1. The Continental Congress of the Working Class--The IWW was founded at a meeting of political and labor radicals in Chicago in 1905. Attendees at the meeting included Eugene V. Debs, Daniel DeLeon, Helen Gurley Flynn, and Mother Jones. Perhaps the most important attendee was the vice-president of the Western Federation of Miners, William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, however. Haywood not only chaired the meeting, but also represented the largest contingent of workers in the now organization
a. Bloody conflicts between the WFM and mine operators--in particular in the Cripple Creek strike of 1903-1904, when the full weight of the state of Colorado was used to crush the strike, the WFM determined that they needed radical allies.
3. Left-wing factionalism--besides the WFM contingent, the founding convention also featured the two leading socialiss of the time, Eugene V. Debs and Daniel DeLeon. DeLeon was know for his hostility toward the AFL; Gompers was a "labor fakir" and "the greasy tool of Wall Street," while the AFL was "a cross between a windbag and a rope of sand." This hostility, however, also was oftentimes evinced against other leftist who had differing opinions from DeLeon's, as well. The Debs' faction evolved into the Socialist Party of American (SPA), which became the largest most radical political party, while DeLeon was forced out of the IWW in 1906.
a. Boyhood in Utah--Haywood's father died of pneumonia when Haywood was just 3 years old, leaving him and his mother destitute. The economic situation of the family improved only slightly when she re-married; Haywood entered the mines at the age of 14 because of family need.
b. Haywood also attempted to make a go of it as a homesteading farmer after his marriage, but lost his claim when the US government seized the property (with no compensation) to make an Indian reservation.
5. Cripple Creek--During an organizing drive in the goldfields southwest of Denver in 1903, the WFM was attempting to organize miners, smelter workers, and reduction workers near Cripple Creek. A couple instances of minor violence (whether instigated by strikers or agents of the mine owners is under dispute), the governor of Colorado agreed to call out the militia--over the local sheriff's objections. Insisting that the state could not afford to keep the militia on duty for an extended period of time, the governor insisted--and local mine owners agreed--that the mining companies would pay for the militia. This led to the wholesale arrest and deportation of strike leaders and other "trouble-makers," without trial or even charges being brought forward. From this experience, the WFM leadership concluded that radical allies would be needed.
1. Free speech fights--IWW members gained some noteriety in cities in the west for their insistence upon exercising their rights to free speech--clambering on top of soapboxes on sidewalks to rail against the evils of capitalism. For these acts, members were hauled off to jail, beaten, fed rancid food, and sentenced to inordinately long jail terms--which induced hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of other members to come to town to join their comrades.