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The History Of The Iww

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The International Workers of the World is an ample union who are commonly known as the IWW and the Wobbles. During the time period between 1900 and 1930 the United States focused their attention and was occupied with the Labor Union Movement, which started in the late 1800’s and also World War I which began a later. The IWW stood strong throughout and never gave up for what they were fighting for. This can be seen through their slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Their messages were effective and drew a plethora of heads. The IWW accomplished certain goals and acquired a reputation in society during that time even though straight from the start, United States government was not on their side.

Founded in 1905 by men with bitter experiences in the labor struggle, the International Workers of the World held their headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were based solely on the fact that workers should be united within a single union and the wage system should be abolished as stated in the preamble to their constitution. "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 the 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'.” The IWW proclaimed a challenge to existing unions and social order that was dominated by the rise of copious monopolies. They promoted the principle of industrial unionism as opposed to craft unionism and were not fond of powerful leaders bargaining with employers on the behalf of the employees. The International Workers of the World were one of a few unions that accepted women, foreigners, black and immigrant workers as members, but even then, they were not looked nicely upon.

“The IWW affirms as a fundamental principle that the creators of wealth are entitled to all they create. Thus they find themselves pitted against the whole profit-making system. They declare that there can be no compromise so long as the majority of the working class lives in want while the master class lives in luxury. They insist that there can be no peace until the workers organize as a class, take possession of the resources of the earth and the machinery of production and distribution and abolish the wage system… It is for these principles, this declaration of class solidarity, that the IWW’s are being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and murdered. If the capitalist class had the sense it is reputed to have, it would know that violence is the worst weapon that can be used against men who have nothing to lose and the world to gain.” The IWW was harassed by politicians and the press because they were seen as a threat. Members were arrested for making public speeches. This resulted in violent means that were taken into the hands of the United States government. In November 1919 in the Washington State lumber town of Centralia, American Legionnaires stormed an attack on an office of the International Workers of the World. Four attackers died in a gunfight before the people in town overpowered the IWW members and proceeded to take them to jail. A mob broke into the jail and hanged and IWW member from a railroad bridge. Federal officials subsequently prosecuted 165 IWW leaders, who received sentences of up to 25 years in prison. The government used World War I as an opportunity to crush the IWW. An IWW newspaper, the Industrial Worker, wrote on the cover page just before the declaration of war: "Capitalists of America, we will fight against you, not for you! There is not a power in the world that can make the working class fight if they refuse." Upon the U.S. declaration of war, the organization ceased all anti-war activity. In September 1917, U.S. Department of Justice agents made raids on forty-eight IWW meeting halls across the country. “In 1917, one hundred and sixty-five IWW leaders were arrested for conspiring to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate others in connection with labor disputes, under the new Espionage Act; one hundred and one went on trial before Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis in 1918.” People were lynched for speaking out against the views of government officials, draft, and regulated laws. As the government was killing off strong leaders, the power of the IWW was decreasing. The IWW were doing everything in there power to change that.

But as the stirring of trouble became more well known, acts were passed against the International Workers of the World. In 1918 the Sedition Act came about and made it illegal to criticize the government. Thus many labor activists and radicals became the targets of the policemen. Since the IWW takes part in rallying against the government, anyone in the union could be fined up to $10,000 and/or sentenced up to twenty years in prison. Rose Pastor Stokes, Eugene V. Debs, Victor Berger and Emma Goldman were notable individuals that were arrested and charged under these laws. Each of these individuals were leaders for the IWW. The government was targeting all the organizations that fall under the IWW and dissidents. Eugene V. Debs was and IWW leader and was imprisoned for 10 years under this law for his words against the draft in the United States. The court claims he had the “intention and effect of obstructing the draft and recruitment for the war“. He affected the IWW an immense amount because he represents their standing against the American government. The IWW was appalled and its members were not happy. This put power back into the government, decreasing their own. Eugene Debs took a stand and various groups of the IWW followed his lead.

The sub organizations of the International Workers of the World remained very active and grew in size and popularity. Depending on what your occupation was, determines your membership into each of these organizations. “Between 1915 and 1917, the IWW's Agricultural Workers Organization (AWO) organized hundreds of thousands of migratory farm workers throughout the mid-west and western United States, often signing up and organizing members in the field, in rail yards and in hobo jungles. During this time, the IWW became synonymous with the hobo; migratory farm workers could scarcely afford any other means of transportation to get to the next jobsite. Workers often won better working conditions by using direct



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