National Film Registry • 1h 28m
Directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer • Documentary • 1979 • 89 minutes
Founded in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) took to organizing unskilled workers into one big union and changed the course of American history. This compelling documentary of the IWW (or “The Wobblies” as they were known) tells the story of workers in factories, sawmills, wheat fields, forests, mines and on the docks as they organize and demand better wages, healthcare, overtime pay and safer working conditions. In some respects, men and women, Black and white, skilled and unskilled workers joining a union and speaking their minds seems so long ago, but in other ways, the film mirrors today’s headlines, depicting a nation torn by corporate greed.
Filmmakers Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer weave history, archival film footage, interviews with former workers (now in their 80s and 90s), cartoons, original art, and classic songs to pay tribute to the legacy of these rebels who risked their lives for many of the rights we still have today.
“The Wobblies is a history of the IWW, researched lovingly and corroborated by the reminiscences of some of the union’s former members. When the facts are presented as fully as they have been here, the feelings that accompanied them aren’t difficult to imagine." —The New York Times
“A vivid look into America’s radical past. Its heroes and heroines are filled with vitality.” - Studs Terkel