From Conspiracy Theorist to Co-Conspirator: How I Became a Wobbly by Micah Robin
In the summer of 1992 I was brought into this world by a struggling university student mom and truck driver dad in the Chicagoland area of Indiana. For those first few golden years of childhood, I grew up blissfully unaware of the struggling and poverty around me. Instead, I just liked to sneak out of my house and go play with the neighborhood kids unsupervised. My curfew was sundown, and as far as where I was allowed to go…well let’s just say more than a few times neighbors had to bring a particularly excited little boy back to his worried sick parents. Even after getting hit by a car at age 3 and staring death in the face before I could even say my ABCs, I still was as extroverted and bulletproof as ever. This would come in handy later.
As I got older, I started to notice little things that just didn’t seem right. “What’s WIC mommy?” “Mommy why do we have to get the boring cereal? I want the good kind like grandma has.” Sorry son, we can’t afford it. “When’s dad coming home?” Not for another week, he’s gonna be on that truck for a loooonnnnng time. More siblings were born, and pretty soon the apartment we lived in on the outskirts of Gary was just too cramped to raise a growing family. A month after 9/11, my parents picked up everything and moved us all way down south to Vincennes, Indiana. Dad started working for a trucking company that hauled coal to power plants from the mines in nearby Kentucky, while Mom became a full-time parent to 5 kids.
Once I reached adolescence, I started actively questioning the world around me and my anti-authoritarian streak started to manifest itself. I was raised to be very religious, and church on Sunday (and youth group on Wednesday night) was just a part of life. Eventually though, I began to notice unfairness in the church. The youth pastor would say one thing and do another. Rumors of him making unwelcome advances to some of the teenage girls in the group started to pass around. All of this coincided with my family being viewed with judgemental stares and whispers of “trailer trash,” “white trash,” and the like, and I started to turn away from Christianity. Discovering heavy metal and punk music probably didn’t help in that regard either.
Just before high school, my family picked up and moved everything again, this time to an even smaller town in an even more conservative part of an already blood-red, cornfed, God fearin’ Red state. At this point, I was already forming my own political opinions, but they were about as far removed from the beliefs generally associated with the IWW as you could get. 9/11 was an inside job! FEMA is building concentration camps! The Illuminati are behind the G-8, the G-20, the NAFTA treaty, the IMF, the Federal Reserve, it’s all a conspiracy! Go ahead and laugh, I know you are and I don’t blame you. I will say in my defense, my politics developed in a household where my two choices to take influence from were my far-right, white supremacist dad or my mom who was too busy being a mother, housekeeper, taxi driver, and cook to 5 growing children to have any time to worry about politics.
I wouldn’t be a conspiracy theorist forever. It wasn’t long before senior year came around. Obama was up for re-election, America had started bombing Libya, there was a revolution in Tunisia, and a massive uprising in Egypt. The whole world seemed to be erupting. Just before I graduated there was the Madison, Wisconsin uprising where union workers and their families and supporters occupied the state house against a right-wing anti-union law. I wound up taking a field trip up to Madison just for a day and stayed with a group of folks associated with Jobs With Justice in Indiana. At this point, my politics were all over the place. One minute I sounded like every other cringe-inducing internet libertarian, and the next minute I was talking about exploitation at the hands of big corporations that don’t care about their workers. It probably didn’t help that I worked at a factory where my first day on the job I was injured by a piece of wood bouncing off a blunt saw blade that hit me right in the temple and could have killed me.
By the time 2012 and the election came around, I had already emerged from Occupy a full blown anarchist. Multiple demonstrations in Chicago, Indianapolis, and West Lafayette had baptized me in the fire (and pepper spray) of class war, and I was hooked. In West Lafayette, I was working at a majority black workplace, a McDonald’s that served mostly Purdue University students. When George Zimmerman was acquitted for Trayvon Martin’s murder, our manager dismissed a few of us who she knew were planning on going to the protests that were planned for that day in anticipation of the verdict. It was a very empowering experience for me and my coworkers to be marching, still in our McDonald’s uniforms, and getting excited when the “fuck the police” chants started up (only to be quickly silenced by the “socialists” in the ISO).
It was right around this time that I met two people who changed my life forever. They were two fellow Chicagoland natives, one of them even living in the town I was born and raised in. After talking for a while, and getting a crash course in labor history, I had a signup sheet for the Industrial Workers of the World in front of me and I was filling it out. In November of 2012, I got my red card and was initiated with 17 others at the first meeting of what would become the Indiana General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Since then, I’ve uprooted my entire life to relocate twice. First to Chicago to join an ill-fated campaign only to get plugged into more promising organizing ventures. Then, to Minneapolis where I currently reside. I’ve become heavily involved in the General Defense Committee, and while just a few years ago when I first joined I didn’t know the first thing about organizing, today I’ve done just about everything short of going on strike. From a march on the boss at a sandwich shop in Chicago to get a racist boss fired in light of the Ferguson uprising to showing solidarity with striking rail workers by walking a picket line, to taking the streets of Chicago for May Day, to being a part of the 4th Precinct occupation, my life since joining the IWW has been an exciting one. I went from being a conspiracy theorist to being a co-conspirator. I’ve had my share of close calls with law enforcement, time spent in the back of a squad car, and even a little harassment from Neo-Nazis and the gross underbelly of 4chan trolls, but that hasn’t dampened my spirits in the least. I’ve made it this far because of the incredible group of people that I share a bond with in this organization. I struggle with depression and trauma from an abusive past and yet still manage to make time to kick ass for the working class. I’ve faced hardships and found solidarity in fellow Wobblies more than happy to lend a helping hand. The IWW has helped me in growing into who I was meant to be, and I know that sounds like a weird, culty thing to say but it’s true. I’m not just an anarchist, I’m not just an organizer, I’m not just a leftist. I’m an Industrial Worker of the World!