Glossary of Acronyms and Terms

Wondering what that three-letter-acronym stands for? You’ve come to the right place.

You’ll also find common Wobbly terminology and basic definitions related to labor law, economics and workplace action in the glossary below.


Assessment – a voluntary contribution in addition to union dues allocated for specific purposes, such as a strike fund. Assessments are often accompanied by ‘Assessment Stamps’.

Assessment Stamp –  a special stamp which is placed in a fellow worker’s red card. Assessment stamps are issued to those members who pay certain assessments, or who donate a specific amount of money to a specific fund. These stamps generally display artwork or imagery related to the cause which the purchase of the stamp is funding.

Boss – A person who owns the means of production and/or who employs workers and directly benefits from the exploitation of their labor.

Branch — A chartered group of IWW members in the same job site, city, or region organized around a common workplace, industry, or regional grouping.

BST – Branch Secretary Treasurer – The chief administrative officer of a GMB whom is elected by the to a one year term. The BST maintains branch records and finances,  sign checks and allocate funds as directed by the GMB, produces a monthly treasurer’s report to the GMB, and sends all branch delegate reports and a monthly BST report to GHQ.

Boss Head – a co-worker not in management, but who aspires to join management and acts like a manager.

Bourgeoisie – see the employing class.

Business Union/ Trade Union – A hierarchical and job-specific union which is beholden to financial interests and often places the importance of securing a contract at a shop over worker’s wants and needs.

Capitalism – an economic system characterized by the private ownership of the means of production and profit from the exploitation of labor and the wage system. Also, America’s current economic system, the abolition of which is the historic mission of the working class.

Charter – A document issued by the GEB which officially recognizes a subordinate body of the IWW, such as a GMB.

Class Struggle Robot – a Wobbly with superb administrative skills or someone whose whole life revolves around involvement in the class struggle

Class War – The struggle between the employing class, which is always looking to lower the costs of labor at workers’ expense, and the working class, which seeks to retain all that it produces.

Class War Prisoner – Anyone jailed for their class conscious views or acts. Also refers to any working class person jailed for actions resulting from the oppression they face under capitalism.

Concerted Activity – a legal term used in labor policy to define employee protection against employer retaliation in the United States. Concerted activity includes forming, or attempting to form, a union in one’s workplace, joining a union whether or not the union is recognized by one’s employer, assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees, and discussing hours, wages, and work conditions with one’s co-workers.

Delegate – An IWW member empowered to collect dues from other members and to sign up new IWW members who is democratically elected by their GMB or job branch to a one year term.

Department – An international coordinating body of closely related Industrial Unions, such as the Department of General Construction 300, which includes the General Construction Workers Industrial Union 310, the Ship Builders Industrial Union 320, and the Building Construction Workers Industrial Union 330. There are six such departments outlined by the IWW Constitution

Direct Action – the use of strikes, pickets, or other forms of disruption which target a worksite in a forward manner rather than through passive means such  as negotiation in order to win workplace demands.

Employing Class – the social class who owns the means of production and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital, in order to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society

Fink – a strikebreaker or an informer. The term is possibly derived from “Pinkertons”, a historically private detective agency frequently used by employers to break strikes.

Fix the Job – Direct action on the job aimed towards winning better working conditions.

FW – Fellow Worker  – How IWW members traditionally address each other

GDC – General Defense Committee – An organization composed of IWW members and supporters whose function is to organize for the defense of workers indicted in the process of union organizing or other revolutionary activity. The GDC can be organized into locals and regional federations. The GDC is the only official committee that sympathetic employers may join (as non-IWW members).

GDC Local – A Local branch of the General Defense Committee.

GEB – General Executive Board – The chief coordinating body of the Industrial Workers of the World, consisting of seven members elected to one year terms annually by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership.

General Convention – Also referred to simply as ‘Convention’ which is an annual assembly where members, delegates and officers of the union meet to discuss union business, prepare for the annual election and referendum, and set union policy.

GMB – General Membership Branch – A chartered body of IWW members located in a local geographic area (usually a city or metropolitan area) composed of workers from many different industries.

GOB – General Organizational Bulletin –  a (mostly) monthly internal publication which includes the GST’s and GEB’s reports. Sometimes the GOB includes correspondence from delegates, committees, and individual members as well. The GOB is the primary way to stay up to date on the Union’s finances. The GOB also updates members on items for convention and referendum.

GST – General Secretary Treasurer – The chief administrative officer of the IWW. The GST is elected annually to a one year term by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership. The GST is the only paid officer of the IWW.

Gunslinger – someone who frequently goes into battle over listservs

Hall Cat – An IWW member who frequents IWW union halls and/or branch offices.

Help the work along – to participate or assist in an IWW project or campaign.

Hobby Wobbly – a Wobbly who likes the idea and history of the IWW, but never participates or ‘helps the work along’.

Industrial Democracy – workers’ direct democratic control over their workplaces, industries, and the economy. An alternative to capitalism.

IU – Industrial Union – The name and number of the category an IWW member is assigned to based on the industry in which they are employed. Also refers to a chartered body of the IWW which consists of all Industrial Union Branches, shops, and individual members within a specific IU category.

IUB – Industrial Union Branch – a chartered body which is composed of IWW members located in a local geographic area (usually a city or metropolitan area) who are employed in the same industry and IU.

IW – Industrial Worker – The official newspaper of the IWW which is published on a (mostly) monthly basis. Its editor is elected biannually to a two-year term by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership

J Wobs – Junior Wobblies – a camp for Wobbly youth that runs at the same time as Work People’s College

Job Shop – A chartered body of IWW members in the same workplace (and by extension the same IU) where union conditions prevail and where majority union representation has been established.

Little Red Songbook (LRS) – A collection of labor songs written by IWW members which is published as a pocket size book with a red cover.

Mister Block – refers to cartoons penned by Ernest Riebe about a blockhead worker who, in spite of all his misfortunes, blindly sides with the employing class. Joe Hill popularized the cartoon in his song “Mr Block”.

NLRA – National Labor Relations Act. an act of Congress (1935) that forbade any interference by employers with the formation and operation of labor unions and which guides the NLRB.

NLRB – National Labor Relations Board – an independent agency of the United States government charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices.

OBU – One Big Union – another name for the IWW, based on the notion that one big union of all the workers can overthrow or abolish the employing class and the wage system.

OD – Organizing Department – an IWW wide department which is composed of the Organizing Department Board (ODB), the Survey and Research Committee (SRC), and the Organizer Training Committee (OTC). The OD is tasked with assisting and facilitating organizing efforts and with regularly communicating with fellow workers involved in workplace organizing in order to provide an accurate report of the union’s current campaign.

ODB – Organizing Department Board – an IWW wide board which provides oversight to the operations, finances, and activity of the Organizing Department, directly facilitates the tasks and projects adopted by the ODB, and evaluates and holds accountable all campaigns that receive funding.

Old Beard – an older comrade (usually male, but not always) who dominates conversations or meetings with their ideas or their craziness.

One Month Wonder – someone who joins, usually online (as opposed to through a delegate), and only pays dues for one month before drifting away from official membership.

OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration – a federal organization (part of the Department of Labor) that ensures safe and healthy working conditions for Americans by enforcing standards and investigating abuses of workplace safety regulations.

OTC – Organizer Training Committee – a union wide committee which is part of the OD and which is tasked with developing and facilitating trainings on organizing techniques and strategies.

Outside Organizer –  a union organizer, typically employed by a business or trade union, which attempts to organize a workplace from the outside, or without being employed at that location.

Paper members – IWW members who are never seen or heard from, but maintain their membership.

Pickett – a direct action tactic which involves workers gathering, walking, chanting, and holding signs in front of their job site, often accompanying a strike in which picketers, or employees taking part in the picket, attempt to dissuade customers or delivery trucks from entering the location. Pickets may also be used for the purpose of distributing information and propaganda.

Proletariat – see working class.

Rebel – a class-conscious worker who wishes to abolish capitalism.

The Rebel Girl – historical IWW organizer Elizabeth Flynn. Also the title of a song by Joe Hill.

Red – a revolutionary socialist, anarchist, or IWW member. Refers to the red flags and banners commonly used by radicals symbolizing workers control and revolution.

Rigging – a delegates supplies, such as membership cards and stamps, used to collect dues and sign up new members.

ROC (Regional Organizing Committee) – A body of IWW members in a specific region, especially a country dedicated to maintaining communication and administering union affairs, particularly where the local currency is worth significantly less (or more) than the US or Canadian dollar.

Sabo cat – A symbol for Sabotage usually represented by a black cat with bared teeth. Also called ‘sab kitty’ or ‘sabo-tabby’.

Sabotage – Inefficiency, disruption, or destruction at the point of production by disgruntled workers, sometimes used as a direct action tactic in order to win improved workplace conditions.

Salt/Salting – getting a job somewhere specifically for the purpose of organizing, often to join an assist an already existing campaign.

Scab – A person who workers after a strike has been called and who takes the job of a striking union member.

SRC – Survey and Research Committee – a union wide committee which is part of the OD and which is tasked with developing analyses of organizing strategies and tactics and to support local campaigns in their research needs.

Strike – a direct action tactic during which workers refuse to work, often accompanied by a picket outside of the workers’ job site, used to win benefits on the job and/or union recognition.

Temp Agency – A business which places workers in jobs and profits by retaining a portion of the wage the worker would have received from the employer to which they are contracted. Also called a scab agency

ULP – Unfair Labor Practice – a charge filed with and investigated by the NLRB when an employer interferes with or works against an employee’s right to concerted activity.

Wage – the monetary value, defined by the employing class, which is given to the an employee in exchange for their labor and the products of their labor. Also referred to as theft.

Wage Slavery – the situation in which workers are forced to choose between working for wage which is a fraction of the value that their labor produces or imminent desolation.

Wobbly – a nickname of unknown origin for a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, sometimes shortened to “Wob”.

Worker – a member of the working class.

The Working Class- those who expend either mental or physical labor in order to produce wealth for the employing class in exchange for a wage. One does not need to be employed in order to be a worker or a member of the working class. Anyone who does not own the means of production or employ others is a member of the working class.

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