The Wobblies: Early warriors of the labor movement

Big Big Haywood leads 1912 Lowell Strike. Credit: Library of Congress

Much of what we take for granted in the workplace is the result of ferocious labor vs. management battles from about 1880 to 1940. This includes the 40 hour work week, safety regulations, health plans for employees, and laws against child labor. None of this existed before labor fought for it. Labor conflicts back than were not placid affairs with strikers carrying signs walking around a building. Rather they tended to be pitched battles. Company owners sent in goons with baseball bats and guns to break strikes. Strikers were killed, sometimes by our own government.

Front and center in these battles was the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.


  1. Good to know your own history but the IWW are still alive, reviving especially outside US, in UK, Germany, Australia and in US with Starbucks/barista campaigns. Not the same as the IWW pre 1940 but not a museum piece either for “red card romantics” as we say in the Wobblies! 

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