IWW Chronology (1904 - 1999)   vedi traduzione automatica

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 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 - 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 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 - 1200 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 33;1 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.


  • 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 Branch.
  • 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 coop network.
  • 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 Venezuela.
  • 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 office.
  • 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, Chicago, IL.
  • 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 against Iraq.
  • 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 Valley, PA.
  • 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 presence.
  • 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 assistants.


  • 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 vote.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Temple University grad student fired for trying to organize and IWW job branch.
  • General Organizing Committee set up for Entertainment and Recreation IU 630.
  • 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 set up.


  • 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 Stevenson College.
  • 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 Mumia demonstrations.
  • 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 of wages.
  • 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 filed.
  • 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 Cerrito, CA.
  • 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 boycott.
  • 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 Pacifica network.
  • 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, Atlanta.
  • 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 union won.
  • 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 printing plant.
  • 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 400-person demonstration.
  • 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 non-union ship.
  • 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 election lost.
  • Finland: Solidaarsuus occupies Ministry of Labor and hang banner reading "Stop Bullying Unemployed."
  • Olympia Wobs launch campaign to repeal Washington's Criminal Syndicalism Law.
  • 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 pay equity.
  • 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 Insight.
  • IU630 stand-up comedians' local wins contract at Choices Pub, Portland, OR.
  • 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 workers.
  • 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 boycott.
  • La Crosse, WI: IWWs picket Bodega Brew Pub over illegal firing of IWW member.
  • 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 equipment.
  • 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 Organizing Committee.
  • 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 unit.

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 strike.

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 union hall.


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 foothold.

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 Canada.

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.


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, Arizona.

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 fulfilled.

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 Raids.


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 practiced.

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.


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 to boot.


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". Amen!