Tracker Pixel for Entry

Workers of Fargo-Moorhead, Unite!

News | May 18th, 2021

by John Showalter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

john.d.showalter@gmail.com

20 May 2021

As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues apace and the worst of this historical pandemic is (seemingly) behind us, many places of business are loosening safety precautions for both customers and staff. In addition to that, many places of business are seeking to alleviate a work shortage brought on largely by the pandemic and bolster their dwindled workforces.

Out of these conditions has risen a debate seemingly as old as time. While employers are decrying that they are unable to hire enough employees to rebound due to people not wanting to work anymore and expecting handouts, many people have retorted that these employers’ inability or unwillingness to provide a livable wage and proper working conditions to their employees is the cause of their current hiring woes.

One group that has been part of this debate for over a century is the Industrial Workers of the World, affectionately nicknamed “Wobblies.” The economic uncertainties of the pandemic era have provided fresh soil for the Red River chapter of the IWW, and recently I had the opportunity to interview Joe Hill, an organizer with the chapter.

Hill gladly provided a short history of the IWW, both as a whole and in North Dakota. “The Industrial Workers of the World was founded in 1905 with the explicit goal of organizing the working class into One Big Union in order to overwhelm the capitalist system and tilt the axis of power toward the workers, with the long-term goal of creating a ‘new society within the shell of the old,’” said Hill.

“In our heyday we were responsible for countless strikes and agitations, including events locally involving migrant harvest workers, a shooting of an organizer in Casselton in 1919 and the free speech fight in Minot, North Dakota in 1913 where a local judge proclaimed, ‘We’ll drive the god-damned sons of bitches into the river and drown them. We’ll starve them. We’ll kill every damned man of them or drive them together with the Socialists from the city.’”

Locally, the general membership branch was chartered in 2012 and existed for a few years before being de-chartered while they rebuilt their numbers. Finally, the Fargo IWW was able to become officially recognized as a chartered branch of the Industrial Workers of the World Union in the final months of 2020, allowing them to take advantage of the Union’s full benefits.


“We are here to meet a need,” said Hill, “namely, the exploitation and poor treatment of local workers and to counter nefarious anti-worker policies by the local employing class.”

When asked what makes IWW different from other trade unions, Hill explained. “The IWW had a different outlook on labor organizing than trade unions. We organize workers not by their skill or trade, but by what industry they are in. So for example, in trade unions you have different unions for each job; in a grocery store you would have a cashiers union, a butchers union, a stockers union, etc. In the IWW, all those workers would be under the same union because they all work in the same industry.”

He elaborated the philosophy behind this. “The idea is that separating workers by skill creates a situation where you are potentially pitting workers against themselves, instead of uniting as a single class with our class interests in mind. The IWW also practices Solidarity Unionism, which is, we don’t believe workers need to be in a contract to be a union or improve conditions at work, that workers can collectively do direct action to win improvements on their own, without outside arbitrating groups.”

Currently the Fargo IWW does not have any campaigns that are ready for public announcement, but in the past they have been involved in anti-fascist organizing, part of a tradition that goes back to the IWW engaging in street fights with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1910s and 1920s. “Members of the previous iteration of our branch were heavily involved in ousting Craig Cobb from Leith, North Dakota in the last decade as well.” As the branch is just restarting, there has not been a lot of backlash. “But” said Hill, “if history is any guide, we certainly expect pushback from the far right, the employing class, and other reactionary elements in society. We are prepared to deal with any backlash they may lob our way.”

___________________

Currently, the Fargo IWW is soliciting leads local workers may have in organizing a union at their workplaces. Any leads can be sent to fargoiww@gmail.com Those interested in joining can go to the official IWW website and its Join Now section. The initiation fee is $11 and dues are $11 a month. From there, interested parties can reach out to the local branch at the email listed above. There is also a Facebook page for the local branch.

Recently in:

By Bryce Haugenbrycevincenthaugen@gmail.comOn most Wednesdays, local resident Nick Barth can be found outside the Red River Women’s Clinic, standing on the sidewalk holding an anti-abortion sign and urging patients to reconsider…

By Michael M. Miller  michael.miller@ndsu.eduTheresa Meier Eissinger of Napoleon, N.D., writes, “Christmas Eve at the Meier farm (between Linton and…

Sons of Norway, Kringen Lodge #4-25, is a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Norwegian culture.Sentrum på 722 2nd Ave N, FargoKringen Kafe er åpen for Kaffe og Bakverk mandag-fredag 9.00 til…

By Sabrina Hornung  sabrina@hpr1.comOur opinion: Finding peace on Earth in the midst of the war on ChristmasAs the holiday season…

By Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com Is It the Common Good for Billionaires to Sail $500 Million Superyachts?The new Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln set out 161 years ago to save the United States from break up. James Russell…

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

By Sarah Wassberg Johnson  sarah@thefoodhistorian.comIt was 1998. I was in the basement of Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo, putting on a white robe and a…

By Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.comTrudy Wolf is a woman of many hats and has been making waves since she came to Zeeland Public schools in 1993. Zeeland, located in south central North Dakota, had 87 residents according to the 2019…

By Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.comThe final film in Joachim Trier’s Oslo Trilogy, “The Worst Person in the World” is one of the best films of 2021. Despite several erroneous descriptions from critics tagging the movie as a…

By Alicia Underlee Nelsonalicia@hpr1.comCreative Moorhead is injecting new life into Moorhead’s art scene and revitalizing its downtown spaces. Artistic or handy people with a connection to the city are encouraged to connect with…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…