The movement [Joe] Hill lived and died for has proved less durable. As Mr Adler recalls, the Wobblies flourished for a brief, electrifying moment at the dawn of the 20th century, when industrial capital was new, raw and brutal. At the time the IWW’s vision of a new worker-controlled order seemed “if not on the verge of becoming reality, not preposterous either”.
And yet the fundamental relationships have not changed. Americans, for example, have yet to achieve the same "rights and freedoms" in the workplace that they revere everywhere else -- freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to privacy, elected representation, etc. -- and this in the very space where they spend the bulk of their lives! To step into the private workplace is to surrender one's rights on a daily basis; surrendering them all the more, the more hours one works. The paradox must be regarded as natural in the context of capitalist "government by the people": the governors are not the people, and the people spend precious little of their time governing; rather, they are working, and with no access to the rights by which they regard themselves American.
Concomitant to questions of rights and freedoms, however, there are perceptions of dignity, and it is only by obscuring the relationship between classes that US culture has arrived at a place where dignity becomes more a question of fitting in than acting human. Not bearing the stamp of social exclusion is significant: to be a "team member" is qualitatively different than being "illegal," even if neither means being free. To be singled-out for a special abuse within its broader application is what most people notice and respond to best, as opposed to general lack of freedom in "the way things are."
In the early industrial period, the working classes understood themselves as occupying this role of social inferiority. They weren't yet consumers or title-inflated quasi-professionals. Because household wealth was not contrived through debt, they had fewer illusions about how far their actual wealth could take them. Wherever they lacked the means, they went without. They understood their "place" as assigned by class.
Today there are many more avenues for American poor and working people to "keep up appearances" via consumer credit than in the earlier periods attended by labor radicalism. You can own an Escalade, and nobody has to know your social standing based on the clothes you wear. Orwell writes about being shamed for not having money to buy a loaf of bread: the whole neighborhood might know he was a pauper, and treat him that way.1 But in the US today, even if you dress like a bum you might be a wealthy person; the implications under consumerism just aren't as obvious.
When communities detect they are being singled-out, they often flare up, and this comes back to questions of dignity, though not always freedom. Dignity relates to how one is seen, and whether one's place warrants respect. One's place needn't be a place of equality of power with others -- what freedom means -- it could be an "honorable" position of servitude: being seen as a "human being," even if human beings aren't free.
It's much easier to organize into accepted standards than to organize beyond them. When workers of the 1910s saw their rich neighbors enjoying "the good things in life" they saw things they wanted for themselves that they couldn't obtain by any other means than fighting. When workers today see things they want for themselves, they become indebted to rich people to have them. They don't have to go without in the eyes of others, but the price they pay is their freedom, and there is nothing dignified about that.
1. Orwell, writing in the same general period, but from Europe; Down and Out in Paris and London.