Skip to main content

Still Fanning the Flames of Discontent: The IWW Celebrates 100 Years.


On June 27, 1905, 186 labor visionaries, including Lucy Parsons, Eugene V. Debs, Mary "Mother" Jones, William Trautmann, Vincent Saint John, and Ralph Chaplin gathered at Brand's Hall in Chicago to hear Western Federation of Miners organizer William D. "Big Bill" Haywood open the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World with the following words: "Fellow workers...this is the Continental Congress of the working class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism". Some speech. Some union. The American labor movement would never be the same.

Nicknamed the Wobblies, the IWW sought to recruit unskilled and exploited immigrants, people of color, women and migrant farm workers who were excluded from craft unions of skilled workers organized by the AFL. Seeking to build the "One Big Union" across industrial lines, the IWW enthusiastically promoted the concept of working class solidarity by adopting the motto "An injury to One is an Injury to All", and the revolutionary tactics of direct action - which included sit down strikes, chain picketing, flying pickets, car caravans, and other organizing inovations. IWW organizing stretched from coast to coast - in factories, mills, mines, logging camps, agricultural fields, and shipping docks across the continent. Confronted with brutal attacks from both employers and the State, including the the murder of Wobbly activists [ 1 | 2 | 3 ] the union led "free speech" fights to defend the right of workers everywhere to organize, speak out and dissent. The IWW's vocal opposition to WWI also led to the arrest and imprisonment of 165 IWW organizers. In the decades that followed, the Wobblies continued to organize among marginalized workers - frequently ignored by mainstream business unions - and their vision of a militant, radical and democratic labor movement continues to inspire new organizing efforts to this day. An IWW Chronology

Now, one hundred years later, the IWW is gathering once again in Chicago to celebrate a rich legacy of struggle for the rights of working people. Read More