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,
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- IWW journalist Frank Gould disappeared while covering guerrilla
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Rank and File Organizing Committee established to counter IOC.
- Chicago Branch initiates campaign for amnesty for British Miners
jailed for strike activity during 1984-85 strike.
- Ann Arbor, MI: People's Wherehouse job branch signs first contract:
wage increases with higher boosts for workers with children and some
shop democracy issues resolved, though new managerial departmental
structure remained; Staff at Ann Arbor Tenants Union establish IWW Job
- Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC - IU110) established
to organize mushroom workers, Bellingham, WA. AWOC initiates
organizing among apple pickers in the Columbia River (WA) Valley and
issue a newsletter entitled Pickin' Times.
- East Northport, NY: IWW strikes the William F. Keller Fish Company
in October to demand recognition and to improve working conditions.
Strike drags on into the summer of 1985 but eventually peters out.
- IOC abolished by referendum.
- Ann Arbor, MI: Wherehouse job branch beats back speed-up with job
action and attempts to spread organizing to other warehouses in the
- Vancouver, BC: Wobblies actively support a campaign initiated by the
Organization of Unemployed Workers to obtain free bus service for
people on fixed incomes. The campaign includes the issuance of several
thousand "UnFare" cards for riders to present to drivers in
lieu of fares or monthly passes. One Wob reports that four out of five
drivers accept her UnFare Card.
- Convicts John Perroti, Dennis Wolfel and John Brumfield join IWW and
launch organizing campaign at Southwest Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).
- In May IWW hosts International Labor Solidarity Conference in
Chicago, attended by delegates from Poland (exiled Solidarnosc),
Sweden (SAC), France (FA and CFDT), South Africa (SAAWU), Japan (RSU),
with communications of support from Spain (Coordinadora) and
- Ann Arbor, MI: Wherehouse job branch defeats merit pay scheme and
gains wage hikes in new contract; University Cellar Bookstore goes out
of business and the IWW 1U660 Job Branch, which lasted six years and
made significant gains for workers in the shop, is forced to dissolve.
- Dayton GMB initiates controversial Prison Organizing Project in
support of inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Motions
presented to Convention to clarify IWW position vis-a-vis prison
organizing, in favor of autonomous prisoner rights group rather than
IWW, is defeated by proxy votes cast by New York delegate. These
proxies were challenged from the floor as being issued for a different
motion, but upheld by Convention.
- Lucasville, OH: 400 inmates at SOCF sign petition authorizing IWW to
bargain collectively for them. Department of Corrections and Ohio
Labor Board refuse to recognize prisoners as state employees and,
therefore, not eligible for union representation. IW W appeals but is
turned down. P.O.P.-P.E.P. peters out though Perroti continues to be
harassed by prison authorities.
- Willits, CA: Earth First!-IWW Local #1 set up to create an
environmentalist-worker alliance, focusing on timber workers.
- Referendum formally allows prison convicts to join IWW.
- Seattle, WA: Phone canvassers for the environmental group Greenpeace
organize an IWW shop in June in response to management plans to
install phone monitoring equipment so that supervisors could listen in
on calls. Greenpeace management responds by closing the Seattle
- Portland, OR: A spin-off of the Greenpeace organizing is the
certification of IWW at SANE and Oregon Fair Share. Workers at
Berkshire (MA) Learning Center form job branch and demand recognition.
Organizer fired and ULP charges filed with NLRB.
- Madison, WI: Workers at the Willy St. Co-op, a cooperative grocery,
join IWW but fail to gain recognition.
- Pacific Northwest Webs set up IU670 Organizing Committee to pursue
non-profits organizing drive.
- IWW-Earth First! organizers initiate campaign to prevent closing of
Louisiana Pacific's Potter Valley mill in Arcata, CA.
- Job branch established at Berkeley (CA) Recycling Center. IWW
retains job control to present day.
- In the Redwood Country of California: IWW-Earth First! Local #1
represents several workers in a dispute with Georgia Pacific Lumber
Company over compensation for a PCB spill at its Fort Bragg mill.
- Earth First!, under IWW influence, renounces tree spiking as a
tactic to save ancient forests.
- IWW-EF! Organizers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney blown up in a car
bombing and charged by FBI with transporting the bomb, charges later
withdrawn. International demonstrations held in support of Bari and
Cherney. The bombing was an attempt to disrupt the Redwood Summer
project being organized by Earth First! to save the Redwoods.
- IWW-EF! Local #2 established in southern Illinois to combat
clearcutting in the Shawnee National Forest.
- Unsuccessful attempt to organize workers at Barbara's Bookstore,
- IWW participates in International Conference of Revolutionary
Syndicalists in Sweden.
- Minneapolis, MN: Staff at the homeless action group, Up and Out of
Poverty, joins IWW.
- IWW moves out of Chicago for the first time since formation in 1905.
San Francisco becomes the seat of the General Headquarters.
- San Francisco Wobs agitate for a General Strike to oppose U.S. war
- Workers Group, a workers' association set up by New College of
California administration to coopt worker discontent, affiliates with
the IWW after management tries to implement pay cuts without
consulting the Group.
- Education Workers Industrial Union Network formed.
- IWW grants defense committee, Wobbly Bureau of Investigation,
$25,000 to investigate and sue FBI over suspected FBI involvement in
attempted assassination of Bari and Cherney.
- IWW campaigns against incineration of toxic wastes produced by
Essroc Materials Company, a cement manufacturing plant, in Lehigh
- University of California at Berkeley Recyclers form IWW Job Branch.
- Lehigh Valley, PA: IWW takes up boycott of Van Heusen shirts in
support of Guatemalan unionists.
- Ann Arbor, MI: People's Wherehouse closes, ending 10-year IWW
- Allentown, PA: Striking workers at Boulevard Bingo line up with IWW
after Lehigh Valley Wobs offer support.
- Janitors at the End Up, a gay bar in San Francisco, locked out after
forming a job branch of IWW. Picketing initiated in response.
- Berkeley, CA: ASUC Recycler IWWs strike in sympathy with teaching
- Allentown, PA: May. Negotiations begin between IWW and Boulevard
Bingo. IWW strike wins contract at Boulevard Bingo in July reinstating
strikers and winning $25,000 in back pay. Management later reneges.
- Los Angeles, CA: IWW files for NLRB election at Aaron Records. Loses
- Philadelphia, PA: Temple University grad student fired for trying to
organize and IWW job branch.
- General Organizing Committee set up for Entertainment and Recreation
- British section re-launched with formation of General Membership
Branch in Oxford-Swindon area.
- IWW Industrial/Environmental Toxicology Project begun in Seattle.
Philadelphia-based Kinko Co-worker Network/Duplication Workers Network
- Swindon, England: IWW Education Workers IU620 job branch take part
in a nationwide campaign against privatization of the Research Council.
- Allentown, PA: Boulevard Bingo bosses (Allied Airforce) sue IWW
organizer Lenny Flank for libel.
- Kinkos Co-worker Network grows.
- Wobs launch Progressive Temps/Temp Workers Union as a union hiring
hall for temporary workers in San Francisco.
- Oxford, England, IWW occupies abandoned cinema in bid to turn it
into a self-managed social center. Broken up by police after a short
while. Oxford Claimants Union joins IWW.
- London, IWW Couriers Union is organized.
- Edinburgh, Scotland, IU620 (Education Workers) job branch set up at
- Organizing drives launched at ACCO Manufacturing and among bike
messengers in Chicago.
- Wob fired for organizing at Food Bin/Herb Room in Santa Cruz, CA.
- Berkeley, CA, Recycling Buyback Station job branch organized.
- Ottawa, Ontario: Street musicians campaign against $5.00/day fee
imposed by city.
- San Francisco, CA, and Burlington, VT: Wobblies busted during Free
- Albany, NY, IWW takes part in Living Wage Campaign.
- Stevenson College job branch in successful petition campaign to
prevent lay-offs, Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Chicago, IL: IWW organizer Mitch Neher fired for organizing against
speedup at ACCO. Organizing drive fades.
- Organizing drive launched against Borders Books in Philadelphia. In
March IWW loses NLRB vote by narrow margin and continues to organize.
In June Wobbly Miriam Fried fired on trumped-up charges. National
boycott of Borders launched in response. IWW members picket at Borders
stores nationwide: Ann Arbor, Washington D.C. San Francisco, Miami,
Chicago, Palo Alto, Portland, OR, Portland, ME, Boston, Philadelphia,
Albany, Richmond, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and other cities.
- Los Angeles, CA: IWW supports workers at K-Jack Engineering,
manufacturer of newspaper vending machines, striking over non-payment
- IWW strikes Memory USA, a computer firm, in Kensington, CA. The
employer gives in to the workers demands.
- Philadelphia: Sears fires IWW agitator Michelle Heim. ULP charges
- Seattle, WA: IWW strikes Lincoln Park MiniMart. Strike lasts 150
days. Ends in partial moral victory for strikers.
- IWW organizing drive launched against Wherehouse Entertainment, El
- IU620 job branch at ASUC Recycling and Composting Collective honors
picket of striking teaching assistants at U Cal., Berkeley.
- El Cerrito, CA: Two IWW organizers fired from Wherehouse
Entertainment and hours of union supporters cut. NLRB election lost by
a 7-2 vote due to employer reducing workforce from 25 to 10 workers.
- Emeryville, CA: Wob Jason Motley fired from United Artists Cinema in
for opposing management racism. San Francisco IWW pickets to enforce
- Drums, PA: Organizing begins at Keystone Job Corp Center. Wob Matt
Wilson fired and Joe Marra suspended but organizing continued. Six
other student/workers fired for union activity. National labor board
rules that students are not employees and therefore not eligible for
union representation. IWW uses pirate radio station to penetrate the
job Corps Center walls.
- Olympia, WA: IWW wins NLRB election at Sin Fronteras Bookshop and
organizing campaign at Fish Street Brewing Co.
- Butte, MT, Wob construction workers lead 300 workers off job 45
minutes early to join UPS strikers on picket line.
- Irish Times bar staff line up with IWW.
- Wobs join UPS picket lines from Seattle to Albany.
- Austin, TX: IWW organizing effort begun at KOOP radio, one of the
- Sierra Leone, Africa: 3,200 gold miners in register with labor
ministry as IWW branch. Military coup d'etat results in loss of
contact between IWW and local delegate.
- Boston IWW leaflets International Longshoremen's Association (ILA)
hiring hall to inform the workers of Liverpool dockers' struggle.
- National Day of Action targets Borders Bookstores: Pickets at stores
in Albany, Ann Arbor, Bloomington, IN, Boston, Dearborn, MI, Portland,
ME, Austin, TX, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Wichita, KS, Philadelphia,
- San Francisco Bay Area, CA: IWW Marine
Transport Workers IU510 Sea Dive Job Shop aids striking Masters, Mates
and Pilots Union by blockading a ship.
- Philadelphia, PA: Faced with adverse NLRB ruling, Sears settles with
fired Wob Michelle Heim, giving her back pay and posting notice that
they would not fire any workers for union activity.
- Eugene, OR: IWW supports Gardenburger boycott. Organize 50-strong
picket of Sundance Natural Foods.
- Moscow, Russia: IWW delegate sets up shop.
- Workers at Snyder of Hanover in Pennsylvania ask IWW help in
decertifying UFCW. In an election between IWW, UFCW and no union, no
- Detroit: In June a 40-50 strong Wobbly contingent participates in
Action Motown is support of striking newspaper workers. Organize a
200person picket in unsuccessful bid to stop scab papers from leaving
- Berkeley: Curbside Recyclers IU670 wins new contract.
- IWW helps to organize picket of Oakland (CA) docks to prevent
unloading of scab cargo from Neptune Jade, which was loaded in
Liverpool. Pacific Maritime Association, an employer group, sues Wob
Bob Irminger in retaliation. Suit dropped in late 1998.
- Bay Area, CA: IWW begins organizing campaign at area ballparks in
opposition to inadequate HERE Local 2850 representation.
- Finland: Anarcho-syndicalist group Solidaarsuus affiliates with IWW
and launches campaign for 6-hour day to fight unemployment. Includes a
- Friends Center building service staff in Philadelphia line-up with
IWW and demand recognition. After extensive legal and public pressure,
management agrees to bargain with union.
- Seattle IWW pickets Olympia Tug and Barge to prevent launch of
- Portland, OR: IU 630 (Entertainment Workers) organizing drive lines
up musicians and standup comedians. Also: Portland IWWs join
occupation of Wells Fargo Center to support striking steel workers at
CF & I/Oregon Steel of which Wells Fargo owns a large block of
stock; and Wobs launch a Workers Council in the Residential
Construction Trades in bid to organize the industry.
- Butte, MT, IU330 (General Construction Workers) organizing and
workers at Forbidden Fruit retail outlet join IWW.
- Metarie, LA: Drive at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar. NLRB
- Finland: Solidaarsuus occupies Ministry of Labor and hang banner
reading "Stop Bullying Unemployed."
- Olympia Wobs launch campaign to repeal Washington's Criminal
- Workers at New Milton (England) Food Co-op join IWW due to
dissatisfaction with do-nothing branch of the TUC affiliated USDAW.
IWW gains parity with USDAW branch in the shop.
- Philadelphia Friends Center fires member of IWW committee, IWW wins
- Majority of workers at Hunger Mountain Food Co-op join IWW,
Montpelier, VT. Gainesville, FL, IU640 (restaurant workers) organizing
around demand for $7.00/hour minimum wage.
- Ghana, Africa: Contacts established in Ghana due to articles from
British IWW magazine Bread and Roses being re-printed in Weekly
- IU630 stand-up comedians' local wins contract at Choices Pub,
- Sedro Wooley, WA: Skagit Pacific, manufacturers of pre-fab housing,
workers join IWW IU330. Boss lays-off entire night shift in bid to
break the union. ULPs filed, organizing concentrates on day-shift
- Manitoba, Canada: Harvest Collective IU660 Branch wins Labor Board
election and is certified. First IWW local certified in Canada since
OBU declared illegal in 1919.
- Memphis, TN: lU 620 in living wage campaign.
- Marine Transport IU 510 Branch chartered in San Francisco.
- IWW helps 125 Mexican construction workers get paid, Austin, TX.
- Wrafton, North Devon: IWW begins organizing at pharmaceutical plant
where workers reject boss attempt to bring in a TUC union.
- London, England: IWW begins organizing campaign at Borders Books.
- Melbourne, Australia: IWW pickets Borders Books in support of
- La Crosse, WI: IWWs picket Bodega Brew Pub over illegal firing of
- Tacoma, WA: IWW pickets Pier 7 to stop docking of "Sea Diamond"
loaded with bauxite destined for Kaiser Aluminum where a strike is on.
Polish Regional Organizing Committee established.
- FCC raids Free Radio Gainesville (FL), an IWW shop, and confiscates
- San Francisco, CA: PMA suit against Neptune Jade pickets dropped;
MTW forum on Dock & Shipboard Safety and Survival Training
attended by over 100 "casuals," "extras" and other
lowseniority waterfront workers.
- Education Workers IU 620 Branch chartered in Boston, MA. Branch
organizing adjunct faculty at area universities and colleges.
- Recycling Resource Center workers join IWW and demand recognition at
San Francisco State University.
- Organizing at Hanna Transport Trucking
Co., Detroit, MI.
- IWW Branch represented on Austin (TX) Central Labor Council's
- IWW job shop at Co-op Retail Services, Hampshire, England.
- Portland, OR: Organizing at Tosco Gas Station, Mallory Hotel, and
Buffalo Exchange (clothing re-sale shop).
- Philadelphia Friends Center signs first contract after more than a
year of negotiations.
By Harry Siitonen - Past General Secretary-Treasurer, IWW (1993);
written March 2005
Frequently, when someone sees one of us wearing an IWW t-shirt or a
button at a demo or picket line, the question invariably pops up: "What,
are you guys still around?" Like we'd been dead and buried somewhere
back in the 1920s. Or, "Oh, so the Wobblies are back!" But we're
here to tell you, we never left. We're celebrating our 100th birthday this
year and are organizing workers with good, recent successes. But more on
that later. Let's go back to the very beginning.
Near the turn of the 20th Century, there was considerable dissension
among workers over the narrow craft orientation and exclusivity of the
American Federation of Labor, with the bulk of the American working class
left unorganized. So in June of 1905, a gathering of about two hundred
socialists, anarchists, and radical unionists from all over America held a
convention in Chicago, at which the Industrial Workers of the World was
organized. The theme was industrial unionism, where all workers would be
organized in solidarity in One Big Union, irrespective of race, color,
ethnicity or gender. Its founders included Big Bill Haywood of the Western
Federation of Miners, Daniel De Leon, Eugene V. Debs, Thomas J. Hagerty,
Lucy Parsons, Mary Harris Jones ("Mother Jones"), William
Trautmann, Vincent Saint John, and Ralph Chaplin.
Its current Preamble has the spirit if not the letter of the original:
"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 means of production, abolish the wage system, and live
in harmony with the earth. .. Instead of the conservative motto, 'A fair
day's wage for a fair day's work', we must inscribe on our banner the
revolutionary watchword, 'Abolition of the wage system'."
While some mistakenly consider the IWW as anarchist or
anarcho-syndicalist, it's more inclusive than that, although many
anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists have always belonged. It espouses
revolutionary industrial unionism, and poses no ideological litmus tests,
as long as one is a wage or salaried worker, and is not an employer of
wage labor. The emphasis is on democratic rank and file unionism, instead
of a hierarchy of union bureaucrats running the show and asking the
members to merely follow, like in most business unions. Workers on the
shop or office floor are encouraged to deal directly with the boss as a
Since the beginning, women, immigrants, and people of color were
welcomed and many have been prominent in the organizing. People like Carlo
Tresca, Joe Hill, and Mary Jones were among those immigrant activists. My
maternal uncle, Antti Saikkonen, came from Finland to the United States at
age 16 around 1907, worked as an itinerant logger and miner and was a
proud bearer of the Wobbly Red Card.
It was a militant union from the beginning and was not timid about
taking on the employers. So it drew the immediate enmity of the ruling
class, as a threat to the status quo. IWW members were accused of being
bomb throwers and saboteurs, but generally espoused the philosophy of the
"folded arms" in the withholding of their labor when the
occasion called. And they were often effective in improving working
conditions. What they considered "sabotage", comprised tactics
of slowdowns, following rules exactly, mass sickouts---practices which are
not uncommon today in workplace struggles. For the Wobblies often favored
the idea of "striking on the job", rather than just striking and
starving on the picket line outside the plant and watching the scabs do
their work, unless there was a good chance of winning the more traditional
But the bosses were relentless and these masterless rebel workers were
often jailed, beaten and sometimes killed in trying to wrest some dignity
from the voracious robber barons of capitalism. Free speech fights were a
fight-back tactic particularly in the Western States, where IWW organizers
would be arrested for soap boxing in the skid rows of large cities, trying
to sign up loggers, miners and farm workers who were waiting to get hired
by unscrupulous labor sharks. So the IWW contributed considerably to our
civil liberties by having hundreds of members come from all over to
soapbox, get arrested and pack the jails. They would sing the lusty Wobbly
songs in the jails, and end up costing the cities where they were locked
up so much money that they'd be released and often the free speech bans
would be lifted, as in Spokane in 1909.
In 1908, there was a policy split (nothing new on the Left), which
culminated at the 1908 Convention in Chicago. Daniel De Leon's doctrinaire
Socialist Labor Party group wanted to dominate the fledgling union under
his autocratic dominance, and thus wanted that political action should be
included in the policy. But the more radical faction, led by Saint John,
Trautmann, and Haywood favored an emphasis on direct action, propaganda
and strikes as the effective way forward, and opposed arbitration and
political affiliation. The militants won and the De Leonists left in
anger. Although Haywood himself and thousands of other Wobblies were
Socialist Party members then, the IWW since then has not been affiliated
with or endorsed any political party, direct action being its forte.
Present policy is that you're welcome in the organization whatever your
personal political or religious stance and can be active in such movements,
but just leave your politics or anarchism or religion outside the IWW
The IWW first got on the map in labor struggles at Goldfield, Nevada in
1906 where for a time it ran the town as a de facto government. In 1909,
the IWW won a spectacular victory in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, at the
Pressed Steel Car Company which drew widespread notice. This was the same
year as some of the spectacular free speech fights. Meanwhile, in
Alexandria and Grabow, Louisiana, IWW poet Covington Hall was organizing
lumberjacks and mill workers. Big Bill Haywood, who had been found
innocent of a framed up murder charge in Salt Lake City in 1907, went down
to Louisiana to lend a hand. He discovered that black and white
lumberjacks were meeting separately at Alexandria. The two groups were
soon integrated by the IWW and met together, something unheard of in the
Deep South at the time. Interracial labor solidarity gained a tenuous
By 1912, the union had about 50,000 members, including dockworkers, and
in agriculture, textiles, logging, and mining. They were involved in
around 150 strikes in that period. The most famous of these was the
Lawrence textile strike in Massachusetts. Since the mills employed
thousands of immigrant workers of many nationalities, with limited
knowledge of English, no one thought a successful strike organization
possible, especially the mill bosses. But rallies were addressed by ethnic
speakers of all these groups in their own languages, which was also
reflected in strike literature, and an amazing solidarity was forged. This
strike also involved masses of women workers who performed heroically,
inspiring the beautiful labor song, "Bread and Roses". Early
strike leaders Joseph J. Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, also a noted IWW
poet, were jailed. Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Tresca, and Trautmann
came to fill the gap, and after great sacrifice the strike was won with
considerable gain for the workers. At that time, the IWW did not believe
in signed contracts and eventually the union vanished from Lawrence. The
same kind of strike was prosecuted in 1913 at the Paterson, New Jersey
mills, which eventually fizzled out, though hard fought.
From the late 1910s to the 1930s , the IWW's Marine Transport
Industrial Union, led by an African-American dockworker Ben Fletcher,
organized mainly Black longshoremen in Philadelphia and Baltimore and
practically controlled the work in that industry for more than a decade.
Between 1915 and 1917, the IWW Agricultural Workers Organization organized
many thousands of agricultural workers throughout the Midwest and West,
with many successful results. The Union was also heavily engaged in
In 1916, another major strike in the iron ore mines on the Mesabi Range
had similar ethnic demographics as Lawrence, but again the formula of
having organizers from every ethnic group involved made for solidarity.
The Finns who a major ethnic group in the Mesabi Range mines, were a
particularly militant force, and even created what became a
Finnish-language IWW daily newspaper in Duluth. It was the only daily
newspaper ever published in the IWW. Again, the long, bitter strike was
lost, although some wage gains were made. But plenty of miners kept their
Red Cards and Northern Minnesota remained a strong Wobbly stronghold.
BIG BILL OUSTED
While the IWW primarily eschewed electoral action in favor of
industrial direct action as the best way to achieve the new society,
thousands of Wobblies did belong to the Socialist Party. Big Bill Haywood
even traveled with Gene Debs on the Red Special train during the SP's
presidential campaign of 1908. He was also serving on the Party's National
Committee. The Party was enjoying considerable electoral success, winning
the municipal governments in a number of cities, including Milwaukee,
where Victor Berger was elected to Congress on the SP ticket. Many good
legislative gains were made for the people of these cities under Socialist
administrations. But these gains brought about a trend to compromise on
Socialist basics to attract more middle class votes, even those of small
business. With the bad press of the capitalist media hounding the IWW as
the agents of Satan, perpetrators of violence and sabotage, way overdone,
the more reformist elements felt that the IWW elements in the SP were a
liability for growing electoral success. So the radicals had to be
jettisoned, for purposes of "respectability". So in 1912,
Haywood was recalled from the National Committee, despite pleas by such
Party luminaries as Helen Keller. His views were thus declared
incompatible with Party policy. This led to a major exodus of thousands of
IWW members from the SP. This became the first major schism within the
Party. From my perspective, the move really hurt both the Party and the
IWW badly and was a tragedy. The Party lost thousands of its most militant,
courageous, class-conscious working class members for good. And the
increased electoral successes for the Party did not happen in any great
measure. In fact, Joseph R. Conlin in his book, "Big Bill Haywood
& The Radical Union Movement", Syracuse University Press (1969),
indicates that in those municipalities in which the Wobblies were
strongest, that the Party actually lost votes after the schism, instead of
attracting the middle class. For the Wobblies, it proved disastrous as the
baiting by the SP's reformist wing added fuel to the public fire fomented
by the bosses that the IWWs were indeed the evil spawn that they portrayed.
In subsequent decades an SP member presence has been re-established within
the IWW, joining the anarchists, syndicalists, and other rebel workers
within its ranks, but serious damage was done in those earlier times.
Although the IWW's tactics emphasized non-violence, the reaction by the
government, bosses, and mobs of "respectable citizens" were
brutally violent. In 1914, Joe Hill (Joel Hagglund), a Swedish-American
itinerant worker and famous Wobbly songwriter an poet, was accused of
murder on only flimsy circumstantial evidence and was executed by a firing
squad in Salt Lake City in 1915. IWW organizer and General Executive Board
member Frank Little was lynched by company thugs during a copper strike at
Butte, Montana. At Everett, Washington, a drunken mob of deputized
businessmen led by Sheriff Donald McRae, attacked Wobblies on the
steamship Verona, killing five, with six lost in Puget Sound. Hundreds of
Wobblies were shipped in freight cars to be marooned in the New Mexico
desert by copper bosses and their vigilantes during a strike at Bisbee,
World War I gave the Army the opportunity to crush the IWW. Although
most Wobs opposed the war, the union never took an official position on
it. But the government and employers fomented a lynch spirit to attack the
IWW. In 1919, in Centralia, Washington, vigilantes attacked the IWW hall,
and when IWW member and returning war veteran Wesley Everest shot back, he
was killed by the mob. In September, 1917, the Feds made simultaneous
raids on 48 IWW halls around the country. 166 IWW activists were arrested
for conspiring to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate
others under the new Espionage Act. 161 went on trial before Judge Kenesaw
Mountain Landis in 1918 and all were found guilty. Some had not even been
members for many years. While on bail, Big Bill Haywood fled to the Soviet
Union where he died in 1928, a lonely and broken man. Communist Party
promises to reimburse the bail money for Haywood and others were never
Even after the war, the repression continued. IWWs were persecuted and
harassed under state and federal laws. A number of Wobblies were sentenced
to lengthy prison terms under the so-called criminal-syndicalist laws.
These included Fred Thompson, a popular Chicago Wobbly writer, editor,
organizer, educator and historian, who joined the SP in his later years,
as well as his lifetime in the IWW, until his death in 1987. Many
foreign-born Wobblies and other radicals were deported under the Palmer
POST-WORLD WAR I
Another major hit hurt the IWW as a consequence of the Russian
Revolution. Considerable numbers of members were lost to the Communists in
the heady days of promise in its aftermath. Although the Union at first
was sympathetic, soon reality hit. The Red Labor International in Moscow
urged Wobblies and other radicals to join the AFL and other "yellow
unions" and "bore from within". Those kinds of tactics were
distasteful to the IWW and something an honest rebel could not countenance.
Then Moscow wanted to name who could be on the IWW General Executive
Board. This went totally counter to the IWW's principle of union democracy;
its rank and file members elect the GEB, no one else. So with the
increasing top-down dictatorial rule developing in the Soviet Union, the
IWW became an opponent.
Still, despite all its adversities the IWW continued to organize. In
1923, its membership was at its historic highest of some 100,000 members.
Then the disaster of "splititis" struck again in 1924. A bitter
division developed between the "Easterners" and the "Westerners"
over a number of issues. Chief among them was the role of the General
Administration, simplified as a fight between "centralists" and
"decentralists". This battle played holy havoc for several years
before it subsided. However, by 1930, the membership had shrunk to around
10,000. It was still able, however, to conduct a successful state-wide
mining strike in Colorado in the late 1920s, but again, despite gains for
the workers, the organization was unable to stabilize its presence and
disappeared mostly from the scene.
But the IWW never gave up fighting and during the 1930s organized a
number of stove factories in Cleveland with which it signed contracts and
represented until the 1950s. Of course, all this time, Wobblies took part
in the CIO organizing drives of the 1930s. Many were "two-carders".
They held membership in whatever union existed on their job, but also kept
up their IWW dues., and always maintained the principles of union
democracy and rank and file militancy wherever they worked. (For instance,
the author is a "three-carder". He is a retiree member of 48
years standing in the International Typographical Union, later the
Printing Sector of the CWA, a 15-year active member of the Screen Actors
Guild, as well as almost 36 years in the One Big Union.). With the passage
of the Landrum-Griffin Act in 1959 and its anti-communist affidavits to
rid unions of leftist leaders, the IWW lost the Cleveland metal shops. As
a point of principle, the IWW, along with the Typographical Union and
United Mine Workers, refused to sign such loyalty oaths, so the Cleveland
shops left the Union and affiliated with a more compliant one. This was a
major loss for the IWW.
The IWW was at a lowest ebb in membership as the Sixties approached,
but the Civil Rights Movement, anti-war activity and university student
movements brought new life to the Union. Small scale organizing drives
resumed and successes were attained in printing collectives, coffee shops
and art movie houses. In the 1980s the IWW were successful in organizing a
large non-profit book store and warehouse operation in Ann Arbor,
Michigan, and gained a voice in its management. But a few years later the
top managerial bureaucracy sold out to a for-profit operation elsewhere
and the Ann Arbor workplaces were closed. From the 1990s on the Union
achieved good successes in organizing shops. In Berkeley, California, the
Union has succeeded in organizing three workplaces which are now under
contract. These include two recycling plants and a fabric store with
almost all women employees. Ecology Center trucks picking up household
recycling goods all over the city are operated by IWW members. Portland,
Oregon has organized numerous non-profits and shops in various industries,
operates the Red and Black restaurant collective and a couple of years ago
at the city's May Day parade, 300 people marched under the IWW's banner.
In the Stockton, California area close to 250 independent truckers, mostly
East Indian, but including Filipinos, African-Americans and Mexicans
joined the IWW in 2004 and have won some important disputes, particularly
in the payment for excess wait time and reinstatement of firings. Since
these truckers are "independent contractors" they are not
recognized as a labor union under Federal labor law, but it's surprising
what can be done on an informal basis as long as strong solidarity is
Other labor struggles the Union has participated in was Redwood Summer
and the picketing of the Neptune Jade in the Port of Oakland in late 1997,
for which the IWW earned positive recognition from the maritime unions, in
which some of our members are two-carders. In recent years, the union has
set up organizer training programs both in the US and Canada in many
localities. Our brilliant young woman General Secretary-Treasurer Alexis
Buss has played a vital role in organizing these trainings. With the
difficulty of going to NLRB route for recognition in the hostile
anti-labor climate of late-stage neo-liberal capitalism, the IWW has
brought the concept of "minority unionism" to the fore. Never
mind playing around with the obstructive government restrictions on
recognition. It's possible to sign up workers in the Union, and operate
informally at a workplace in solidarity direct actions to defend and
advance workers. rights in increasingly sweatshop conditions. Here GST
Buss and veteran labor activist Staughton Lynd have conducted workshops
around the country on minority unionism. This really harks back to the
early days of IWW organizing when loggers would have stop-work meetings to
demand lice-free mattresses in the bunkhouses and decent grub at the
evening meal, and often win. Being the Industrial Workers of the World,
the organization is not only confined to the USA, but has active branches
and sections in Canada, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
IWW AND WORKER CULTURE
We would be remiss if the importance of the popular culture of the IWW
wasn't included in this article. The entire labor movement has enjoyed the
impact of IWW songs, poetry, skits, music, art (particularly cartoon and
poster art), and irreverent satire, even at its own expense. Being the
free-spirited, anti-authoritarian kind of folks the Wobblies are, the
juices of their cultural creativity know no parallel in the labor movement.
"Solidarity Forever", written by early Wobbly Ralph Chaplin, has
become the virtual national anthem of the entire labor movement. Joe Hill
is celebrated for both his irreverent, colorful songs and poems as much as
for his martyrdom. T-Bone Slim (the itinerant Finnish-American worker from
Ashtabula, Ohio, Matt Valentine Huhta) wrote many great songs, including
"The Popular Wobbly", and as a writer for the Industrial Worker,
was known for his great humor and surreal twists on the English language.
Poets included Covington Hall, Ralph Chaplin, Arturo Giovannitti, and
Matilda Rabinowitz (later, Matilda Robbins who I met in Los Angeles in the
1950s where she was a good friend of the SP). She was also one of the
great early woman organizers of the Union. The IWW Little Red Songbook is
still in print and continues to be a best-seller at every public gathering
where an IWW literature table is present,. Dozens of performing artists
sing old and new Wobbly songs. If you ever have a chance to go hear a Utah
Phillips concert go hear him or buy one of his CDs. This veteran IWW
sourdough knows all the old faves, and is a great story-telling raconteur
We've been here for a century now, and raring to go on and organize
workers for the next 100. The world is in huge trouble, however, for its
working masses and the earth's very survival with the madcap cancerous
rampage of an insatiable, carnivorous capitalism. The working class,
despite all, remains the best hope to challenge it. All the so-called
"mainstream" unions in this country are shrinking rapidly and
represent 13% of US workers at present. Animated, even panicky, discussion
is going on right now for the restructuring of the AFL-CIO, but most
proposals are for top-down hierarchical approaches, staying within the
parameters of business unionism, supporting the Democrats with even more
money, and not challenging the very existence of capitalism as a class
movement. Certainly, the core ideas expressed in the IWW Preamble are more
relevant than ever. The IWW will be in the middle of all this dialogue,
calling for a class-conscious, rank-and-file controlled democratic labor
movement, empowering women, people of color, and sexual and other
minorities within the working class to be fully participatory components
within it. And above all, working to end the great scourge of capitalism.
At the Seattle anti-WTO globalist demonstrations in 1999, the IWW
contingent carried a banner, reading: "Capitalism Cannot Be Reformed".