Shop organization in the Metal & Machinery industry

An article about how the Metal & Machinery industrial union of the IWW was organized.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 20, 2014

Shop Organization in the Metal & Machinery Industry: "440"s method of organizing its shop councils into one city branch

The main office of Metal and Machinery Workers Industrial Union No. 440 finds keen satisfaction in submitting to the membership the accompanying organization chart, confident that it embodies such a perfected plan of organization as has never before been attained by the metal and machinery industry and as will infallibly result in the phenomenal and rapid expansion of our industrial union, if we get the uniform co-operation of the membership in its application. It is nothing but the thoroughly worked out and comprehensive application of the now world-wide popular and effective "shop committee" or "shop council" plan of organization to our industry. The plan includes the two overwhelming advantages of resulting in the most effective form of organization both for dealing with the masters now and for operating the industries after the masters are overthrown, at the same time that we follow the line of least resistance in organizing.

The membership will recognize that this graphic chart and its plan of organization is in exact accord with the action of the last General Convention of the General Organization in endorsing the "shop committee" plan of organization. And we need hardly add, in addressing the members of Metal and Machinery Workers' Industrial Union, that it is directly consequent upon and in conformity with the decision of our own last general convention at Toledo, O., last spring, and confirmed by referendum vote of the membership.

Because of the supreme importance of the subject and in view of the fact that this month we are able to produce this graphic chart, we are going to quote from an article of last month's issue of the METAL WORKER, which with a little study will make the chart perfectly plain to the mind in every detail. The article, in so far as it applies directly to the understanding and elucidation of the chart, reads as follows:

The metal and machinery industry is composed of many factories and mills where workers are engaged in the production of metal products. Every factory or mill of any size is sub-divided into departments and every department has its foreman.

Let us forget our nationality when considering this plan and bring our attention to bear upon the metal and machinery industry. If we are to have a genuine industrial organization, then we must study the industry and how it is organized. By doing so we will get a better idea of the form our organization should take.

We will now proceed to organize. First we will take the department of the shop. We will have one delegate in each department. The duty of the delegates will be to take care of their respective departments just as your foreman does now, except that the delegates' only function at present will be to collect dues and carry on the educational and organization work in his department.

These department delegates will come together, making up the shop council and elect a shop delegate, whose duty will be to get supplies from the branch secretary and issue them to the department delegates.

He receives reports from the department delegate and forwards them to the branch secretary, in short he has the same duty as the superintendent, or general foreman of the shop in which you work, that of looking after the shop in general except that his only duty at present it to look after the department delegate, take care of the educational and organization work in the shop and act as chairman of the shop council.

The shop delegates come together making the One City Branch organization committee. They elect a chairman.

This committee's duty is to look after the interests of the organization within the city. To raise finances and supervise the work of the organization in general throughout the city. The branch financial secretary shall act as recording secretary for the city organization committee and shall take care of the branch funds. He receives supplies from and sends his reports to the main office of the industrial union direct.

Branch secretaries shall be put on a wage basis only when the volume of business demands it, or the revenue will allow the same to be done. Branches shall hold only such funds on hand as may be absolutely necessary to carry on the work of organization in the particular locality.

The entire membership of a city shall meet together in one business of establishing general industrial solidarity in a given district. Delegates will come together from the City Branches in a district, let us say about every three or six months, except in the larger cities, where conditions will not permit or where it is necessary for foreign language speaking fellow workers to meet by themselves.

In either case it may not be possible for the membership of an entire city to meet together. Where it is necessary to meet in several different bodies for the above reasons, each body will have its own recording secretary, who will keep the financial secretary and organization committee of the One City Branch informed of the activities of the particular body.

Of course, the above scheme of the One City Branch with shop units can only be worked out as we gain sufficient membership in the various shops, but if we go about the work in the right way we can work it out to a great extent with our present membership. Where it is necessary to meet in several different bodies, and where your shop units cannot be formed at the present, each body will elect a delegate who will receive reports from the delegates in his body and turn them over to the financial secretary. He will receive supplies from the financial secretary and issue the same to the other delegates in his body and turn them over to the financial secretary. He will receive supplies from the financial secretary and issue the same to the other delegates in his body. These delegates from the several different bodies will make up the City Organization Committee. Whenever it is possible it will be best to go ahead with the shop unit plan, then we will have our organization committee made up of delegates from the various shops in the city. This is a genuine industrial organization in line with the present makeup of the metal machinery industry. We bring our organization to the shop where it belongs, educating and organizing the workers right at the point of production for a realization of our aims, that of working class management.

Besides all this a closer alliance will be maintained between the various One City Branches in a locality through the formation of Industrial District Councils. Industrial District Councils are formed for the purpose of discussing general organization matters pertaining to the district and to work effectively in the district. This is the only function it can perform at the present and is in compliance with our constitution.

To give you a general idea of Industrial District Councils as they can be formed in the metal and machinery industry, we will give you the following districts with Chicago, Cleveland, Dayton, and New York as centers. Of course, we have not much at present except delegates in some of the cities mentioned, but it will be an illustration anyway. The Chicago District will include: Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan, South Chicago, Indiana Harbor, Gary, Hammond, So. Bend, Harvey and Rockford, etc. Cleveland District will include: Detroit, Toledo, Tiffin, Warren, Canton, Akron, Erie, Youngstown and Pittsburgh. Dayton District will include Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown and Columbus. New York will include: Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Schenectady, Stratford, Bridgeport and Philadelphia.

One or two good delegates from a branch will be enough, for these are but conferences and we must not incur any large expense. Industrial District Councils will have no paid officials and will hold no treasury. Branches will pay the expenses of the delegates.

General Industrial District Councils are formed for the purpose of establishing general industrial solidarity between the different industrial unions in a given district. Its function is the same as that of the Industrial District Council, except that its delegates come from branches of different industrial unions.

The Industrial District Council takes up the questions pertaining to one industry, while the General District Council takes up questions pertaining to all industries in the given district. The scope of the latter may be limited to the city.

We want you to read in connection with this subject an editorial from a recent number of SOLIDARITY, quoted elsewhere in this issue*, in which is related the experience of one of our members in organizing one of the big industrial plants of this country along lines practically the same as this plan. It will give the reader an idea of the ease with which our plan can be applied.

Now, fellow workers, it is up to you. The plan is yours. As stated above it contains great and immediate possibilities for our industry. Its growth and achievement will travel exactly in ratio to our zeal and enthusiasm.

Transcribed by J. D. Crutchfield. Taken from page no longer online, but available on