Belabored Podcast #138: Wobblies of the World, Then and Now, with Peter Cole

Belabored Podcast #138: Wobblies of the World, Then and Now, with Peter Cole

The history of the IWW—and its concept of “One Big Union”—holds lessons for the labor movement today.

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The labor movement is facing existential crises the world over—in the United States, its staring down the face of a Trump administration and Trump-appointed Supreme Court likely to overturn long-accepted labor laws and regulations. But even before Trump, the problems were many—so many that labors attempts at new organizing in recent years, like the Fight for $15 and OUR Walmart, often went outside of the expected collective bargaining model.

There are predecessors for this kind of organizing, and a history of unions from before the days of the NLRB. This week, we bring you Michelle’s conversation with labor historian Peter Cole, co-editor of a new book on the Industrial Workers of the World, Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. Then, Michelle and Sarah discuss what the Wobblies mean for the labor movement’s challenges today. Is “One Big Union” still a relevant concept—or a more relevant concept than ever, perhaps?

If you think our work is worth supporting as we soldier on through Trumplandia, please consider becoming a sustaining member of Belabored or donating or subscribing to Dissent. Help keep us going for the next 137 episodes!



Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW edited by Peter Cole (@ProfPeterCole), David Struthers, and Kenyon Zimmer 

IWW Historical Archives

Wobblies — A new history of a radical union that profoundly impacted Southern African politics (Africa is a Country)

Sarah and Michelle: Belabored Podcast #136: Countdown to Janus, with Andy Stettner (Dissent)

What the Revival of Socialism in America Means for the Labor Movement (In These Times)

Become a Workers Movement for the 21st Century (New Socialist)