July 4, 2022

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“The Wobblies”: Iconic Film on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Is Rereleased for May Day

2 min read

The landmark 1979 labor documentary, “The Wobblies,” has been restored and rereleased for May Day, International Workers’ Day. The film details the history of the Industrial Workers of the World — a radical union whose members are also known as Wobblies — and their inclusive fight to organize “unskilled” workers, secure fair wages and enshrine the eight-hour workday in the early 20th century before they were targeted and repressed by the FBI during World War I. It features interviews with former Wobblies still alive in the 1970s. Deborah Shaffer, who co-directed the film with Stewart Bird, says the IWW “was founded in 1905 out of necessity” because no existing unions represented so-called unskilled labor. “The workers had no representation at all, and they were being expected to work seven days a week, 12-hour days, no breaks, no meals, underpaid, overworked,” she says. “Conditions were terrible and intolerable.” The high-definition rerelease of “The Wobblies” comes after the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry in 2021.

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