On this day in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World – a.k.a. the “Wobblies” – was founded in Chicago by “Big Bill” Haywood, president of the violent Western Federation of Miners; Daniel DeLeon, leader of the Socialist Labor Party; and Eugene Debs, leader of the Socialist Party. Revolution was in the air – during this same year, Moscow had its Bloody Monday massacre, the Potemkin mutiny, and Lenin’s return from exile.
The IWW – with the slogan “Bread or Revolution” – was formed mainly of unskilled and casual laborers in response to the American Federation of Labor’s opposition to unionism for the unskilled, its opposition to revolution, and its fundamental acceptance of capitalism. It promotes the concept of “One Big Union” and contends that all workers should be united as a social class to supplant capitalism and wage labor with industrial democracy. 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.
Although the origin of the nickname “Wobbly” is uncertain, the IWW posts four theories on its website at https://www.iww.org/history/icons/wobbly/1
In 2012, the IWW moved its general headquarters offices to 2036 West Montrose, Chicago.