Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a revolutionary socialist labor union. In 1919, a bitter debate brewed them and the more mainstream and moderate American Federation of Labor (AFL).
One organization’s aim was to attain some method of cooperation between capital and labor and the consequent mutual benefit. The other aimed to eliminate capital.
With such diametric opposition in ideas, the two organizations stood at challenge from the start, as no rival labor organizations had stood before.
All the radical elements, with the turbulent Western Federation of Miners at the head, were, it seemed, to rally around the I.W.W., purging the American Federation of units antagonistic to its purposes, and establishing a chasm between the two. Chasm there was, and across it were hurled the bitterest epithets heard in the labor world.
Ultimately, the IWW lost the debate and the AFL won.
The IWW went from 150+ thousand members in 1917 down to only 3,845 members as of September 2019, according to their most recent annual LM-2 report filed with the Labor Department.
Meanwhile, in 1955 the AFL merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to form the AFL-CIO, now the nation’s largest union federation with 12+ million members.
What’s Wrong with Labor: Federation Threatened With I.W.W. Control from the Inside
Published: Sunday, October 26, 1919