The IWW is back in Nevada

Paul Lenard

Photo By Dennis Myers

In the early 1900s, the Industrial Workers of the World with its platform of “One Big Union” was an influential Nevada organization. It was also active on the Hoover Dam construction. Now, they are back in Nevada as a political organizing group. This interview was conducted Sunday at the Reno Peace Fair. The local IWW can be contacted through

How large is the IWW in Reno?

In Reno, we’re very small. We’re starting to build a general membership branch right now, as a matter of fact. Today is the day. We have gathered ourselves together. We had some [national] members that we didn’t even know were here. We’ve been operating as individuals and in various progressive other organizations. Now we’re finally meeting each other, and we’re going to get a start on filling the void in this area for a conscious presence of people who are fighting for the rights of the working class.

Why is the IWW needed here?

Well, basically because what you have right now, certainly in the electoral season, a lot of people who are appropriating slogans that sound real good to working people—"Let’s get more oil so it’s available to us” on the one hand, right? Or “Let’s find a way of encouraging private corporations to go ahead and develop alternative resources of one sort or another and pay them well and bribe them to do what they ought to be doing for their fellow man anyway” on the other hand. We’re here to suggest that there really is a third option. There has been always, forever, from the beginning, which is that working people need to rely on themselves, on each other, on me, on you, on them. Those who create the value of this society ought to have control over how that value is used and which direction our investments go. That’s why the IWW is needed here. It’s needed everywhere.

What is there happening in Reno and in Nevada that makes this fertile ground?

In Reno and Nevada in particular? We didn’t come from outside or anything like that. I live here. [Gesturing to colleagues:] He lives here, Ron lives here, a lot of us live here.

That indicates that it has local roots. But what’s happening that makes it fertile territory?

Well, like the rest of the country, the economy is going into the sink, to put it politely. And the solutions that are going to be arrived at are going to be solutions that basically block out the ordinary people and try to find profitable outlets for investments for those who already have the money.

Are there worker problems peculiar to Nevada?

Peculiar to Nevada? Well, you know—peculiar to Nevada. I would say that our problems are the problems of exploited wage workers everywhere throughout the world. And if I lived anywhere else I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing right now. It’s a matter of the period we’re in, I think, even more than where I am.

You have got to know this is an uphill battle.

Oh, yes.

Why take it on?

Well, I put it to you this way: I’m 55 years old. I did my thing all my life. I worked for someone else and made somebody else rich. OK? I broke my back making someone else rich. And that’s fine. But, you know, I’ve reached a certain level of maturity, and I’ve come to realize that a lot of things I believed as a young man, a lot of things I believed the world could be like, a lot of things that working people could do together, I wasn’t wrong. I was just early.