The following is a report back from the 2012 Work People's College by two Wobblies from Vancouver.
Summer 2012 saw the first IWW Work People's College (WPC) held in decades, and Wobblies from around Canada joined our comrades in Minnesota for a week of organizing, speeches, and radical labour discussions. The college participants were diverse and representative of many different locals. We met anarchist school teachers, co-op grocery store workers, and the most creative labour lawyers from the east of this continent. We shared stories and strategies, and we learned about the history of strikes from a working class historian. We learned about loopholes in the labour law and how to create profiles of our employers and target businesses. We spent hours going over the benefits and side effects of flying squads and solidarity networks.
As dual card signers, we worked side-by-side reiterating our frustration with our other more "legitimate" labour unions. We used the inconsistencies that piled up to fuel our passion to overcome and reclaim the word "union," which has been stolen from the workers by government deal makers. We gender neutrified the washrooms and had successful break out groups where we formed friendships and future goals for the IWW. We sang labour songs and shared music making and food, everyone joining in to do the dishes and clean up. It was a large community kitchen, with an extreme thrift store aesthetic, a mixture of miss matched old plates/bowls and tea cups. The hall where we sang, ate and met every day had the labour history of the community written on the walls, in picture frames, scratched into the tables in books and magazine clippings and the essence of that worker power sewn into every aspect of the structure itself. We swam in the lake and visited the largest open pit mine in the states.
We chanted "There is no justice in the courts - Justice for workers comes from direct action in the workplace!" in tents under the summer sun. We made suggestions for the future of WPC and tried to imply that embedding an awareness of patriarchy and oppression into every work shop would make us much more revolutionary than just to have one meet-up about it. We argued with fellow workers about anti-banking systems and direct unionism, and came out of the conference with renewed desires to organize all unorganized "precarious" workers. We were reminded about creating a written history of our work, so that it will be there to learn from later. We also agreed that making this history accessible to all was the most relevant aspect of our writing projects, and some of us made promises to build this for the IWW. We also concluded that the future of organizing is much more than organizing labour, and also extends to renters and the jobless, because in order to fight capitalism, everyone must stick together.
We appreciate all the hard work that went into organizing such an event and can not wait to send other fellow workers to the next one.
Originally posted: September 19, 2012 at Vancouver IWW