Declaring, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) upended and forever changed the labor movement a little over a century ago. The Wobblies’ commitment to organizing workers on an industry-wide basis, their cynicism about legislative action and electoral politics, their aversion to signed contracts and their preference for sudden strikes remain fascinating subjects for labor studies. Their multiculturalism, anti-racism and pioneering bohemian approach to God, country and sex remain a rich vein to be mined for cultural studies.
Although there is no shortage of books about the history of the IWW, they mostly tell the story of a North American union and revolutionary movement. But naming themselves the Industrial Workers of the World was no mere rhetorical flourish. The globalism implied in their name is fleshed out in a new book, Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW, edited by In These Times contributor Peter Cole, along with David Struthers and Kenyon Zimmer.