The Public Square

Robert Wahlfeldt on being a life-long labor organizer


Hello, my name is Robert Wahlfeldt and in a few days I will be celebrating my 82nd birthday. Today I am speaking about one of the groups I am proud to be a part of and that will shortly celebrate its 102nd year.

Thats a lot of years for both of us. This group turning 102 is called the IWW, or better known as the Industrial Workers of the World. Wobblies for short.

This group formed back in 1905 and is the true defender of union solidarity. Today we can thank the IWW for representing the spirit of the US labors movements best contributions to society. For example the brave folks of the IWW fought hard and won the eight-hour workday. Unique to this group was the willingness to organize women and minorities . . . . all workers.

The credo was and still is: An injury to one is an injury to all.

The Wobblies were willing to be involved in direct action and defend fellow workers AND to impede the business of abusive companies as necessary. Through out history from its origin in the early 1900 through a resurgence in the 1960s and continuing into the year 2007 the IWW has always been innovative and resilient.

I am thankful to be a member of the newly reemerging IWW. One Big Union. Thankful and hopeful that the gains made by labor in the past such as: the 5 day work week, the eight-hour day, child labor laws, and the ability to form a union remain important today. Some see Unions as bad for business, but based on my years of Union membership and leadership I know the importance of solidarity, boycotts, direct action and strikes to make gains for the workers and their families.

The IWW is as vital to democracy today as it was 102 years ago. At 82 I am hopeful that the younger members of the labor movement will continue to make progress as we did at the beginning many years ago!

To let you know who we are and what we are about the IWW has a presence at Urbana Farmers Market. Come by and say hi and find out how important a labor organization can be to preserve and secure fair wages, job security and health care benefits for its members. In todays society with an ever-shrinking middle class the IWW may be our best hope.

We are proud to have a branch of the IWW right here in our own community: The Central Illinois General Membership Branch of the IWW meets every second Saturday of each month, at 1pm, in the Family Room of the Independent Media Center inside the old Urbana Post Office. (Entrance on Elm Street).

Remember our credo: An injury to one is an injury to all.

Lets stand together and stop the exploitation of working people! Visit us this Saturday at Urbana Farmers Market and find out why we continue to proudly say Solidarity Forever!