Wednesday, May 1, 2013
International Workers' Day
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) is an international industrial union that was formed in 1905. The origin of the nickname "Wobblies" is uncertain.
The IWW promotes the concept of "One Big Union," contends that all workers should be united as a social class and that capitalism and wage labor should be abolished. They are known for the Wobbly Shop model of workplace democracy, in which workers elect their managers and other forms of grassroots democracy (self-management) are implemented. IWW membership does not require that one work in a represented workplace, nor does it exclude membership in another labor union.
The Wobblies differed from other union movements of the time by its promotion of industrial unionism, as opposed to the craft unionism of the American Federation of Labor. The IWW emphasized rank-and-file organization, as opposed to empowering leaders who would bargain with employers on behalf of workers. This manifested itself in the early IWW's consistent refusal to sign contracts, which they felt would restrict workers' abilities to aid each other when called upon. Though never developed in any detail, Wobblies envisioned the general strike as the means by which the wage system would be overthrown and a new economic system ushered in, one which emphasized people over profit, cooperation over competition.
One of the IWW's most important contributions to the labor movement and broader push towards social justice was that, when founded, it was the only American union (besides the Knights of Labor) to welcome all workers including women, immigrants, African Americans and Asians into the same organization. Indeed, many of its early members were immigrants, and some, like Carlo Tresca, Joe Hill and Mary Jones, rose to prominence in the leadership.