The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Diameter: 13.000 mm
Width: 42.000 mm ((max.))
Coins and Medals
Industrial Workers of the World badge
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was a trade union founded in Chicago, USA, in 1905. It was set up in opposition to the policy of the American Federation of Labor which banned unskilled workers from unions. In 1908 the IWW split into two factions, one preferring political action and the other favouring strikes, boycotts and sabotage. The latter won, and the IWW became radical, aiming for the take-over of production by the working classes and the abolition of capitalism and the wage system.
The IWW was the only trade union to oppose US involvement in the First World War. Sterling silver sabot badges like this were produced from 1915 to 1917. The word 'sabotage' is from the French, meaning to spoil through clumsiness, or literally to clatter about in sabots (wooden shoes). In September 1917 the IWW offices were raided and closed by the federal government and the top officers were charged with impeding the war effort. Most were convicted the next year in a mass trial. In October 1917 the IWW renounced advocacy of the tactic of sabotage, and later badges appeared without the sabot symbols.
P. Attwood, Status symbols: identity and b (London, British Museum Press, 2004)