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The Wobblies

Friday, September 30, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(Stewart Bird, Deborah Shaffer, US 1979, 89 min., DCP)

Founded in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) took to organizing unskilled workers into one big union and changed the course of American history. This compelling documentary of the IWW (or “The Wobblies” as they were known) tells the story of workers on the docks and in factories, sawmills, wheat fields, forests, mines as they organize and demand better wages, healthcare, overtime pay, and safer working conditions. In some respects, men and women, Black and white, skilled and unskilled workers joining a union and speaking their minds seems so long ago, but in other ways, the film mirrors today’s headlines, depicting a nation torn by corporate greed. Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird weave history, archival film footage, interviews with former workers (now in their 80s and 90s), cartoons, original art, and classic Wobbly songs (many written by Joe Hill) to pay tribute to the legacy of these rebels who paved the way and risked their lives for the many of the rights that we still have today. Restored by the Museum of Modern Art and recently inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, this new version represents the best way to see this classic labor film.

Introduction and post-screening discussion led by Jon Garlock, labor historian.