June 27, 1905 – The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose members were nicknamed the ‘Wobblies,’ was founded in Chicago, Illinois. The IWW was the first union in the U.S. open to women and men of all races. Some of the union’s better-known founders were “Big Bill” Haywood, James Connolly, Eugene V. Debs, Daniel De Leon, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Thomas Hagerty, Lucy Parsons, William Trautmann, Frank Bohn, “Mother” Jones, Vincent Saint John, and Ralph Chaplin
Organizing is the true story of America. The myths of the “Great Man” and the “Lone Wolf” are not the real story of change for the better. Whether it was a farming community getting to together to help a neighbor build a barn – or the movements for the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, and civil rights – or factory workers demanding safer working conditions and a living wage – getting organized was what pushed us forward, and set an example for the world – one we’ve often failed to live up to, but that’s never stopped some of ‘We the People’ from trying to make those ideals reality.
Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. – A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh
It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.
– President Theodore Roosevelt
When you are organizing a group of people, the first thing that we do is we talk about the history of what other people have been able to accomplish – people that look like them, workers like them, ordinary people, working people – and we give them the list: these are people like yourself; this is what they were able to do in their community . . . Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.
– Dolores Huerta, agricultural labor and barrio communities organizer
The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.
– Thomas Donahue, AFL-CIO
The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.
– Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights activist
Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
– Molly Ivins, columnist, political commentor, and humorist
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory . . . Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
– Senator Elizabeth Warren
Unions have been fighting the 1 percent vs 99 percent fight for more than 100 years. Now the rest of us are learning that this fight is also OUR fight.
– Dave Johnson, author of “Labor’s Fight is OUR Fight”
We must use words to uplift and include. We can use our words to fight back against oppression and hate. But we must also channel our words into action . . . Leadership requires the ability to engage and to create empathy for communities with disparate needs and ideas.
– Stacey Abrams, Voting Rights activist
Wall Street and the CEO’s didn’t build this country. The middle class did. And the middle class was built by unions. Unions built the middle-class. And working families and unions will be the drivers of our success once again, when we get through this. Together, we’ll make sure that everyone has a chance to build a solid middle-class life for themselves and for their families in the 21st century economy.
– President Joe Biden
In addition to IWW Day, this is also the birthday of two remarkable women who fought the ‘good fight’ to help people make their lives better:
June 27, 1869 – Emma Goldman born, Russian-born American labor leader and anarchist. Goldman was a pivotal figure in the development of the anarchist political philosophy in the first half of the 20th century. She was a well-known writer and lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She repeatedly arrested for “inciting to riot” and distributing birth control information. She was the founder and first editor (1906-1907) of the anarchist journal, Mother Earth, “A Monthly Magazine Devoted to Social Science and Literature,” which lasted until 1917, when Goldman, and Alexander Berkman, who became editor after Goldman, were arrested and found guilty under the 1917 Espionage Act because they encouraged men to resist the draft after the U.S. entered WWI. They were deported with 247 others to the Soviet Union in 1919 aboard the USS Buford. Goldman had initially viewed the Bolshevik revolution positively, but began to have doubts even before she arrived in Russia, where she quickly became completely disillusioned. She began a long, circuitous journey, attempting to return to the U.S., by way of England, France, and Canada. After her autobiography was published, she was allowed to lecture in the U.S., but only on drama and her autobiography, and when her visa expired, she was denied a new one. She spent some time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, then returned to Canada. In February 1940, she suffered a debilitating stroke, which paralyzed her right side, and left her unable to speak. After a slight improvement, she had a second stroke in May, and died five days later at age 70.
June 27, 1915 – Grace Lee-Boggs born, American author of Chinese heritage, activist, organizer, philosopher, socialist, feminist, and translator. Even with a PhD in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr, earned in 1940, she faced double prejudice as a woman of Chinese heritage, and took a low-paying job at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. She got involved with a Workers Party campaign for tenants’ rights, beginning her long association with the African American civil rights movement. After meeting historian and socialist C. L. R. James when he had a speaking engagement in Chicago, she moved to New York, where she met other activists like Richard Wright and Katharine Dunham. She was soon translating essays by Karl Marx into English, and became part of the Johnson-Forest Tendency with the Workers Party, which later broke away from the party. In 1953, she married James Boggs, a black auto worker, political activist, and writer, and they moved to Detroit, continuing to focus on Civil Rights and Black Power. She wrote a number of books on the 1960s and 1970s, including co-authoring with her husband Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. Lee-Boggs helped found the Detroit Asian Political Alliance in 1970, and Detroit Summer in 1992, a multicultural and intergenerational youth program. James Boggs died in 1993. Grace continued to write and remained active, speaking at a forum at the University of California Los Angeles in 2012. After turning 100 in June 2015, she died four months later.