Industrial Workers of the World

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The Wobblies continued to organize workers and were a major presence in the metal shops of Cleveland, Ohio until the 1950s. After the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1950 by the US Government, which called for the removal of communist union leadership, the IWW experienced a loss of membership as differences of opinion occurred over how to respond to the challenge. The U.S. Attorney General at the time (1950), Thomas Clark, decided on his own to place the IWW on the list of subversive organizations in the category of "organizations seeking to change the government by unconstitutional means" under Executive Order 9835, which offers no means of appeal, and which excludes all IWW members from Federal employment and even federally subsidized housing. The Cleveland IWW metal and machine workers wound up leaving the union, resulting in a major decline in membership once again.

The IWW membership fell to its lowest level in the 1950s, but the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, anti-war protests, and various university student movements brought new life to the IWW, albeit with many fewer new members than the great organizing drives of the early part of the 20th Century.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the IWW had various small organizing drives. Membership included a number of cooperatively owned and collectively run enterprises especially in the printing industry: Red & Black (Detroit), Lakeside (Madison, Wisconsin), and Harbinger (Columbia, South Carolina). The University Cellar, a non-profit campus bookstore formed by University of Michigan students, was for several years the largest organized IWW shop with about 100 workers. Ann Arbor was also home to the Peoples Wherehouse which was believed to be the largest shop at the time (1980s).

In the 1960s, Rebel Worker was published in Chicago by the surrealists Franklin and Penelope Rosemont. One edition was published in London with Charles Radcliffe who went on to become involved with the Situationist International. By the 1980s, the "Rebel Worker" was being published as an official organ again, from the IWW's headquarters in Chicago, and the New York area was publishing a newsletter as well; a record album of Wobbly music, "Rebel Voices", was also released.

In the 1990s, the IWW was involved in many labor struggles and free speech fights, including Redwood Summer, and the picketing of the Neptune Jade in the port of Oakland in late 1997.

IWW organizing drives in recent years have included a major campaign to organize Borders Books in 1996, a strike at the Lincoln Park Mini Mall in Seattle that same year, organizing drives at Wherehouse Music, Keystone Job Corps, the community organization ACORN, various homeless and youth centers in Portland, Oregon, sex industry workers, and recycling shops in Berkeley, California. IWW members have been active in the building trades, marine transport, ship yards, high tech industries, hotels and restaurants, public interest organizations, schools and universities, recycling centers, railroads, bike messengers, and lumber yards.

The IWW has stepped in several times to help the rank and file in mainstream unions, including saw mill workers in Fort Bragg in California in 1989, concession stand workers in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s, and most recently at shipyards along the Mississippi River.


In the early 2000s the IWW organized Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics, a fabric/seamstress shop in Berkeley. The shop has remained under contract with the IWW to this day.

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