AFL-CIO: I Dreamed I Sold Joe Hill a T-Shirt

Who came up with this idea? It’s historically befuddled and hilarious.

The AFL-CIO’s online “Union Shop” is selling “I’m a Little Wobbly” T-Shirts.

“Your little one toddling around will show his or her union roots with this “I’m a Little Wobbly” children’s T-shirt in bright red. ‘Wobbly,’ of course, refers to a member to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Why are we chortling at the AFL-CIO sellling merchandise branded with IWW, the radical and often violent trade union that was repressed by the Woodrow Wilson Administration?

1. The IWW was created out of vehement opposition to the AFL and craft unions.

2. The tough Norwegian and Finnish miners and lumberman and itinerant laborers who were the backbone of the IWW would be appalled at being made into a cute product.

3. Who remembers the Wobblies?

The little black kitten is funny, too. It’s a take-off of the Sabotage Cat, an anarchist symbol adopted by the IWW, which actively promoted sabotage, the disruption of industry, including during wartime.

Is that really a symbol the AFL-CIO wants to be selling?

Either you’re advocating sabotage or you’re admitting you’re a pussycat.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Craig says:

    Considering that the industrialists of the time saw fit to simply mow down any workers with the audacity to buck the system that nearly enslaved them
    sabotage seems a pretty civil response. See the “Everett Massacre” or Henry Ford’s use of the Pinkertons to murder striking workers.

  • Jos. Hillstrom says:

    I take your point about the irony of the AFL peddling IWW t-shirts. But to suggest the IWW was “often violent” is false. The IWW practiced passive resistance and nonviolence, although they often had the holy snot kicked out of them. (See any free speech fight — Spokane, Fresno, San Diego, etc.– circa 1909-12.

    If you can point to examples of the IWW’s violence (as opposed to violence perpetrated upon them) , I’d be most interested in what you have to say.

    As for sabotage, yes, they encouraged it, but their definition revolved more around slow-downs in the workplace than around any physical violence. And for the record, the IWW did not believe in war b/t nations, only b/t classes.

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