Of Sweatshops & Starbucks

A series of four articles by marxvx, critical of the IWW and 'dual unionism' in general. We do not neccesarily agree with this series, but reproduce for discussion's sake.

Submitted by Anonymous on September 6, 2014

Of Sweatshops & Starbucks: Is the IWW a Union?

This is the first in a four-part series analyzing the Industrial Workers of the World as the failure of dual unionism in the American revolutionary left. This installment focuses on the ultra-political orientation of the IWW.

Submitted by marxvx on September 4, 2014

Is the IWW a Union?

This is the first in a five-part series analyzing the Industrial Workers of the World as the failure of dual unionism in the American revolutionary left. This installment focuses on the ultra-political orientation of the IWW.

The size of the IWW has ballooned over the past decade, and has gained a renewed relevance within the revolutionary left (which itself has been resurfacing within organized politics). After several decades of functional non-existence, the membership surge of the 21st century has forced the IWW to reassess its identity, as well as its relationship with organized labor and the revolutionary left.

The identity of the IWW has been a tumultuous subject since its foundation, and today is no exception. There is an intense amount of heterogeneity between branches and individuals affiliated with the IWW: some branches organize workers, others are political/historical discussion groups, and others are activist hubs assembled by students and activists to raise their positions on political issues from Palestine to environmentalism under the name of the IWW.

“No Politics in This Union”

One of the foundational tenets of the IWW’s mythology is that it is an entirely “nonpolitical”1 organization. Official policy states only that the IWW will refrain from forming alliances with political parties or “anti-political sects.”2 This is interpreted with varying strictness between individuals, and is often interpreted as meaning the organization cannot name itself politically.

Ironically, for an organization which claims to abstain from politics in favor of organizing workers, it does much more of the former than it does the latter. If those who codified the IWW’s abstention from politics did so with the intention that keeping politics out of the IWW would keep the union focused on organizing unions, and would prevent workers expressing aversion to the union due to political points,3 surely this has since been lost. Today, with its base in many university campuses, many branches spend more time engaging in non-labor activities than they do actually organizing workers. Whether or not it explicitly claims itself as a manifestation of any political school of thought, the organization is, in practice, usually a political organization.

This is a result of many members holding a belief that the IWW is “so much more” than “just a union.” It must immerse itself in every social and political battle happening in society – the organization must participate not just in labor struggles between workers and their employers, but also in the ecology movement, the movement against mass incarceration, against Israel, and so forth. Labor unions are undoubtedly manifestations of a political program of some sort – whether “pure-and-simple” or revolutionary. My point is hardly that anarcho-syndicalist has no connection with the world outside the workplace. Rather, the question is twofold: a) whether a union should dedicate itself as vigorously to politics as the IWW has, and b) whether it should at this stage in its life.

There is a clear lapse in strategy here. When the AFL-CIO says something about politics, people listen. People listen because the AFL-CIO represents them at their job, has 12 million members, and has a hand in changing the political landscape of the country. In order for what the IWW says about politics to be relevant, it must first grow as a union. The fact of the matter is that, whatever the “official IWW stance” on a social issue is, it has very little impact on workers or politics. The lack of balance between political work and union organizing has led the IWW, in many branches, to be a political league which, for some odd reason, uses union rhetoric and masquerades as a labor union.

My argument here is not simply the “appeal to relevance” that is issued to all revolutionary leftist groups – that is, the lackadaisical dismissal of all groups left of the Democrats simply because they are small. Rather, my question is whether the IWW’s immense amount of political and cultural work helps or hinders its growth as a union. For the IWW, “growth” cannot be understood as numerical figures, or the amount of people who join. Surely, the IWW’s politics attract an inspiring number of convinced anarchists, who in turn launch more political/cultural activities under the IWW. While this may be “growth,” in the most literal way, it is not growth as a union. In order to grow as a union, however, it needs to build a presence in workplaces by gaining the power to represent workers, not simply attract lone members from various cultural enclaves like universities, social clubs, and NGOs.

The IWW is both a labor union that struggles to retain its revolutionary program in the face of accepting non-revolutionary workers, and an organization of revolutionaries that struggles to function as a union despite the fact that it draws its membership from the revolutionary left rather than the working class. This is articulated most concisely, and perhaps most comically, by the fact that its only real organizing “victories” in the past decade have been in activist jobs: non-profit community groups like ACORN, co-operatives, including radical cooperatives like anarchist bookstores and printing houses, and canvassers for charities and political campaigns. It’s hard to chalk these up as victories for the working class, seeing as these are jobs are so highly politicized that they are pretty well-insulated from the rest of the workforce, let alone the fact that they don’t improve working conditions in the rest of their industry, being that they’re non-profits.

A labor union is (1) an organization of workers (2) dedicated to improving their wages and working conditions4 (3) through the use of their collective power in the workplace. A mere “organization of workers” is not necessarily a labor union: clearly, workers can organize political parties, workers’ centers, benefit funds, or social clubs, none of which are unions. Likewise, an organization of workers dedicated to improving their working conditions is not necessarily a labor union, as workers can improve working conditions via political lobbying or political parties. It is in this sense that, whether or not the IWW is an “organization of workers,” it is rather disingenuous to say that modern IWW branches function as labor unions – regardless of what they call themselves.

1. “So that all the workers regardless of their religious or political preference may be united to get every possible benefit out of their job, the I.W.W. must be nonpolitical and nonreligious.” (emphasis mine) One Big Union, pg. 18

2. Article IV, “Political Alliances Prohibited.” Constitution and General By-Laws of the Industrial Workers of the World

3. “These are not union questions, and must be settled by each union member according to personal conscience.” One Big Union, pg. 18

4. “Improving wages and working conditions” is not just in quantitative gains like raises, vacations, benefits, or improved safety provisions. Ultimately it is the introduction of democracy and degrees of self-management into the workplace.

Comments

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 4, 2014

So, I've been reading your articles here and I actually quite largely agree with this one. But there is a thread that seems to run through them that's totally inconsistent with my experience.

I feel like a lot of your critique is based on the power of the AFL-CIO and the respect workers have for their unions. That's not something I've ever witnessed.

So, for example,

When the AFL-CIO says something about politics, people listen. People listen because the AFL-CIO represents them at their job, has 12 million members, and has a hand in changing the political landscape of the country.

I've worked in various union shops and, in my experience, workers don't really give a shit about the union, its politics, or its stances. And those that do, many of them are critical of the union, either for being useless and in bed with management or from the right. And we can see that based on how many people vote in union elections, participate in strike ballots, or cross picket lines.

And, on a national scale, these sentiments seem only to be magnified.

kevin s.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 4, 2014

Hey Chilli, have just skimmed this piece and gotta run but regarding your comment:

I've worked in various union shops and, in my experience, workers don't really give a shit about the union, its politics, or its stances. And those that do, many of them are critical of the union, either for being useless and in bed with management or from the right. And we can see that based on how many people vote in union elections, participate in strike ballots, or cross picket lines.

And, on a national scale, these sentiments seem only to be magnified.

There's a lot of truth to that but not as completely as you make it sound. I'd say it's just as variable as is the IWW (plenty of paper branches, lots of morons running arounds, and a few sharp, solid folks in some active organizing branches).

I know plenty of current union members who, frankly, consistently even in some of the shittier unions (like UFCW, which is embarrassingly bad at organizing and is well known for it's sellout contracts) enjoy better wages and/or job security, and while the majority of folks in union and nonunion workplaces could give a flying fuck about labor politics in general, I do know plenty of folks who are proud union members. Even as a part-time package handler at UPS (which is possibly the worst job I ever had), there were still benefits of having the union that wouldn't have existed without the union... this despite the fact the union functioned as a company union and union leaders didn't give a shit about the part-timers.

I also frankly know a good few IWWs who work in business union shops, who are hostile to the union, to business unions or to contractualism, but who again enjoy significant job security and economic benefits. And some cases, where there's significant (granted, not majority, but IWW never gets majority either) membership activity and even more significant, loyalty. In my experience IWWs almost viscerally deny that business unions have a base, or are capable of good organizing or of getting the goods, when in fact there are unions that do all of those things.

I agree labor doesn't hold much sway in national politics, but I think it's highly erroneous to generalize what all unions are like based on purely anecdotal experiences.

Okay gotta run.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 4, 2014

That's all fair enough, Kevin. It would have been more appropriate to say "That's not something I've ever witnessed on any sort of worthwhile scale."

I actually considered including a line that while trade unions can inspire loyalty and respect, it often comes from an activist core - roughly the same activist core who could be involved in running an IWW branch.

And, you're right, I don't think it does anyone any favors to pretend that union shops don't offer better conditions or that militants can't organize within trade unions to do some worthwhile shit.

But that's a far different claim than what marxvx has offered above - which not only massively overstates the power and influence of trade unions, it flies in the face of how most people experience trade unionism. And it does all this while ignoring the structural reasons that trade unions act the way they do.

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 5, 2014

A few things:

The IWW is a union legally (whether anyone likes that or not)

In most places in its lived practice the IWW is more like SolFed, in that it is more a revolutionary union initiative, a network of revolutionary worker militants when functioning at it's best. It is striving to become a revolutionary union.

I think it is fine to point that out. And sure people have pointed out the Joe Hill historical society, or young LARPers who are all book read and not a lot of experience on the shop floor. But in most places outside isolated GMBs and individuals, the IWW has done a lot to improve this situation in the last 10 years, with it's organizing program, summits, and Work People's College.

Also the definition the author uses for unionism is very narrow, and seems to reflect their obsession with legal conceptions of unionism. The same drive to want to be recognized as the legitimate and legal representation of the working class is what lead the trade unions and social democratic parties to becoming the gravediggers of the revolutionary movements 100 years ago.

kevin s.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 6, 2014

Hey Chilli, yeah I pretty much agree with this:

But that's a far different claim than what marxvx has offered above - which not only massively overstates the power and influence of trade unions, it flies in the face of how most people experience trade unionism. And it does all this while ignoring the structural reasons that trade unions act the way they do.

Also agree very strongly with this:

I actually considered including a line that while trade unions can inspire loyalty and respect, it often comes from an activist core - roughly the same activist core who could be involved in running an IWW branch.

The difference is the IWW activist core is a lot more isolated, and less diverse. And of course more radical politically. The mainstream union activist core is more diverse, has a larger base (due to the mainstream unions holding workplace contracts representing way more workers sometimes in a single local, than the entire worldwide IWW membership), and more politically reformist. I honestly don't have any clue if or how the IWW can change the first two, without changing the last. And to be honest I've been taking a break for a good while now from union business, I'm actually in bad standing with the IWW right now and I dunno if I'll be getting back in or not. I put a lot of years and a lot of work into it but, and I like a lot of the people in it, but I've grown very cynical of it and only see it declining.

And frankly I care less and less about revolutionary politics and more and more about "bread and butter" issues (probly reflecting the fact my own life is more than ever dominated by bread and butter, specifically the lack of such).

That's kinda why this series caught my eye, and I agree with some of it but a lot of it seems very naive and the IWW caricature not always very accurate to my experience (which could be due to different experiences, or could be just intellectual sloppiness or dishonesty, I won't pretend to know which cuz I don't know the author). The author seem plenty smart and I was just as naive (in a reverse, ultra-revolutionary way) a few years ago, so I won't judge that aspect.

Side bard, klas would you agree or disagree with this definition from the article, or do you think it's too narrow and legalistic?

A labor union is (1) an organization of workers (2) dedicated to improving their wages and working conditions4 (3) through the use of their collective power in the workplace.

Also love this from the article:

only real organizing “victories” in the past decade have been in activist jobs: non-profit community groups like ACORN, co-operatives, including radical cooperatives like anarchist bookstores and printing houses, and canvassers for charities and political campaigns

Exaggerated, but hits close to home, and reflective of the fact that the IWW appeals most strongly to the same demographic of young radicals who go and get those kind of activist, nonprofit and co-op/collective jobs.

plasmatelly

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by plasmatelly on September 6, 2014

@ kevin s.
Not knowing you from Adam, and only going off what you write on here, I'd have thought you the very type of member the IWW is hoping to keep? The bread and butter issues IMO are thee only issues that will advance revolutionary politics. Like a lot of my friends, we stopped talking in any detail or with any degree of voluntarism about revolution and all that comes with it (and year on year that seems to change..) a long time ago, so I would have hoped you were someone who stays within base unions. And furthermore - that more bread and butter organisers have the patience to see it out while base unions like the IWW change as they become economically relevant.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 6, 2014

Serious question: what constitutes a victory? I think we can measure this in a couple if ways
One the obvious at bringing the boss to their knees / establishment of organization. the second
Is the winning of some or many coworkers over to the concept of direct unionism or othe forms of self organization .... particularly after just getting the crap kicked out of you

On cell, shall end here

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 7, 2014

kevin s.

Also love this from the article:

only real organizing “victories” in the past decade have been in activist jobs: non-profit community groups like ACORN, co-operatives, including radical cooperatives like anarchist bookstores and printing houses, and canvassers for charities and political campaigns

Exaggerated, but hits close to home, and reflective of the fact that the IWW appeals most strongly to the same demographic of young radicals who go and get those kind of activist, nonprofit and co-op/collective jobs.

See, that part of the article I found quiet grating - and I actually think it undermines a lot of the points in the article I do agree with.

So, to sort of build on Syndicalist's point, it's about what constitutes a victory. Since it appears Marxvx has quite a trade unionist understanding of victories (recognition, contracts, etc), it's understandable that they're making this criticism. But, as I mentioned in Marxvx's other thread, if we focus on disputes, I think it not only naturally moves us toward a direct action approach, but allows us to see a lot more victories in the work that we do.

The IWW has done some pretty amazing shit in the 10 or so years I've been in their orbit. So, like, I don't really care that the SWU isn't anywhere near achieving national recognition at the chain - I don't consider that a "defeat". On the other hand, they did succeed in raising wages by a dollar across stores in New York City and securing health and safety improvement in the Twin Cities.

Pennoid

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Pennoid on September 9, 2014

Who is winning bread and butter gains for anyone in fast food/retail? I agree with Kevin S. and other people about this being central. So how do we get there? Do we simply try and form underground committees at work? Do we begin engaging in public action like the FF15? Both?
What are people's barriers to fighting back?

kevin s.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 9, 2014

if we focus on disputes, I think it not only naturally moves us toward a direct action approach, but allows us to see a lot more victories in the work that we do.

I totally agree with focusing on disputes. Official recognition doesn't mean jack shit if you have a substandard contract. And I agree with a direct action focus. That said I've yet to see evidence of noncontractual unionism being very effective at winning and protecting workplace gains. And I've noticed both IWWs and non-IWW anarcho-syndicalists have a double standard when it comes to workplace victories. Like this-

I don't really care that the SWU isn't anywhere near achieving national recognition at the chain - I don't consider that a "defeat". On the other hand, they did succeed in raising wages by a dollar across stores in New York City and securing health and safety improvement in the Twin Cities.

If you were talking about a contract, folks would call that a weak contract if not a sellout, and talk about the structural problems with trade unionism and/or contractualism. Because it's the IWW, folks will claim that as an impressive victory and proof of direct unionism. Granted the SWU in NYC actually sought and election once and then withdrew it because the bargaining unit was too big... in other words SWU organizers have done the best with the means they had, where a narrow contract-only focused union would not have done shit. UFCW is a prime example of that kind of shitty unionism.

Gotta go, more later.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 10, 2014

Another interesting post.

If you were talking about a contract, folks would call that a weak contract if not a sellout, and talk about the structural problems with trade unionism and/or contractualism.

I mean, maybe. I think it's more about getting what you can with the power you have. Trade unions, at best, want to engage in controlled militancy. I'd like to think that the IWW takes a look at their numbers and influence and says, "Look, let's always encourage workers who are ready to to take action to do so" and then tries to get the most they can with that power.

Trade unions, and the contractual strategies they're wedded to, have in-built mechanism that consciously work against the rank-and-file autonomously exercising their own power. In other words, sometimes a one dollar raise is the best you can hope for - fine - but let workers discover that for themselves by pushing their own struggle to the limit. Contracts and trade unions don't allow for that.

The bit about NYC SWU first trying to have an election I actually think is really important as well as, I believe, it was the last time the SWU has tried that approach. I think it show some learning within the campaign about the pitfalls of contractualism.

Although, re-reading your post, it seems like you probably agree with all that?

Juan Conatz

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 12, 2014

The 'union debate' is one of the most tiring debates in radical politics and probably an inevitable Great Moments In Leftism strip. These never ending terminology spats over the word 'union' are as plentiful as concessionary UFCW contracts. Business union officials, bosses, liberals/conservatives and various stripes of radicals all dispute our right to use the word union.

Marxvx makes her own contribution to this here, I see. It opens up with the supposed irony of an organization that explicitly says 'No politics in this union' to then go on and engage in numerous non-workplace related activities and campaigns. Personally, I believe this is a misinterpretation of what the historical IWW meant by the word 'politics'. It did not mean anything that wasn't directly workplace related. The Free Speech Fights are very much examples of political fights. It also never meant that the IWW would not take political stances. The IWW's scathing attacks on the USSR and state socialism were political stances. It's refusal to go along with Taft-Hartley was also. This attempted 'gotcha' doesn't really stand.

After the 'gotcha', the piece then goes on to say that most of the time the IWW is really a political organization, as opposed to a union. Implicit in this is that, as opposed to other unions, the IWW has more political stances and does more political things.

For the former, this notion is based on a common, but very much outdated and inaccurate, outlook on how organizations should or actually conduct themselves. The IWW does indeed have many political stances, but more than other unions? No way. Most AFL-CIO unions have and take stances that have only an indirect relation to 'bread-and-butter' issues, in addition to also being to the left of large swaths of their existing membership. They are also the most important player to one of the two dominant political parties in the United States, devoting significant funding, endorsements and 'boots on the ground' in the form of Working America staff. Many mainstream unions also create what would be called 'front groups' if radicals started them, with all sorts of political demands, ranging from various liberal conceptions of health care, immigration reform, etc. In some circumstances, certain locals will even deploy their paid staff to participate in mass movements in order to identify future cadre to staff the various groups they provide the majority of funding for. While it would be tough to crunch the numbers, it would probably be safe to assume that more hours, money and effort goes towards various political issues, causes and campaigns than any organizing efforts, with perhaps the exception of 'servicing' existing membership with a large layer of paid officials and staff.

The author hints at some of this here:

My point is hardly that anarcho-syndicalist has no connection with the world outside the workplace. Rather, the question is twofold: a) whether a union should dedicate itself as vigorously to politics as the IWW has, and b) whether it should at this stage in its life.

There is a clear lapse in strategy here. When the AFL-CIO says something about politics, people listen. People listen because the AFL-CIO represents them at their job, has 12 million members, and has a hand in changing the political landscape of the country. In order for what the IWW says about politics to be relevant, it must first grow as a union.

From here it starts to become obvious that there are indeed some major differences between the IWW and marxvx. Rather than be a reflection of a membership's experiences, for the author, 'politics' exist in an organization for the purpose of others listening. This sort of toothless pragmatism is very much in line with the sort of reformist unions that we see today, who rely heavily on public relations firms. Whether this is a desirable set of affairs for people who not only want to see working people winning defensive fights, but going on the offensive, is a different question.

However, the author has a point, in that we shouldn't think that the "official IWW stance” means too much. Delusions of grandeur among leftist organizations and their numerous statements, positions and resolutions has long been a cliche. It is a careful balance. There are public stances worth taking because they say what your organization is about and it ties into your values. It isn't always about what the masses of workers think, and it's very rare that I run into a Wobbly that thinks that way.

The piece goes on to say that the union hasn't or isn't growing qualitatively as a union. Whatever your particular definition of union, this is just not true. One look at copies of the Industrial Worker from just 4-5 years ago reveals this. There is absolutely more organizing and more campaigns happening in the IWW, both in the United States and Europe, then there has been in a while. Don't take it from just me, long term members have said the same. Now, this growth may not be enough for the author, it may not be as fast as she would like, but to say it hasn't and isn't happening isn't accurate.

Perhaps though, the author is really talking about the types of places the union has been at:

[...]its only real organizing “victories” in the past decade have been in activist jobs: non-profit community groups like ACORN, co-operatives, including radical cooperatives like anarchist bookstores and printing houses, and canvassers for charities and political campaigns.

Honestly, there is some definite agreement to the sentiment here that the IWW spends too much time in drives like these. But, I'm not really aware of us claiming these examples as victories. As I understand it, the ACORN campaign was crushed, although it was before my time. I'm not aware of campaigns at "anarchist bookstores and printing houses", and the canvass campaigns are either in a prolonged strike or are just emerging, with no clear outcome yet of either.

None of these campaigns that I'm aware of matched the modest (but important) victories that the union achieved during the Chicago Courier Campaign, or through the Starbucks Workers Union, Brandworkers efforts, dual card in Edmonton, etc. Even the contract shops usually get gains. I believe the author chose her examples selectively to correspond to the larger polemic, rather than correspond to reality.

OliverTwister

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on September 12, 2014

Overwhelmingly agree with Juan's critique and think he makes his points very well. However as numbers from the latest Convention show ~800 members in branches with 300-400 more at-large members, at least as far as the US is concerned. This is not substantially different from the membership figures we had in 2005. I agree that there is more of a focus on workplace struggles, etc. and there may be more members internationally, but in the US I don't think we've actually had noticeable growth.

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 23, 2014

Agree generally with Juan's and Oliver's posts. Chilli, responsive to this,

Trade unions, and the contractual strategies they're wedded to, have in-built mechanism that consciously work against the rank-and-file autonomously exercising their own power. In other words, sometimes a one dollar raise is the best you can hope for - fine - but let workers discover that for themselves by pushing their own struggle to the limit. Contracts and trade unions don't allow for that.

The bit about NYC SWU first trying to have an election I actually think is really important as well as, I believe, it was the last time the SWU has tried that approach. I think it show some learning within the campaign about the pitfalls of contractualism.

Although, re-reading your post, it seems like you probably agree with all that?

Like I said I think SWU folks likely did the best within their abilities and the situation. I know there's a few very smart, very tough people who've been involved in the NYC Starbucks campaign.

Regarding the pitfalls of contractualism, there's a difference between seeking contracts and only-ever-seeking-contracts-and-nothing-else. That's the big pitfall, which is one of the incentives behind the NLRB election system (encourage contracts-only-driven union organizing and discourage more disruptive forms of union activity). The mainstream unions mostly (but not all) only organize to win contracts. SWU gave up on an election because they knew they couldn't win it, and focused instead on whatever they could win. While some might see that as an argument against contractualism, all I see in it is SWU was too weak to win a contract so they organized without one (which is admirable and no dig against them, but clearly they were acting from a position of weakness).

I agree mainstream unions have built-in restrictive mechanisms, and among those are certain elements of contracts, I'm also very aware of ways that good union contracts actually encourage more worker militancy, which is something anti-contractual arguments never touch on. A decent union contract has generally more job protections than the labor law (the biggest exception being no-strike provisions...). Some examples I've heard from the post office demonstrating my point. Like a woman who violently assaulted and strangled her supervisor (and might have killed him, supposedly it took big guys to tear off him), was fired and then the union got her job back. Another guy who wasn't even a member, was fired for throwing junk mail and again, the union won job back. I don't if it's like that everywhere in the post office or if it's still like that, but anyway that was my grandpa's experience of the post office. Additionally there was the constant battle against work speedup, in which according to him the more diligent union stewards basically policed the supervisors and prevented speedup. Where management succeeded in speeding up, it was because of weak contract enforcement.

Cases like the speedup battle can definitely be replicated without contracts. As far as individual disputes like mentioned above, in my experience when there isn't a contract then it gets filed as a ULP. The most militant wobblies I know still basically depend on NLRB protections basically every times someone gets fired. Very rarely does the union ever win a job fight without filing ULPs - sometimes it's settled out of court, sometimes not, and when it's not then it typically gets stuck in the courts for years. And out-of-court settlements will often amount to a payoff in exchanging for giving up the job fight (which personally doesn't offend me but some folks view it as selling out), and if the union rejects a payoff then again it's stuck in court for years. And as I said, the law gives very limited protections compared to decent union contract. Based on the examples I know and the experiences I've had in workplaces and union activity, I'd argue that a well enforced union contract with decent job protection and grievance procedures, removes much of the fear of management that normally dampers worker militancy. Contracts might not be the only way to do that but it's one of more easily obtainable mechanisms I know of for doing so.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 23, 2014

I'm also very aware of ways that good union contracts actually encourage more worker militancy,

Not to be flippant (it's early in the morning), but such as?

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 23, 2014

Gotta be quick but to reply briefly...

The examples I gave above were examples of worker militancy. Assaulting a supervisor = definitely high level militancy even if not "concerted action" or whatever. Illegally disposing of junk mail = disruptive and, debatably militant behavior (even if it was probly motivated more by laziness than anti-management feeling). And frankly a lot of actions that may be targeted around contract issues (like the AT&T actions in Minneapolis in which dual card IWWs have been major instigators, nevertheless are to a large extent over contract issues or more recently, over enforcement of grievance procedures), which is generally unheard of. I mean even folks I know (who are not wobblies, or even necessarily active union people) who work in UFCW grocery stores, consistently describe their grievance procedure positively in terms like "you can't really get fired" etc., which I'm sure varies a lot but gives a sense of how contractual job protection eliminates typical fears of management.

At the UPS hub I worked at, which was mostly a perfect example of shitty collaborationist unionism, workers constantly got into with management (yelling matches, once I saw a near fist fight break out, etc...) and long-term people I met there all said it was practically impossible to get fired. And I heard specific stories of supervisors attempting to fire workers and being overruled because of union protection. Very few of the package handlers give a fuck about the union because the wages suck and the dues cuts it even lower, but undeniably it's one of the most militant workforces I've ever encountered.

Bottom line I'm getting at is militancy is largely dependent on confidence, and every IWW campaign I've ever witnessed or had any involvement in whether remote or close up, every single times the same exact cycles has played out. IWW organizers (nearly all salts, and a handful usually unpaid "outside organizers") spend long periods of time building the committee, boosting workers' confidence with things marches on the boss, organizer trainings etc., win some minor victories. Then shit hits the fan and the bubble of false confidence (based on whatever the particular organizers might push, either the power of direct action, know-your-rights legal shit, or some mixture of both as in the organizer training) bursts wide open. Then various people duck out (of the campaign or the workplace), the organizers in turn lose confidence and basically resort to court action as a survival mechanism. The more that legal action becomes the primary strategy, the more that high-risk direct actions are avoided.

(The Chicago Lake Liquor store campaign was one semi-exception to the last point, in that we did some of the most aggressive pickets I've seen in my years in the branch, which may well have contributed to getting a bigger out of court financial settlement from the company.)

OK gotta run, cheers.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 25, 2014

So, I don't know man, I still think all the examples you give cut both ways.

I guess, to start, I'm not sure an individual act can be described as militant (at least not in the sense that commies or Wobs use the term). Second, sure, in periods of class defeat having a grievance procedure gives some worthwhile defensive protection. But, once the class struggle heats up, that same grievance procedure becomes a weapon to be used against an organized, combative workforce.

And, fair enough all that same stuff plays out in IWW campaigns, but I think that's reflective of a lot of things - everything from general levels of class confidence to the goals of IWW campaigns (recognition v. disputes, etc.).

I also agree that you're right, UPS workers don't fuck around and do use the grievance procedure pretty effectively. I know one ex-UPS worker who'd get written up once a month. As soon as that happened, he and some buddies would go find examples of supervisors doing union work on the line. They'd grieve it and then agree to trade off the cancellation of grievances for the cancellation or disciplinaries. Awesome.

That said, you've sort of said it yourself, the part-time UPS box-handlers usually don't give a shit about the union, but are still militant - which seems to me to be an issue of workplace culture rather than contract protections. They use the grievance procedure because it's what there - which is fair enough, but it doesn't logically follow that the grievance procedure generates the militancy, if you get what I mean.

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 27, 2014

I'm not sure an individual act can be described as militant (at least not in the sense that commies or Wobs use the term).

Meh I disagree with that definition of militant. I know a lot of commies, anarchist and wobs have an anti-individualist view of militancy.. more to the point a bunch of folks I think conflate militancy with class consciousness. That's a common leftist assumption but I think it's false. You can be militant for non-class conscious reasons (which revolutionary optimists would probly call latent class consciousness or some bullshit), and you can be class conscious but not militant (or even anti-militant, as with certain brands of leftism). And the idea that an individual act can't be militant is based on that assumption of militancy = class consciousness, I think.

Second, sure, in periods of class defeat having a grievance procedure gives some worthwhile defensive protection. But, once the class struggle heats up, that same grievance procedure becomes a weapon to be used against an organized, combative workforce.

Agreed. The thing is, first, that's assuming a top-down union apparatus exists which has a stake in preventing illegal disruptions. IWWs like to think the IWW is non-bureaucratic so why fear a grievance procedure? (I think it's actually not as non-bureaucratic as folks make it out, I think it's a latent bureaucracy waiting to happen if it ever got big again. I dunno if that would be countered by membership influx but it would definitely play some role. Which I guess contradicts the first sentence but whatever, more on that another time.)

Secondly the class struggle heats under certain types of conditions, not because revolutionaries want it to. Avoiding grievance procedures seems to me like a weird attempt to shortcut to more intense class struggle by eliminating an effective tool that exists for workers' protection. Kind of like stripping a fighter of their shield so they'll be forced to the sword. Which is likely to (and in my experience, consistently does) end in less wins, and less confidence for all but the most politicized workers. I think it's a bizarre, self-destructive and martyrdom-driven approach to union organizing, and makes the union incapable of effectively intervening when the class struggle does heat up. (I mean we could barely handle a twenty-some person liquor store...)

And, fair enough all that same stuff plays out in IWW campaigns, but I think that's reflective of a lot of things - everything from general levels of class confidence to the goals of IWW campaigns (recognition v. disputes, etc.).

Yeah but that's the same of mainstream unions. Anyway look, in the most successful IWW campaigns I've seen the goal of most the workers involved was simple - improvements in wages and working conditions. Recognition is a way to get that, without it you need something better which IWW campaigns usually lack (pretty much, either mass militancy or some kind of illegal minoritarian form of leverage).

About recognition vs. disputes, I'm all for focusing on disputes. If there's a dispute and you can fight it, cool, go for it. If not then don't try to "organize" over nothing cuz you'll get nowhere (been there, done that). That said focusing on disputes is a very bread and butter goal with opportunistic solutions, and the argument against contractualism is based on principled anti-capitalist revolutionary politics.

That said, you've sort of said it yourself, the part-time UPS box-handlers usually don't give a shit about the union, but are still militant - which seems to me to be an issue of workplace culture rather than contract protections. They use the grievance procedure because it's what there - which is fair enough, but it doesn't logically follow that the grievance procedure generates the militancy, if you get what I mean.

I get what you mean. I half agree. Workplace culture is a always a huge factor. That said workplace culture is as much shaped by company practices as vice versa. There's plenty of warehousing jobs with similar demographics in which there's less workplace defiance, or more firings, or both. At the same time the physical, macho work type plus the stressful environment is kind of a powder keg for workplace conflict. I think the grievance procedure makes it more likely that militant workers stick around who would otherwise get fired, but the fact is that sucks so bad people quit all the time. (Like I said it's one the crappiest union jobs I've ever heard of.)

Also just because they don't give a shit about the union doesn't make contractual protections irrelevant. The latest contract they signed was a major workplace controversy, because the healthcare plan was being fucked with. I don't remember the exact details but a lot of people who see the union as little more than another paycheck deduction, are still surprisingly attentive to the contract when it benefits them, e.g. grievances, seniority, healthcare etc.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 28, 2014

a bunch of folks I think conflate militancy with class consciousness.

Definitely with you there. Having been a bit more involved in the IWW recently (it's complicated), it's definitely something I see a lot of in the IWW in particular. Where I disagree is the bit about individual acts. You're right that it can have nothing to do with class conciousness, but militancy is, for me, almost by definition something that happens collectively.

IWWs like to think the IWW is non-bureaucratic so why fear a grievance procedure?

I don't think the problem is bureaucracy though, it's the fact that grievance procedures always attempt to individualize issues and place them in a framework of labor law and labor relations. They move the struggle from our terrain - the shopfloor - to management's terrain.

I'm in the UK at the moment, I should add, where employers are required to have grievance and disciplinary procedures that are as "good" as those in most union contracts in the States. I can assure you that, despite this, most workplaces don't have UPS level militancy.

All that said, I've used grievance procedures to support myself, friends, and colleagues. But, that's often precisely because we're fighting from a position of weakness, because we can't organise direct shopfloor action. Given that, it doesn't make sense to me that we should hold them up as some sort of victory or attempt to make them some sort of strategic part of our organizing.

Anyway, other than that, good interesting post all around.

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 28, 2014

Yeah i agree relying on grievances is symptomatic of a weaker position for workplace militants... for not-so-militant workers, less so. And i agree with the criticism of contractualist practices encouraging a lawyeristic view of union representation. I guess the counterarguments for me are two.

1. Very often (almost always currently, but not at all times ever) a position of weakness is unavoidably where we're at, and you have to do the best with the arsenal you have.

2. While it encourages lawyerism that's not the only thing it encourages, aggressive union representation can also encourage more confidence, removes certain obstacles of retaliation, can actually encourage class consciousness (doesn't always, but i've seen it happen), and can establish valuable gains which make workers' life better (and the loyalty that in turn inspires for the union, can encourage more class consciousness).

All that said i'm no fan of legalism, i think it's a major flaw of mainstream unionism more than ever in the past, and i've always criticized the quick dive into legal strategies in IWW campaigns. The problem is management can easily fire union organizers and kill off a workplace committee, and it's notoriously hard to beat with the normal form of direct action. (And given you're definition of militancy as inherently collective, which a lot of wobs subscribe to, makes it even harder because of the pressure it puts on to everything collectivelyand avoid reckless acts that aren't approved by democratic process.)

I'm in the UK at the moment, I should add, where employers are required to have grievance and disciplinary procedures that are as "good" as those in most union contracts in the States. I can assure you that, despite this, most workplaces don't have UPS level militancy.

Yeah i suppose. The anger, machismo and never ending stress at UPS like breeds a lot more conflict than you're average workplace. And definitely there are environments where the militancy is there without the protections (look at the garment war in Bangladesh!).

What's the difference like between union and nonunion grievance procedures in UK out of curiosity?

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 28, 2014

What's the difference like between union and nonunion grievance procedures in UK out of curiosity?

Someone like Steven would probably be better to comment on this, but I'll give it a crack.

Basically, all employers are required to have graduated disciplinary and grievance procedures in place. In my experience, the procedure are broadly similar, however they're far more often just ignored in non-union workplaces. As well as this, punishments are usually harsher in non-union shops (for example, they amount of time a written warning is active) and there is some extra level of "objectivity" built into process. So an appeal will, in theory, go to a manager from an different department or whatever. Or you can have someone you can report to other than your line manager if the issue is with him or her.

Plus, in union workplaces, there are usually a lot more negotiated policies that give you grounds to fight on when raising a grievance.

In any case, an organisation called ACAS, a "Crown non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom", lays the guidelines on these things if you're interested to have a read:

http://www.acas.org.uk/dgcode2009

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 30, 2014

Huh interesting. I suspect geographic relativity plays a part in how anarchos react to stuff like grievance procedures. A union grievance procedure is a lot of a universal workplace norm in the american workplace and thus has less of normal legalistic practice. I mean workers' rights are so badly enforced, non-politicos feel like they've had a baptism by fire if they actually file a ULP and go to court. And the employer-side likewise tends more to view union grievances (and unions, period) as a threat to be eliminated, whereas it's a lot more normalized in western european industries. And for that matter both worker-side and employer-side views of labor-management relations have changed frequently in the past century and vary widely depending on industry, region etc... I mean I'd say what's thought "radical" and the distinction between going through normal channels vs. some kind of lawless rebellion, depends a lot on circumstances. (A totally legal strike in one setting would be an illegal wildcat strike in another setting.)

Steven.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 30, 2014

Chilli Sauce

What's the difference like between union and nonunion grievance procedures in UK out of curiosity?

Someone like Steven would probably be better to comment on this, but I'll give it a crack.

Basically, all employers are required to have graduated disciplinary and grievance procedures in place. In my experience, the procedure are broadly similar, however they're far more often just ignored in non-union workplaces. As well as this, punishments are usually harsher in non-union shops (for example, they amount of time a written warning is active) and there is some extra level of "objectivity" built into process. So an appeal will, in theory, go to a manager from an different department or whatever. Or you can have someone you can report to other than your line manager if the issue is with him or her.

Plus, in union workplaces, there are usually a lot more negotiated policies that give you grounds to fight on when raising a grievance.

In any case, an organisation called ACAS, a "Crown non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom", lays the guidelines on these things if you're interested to have a read:

http://www.acas.org.uk/dgcode2009

Yeah, I would say this is about right. Although rather than "union" and "non-union" workplaces I would talk more about "organised" or "non-organised" ones, as many nominally unionised workplaces have zero organisation, so employers can often ignore their own policies unless the individual employees are bolshie.

I would say that that there is hardly any difference at all though, as most policies are hardly any better than the statutory minimum. My workplace historically has had a very strong union, however the grievance policy is the same as the statutory minimum

And I would say that 99% of the time grievances are completely useless, as whatever the text of the policy, they are decided on by other managers. And managers stick together. Most of the time you can negotiate the outcome you want much more easily than winning a grievance (although the existence of a grievance procedure can be quite useful, as you can say "let's negotiate about this, and if you don't we will put in a grievance", which would at least mean the employer would have to expend time and work sorting it out.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 30, 2014

And I would say that 99% of the time grievances are completely useless, as whatever the text of the policy, they are decided on by other managers.

So, this might sound like total backtracking here - but not totally, you'll see - I actually find that in my experience, grievances scare bosses a lot more in non-organised workplaces (which is much better terminology, btw).

So, for example, I'm helping an ex-workmate with a grievance right now. It's been dragging on for close to three months now and she's been on paid leave the whole time! Plus, management have hired an outside HR consultant to oversee the process when we called the objectivity of their procedures into question.

But, that's all gone once this become routine for mgmt. Just like us, mgmt learn how to navigate the procedure. Except that it's so objectively weighted in their favor (how could it not be? It's senior management you're appealing to!) that it becomes basically meaningless without real workplace organisation to back it up.

Furthermore, mgmt aren't stupid, they know that having grievance procedures has the power to undermine the exact sort of collective organisation needed to enforce the grievance procedure in the first place. So, for example, I've had a disciplinary threatened against me for failing to use the grievance procedure when we took some low-level collective action at work!

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on October 3, 2014

Thanks Steven for the explanation, also yeah organized vs unorganized is probly more accurate than union vs nonunion. Gotta press on this one point...

And I would say that 99% of the time grievances are completely useless, as whatever the text of the policy, they are decided on by other managers. And managers stick together.

There's no form of govt arbitration or do you just mean pre-arbitration it's decided by mgmt (or do you mean nonunion shops)? That's the main leverage of grievance procedures as I understand in the US anyway, granted it's a slow form of leverage and good argument why direct action is more effective if you have the means and will to do it. But I've never heard of a contractual union grievance procedure that didn't involve binding arbitration, if that's lacking in UK that sounds like actually a weaker system than in the US.

But, that's all gone once this become routine for mgmt. Just like us, mgmt learn how to navigate the procedure. Except that it's so objectively weighted in their favor (how could it not be? It's senior management you're appealing to!) that it becomes basically meaningless without real workplace organisation to back it up.

Furthermore, mgmt aren't stupid, they know that having grievance procedures has the power to undermine the exact sort of collective organisation needed to enforce the grievance procedure in the first place. So, for example, I've had a disciplinary threatened against me for failing to use the grievance procedure when we took some low-level collective action at work!

That makes a lot of sense, again the relativity thing and why grievances seem more rad and rebellious where they didn't previously exist. Same thing happens with direct action tactics like march on the boss. Wobs practically glorify like it's the revolution in mini-form, but it's only effective under non-conflictual conditions in which you have surprise, and a boss who's inexperienced in labor relations. When it becomes a regular thing then it loses it's effect. (For that matter the same thing can happen with work stoppages if mgmt learns how to prepare and outmaneuver them.)

The same thing also happens with mgmt scare tactics, that's why the IWW organizer training (and I assume mainstream union trainings) stresses "inoculation." Unfortunately I've noticed a weird sloppy approach to inoculation from even veteran organizers, of assuaging the worker's fear more so than planning for the worst. Then the worst happens and the organizer looks either naive or dishonest.

Which is why when I've helped past organizing campaigns, I've always erred more on the pessimistic side when talking with "inside" workers, like you might be fired etc. and are you willing to risk that, how hard you willing to fight and so on .... and weirdly, have clashed with other wobs on that approach and being too negative in general. I'd argue I've been proven right every single time about it, but I'm biased. I assume the same problem happens in mainstream union since it's caused by politicking which IWWs and biz unions alike both do...

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on October 4, 2014

Clarification - what i mean about bad inoculation is organizers saying things like (really bad) "you can't legally be fired for union activity" without explaining how it happens all the time anyway, or (less bad but still weak) "organizing is your best defense" without acknowledging how often our organized campaigns have lost job fights.

The best weapon in my opinion isn't being "organized" (which could mean a lot of things) but intimidation, which requires strong enough leverage whether it be legally protected or not or even illegal. I've definitely concluded that fear (of losing your job, losing profits, of confrontation, or whatever) is the strongest weapon of both workers and bosses, and the key to enforcing is knowing what both mgmt and workers fear, and how to put that to the workers advantage. You do that not assuaging your coworkers that everything will be fine (because when it turns out not so fine, then the organization breaks down), but by planning for the worst, following through and building trust and confidence, and ensuring how far people are willing to go when shit hits the fan. And in my experience that makes a big difference in the cohesiveness of an organizing committee.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on October 4, 2014

what i mean about bad inoculation is organizers saying things like (really bad) "you can't legally be fired for union activity" without explaining how it happens all the time anyway, or (less bad but still weak) "organizing is your best defense" without acknowledging how often our organized campaigns have lost job fights.

The first, that shit should never happen. In fact, isn't that specifically in the OT 101 that you never say that? I know we included it specifically in the SolFed OT when we adapted from the 101.

As for the second, fair enough that people lose job fights and we should be honest and open about that, but I still that the maxim still holds true.

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on October 4, 2014

Well unfortunately, while the intent of the OT 101 is to discourage legalism, half of training is devoted to a summary of labor, nlrb and ulps etc, and many walk away from it with a more labor law oriented mentality even than they might've gone in with. Probably in part be ause as weak as it is, labor law has more protections on paper than most people realize due to it being so under-advertized in general. And also in part likely because it's the "easy way out" of more hazardous activities. Anyway the OT definitely does stress the US labor law's protection of "concerted activity" which need not even include official union organizing - in fact anti-contractualists often stress that as an argument why officialunion recognition isn't necessary.

About the second point, i'd argue that organization is no more than a baseline. You can't do much without but it's no guarantee of anything. Organization doesn't inherently protect you anymore than the law - you need leverage and a willingness to enforce it, and to pay the costs of enforcing it (such as hefty legal fees, potentially more firings, potential encounters with law enforcement, or whatever...). A lot of the most effective forms of leverage have no legal protection, and folks aren't often willing to risk that. A totally democratic organization can be just as much an impediment to action if the majority oppose the action in question (for example, we were gonna block up a drive-thru during the jimmy john's job battle, but it was cancelled last minute by the organizing cmte under advice fromthe lawyer). ULPs are slower but less risky than aggressive direct actions. And ironically the "organizing our best weapon" was used as argument against potentially alienting, aggressive action. And with justification too, aggressive confrontations often "scare away" less militant workers - seen it happen.

Juan Conatz

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on October 7, 2014

kevin s.

Well unfortunately, while the intent of the OT 101 is to discourage legalism, half of training is devoted to a summary of labor, nlrb and ulps etc

I'm assuming your intention here is to exaggerate to make a point, rather than make an outright lie. As someone who I believe has been to numerous OTs, I'd expect a more accurate description of them. At the very most, and that's depending on how you do it, the section on labor law goes 2 hours. Most of the time it is more like 1-1.5 hours. Out of a 16 hour deal. It isn't even half of half a day.

kevin s.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on October 10, 2014

Yeah sorry sloppy language wrote in a hurry, didn't mean literally half of the training time (don't remember the times on everything, it's been years and both times I took the length played out very different depending on group discussion, how role plays went etc.). My take away away both times was labor law was one of the main topics if partly to discourage legalism. Along with stuff like march on the boss, 1-on-1s, AEIOU.

More importantly I've talked with enough folks about OT trainings and listened to what folks have to say about it and, lastly, watched what they do afterwards and yeah, in my experience many people walk away more adept at and more invested in stuff like ULPs. Very few people I've ever met outside of union organizing contexts, have so much as heard of a ULP let alone know what is and isn't one or how to file one. Which by the way I don't mean as an inherent criticism, just pointing it out as a side effect of providing legal know-your-rights training to people previously unaware of their legal rights. They attempt to flex those rights.

EDIT: in the post you quoted, to be clear I wasn't dissing the training for including labor law, I think it would be insane not to include a legal section. The "half the training" was rhetorical (or I might've been trying to type "half the first day of the training," don't honestly remember cuz I wrote it quick on the run). I'm sure your probly right about the timing, I thought it was like half of the first day but I could be remembering wrong. Also like I said, I took it twice and each time was slightly different including on timing, and both of those times were a long time ago.

Main point I was getting was, as said above, that from what I've seen people take away different lessons than intended due to whatever other factors (prior ignorance of labor law, or the fact that filing ULPs can feel easier than engaging in a protracted or aggressive direct action campaign).

Of Sweatshops & Starbucks: Is the IWW an Industrial Union?

This is the second in a four-part series analyzing the Industrial Workers of the World as the failure of dual unionism in the American revolutionary left. This installment focuses on the internal structure of the group - whether industrially structured, or generally chartered.

Submitted by marxvx on September 4, 2014

Is the IWW an Industrial Union?

The modern IWW still proudly touts its devotion to industrial unionism. Industrial unionism is the idea that all workers on the shopfloor should belong to the same union – in a supermarket, the cashiers, butchers, pharmacists, and janitors are all represented by the same union. This is a response to craft unionism, in which workers of different occupations belong to different unions. In a craft union formation, the cashiers may belong to one union, while the pharmacists to another, and the butchers to yet another. These divisions weaken the bargaining power and unity of the workers.

This focus on industrial unionism is rather dated. The modern labor movement is no longer defined by the fierce rivalry between the craft unions of the AFL and the industrial unions of the CIO which occurred in the 1930s. Industrial unionism won this battle: laws on unions take industrial unionism as the norm, and most unions are organized on an industrial basis today.1

In another ironic twist where the IWW declares one thing and practices another, the IWW does not function as an industrial union. For one, the IWW has no practical opposition to craft unions, seeing as it does actually operate craft unions. There is indeed one IWW shop (Central Coop Grocery in Seattle, WA) in which the IWW represents only the janitors, while UFCW 21 represents the remainder of the workers.

The contradiction runs deeper than this. The IWW was historically structured by workers forming a local union for workers in their industry. For example, a construction workers’ local in New York City would absorb all the construction workers in the city, while chemical manufacturing workers in New York City would belong to their own, separate local. The construction workers’ NYC local is then federated into a council of other IWW construction workers’ locals across the country and globe. Each industry has its own industrial union, and workers in each industry have the autonomy to establish their union in the ways that best serve the conditions of their own industry. This is how the IWW was organized until its functional extinction in the 1950s. From that point on, it began organizing general unions (if these groups could be called unions at all – see the last post in this series) in place of industrial unions.

Today, the IWW has no actual industrial unions. Modern IWW branches are organized not by industry, but by city (into “General Membership Branches”). It should not be contentious to say, then, that the IWW of today is not an actual industrial union. Whether or not its members are assigned to industrial unions2 (which, since none of these industrial unions actually exist, these assignments function as little more than three-digit proletarian area codes), the union is organized by city, with one city branch absorbing any and all workplace activity that may fall under its jurisdiction. In a word, the primary cell of the union is the city branch rather than the industrial branch; workers are organized not by industry, but by geographical location. This structure adheres much more to the concept of “general unionism” than to any notion of industrial organization.

It is quite overwhelming for a single local to commit itself to all workers in an entire metropolitan area. A local may be responsible for supermarket workers here, truck drivers there, and plastics factory workers in yet another instance. Unless it commits itself to organizing just one of the industries in the city, the lack of strength it possess in an industry will severely hinder its ability to respond to events in that industry. Regardless of the local’s numerical size, if it sets foot in (or accepts workers from) an industry where it does not maintain any organizations, it will do so completely unprepared and at a major disadvantage.

In a word, the lack of strength it has in any single industry threatens its potentials in every single industry.

The general union similarly lacks a sense of direction. With no specific target, it is much easier for the general union to avoid devising a concrete plan to organize their jurisdiction, instead preferring to build its numerical size outside of the workplace (by recruiting individual students, activists, etc), to function as a rent-a-picket for other unions or activist protests, or to organize only when contacted by hot shops. General unions (when they are unions at all) are much more prone to becoming hubs for local activism. Indeed, General Membership Branches were created after the union’s functional extinction, when the organization needed to draw in new generations of radicals and anarchists to stay alive. This is reasonable: every union needs organizers. However, rather than being a mere means to building industrial organizations, the general membership branch has largely become an end in itself.

1. There are exceptions to this, for example in the construction and rail industries. My point, regardless, is that industrial unionism is no longer the pivotal issue dividing and determining the fate of the labor movement; and unlike in 1934, fiercely defending industrial unionism is not really a revolutionary position to take in the modern labor movement. In this sense, it seems as though the IWW’s rhetoric and propaganda has been cryogenically frozen and dug up like a time capsule.

2. When a worker joins the IWW, they are assigned membership in one of 39 industrial unions. These industrial unions are numbered in a Dewey Decimal system: Industrial Department #200 is all mine workers. Industrial Union #210 is Metal Mine Workers, #220 is Coal Mine Workers, and so forth. In theory, when there are at least 10 workers from the same industry in the same area, they charter themselves as an industrial union, and from there, an international council is established for all workers in the same industrial union. This is largely a thing of the past in the current IWW, and today this industrial structure serves mostly as a rhetorical and historical point. Emphasizing the geographic basis of the modern IWW, the modern General Executive Board is not comprised of representatives from different industrial unions, but from different regions.

Comments

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 5, 2014

The author's obsession with the IWW not being an industrial (read "real union") is interesting to me, especially considering their previous writings on this subject.

It basically is a rejection of the IWW for something it can not be currently, considering overall it is rebuilding it's industrial networks.

Revolutionary unionism has always been in favor of "general unionism" in the form of locality/geographically based organization whether it is called labor exchanges/councils, local communities, various trades, general membership branches, etc. The thinking behind this follows the concept of prefiguring the One Big Union idea, that we need to regroup workers across industries and sectors. Of course we see the need to grow industrial networks and unions to do strategic organizing around supply chains, etc but I don't see how this can be seen as a failure. It is just an aspect of labor regroupment in shit conditions. Quite frankly it is a strength and reflective of the need to be flexible when militants switch industries so frequently in the modern capitalist economy.

Better to start off a general "solidarity network" of members than regulate oneself to a single "jurisdiction" paying a blind eye to working class struggles outside particular sectoral interests.

Of Sweatshops & Starbucks: Is the IWW a Good Union?

This is the third in a four-part series analyzing the Industrial Workers of the World as the failure of dual unionism in the American revolutionary left. This installment focuses on the structural capabilities of the organization, and its geographical and industrial reach.

Submitted by marxvx on September 4, 2014

The IWW proudly declares that it employs no paid organizers or staffers. Instead, all the operations of the union are carried out by worker-activists on a volunteer basis – from directing workers on how to organize their workplace, to filing legal complaints against employers, to the graphic design, web design, and print media work necessary for the union. The IWW consistently praises itself on the absence of paid staffers within the union.

Many times, it is an advertisement directed at the frugal worker: “We keep our dues low by refraining from employing people.” Unfortunately, since the quality of a union’s leadership decides the difference between a worker getting fired and blacklisted, and the same worker getting a hefty raise, unions are not the sort of thing you should shop for by price. My question in this article is as follows: Can the IWW function without staffers – and if it can, why don’t other unions do the same?

In the first place, union organizing demands time. Especially in the food and retail industries which the modern IWW has sought to organize, union organizers need flexible schedules. Everyone who has worked a food service or retail job knows the unpredictable schedules they bring. It is nearly impossible for any four workers in the same workplace to find a time when they are all off of work. If a union organizer has their own work schedule to work around, this presents a fatal barrier to organizing. Therefore, the union organizer must be free from the obligation of an outside job, if only to be able to devote enough time to the campaign. The workers interested in unionizing deserve no less.

Paid positions command this dedication from staffers. For the staffer, the union is their career. They are able to devote 40 hours (and frequently more than that) per week to union activities. By offering a paid position, the union attracts those who have studied and perfected their knowledge. Workers need unions because workers need people who know the law, who know how to conduct an organizing campaign from A to Z, and so forth. This why workers contact unions in the first place: because they don’t know how to do it themselves.

This can be applied equally to other types of union staffers. Unions need dedicated business agents who are knowledgeable enough in labor law to face off against Human Resources lawyers in grievance hearings. If a grievance is escalated to the point where a union representative must sit down with a Human Resources lawyer (who quite literally has a degree in union-busting), the worker deserves a union representative knowledgeable enough in labor law to defend the worker.

Why do AFL-CIO unions expend millions of dollars to employ campaign researchers, translators, graphic designers, illustrators, public relations experts, writers, and web designers? It could be because they have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it, and that they want to go out of their way to hire as many people as possible. It could also be because they acknowledge that the work done by, say, a professional graphic designer is more reliable than Xeroxed newspaper cartoons from 1914.

Unfortunately, people with this level of knowledge and negotiation skill do not volunteer their time and energy – they look for careers.

The modern IWW is operated by a layer of worker-activists who have a varying level of devotion to the organization. For most of the “organizers” in the group, the IWW is a hobby like any other – and that’s all it can be for them. After all, they have work, school, and other interests. The degree of knowledge possessed by individuals and branches in the IWW, like everything else in the organization, varies tremendously between branches. There are branches with career SEIU staffers, and there are branches where the most knowledge anyone in the branch has on labor law is a copy of Staughton Lynd’s Labor Law for the Rank & Filer.

Though I hesitate to use the word, professional organizers and professional staffers are a requirement for any serious union. The idea that professionalism creates bureaucracy in unions is misleading – staffers do not hold executive authority over the direction of the union (in contrast to elected officers like presidents and executive boards). Staffers are analogous to legal counsel: you tell your lawyer what you want, and your lawyer has the technical knowledge of the courts necessary to get it. She can file the right papers, make the right motions, and reference the right cases, which are all things you don’t know how to do.

If anything, the threat that professional staffers pose to union democracy is roughly equal to the threat that hobby activists pose to running an organization responsible for defending workers’ jobs, livelihoods, and families. Workers join unions for the former: to defend their jobs. We become a revolutionary union not by sacrificing that function in favor of ideological platitudes and purity, but by combining that function with empowerment, education, and action. If we are unable to defend their jobs to the degree that an AFL-CIO union is able to do, our strength is not as a union, but as an ideology.

Surely, taunting the AFL-CIO for their lack of ideological dedication to the working class will bring the IWW few members, and even fewer organized shops. If we cannot (or do not wish to) compete with the power and ability of AFL-CIO unions, workers will continue to join UNITE-HERE and UFCW over the IWW, because they offer a security we cannot match. Excuses in favor of the IWW are predictable: it’s a small union, its ideology leaves it vulnerable to being disregarded and red-baited, it doesn’t have the money to hire organizers, and so forth. Precisely! These conditions are not historical accidents; these are problems inherent in the strategy of dual unionism.

The IWW is both shockingly (from the point of view of unions) and unsurprisingly (from the point of view of anarchism) decentralized. Any ten people can join the union and establish their own branch. The organization does not require that anyone in your group has any knowledge of labor law, the labor movement, how unions work, what a union is, or how to organize one. For workers interested in unionizing, contacting the IWW is a roll of the dice: the branch you contact could be a group of people relatively capable of organizing a union, or they could be a group of people who are more interested in the historical IWW and theoretical texts than in organizing workers.

The IWW is much like a franchise in the sense that it delegates its name, logo, and likeness to groups of people (who may or may not identify themselves as “workers”), and then essentially lets them go about their business. This is what creates the extreme heterogeneity of the group. The franchisee decides how they want to use the IWW, with basically zero obligations placed on them by the International. The franchisee is not required to actually organize any workplaces – in fact it’s not required to do anything!

In recent times, this has led to the International union being clueless as to what different branches are doing, and even as to whether or not some branches even still exist – there have been several “ghost ships” that lose contact with the rest of the organization and disappear. The Organizing Department Board, to use one example, has been struggling in recent months to even find out what other branches are doing. It is not uncommon for branches to go public with a union drive without notifying any higher body in the union beforehand. Oftentimes, the union does not hear about a campaign until it goes public, and then it gets blindsided by having to handle a strike on zero notice.

To use a contemporary example: Starbucks will never be unionized by the IWW. As Starbucks has locations scattered throughout the country (and world), to organize it would require a nationwide union. Other unions are structured in such a way where they are able to undertake a corporate campaign of this nature. These unions either retain organizers at the national level, or they send organizers from their locals to targeted locations. The IWW is simply structurally incapable of conducting a campaign of this nature. The Starbucks campaign, as with any other campaign against a regional or nationwide employer, is picked up by any IWW branch that wants to undertake it. There is no obligation for a branch to participate in efforts to organize an employer targeted by the union – if the organization ever did approach a branch asking them to participate in Starbucks organizing, the branch would be able to respond with a simple “No thank you.”

Even Jimmy John’s, which is microscopic compared to Starbucks1, has a scope of business too expansive for the IWW. The target employers chosen by the IWW are probably chosen by a sense of social and moral responsibility rather than a serious estimation that the IWW can organize them: “Well, if UNITE-HERE is not going to organize Starbucks, someone has to!” This altruism is certainly well-meaning, but given the present size and state of the modern IWW, in my opinion it would be fatally irresponsible to organize workers under the union. In my opinion, workers would be much more well-off in an established union which has the interest and material ability to defend them. Our role in the labor movement as revolutionaries should not be to divide the labor movement by forming dual unions with little hope of success, but to push an uncompromising agenda of internal democratization and class struggle within these established unions.

How will the IWW reach the Starbucks workers in locations where it doesn’t have branches, or where its branches don’t want to organize them? So long as the formation of IWW branches depends on the number of convinced radicals in a given area, it will not only never reach far outside of major cities and younger demographics, but its numbers will surge and recede with the popularity of radical politics. While the IWW will probably rack up occasional victories in predictably activist- and radical-dense cities like Portland, Minneapolis, and Boston, it is not foreseeable that the union will ever gain a truly nationwide presence.

1. While Starbucks has 10,784 locations in the United States alone – and another 13,000 locations in 64 other countries – Jimmy John’s has less than 2,000 locations in just 42 states. Upon reading these figures, we can see that either the IWW’s eyes are monumentally bigger than its stomach, or that it lacks even a basic understanding of the role of industry research in union campaigns. To drive the point about professional staffers home, a union with even one professional researcher/campaign strategist would never authorize campaigns which are as disproportionate to the size of the union as these two.

Comments

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 4, 2014

So I'm going to be honest, I think there's a lot wrong with this article. The critique I've seen of full-timers isn't that they're anti-democratic or inherently bureaucratic (although I do think there's some truth to both of those), but a structural one. Namely that paid staff create a layer of individuals in the union with specialized (often legalistic) knowledge and skill, their very existence which

(a) limits the impetus for self-organization,1 and
(b) changes the reasons/expectations of people who join the union

This, however,

If anything, the threat that professional staffers pose to union democracy is roughly equal to the threat that hobby activists pose to running an organization responsible for defending workers’ jobs, livelihoods, and families.

I think is a really interesting statement. What I take away from it, however, is not that we need full-time outside organizers, but a critique of outside organizers, full stop.

I'm not currently in the Wobs, but over the past couple of years I've had some small organizing successes. What I've learned is that, instead of focusing on "building the union", we're far better off on focusing on starting, spreading, and winning disputes. If that grows the union in the process, great, and we should have a long-term strategy, but, union presence or not, it's conflicts that improves both conditions and build confidence. And I think that change of focus, in itself, shifts the conversation away from outside organizers.

Also, I know things change from branch to branch, but I've never heard this from the IWW

Many times, it is an advertisement directed at the frugal worker: “We keep our dues low by refraining from employing people.”

  • 1And to drive my point home, from the article:

    To drive the point about professional staffers home, a union with even one professional researcher/campaign strategist would never authorize campaigns which are as disproportionate to the size of the union as these two.

Fall Back

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fall Back on September 4, 2014

Is this meant to be an argument that the IWW should change, or is it trying to say the IWW is shit?

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 4, 2014

Considering on their tumblr they say they have quit the IWW and that it is a purposefully sharp polemic, that they expect to get an ideological struggle session by left anarchists over, I'm sad to suggest it is probably the later. Its unfortunate that they probably requested this blog just to PWN/troll libcom.org. At their tumblr they also say their new politics are a mix of Trotskyism, social democracy, and left communism. Some context for folks is this writer is a young former now dual carder with limited experience in a UFCW shop, without any formal training experience, though well book read. Before putting this up they expressed how they wanted to hand over a campaign that only had a handful of back of the house workers at a restaurant in the Philly area over to UNITE HERE in the unrealistic hopes of securing a staff or salting gig.

boozemonarchy

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on September 4, 2014

Yea, as an IWW member I want to have this conversation. That being how to build the union to become a legitimate threat to capitalism. This blog however, is obv. a hit piece and I can't help but get the impression that the thesis is "IWW is shit because it isn't AFL-CIO" or some other such shit.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 4, 2014

How will the IWW reach the Starbucks workers in locations where it doesn’t have branches, or where its branches don’t want to organize them?

Well, this is basically the same question to be asked of the reformist unions as well.

I mean, the UAW walked away from the auto supply and parts sector. A place where it had like 70% organization......Because it was filled with low paying companies, heavily female workforce and was deemed a pain in the ass. The Carpenters and other construction trades walked away from the residential building sector. And food, retail and commercial workers wouldn't touch fast food. And it was a pretty common slag-off to tell someone to organize "a burger joint".

I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but there's a certain naiveté here with these blogs (which I also shared in a different way in my early 20s). [ http://ideasandaction.info/2009/10/discussion-anarchist-shop-experiences/ ]

All said, I am slowly working my way through all four blogs. In spite of my profound political and tactical disagreements with the pieces, a respectful and sincere discussion should be had.
Even though it may seem like reinventing the wheel, and we've had these sorts of discussions
ever since forever, perhaps a newer and younger generation needs to engage. And, I believe, the more experienced generations need to have some patience and engage and share real and constructive experiences.

To sound like the proverbial broken record, it will take more then just a simple either build militant minorities in the unions or solely organize the IWW to rebuild a radical workers movement.

gram negative

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gram negative on September 4, 2014

klas batalo

Before putting this up they expressed how they wanted to hand over a campaign that only had a handful of back of the house workers at a restaurant in the Philly area over to UNITE HERE in the unrealistic hopes of securing a staff or salting gig.

really? that is hilarious and sad

akai

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on September 4, 2014

While some of the questions here are certainly legitimate, I really find this to be a crap article. First, agree with what Chili writes.

The author constantly refers to the "organizer" as a leader of workers, instead of workers organizing themselves. The ideas behind this article are not new ones, rather the classic Profintern line of being in leadership and entering into the wider labour movements. The tactics around this line developed a bit but the ideological framework remains the same. You could read the same types of criticisms of the IWW almost a century ago - only the specific details have changed.

The coordinator class of experts no doubt would also become the revolutionary vanguard and play the state coordinator functions in the authoritarian left vision of how things would play out.

In the meanwhile, any union would rather benefit from workers being more than just clients. The types of specialist functions that paid staff might play could also be learned directly. For example, in some unions I know (CNT of Spain, ZSP), worker-activists teach their colleagues about the law, etc., and then more people are capable of defending themselves, teaching and helping others.

In terms of other questions, some surely are legitimate and worth discussing, but I certainly don't come to the same conclusions as the author. Concretely around me I see a few national unions that are organized all around the country and do shit, because the base is not active and the top just wanna keep their cushy jobs. The only big win you can see anywhere this year is not from those unions, but workers who fought outside the mainstream. And if we can only win something on a smaller level, not on the global level, it is better than nothing.

But it is true that we need to be prepared more. But the criticism that some unions have branches that are not particularly active is not only for IWW - lots of union federations are exactly like that too. The question is always what to do to help activate people, especially in places which do not have movements and cultures to support this type of activity.

Anyway, if this guy has moved on from IWW, all the better. I've seen different people who tend towards professionalization and want to employ this model and it's a real problem if you want to do something else.

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 4, 2014

The author is a she, and is a teenager with very limited working and union experience in IWW or business unions. They are obviously bright, and I agree with syndicalist should be engaged with if they drop the additude.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 4, 2014

"Drop the attitude" .... Most every comrade who enters the movement has an attitude
Attitudes are hardened or lessoned with experiance.

plasmatelly

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by plasmatelly on September 4, 2014

I found the articles very interesting, but struggled with the overall point of them! There was a couple of questions addressed to the IWW that the author raised that suggested they were the driver behind the the pieces, however the logic behind the arguments appeared to be that of dismissing the IWW now and the potential of the IWW of the future. The supposed failures of not having full timers, or university qualified lawyers to go toe-to-toe maybe sounds like the author wishes to build another version of the AFL-CIO except I'm reading an inclination for boring from within?
I'm not a wobbly, and even if I was a frothing-at-the-mouth detractor, I'd find these criticisms as a bit premature seeing as the IWW is essentially building from scratch. Re-establishing the IWW on Monday and criticising it for not controlling entire industries on Tuesday is a bit much tbh. Nevertheless, I think there is some valuable points in there (though I don't for the life of me understand why they are released on 4 different threads!)

Awesome Dude

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Awesome Dude on September 4, 2014

klas batalo

The author is a she, and is a teenager with very limited working and union experience in IWW or business unions. They are obviously bright, and I agree with syndicalist should be engaged with if they drop the additude.

London wobbs have had the same boring internal arguments about "professionalising" the union (defunct 'platformist' group liberty&solidarity's members were particular enthusiasts) and why we are crap, or not a "real" union, cause we can't provide the same level of services the business unions can. Many of our 'realist' critics had never been a member of a business union let alone a shop steward in a position to understand the problem of professional organising as opposed to self-organising (though some of them actually worked as full-time union organisers). Self-organising is usually presented as an ineffective amateur backwater. What the IWW obviously needs is the serious professional organising of business unions...so all we need to do is replicate their organising structures and methods and we will achieve "success",i.e. a union that grows rapidly, regardless of who joins and why, and effectively represents it's membership in a professional manner, which can only be done by paid full-timers, without worrying too much about all that political activist nonsense about the rank&file remaining in actual control through the fantasy of self-organisation or the unions aim; abolition of the wages system.

Steven.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 4, 2014

Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about this article. I have been reading my way through the series, and the author makes some decent points, however most of this article is tosh, unfortunately, and seems to be very naive and not based on actual experience organising in the workplace.

For example this sentence, right at the beginning is complete nonsense:

Unfortunately, since the quality of a union’s leadership decides the difference between a worker getting fired and blacklisted, and the same worker getting a hefty raise, unions are not the sort of thing you should shop for by price.

the "quality" (whatever that means) of union leadership has nothing to do with what's going to happen to individual members with their employer.

I want to come back on a lot of these points in detail, but it's late so it will have to wait until the weekend I'm afraid.

Anyway, I appreciate the time and effort the author has put into writing this, and I'm sure it comes from a decent place, i.e. wanting us to be more effective. However unfortunately it is just very overoptimistic at the possibilities (even though they actually seem pessimistic, but this is I believe because overoptimism about the possibilities makes them pessimistic about the IWW, whereas really I think we need to be more pessimistic about the possibilities, which are not great in the present climate! This is worded very badly… I need some sleep and will answer properly later).

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 5, 2014

Honestly I can't take the author seriously when they write on their tumblr blog that they "tried to sprinkle a good deal of being an asshole into those pieces...I tried to have a little fun with it and be as facetious as possible."

888

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by 888 on September 5, 2014

what is their tumblr?

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 5, 2014

For the staffer, the union is their career. They are able to devote 40 hours (and frequently more than that) per week to union activities. By offering a paid position, the union attracts those who have studied and perfected their knowledge. Workers need unions because workers need people who know the law, who know how to conduct an organizing campaign from A to Z, and so forth. This why workers contact unions in the first place: because they don’t know how to do it themselves.

Specifically the highlighted sections. Considering how the author aspires to become a union staffer, I think it is interesting how they see the main qualifications as being that unions are looking for well studied individuals. I mean sure, that is one quality unions will look for, but most pro-organizing unions actually vet new staff organizers through their experience on the shop floor by having been salts that catalyzed new organizing via committees. The real organizers in this situation are the external organizers (salts) and the workers themselves, staff organizers are just outside support. Like other commenters have mentioned there are real dangers of interference no matter if this is volunteer or staff based.

The second part I highlighted I just think show's the author's forgetting a major communist principle, that the workers' must organize themselves. A tertiary comment is most unions don't just pick up any old struggle that comes there way. Most pro-organizing business unions try to push these people at best to become new salts and leave their current jobs.

Overall all worker organizations from business unions to solnets, do power analysis and strategic planning before picking up fights. Sure there seems to be a tendency in regards decentralization of how fights start in the IWW, and there are still the occasional hot shop, but I think this speaks more to the author's outside perspective in regards questions like that of the Organizing Department, it does in fact usually know much more about what is going on than members in isolated areas less plugged in to the on going organizing. Some may call this undemocratic but it is actually a seriousness in vetting, security and need to know organizing.

In regards "hobbyism" this seems just dismissive of the whole approach of trying to empower worker-organizers. Our union like any union is trying to create life long union members. Are all rank and file worker activists just "hobbyists" then?

The Starbucks campaign, as with any other campaign against a regional or nationwide employer, is picked up by any IWW branch that wants to undertake it.

This is just misinformation. The campaign is run and self-managed by the organizing committee of the SWU, which is the company wide network of militants who make it up. In regards how the SWU growth strategy in relation to local GMBs and outside local GMBs, there is a relationship of delegation where ODLs or local SWU contacts are expected to forward all information on members employed at the company or contacts at the local level. The SWU has no problem getting contacts outside of local regions, we get hundreds of contacts regularly. If anything the SWU has been experiencing a lot of success with this recently. The key though with any contacts as stated earlier though will be getting contacts to take on their own fights. There is only so much union organizers, staff or otherwise can do.

Steven.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 11, 2014

Right, so I've finally got some time to respond to the points in this post properly. I'll go through them in the order in which they appear in the piece.

In terms of my perspective, I'm not a member of the IWW, nor am I particularly an advocate for its theory or practice: usually on here I am a critic of the IWW for various reasons.

But I think a lot of the criticisms here are invalid.

For starters, I'm not really aware of the IWW making a big deal of selling itself on the basis of cheap dues. But I don't dispute that I guess some people could mention it on occasion.

Unfortunately, since the quality of a union’s leadership decides the difference between a worker getting fired and blacklisted, and the same worker getting a hefty raise, unions are not the sort of thing you should shop for by price.

Now, I've mentioned that I disagree with this, above.

I think it betrays a very basic misunderstanding of workplace and labour relations.

Especially in terms of what happens with an individual worker, the union leadership is completely irrelevant.

What makes the difference between individual worker losing their job or not depends largely on:
1. the particular situation in which they find themselves (i.e. did they commit misconduct, or are they just in trouble for being a worker organiser)
2. the strategy of the employer (e.g. are they an aggressive employer who tries to stamp out dissent, or do they try to co-opt it)
3. the policies and procedures of the employer (in the US setting I guess this would include whatever union contract there were)
4. the legal framework of the country
5. the level of worker organisation at the employer
6. the general background of the industry in terms of availability of labour and balance of class forces.

In the UK, if an employer is determined to sack someone, they can do it, if at worst they are prepared to make a bit of a payout for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal, or to get a compromise agreement. In the US this is even easier as most places have "no-fault dismissal".

The main things which could make this less likely, other than specific personal things like the employer needs the skills that individual, is having your co-workers prepared to take action to defend you.

Having a radical/left-wing or highly knowledgeable union leader will make absolutely zero difference one way or another.

In terms of getting "hefty raises", in terms of things we can have an influence on, again the politics or abilities of union staff have no impact on this either, the only thing which can is the self-organisation of the workers.

In terms of evidencing this, I could point to hundreds of examples of disputes over pay and job losses, where the organisation and militancy of the workers has been the deciding factor. If the author wants to dispute this, I would suggest they provide some examples to evidence their statement.

My question in this article is as follows: Can the IWW function without staffers – and if it can, why don’t other unions do the same?

On this point, I don't think this is a useful question to ask. The question to ask first is is "What is your ultimate goal?"

If your ultimate goal is to bring workers to membership of unions like AFL-CIO unions, then you should just get involved in an AFL-CIO union. If your ultimate goal (like mine) is for workers to increase their power on the job, in society, and ultimately run society for themselves, then your question should be "does using staffers help or hinder the achievement of this goal?"

Now, in terms of useful political activity, I don't think anyone yet have said anything better than Solidarity.

Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

Now, in terms of my question, and that Solidarity test, then the use of paid officials is clearly counter to those objectives. As use of paid officials does the exact opposite of encourage workers to organise themselves, but instead encourages them to rely on "professionals" and "experts", which is the exact opposite of what we need to happen for workers to start winning again.

In the first place, union organizing demands time. Especially in the food and retail industries which the modern IWW has sought to organize, union organizers need flexible schedules. Everyone who has worked a food service or retail job knows the unpredictable schedules they bring. It is nearly impossible for any four workers in the same workplace to find a time when they are all off of work. If a union organizer has their own work schedule to work around, this presents a fatal barrier to organizing

Before responding to this, I have a bit of an issue with how US-centric this whole argument is.

Outside of the US (and maybe Canada, I don't really know anything about Canada), American-style professional union "organisers" don't really exist. In recent years a couple of unions in the UK and Europe have tried using a small number of paid organisers, but they are largely irrelevant. Unions here are run pretty much entirely by lay reps: workers volunteering in their spare time, and then getting facilities time agreed by employers once they get organised/get a recognition agreement etc.

Especially considering that the working class in the US is just about the worst-organised working class in the developed world, it's probably not the best idea to copy the standard practice of the established US labour movement as the best model to emulate.

I mean seriously, this advocacy of paid officials is not only more right wing than what I've seen from any anarchist, including the likes of the shit ones like Liberty & Solidarity, but way more right wing than any trots or even right wing social democrats like Labour supporters.

Anyway back to the example given about shift workers finding it hard to meet one another. Yes, this is a problem, however having a paid outside organiser doesn't solve this problem, as the workers will still work shifts, so it is still hard for them to meet one another.

On this next bit, I think the author really shows their naivete:

Paid positions command this dedication from staffers. For the staffer, the union is their career. They are able to devote 40 hours (and frequently more than that) per week to union activities. By offering a paid position, the union attracts those who have studied and perfected their knowledge.

Now this is ridiculous. I am a worker activist (who FYI is a rep for a traditional union in the UK, Unison. I have very big criticisms of the rep role, but I do it essentially for personal rather than political reasons). My branch, as are almost all the others, are run entirely by worker activists: volunteers.

We are mostly pretty dedicated, and basically we have to be as it is our own pay, terms and conditions we are dealing with.

Our regional officers, the full-time, paid officials above us are essentially a waste of space and money. This is not the view of me being a crazy ultralefty: this is the view of pretty much all shop stewards.

To see how great these "professionals" "who have studied and perfected their knowledge" actually are in a workplace, you can have a look at the Unison branches which have been taken into supervision by the national union, like Greenwich, which have basically fallen apart completely and lost most of their members.

The thing which makes you a good workplace organiser is not knowledge from books, but is about your understanding of a particular workplace, your relationships with those around you, your ability to listen to your colleagues and get people to come together around their common concerns.

Thinking that paying people means you get the best out of them is just the worst type of capitalist thinking. You get the best out of people who care what they are doing and believe in it. When you pay people to do something it becomes a job, which they generally give less and less of a shit about the more time goes on.

This can be applied equally to other types of union staffers. Unions need dedicated business agents who are knowledgeable enough in labor law to face off against Human Resources lawyers in grievance hearings. If a grievance is escalated to the point where a union representative must sit down with a Human Resources lawyer (who quite literally has a degree in union-busting), the worker deserves a union representative knowledgeable enough in labor law to defend the worker.

Again, this is based on a misunderstanding of how disputes actually happen in the workplace.

Outside of the US, it is almost entirely lay reps who represent individual members in grievances/disciplinaries etc. And we are pretty much always in a better position to defend members than outside professionals as we know the workplace inside out. What matters in cases is rarely the law - as all the law does is set down an absolute minimum standard of treatment, and most workplaces have policies and procedures which are above the minimum legal standard.

So what matters is knowledge of the internal policies and procedures, and importantly how they are normally applied. Which isn't knowledge outsiders would have.

Finally, these types of grievances are generally pointless anyway. Grievance procedures are frameworks which are set up by management, on management's terms. If workers are to win things, we have to do things ourselves, we can't use management processes. That would be like trying to fight with both hands tied behind our backs. Workers believing that their grievances can be addressed by these management (and often, union-) sanctioned procedures is a barrier we need to overcome before we can start to win.

Why do AFL-CIO unions expend millions of dollars to employ campaign researchers, translators, graphic designers, illustrators, public relations experts, writers, and web designers? It could be because they have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it, and that they want to go out of their way to hire as many people as possible. It could also be because they acknowledge that the work done by, say, a professional graphic designer is more reliable than Xeroxed newspaper cartoons from 1914.

On this bit, I'm not really sure what the point is. Firstly, AFL-CIO unions spend lots of money doing lots of things - like spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get Obama elected. Does that mean the IWW should try to get Obama elected?

The IWW in the AFL-CIO have completely different goals. The former aims at abolition of the wage system, the latter aims in theory to defend/advance the interests of its members but in practice is largely a self-perpetuating bureaucracy to sustain its membership base to pay the salaries and pensions of their own workforce.

Therefore AFL-CIO doing something is not an argument for the IWW to do likewise.

Even if it were, I'm not really sure what the argument is here as the IWW in practice is a small radical group and can't afford to pay loads of people wages. The only way could potentially do this would be by massively increasing its membership dues, but then this would cause almost all of its members to leave, which would put you back where you started.

Unfortunately, people with this level of knowledge and negotiation skill do not volunteer their time and energy – they look for careers.

On this bit, this isn't really right either. Of course lots of people who are paid to do things can be quite good at them, but lots can be crap as well. My union branch paid professionals to build their website. However it was so shit that in the end I had to do it myself for free. And the one I did was about 1000 times better than the one by the "professionals".

Libcom.org is run entirely by volunteers, and our site is a lot better than a lot of union's websites which are built by professionals, as is the IWW's.

As for "negotiation skill", this is largely a myth. Workers win things when they are well-organised and have leverage (e.g. the ability to disrupt profits). Workers with no organisation and no leverage won't get improvements, no matter how "skilled" a negotiator is. I say this from personal experience as well, as I represent a bargaining unit of about 3000 workers. And you can bluff a little bit, but really to get anything you need organisation: in the well-organised sections we can achieve a lot, in the sections with no organisation management get away with whatever they want. My "negotiation skill" doesn't come into it.

Though I hesitate to use the word, professional organizers and professional staffers are a requirement for any serious union

Apart from anything else, I think this is putting the cart before the horse. I've already said why I am opposed to the use of paid organisers. In terms of staff, I can see the need for this potentially, as if any organisation gets big enough it needs routine administrative work done (like maintenance of the membership database), and I have no objection in principle to people being paid to do this sort of thing, as long as it is on a fixed term basis and people aren't paid more than the average wage of the membership or a living wage, whichever is higher.

But this doesn't mean there is any inherent benefits to having paid staff as such, and certainly if there is not an actual use of resourcing for them then it would be counter-productive.

If paid staff were inherently beneficial, then you could evidence this by pointing to more successful unions (i.e. ones where their members successfully improve or defend their conditions) having more paid employees than less successful ones. However I bet you can't do this. Especially if you look at historically the most successful unions: the CNT being the best example as a hugely successful union which was also an anarchist organisation, which had hardly any paid officials (something like one rotating secretary per member union, and paid print staff on the newspapers), and no paid organisers.

Now, I'm conscious that this post is getting extremely long, and it's probably not worth looking at your post point by point anymore, so I'll just go onto a couple of big issue things and then wrap it up.

To use a contemporary example: Starbucks will never be unionized by the IWW. As Starbucks has locations scattered throughout the country (and world), to organize it would require a nationwide union.

The reasons you specify for why the IWW could never organise it, you could also pretty much use to say why no AFL-CIO union could either.

Also, you don't seem to consider how or why it is the IWW, despite all of its difficulties, has done better organising at Starbucks than any of the major unions with their thousands of paid employees and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Others have basically pointed to the source of this, which is that they have no interest in it. AFL-CIO unions are not interested in the level of self-organisation of the working class. They are capitalist organisations which need to maintain themselves in a capitalist world, so they need to get a return on any investment they make. And low paid, transient service sector workers in small shops are very unlikely to get a decent return on investment. So a union could send one organiser to an auto plant to try to recruit 1000 workers on decent salaries, whose dues would be significant. But would it be worth sending an organiser to a coffee shop with 12 staff, all part-time, earning low wages? Not really. This also means that it would be difficult for using paid organisers to organise at Starbucks for the IWW as well.

Other posters have also pointed to the small but definitely significant things which SWU achieved.

Personally, while I think that wobblies have done a great job at Starbucks, ultimately it would be futile to try to "organise" the chain because they could only do it successfully if the majority of workers at the chain wanted revolution and the abolition of the wage system, which unfortunately is not on the cards for the for the foreseeable future.

So I think as revolutionaries we should focus on organising wherever we are, outside or inside and sometimes even against the unions.

But this is very different to your critique, which is basically that the IWW should become more like AFL-CIO unions. But then if this is your view, then why not just get involved with an AFL-CIO union? (Perhaps I asked this question above already, if so apologies, I've written this response in dribs and drabs over several days)

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 11, 2014

This may be a once in a lifetime event but I agree with pretty much everything Steven is saying here.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 11, 2014

The most interesting part of all of this, is the silence of the author.

bastarx

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bastarx on September 11, 2014

Many times, it is an advertisement directed at the frugal worker: “We keep our dues low by refraining from employing people.”

Unions in Australia typically hand over half their dues money to the Labor Party and I'd imagine it's similar in the US. So you could still have the same massive, shit union bureaucracy at half the price.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 12, 2014

So, Fingers and Syndicalist have both already beat me to it, but...

Steven, how does it feel to win libcom?

Also, as epic as that post was, I sincerely doubt the author will read it, much less respond.

I'm not an admin, but if I was, I might re-consider if, in the future, Marxxv wanted to post another blog.

akai

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on September 13, 2014

Steven, good answer. Only I am wondering about whether or not one point you said is entirely true and this is about the non-use of paid organizers. Certainly I would agree that the Americans use them to a uniquely high level and in other places there might be more of a focus on shop stewards playing some role. But in some places the amount of professional unionists might be much greater than you expect, for example in Poland. However they are not so successful with unionizing drives in new workplaces and some union activists seem to specialize in taking over initiatives and poaching. Further, the use of professionals in the workplace has lead to a special pathology where the professional union caste are more interested in maintaining their paychecks and cushy position than fighting with the bosses.

Am not disagreeing with what you said, just wondering how widespread a practice it really is, of having paid full-timers.

Basically, the idea of workers being "better-off" with a caste of pseudo-experts (because I agree with what Steven says about how people at the workplace know better) is similar to the idea that society would be better off if stuff was decided by "experts" and people who can devote their times to professional management - ie politicians. It's all a crock of shit but shows the angle of these arguments and that they belong to vanguardism and verticalism.

Steven.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 13, 2014

fingers malone

This may be a once in a lifetime event but I agree with pretty much everything Steven is saying here.

wow well that is something!

As that post was a bit too long for a comment I was thinking of posting it as a response as a blog article in itself, but thought maybe it was a bit too rambling... What do people think?

Joseph Kay

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 13, 2014

These arguments come up over and over so it would be good to have it somewhere easier to find than a comment.

Ed

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on September 14, 2014

Yeah, I think that'd be a good idea.. could you also then tweet this quote from it at the author?

considering that the working class in the US is just about the worst-organised working class in the developed world, it's probably not the best idea to copy the standard practice of the established US labour movement as the best model to emulate.

Steven.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 15, 2014

Ed

Yeah, I think that'd be a good idea.. could you also then tweet this quote from it at the author?

considering that the working class in the US is just about the worst-organised working class in the developed world, it's probably not the best idea to copy the standard practice of the established US labour movement as the best model to emulate.

unfortunately it's way too many characters! Twitter is so shit… But okay thanks, will try to do today

Ed

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on September 15, 2014

Steven

unfortunately it's way too many characters! Twitter is so shit…

Sorted:

as US w/class is prob worst organised in 1st world, prob not best idea to copy practice of established US unions as best model to emulate

Twitter beef is on!

Steven.

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on September 23, 2014

I've now expanded on my post, above, into a blog response here: http://libcom.org/blog/leave-it-professionals-paid-union-organisers-23092014

Gregory A. Butler

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Gregory A. Butler on May 9, 2015

I like the age baiting and thinly disguised misogyny in the comments

The author has a good head on her shoulders, more than her share of common sense and knows enough about unions to know that the IWW is not capable of functioning as one. The abortive "organizing drives" at Jimmy Johns and Starbucks are mute testimony to that.

I think some folks are a little butthurt about that - and coming from a WOMAN who's not yet old enough to drink probably embarrasses them.

The IWW are like Civil War reenactors - they aren't a serious trade union.

If you want to do labor work join a REAL union and struggle inside of it

Pennoid

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Pennoid on May 9, 2015

I wish I had as much a penchant for being fleeced by politicians as Greg Butler!

Remind me why we haven't banned this admin: no flaming ?

Steven.

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on May 9, 2015

Pennoid, we might disagree with Gregory but desist from personal abuse. Greg, claiming misogyny is a ridiculous cheap shot. Can you point out anything misogynist anyone has said? If not, then you can desist from making stuff up as well.

redsdisease

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redsdisease on May 9, 2015

Gregory A. Butler

If you want to do labor work join a REAL union and struggle inside of it

I've been a member of three different "real" unions in my working life. Two were huge international unions and one was a local independent union and none of them had an ounce of shopfloor presence or interest in allowing rank and file participation. I'm not sure how struggling "inside" those unions would be anymore "real" than organizing with the IWW.

boomerang

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boomerang on May 10, 2015

Steven.

In terms of my perspective, I'm not a member of the IWW, nor am I particularly an advocate for its theory or practice: usually on here I am a critic of the IWW for various reasons.

I'm surprised to hear that. What are your criticisms of the IWW?

Do others on libcom have criticisms of the IWW and what are they? (other than the ones in the blog post which have been well debunked already)

I thought the IWW and SolFed were mostly quite similar.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on May 10, 2015

I'm in the IWW and I have some serious criticisms of them! They mainly stem from getting registered with the state, seeking workplace recognition, and - in my opinion - being overly concerned with struggles happening under the IWW banner.

That said, when we had a self-organised dispute in my workplace, the IWW was far and away the best organisation for offering support and getting their members out to the picket line. And that's why I joined - or rather re-joined after quite a long hiatus.

boomerang

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boomerang on May 10, 2015

> getting registered with the state - you mean IWW is registered as an official union? What are the downsides to this? Are there any benefits?

> seeking workplace recognition - you mean like a contract? (oh wait, I think in the UK you don't have contracts except individual ones... so what do you mean here?)

Chilli Sauce

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on May 10, 2015

Hey Boomerang, I think this has been hashed out many time before in the forums. I'm happy to have this conversation, but perhaps others could recommend some of the threads this topic has been touched on before? (Dinner time for me!)

If they don't answer your questions, maybe start a new thread?

boomerang

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boomerang on May 10, 2015

I'm fine reading other threads if anyone knows any. Using the search isn't very helpful because there's just so many results for IWW

Chilli Sauce

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on May 11, 2015

Here's a good one for you Boom:

http://188.165.199.119/forums/organise/iww-uk-06072013

(although not the friendliest thread in parts)

Joseph Kay

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 11, 2015

I would say a lot of those debates were polarised between the most pro-legalism/pro-service unionism members (now, mostly ex-members) of the IWW, and their anti-legalist critics. There are plenty of wobs critical of those ideas, and plenty of e.g. SolFed members who see at least tactical merit in forms of legalism (e.g. the Pop-Up Union). So I think those debates tended to conflate several related but distinct issues: (1) the merits of listing/certification (vs possibility of involuntary listing anyway); (2) service vs direct unionism; (3) legalism vs 'outlaw' unionism (4) reformist vs revolutionary unionism.

While these things do tend to cluster, some are straight either/or issues and others are more like a spectrum. In those debates/arguments, (1) tended to be a proxy for all the others, which probably obscures some of the nuances to the issues. Personally I think it's healthy for there to be a variety of models, though imho all revolutionary unionists need to be mindful of the ways unions, even radical ones, can become co-opted, mediators, and/or bureaucratise.

boomerang

9 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boomerang on May 11, 2015

Thanks Chilli Sauce, and also JK for the heads-up.

Of Sweatshops & Starbucks: Will Dual Unionism Win the Labor Movement?

This is the final installment in a four-part series analyzing the Industrial Workers of the World as the failure of dual unionism in the American revolutionary left. This installment focuses on the potentials of a new approach to unions based on reforming and democratizing established unions from within rather than founding competing unions.

Submitted by marxvx on September 4, 2014

Will Dual Unionism Win the Labor Movement?

With these critiques, my goal is not to push the IWW to reorganize itself in the ways that I think are best, nor is it to encourage revolutionaries to establish yet another dual union in opposition to the IWW. My actual conclusion is much to the opposite: no matter how the IWW organizes itself internally, it will always be at such a striking disadvantage to established unions that its ability to function as an actual union is effectively compromised, and stands virtually no chance in competitions with established unions.

It is true that creating a dual union is much easier than entering rival unions. By creating a dual union, we create a sandbox, a microcosm, of everything we think a union should be. The IWW is everything we wish AFL-CIO would be, without having to do any of the legwork of actually winning over rank-and-file workers to class-conscious militancy. Instead, we can take pride in the ideological correctness of our union: unlike the class-collaborators of AFL-CIO, our union is doing unionism right, even if we have no influence over working conditions in any employer’s operations, let alone an entire industry, let alone any influence in the larger labor movement. But forget any of that: after all, the IWW’s ideological commitments make it far more relevant to the working class than AFL-CIO will ever be.

Indeed, there is an extremely sectarian perspective of rival unions promoted by the IWW. My membership in the IWW was also my first experience with the labor movement in general. It taught me that all unions which are not the IWW are equally useless to the working class. There is virtually no difference between SEIU and NUHW, UNITE and HERE, or UE and the Teamsters because, after all, none of them are the IWW!1 The only good a revolutionary can do within these unions, I was told, is recruit their members to the IWW – and essentially, recruit their members as if they weren’t members of another union already. You do this by acting as if their union’s leadership and collective bargaining agreement don’t exist, creating a climate of opposition to the incumbent union, and using this to build allegiance to the IWW.

Going from the argument that all “business unions” are basically company-run unions, it is hard to explain how these unions often evoke enthusiastic support and loyalty from their members – unless of course you use the tired fatalistic argument that these workers have simply been deceived by a vampiristic union leadership, and that they are only loyal to these unions because they have not experienced a revolutionary union like the IWW yet. Or, as the authors of Black Flame articulated it:

The notion that the established unions could not evolve, and that the IWW alone was a real union and would inevitably replace the other ones [...] was a caricature of other unions and ignored the fact that established unions retained the loyalties of existing members, who were not prepared to throw in their lot with an entirely new union: such obstacles to replacing existing unions were simply ignored by the IWW. Workers generally preferred to join established and proven unions, and the fact that existing ones were compelled to open their ranks to new categories of workers [as we will see with fast food workers in the next section of this piece] and reform their policies showed both their ability to change as well as their lasting appeal.2

The IWW of old was unable to challenge the AFL on its own turf, and as such it was relegated to organizing those workers which the AFL had no interest in organizing: namely unskilled industrial workers and migrant laborers. As such, for many workers in the IWW’s jurisdiction, they did not join the IWW because it was the best union, but because it was the only one. They had no choice between unions, only a choice between the IWW and no union.

To an astounding degree, this is the same pattern we are seeing today. The modern IWW would be indisputably unable to challenge AFL-CIO in its own industries. We may say these industries are primarily transportation, healthcare, and education; although in basically all professional, skilled and semi-skilled jobs does AFL-CIO have the numerical and organizational advantage. Therefore, the IWW is relegated to organizing the one sliver of the workforce that AFL-CIO will not organize at this point: fast food service. For about ten years, the IWW has enjoyed no competition within this jurisdiction, and even so it has gained no ground. Unlike in 1905, it would be hard to say that “fast food workers are not joining the IWW because it’s the best union, but rather because it’s the only union,” because, well, fast food workers really aren’t joining the IWW at all.

AFL-CIO’s attitude towards these jobs is slowly shifting. It can no longer simply ignore these jobs, as they comprise an ever-greater share of the workforce. Though AFL-CIO has begun cautiously probing the industry with its recent Fight for 15 campaign to gauge militancy and study the workforce, it is not yet willing to represent fast food workers on the shopfloor. However, it would seem likely that within the next five or ten years, UNITE-HERE will begin to enter these shops.

Even if the IWW has gained a minor presence in the industry by the time UNITE-HERE enters the scene3, UNITE-HERE will most likely drive the IWW from the industry with ease.

* * *

From its foundation to its most recent conventions, the IWW has avoided the question of boring from within with the simple excuse that “established unions are too big to reform.” If these unions are too big for a militant minority to reform internally, how is it that they’re not too big for a militant minority to drive out of existence externally by creating a dual union?

Dual unions are burdened by having to perform the contradictory roles of a “pure-and-simple” labor union and a revolutionary propaganda organization. They must not only bring organization to unorganized workers, but do so in a way which brings the workers in alignment the dual union’s syndicalist ideals. This can either lead to the union not growing at all (or growing simply as a propaganda organization, like with the IWW), or to the union’s syndicalist program being diluted by the non-syndicalist workers. Malatesta remarked similarly:

It is while [dual unions] are weak and impotent that they are faithful to their program – while, that is, they remain propaganda groups set up and run by a few zealous and committed men, rather than organizations ready for effective action. Later, as they manage to attract the masses and acquire the strength to claim and impose improvements, the original program becomes an empty formula to which no one pays any more attention.4, 5

Militants who organize themselves as minorities within established unions simply do not face this dilemma. The militant minority, since its locus is within already-organized union, can focus exclusively on winning workers over to syndicalism. The militant minority, operating as a militant core within a larger union, is not challenged by workers who join their group only for “bread-and-butter” interests.

1. This is a historical trend with the IWW: “As an example, [...] the Western Federation of Miners had been unreservedly praised when affiliated to the IWW and then, following its withdrawal, was suddenly characterized as a fake union that should be ‘wiped out of existence’ – even though the union had not changed in any real way.” Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism & Syndicalism. Volume I: Counter-Power, pg. 225. Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, 2009.

2. Ibid.pgs. 225-6. Emphasis mine

3. Which, as I labored to demonstrate in the last piece in this series, is unrealistic. Assuming the IWW has gained a foothold in fast food by the time UNITE-HERE challenges it is closer to spread betting than honest historical analysis.

4. The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles, 1924-1931, pg. 25. Errico Malatesta, 1995.

5. For a historical precedent to the latter claim, see the IWW’s Industrial Union #440 in Cleveland. Composed of about 1,500 workers in metal factories, the workers abandoned the IWW for the CIO in 1950 over the IWW’s refusal to sign the anti-Communist Taft-Hartley affidavit.

Comments

888

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by 888 on September 4, 2014

The concept of working within the existing unions is not remotely new, and there are so many examples of its failure that they make even the most old fashioned and unimaginative application of anarchosyndicalist methods look very promising in comparison.

klas batalo

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 5, 2014

Its really disingenuous to make it out as if the IWW's dual union strategy is about raiding all other unions. The IWW has a history of solidarity with all workers' struggles, even if we may have our critiques. Where IWW militants have taken successful militant minority action as dual carders it has been in the form of creating rank and file committees as militants of those unions, basically doing internal organizing where negligent business unions won't or can't empower their rank and file to be more engaged.

kevin s.

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by kevin s. on September 6, 2014

I've still only skimmed this series, interesting topic and some points I agree with, although I think there's a lot of exaggerated, cartoonish representations of IWW politics.

I'd say this for example-

Militants who organize themselves as minorities within established unions simply do not face this dilemma. The militant minority, since its locus is within already-organized union, can focus exclusively on winning workers over to syndicalism. The militant minority, operating as a militant core within a larger union, is not challenged by workers who join their group only for “bread-and-butter” interests.

... is by and large how most IWWs tend to operate in "dual card" (non-IWW, union shop) settings, pretty much like klas batalo explained. And yet the article makes it sounds as if IWWs generally are more interested in poaching or raiding membership from other unions-- which frankly, is an almost non-existent practice in the IWW, due to two factors. One being IWWs generally oppose "contractualism" and the whole goal of raiding is to win union representation in a rival union workplace. The other being, even among pro-contract wobblies, raiding is widely viewed as kind of a "sin" and unsolidarian as it is within the labor left as a whole. I disagree with that view but the point is, very few wobs would ever (whether pro- or anti-contract) be in favor of a strategy of membership poaching.

Although dual card IWWs are sometimes of accused of poaching on other unions, actually I've only ever heard of business unions raiding the IWW during the "new" IWW period. I've heard of the "old" IWW engaging in turf wars, although I don't much about the extent of it.

About this-

Though AFL-CIO has begun cautiously probing the industry with its recent Fight for 15 campaign to gauge militancy and study the workforce, it is not yet willing to represent fast food workers on the shopfloor. However, it would seem likely that within the next five or ten years, UNITE-HERE will begin to enter these shops.

Even if the IWW has gained a minor presence in the industry by the time UNITE-HERE enters the scene3, UNITE-HERE will most likely drive the IWW from the industry with ease.

While I agree the IWW probly can't compete with the mainstream unions even in fast food, the author has their details confused. Fight For 15 is driven by SEIU, which is not affiliated to the AFL-CIO. and is on bad terms with UNITE HERE. And while UNITE HERE would have every reason to organize in fast food, SEIU is currently the biggest "threat" to the IWW in fast food. I'd be surprised if SEIU ceded fast food to another union easily.

Last thing, this-

The IWW of old was unable to challenge the AFL on its own turf

That's not entirely true. The IWW held it's own for years in longshore, and to a less extent competed in the textiles and garment industry. Probably others I don't know about but those are the examples I'm aware of IWW effectively competed with the bigger trade unions. I'd argue in the longshoremen case it's in part because they were multiracial union (rare at that time) and partly because they successfully fought for better wages and working conditions. The same reasons for IWW successes in lumber and agriculture.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 6, 2014

Cartoonish representations. .... Mr Block?

syndicalistcat

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on September 11, 2014

when the IWW was formed, it was created by radical breakaways from AFL to some extent, such as Western Federation of Miners & Brewery Workers. In 1908 the Western Federation of Miners split. The more radical leadership, which included Haywood & St John, went with IWW which continued to have a large Metal Mine Workers Union into the early '20s. The more conciliatory leaders like Moyers got nowhere with their "partnership" unionism. They formed the AFL Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers. They were destroyed by Anaconda in Butte in 1914. By 1918 there were over 5,000 IWW members in Butte & none in Mine Mill & Smelter workers. Very often IWW miners would dual card in Mine & Mill, as in Arizona in 1917 or in Butte in '20s. The same was true in maritime. After losing a disastrous strike in 1921, the AFL sailors' union was smaller than the MTWIU. in early '30s the TUUL's (dual union) MWIU & IWW MTWIU were a majority of union members on ships...larger than AFL sailor's union. After CP went down CIO route they were able to control east coast maritime union for awhile, which came out of TUUL union, and on west coast the MTWIU was a dual card pressure group in AFL sailor's union. in late '30s due to direct action campaign on ships, pushed by IWW, AFL expelled SUP for "IWW domination".

After IWW formed Forestry & Lumber workers union, AFL chartered an AFL union to compete with them....it got nowhere. It was destroyed in the south in the same manner as the IWW union. It was the CIO, not AFL, that eventually created a new union in forestry, the Woodworkers, which included IWW veterans.

In agriculture there's still no dominant union. Change in transport & work org in late '20s pushed IWW out of agriculture. but it was another dual union that made headway in early '30s, the CP's Cannery & Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, which organized all the big agriculture strikes in early '30s, and won major wage gains...but their org was destroyed by police state environment in rural areas of California...same as happened to IWW in early '20s.

In the 1933-34 worker insurgency in USA, workers at first jumped on AFL bandwagon but were sold out & learned not to trust AFL bureaucracy & organizers. by 1934 there were about 350,000 workers in independent unions under socialist leadership, outside the AFL.

SEIU has been engaging in a kind of PR game with Fight for 15 in fast food, tho they have citywide organizing committees. The "strikes" have generally involved few workers, but this may be changing. To give them credit, it's raising the expectations & interest of fast food workers. Whether these workers can so easily be enrolled into SEIU...time will tell.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 16, 2014

While there are trends within the IWW that I think you correctly analyse, and I certainly have no problem with radical-reform campaigns within "traditional" labor unions, I think you're also throwing the baby out with the bath water, too.

There are certainly differences between the UAW and the Teamsters, say. There are even differences between locals within a single union [hell -- within different *facilities* under the same contract] -- just as there are differences between different GMB's within the IWW, for that matter.

And I think that the IWW needs to rethink its position on staffing. I don't think contract campaigns are the end-all be-all, but the bogeyman AFL-CIO and business unionism and anti-staffing don't help the labor movement or the IWW. For all our disagreements, the enemy should still be the boss, not the AFL-CIO.

All that I grant.

What I disagree with is demonizing the IWW. Use your own principals with which you've come to conclude that the classic unions are worth fighting for -- I agree with that sentiment -- and apply them to the IWW.

I'd love to have reasonable labor radicals fighting with me in the IWW. We need to be serious about the business-end of the labor stick, and relax a bit on the ideological purity. Else, it will always be a lonely radical on a soapbox organization.

boozemonarchy

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on September 16, 2014

. . .I'd love to have reasonable labor radicals fighting with me in the IWW. We need to be serious about the business-end of the labor stick, and relax a bit on the ideological purity. Else, it will always be a lonely radical on a soapbox organization.

I have to take issue with boiling down the wariness/opposition of paid staffers to a simplified ideological purity thing. I'm in the wary camp, and my wariness is rooted in practical concerns rather than obsessing over my circle-a cred. I think professional organizers, business agents and such (not necessarily someone doing the books, a publication or something) do not in any way help increase class confidence (really my only serious goal atm). I think that they end up being a liability, not to the revolutionaryness of the union, but to the actual ability of the workers in it to exert their natural strength at the point of production.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 16, 2014

So, having seen these conversations go round and round, I think the term "ideological purity" should be the Godwin's Law of IWW discussions.

We need to be serious about the business-end of the labor stick, and relax a bit on the ideological purity. Else, it will always be a lonely radical on a soapbox organization.

Also, I got to be honest here, when the IWW's gone with the business end of the stick (and it's been tried time and again), it hasn't come out great - not in terms of membership numbers, workplace organisation, and certainly not in terms of principles.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 17, 2014

bozemananarchy

. . .I'd love to have reasonable labor radicals fighting with me in the IWW. We need to be serious about the business-end of the labor stick, and relax a bit on the ideological purity. Else, it will always be a lonely radical on a soapbox organization.

I have to take issue with boiling down the wariness/opposition of paid staffers to a simplified ideological purity thing. I'm in the wary camp, and my wariness is rooted in practical concerns rather than obsessing over my circle-a cred. I think professional organizers, business agents and such (not necessarily someone doing the books, a publication or something) do not in any way help increase class confidence (really my only serious goal atm). I think that they end up being a liability, not to the revolutionaryness of the union, but to the actual ability of the workers in it to exert their natural strength at the point of production.

Why do you think that?

I'd say that staff can have that effect. Undoubtedly. I've seen it.

But I'd also say that not having staff can have that effect -- because, eventually, union work becomes a full time job. And folk just don't have the energy to hold down two full time jobs until the day they retire.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 17, 2014

Also, I got to be honest here, when the IWW's gone with the business end of the stick (and it's been tried time and again), it hasn't come out great - not in terms of membership numbers, workplace organisation, and certainly not in terms of principles.

By "business end" I do not mean -- necessarily -- filing with the NLRB.

I just mean in terms of perspective -- what counts as a victory? What should we be trying to do?

That sort of thing.

What counts as a victory, IMO, is organizing workers. By "organizing workers" I mean having them join the union and having them pay dues on a regular basis (not for one month). That's the lowest level of participation. You can get people to do direct actions together without that element of being organized, by all means. But it's not the same sort of victory.

Having a worker sees themselves as a worker, and be willing to join a worker's organization on that basis, though -- that's a victory.

And for all that's beautiful and grand in the IWW -- and for all the many concrete victories that they've accomplished by using new tactics which are needed for the labor movement -- I'd still say there's this element within the org which is worthwhile to dampen in favor of seeing the value of bread-and-butter issues.

They're interlinked, in the end, after all.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 17, 2014

But I'd also say that not having staff can have that effect -- because, eventually, union work becomes a full time job. And folk just don't have the energy to hold down two full time jobs until the day they retire.

Thing is, though, that depends how you define union, how you define union work, and the goals of the union.

So, for example,

By "organizing workers" I mean having them join the union and having them pay dues on a regular basis (not for one month). That's the lowest level of participation.

I think I'd basically disagree with that almost 100%. Would I rather have a co-worker who pays dues or comes to a organising meeting? Would I rather have a co-worker who pays but crosses a picket line or who doesn't pay dues but doesn't cross a picket line?

Signing people up, for me, is always secondary to active involvement in struggle. Paying dues is useful if it aids that end. If it doesn't, well, I'm not gonna worry too much about it.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 17, 2014

Signing people up is active involvement in struggle, though. That's what I'm talking about. It doesn't matter how you define the union, how you define union work, and the goals of the union. Dues are important. Members that pay dues, and only pay dues, are important.

If you can get people to do more, then great. If they feel suspicious about dues and just want to do union activity, then sure. But that's a blue-moon situation. More or less, most people are comfortable paying union dues before they're comfortable doing anything else.

I agree that it can't stop there. But that's what I mean by saying that these goals aren't either/or. They're not in conflict. And it's that particular cultural strand that should be addressed because it would help the IWW make more gains.

boozemonarchy

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by boozemonarchy on September 18, 2014

Mr. Huxley

Why do you think that?

I'd say that staff can have that effect. Undoubtedly. I've seen it.

But I'd also say that not having staff can have that effect -- because, eventually, union work becomes a full time job. And folk just don't have the energy to hold down two full time jobs until the day they retire.

Because of the countless examples of unions organized this way that become a self-serving, class-collaborating monster ceaselessly selling out the rank and file to assure its continued existence. Its MO becomes maintenance/growth of the organization that writes their checks rather than being a vehicle of working-class militancy.

I know Steven already did this, but I really do feel Solidarity hit the ball out of the park here. . .
Solidarity

Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

I don't see these things in conflict-- having staff does not make it so we can't engage in meaningful action as defined by Solidarity. Nor does recognizing that membership is important, and even focusing on membership. If you act such that you increase confidence, autonomy, initiative, participation, solidarity, equalitarian tendencies and self-activity of the masses then you're acting well -- and you can act well regardless of the source of your paycheck.

No?

And what of the many unions which employ staff, but aren't corrupt? What do you make of these?

The position of staff is not an executive position. It's important that there's a distinction between decision-making power and staff within a union. Staff that don't recognize the difference between leadership and staff will blend those interests inappropriately. And just because organizations become corrupt that's not a reason to drop out -- that's a reason to stay involved, I'd say. Corruption is not a necessary feature of the social system.

You can't get lost in the numbers, by all means. But there's an advantage to it, too -- it makes it so you can't make too many excuses for yourself. It forces you to adapt. If the people believe in what you're doing, eventually, they'll join. And it's their interests that are important -- not the party line. By building working people up to fight for their own interests -- as defined by them -- you're doing exactly what Solidarity pointed to as good, revolutionary activity.

But that takes some serious work. Very serious work -- as evidenced by the good organizers that have come out of and are still in the IWW.

Don't they deserve to, eventually, get paid for what they do?

akai

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on September 18, 2014

For me this is really a sad trend towards professionalization. I really wonder if this is a popular position or marginal one in the IWW. I know that this has been a topic from time to time. I also know that there has been some overlap between the IWW and professionalized operations such as Brandworkers. Hope that in the end the union doesn't go that way because I think despite what people might be arguing (that it doesn't lead to anything bad), I am convinced such things to do encourage the growth of rank and file activism, rotation of duties, etc. - all things which I personally think are the main point.

OliverTwister

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by OliverTwister on September 18, 2014

akai

For me this is really a sad trend towards professionalization. I really wonder if this is a popular position or marginal one in the IWW. I know that this has been a topic from time to time. I also know that there has been some overlap between the IWW and professionalized operations such as Brandworkers. Hope that in the end the union doesn't go that way because I think despite what people might be arguing (that it doesn't lead to anything bad), I am convinced such things to do encourage the growth of rank and file activism, rotation of duties, etc. - all things which I personally think are the main point.

The union voted in 2012 to place a strict ban on paid organizing staff.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

akai

For me this is really a sad trend towards professionalization. I really wonder if this is a popular position or marginal one in the IWW. I know that this has been a topic from time to time. I also know that there has been some overlap between the IWW and professionalized operations such as Brandworkers. Hope that in the end the union doesn't go that way because I think despite what people might be arguing (that it doesn't lead to anything bad), I am convinced such things to do encourage the growth of rank and file activism, rotation of duties, etc. - all things which I personally think are the main point.

It's not a trend. Mine is a minority opinion.

Though I'd note again -- having staff does not discourage the growth of rank and file activism, the rotation of duties, etc. In fact, a good staff member *ensures* that more people who would not otherwise get involved, get involved, stops people who tend to always pick up duties for themselves so that other people have an opportunity to do union stuff, and trains people to take their place, and has people take their place.

The problem isn't having staff. In mainstream unions, leadership corruption comes about because there are paid elected positions which are also not very accountable to their membership [well, that, and direct mob activity -- thanks Teamsters! Hahah]. But the IWW structure doesn't have elected positions in this sense, and in the end, that can be avoided by simply not paying people in elected office.

Thus separating decision-making power from staff. [I do encourage staff to not think of themselves as part of the union -- it's not their union, it's the workers. They can form their own union, etc.]

But if you're going to get large, then eventually staff is just an inevitability. It's unrealistic to expect people to hold the equivalent of two full time jobs all the way until they retire. People hardly have the energy to hold one full time job all the way down the line, these days -- especially the job of organizer, which is seriously stressful work.

gram negative

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gram negative on September 18, 2014

Mr. Huxley

If you can get people to do more, then great. If they feel suspicious about dues and just want to do union activity, then sure. But that's a blue-moon situation. More or less, most people are comfortable paying union dues before they're comfortable doing anything else

I completely disagree; in my experience, people are much more skeptical of paying dues before being part of workplace struggle. Sure, signing up and paying dues are measures of committment, but I think that organizing activities like marches on the boss and having conversations with coworkers are much better barometers of committment as well as more useful for organizing. In an IWW organizing drive that I am involved with (as an outside organizer), asking workers to sign up and pay dues backfired completely. The organizing has become more successful now that we've dropped trying to sign people up and pay dues. Why should we ask people to pay dues before we have gained their trust, and before they have invested at all in organizing their workplace?

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

I suppose what resonates most with me in this series isn't that we should reject the IWW, as I noted to the writer. Or even all the facts upon which the case is based, because I know counter-examples and I know that there's some exageration here to make the case cleaner. But, all the same, the demonization of the labor movement as a whole within the IWW is tiresome -- precisely because, though there are mainstream unions to which it certainly applies, there are also mainstream unions to which it doesn't apply. And those unions are some of the few worker's spaces within the United States today, they're worker run, and they're fighting for their members the best that they can -- not to say they aren't making mistakes, but to then say that these are *the same* as the boss isn't quite accurate.

Just as in the IWW, people have suffered and died and continue to fight within these mainstream unions. And while there are differences of opinion, that doesn't mean that they're the enemy. There's a difference between the folk you invite to your planning meeting and the folk who are your friends. The AFL-CIO isn't necessarily even a friend -- I know that's the case, too, with the history and everything -- but there are workers in unions who are supporting the labor movement, and those unions are not necessarily corrupt unions.

And then, the folk who I hear this type of language from, more often than not, are not the folk who are actively engaged in organizing labor. So you kinda wonder -- whose selling out the working class, here?

It just doesn't seem terribly helpful to treat mainstream unions, which are workers institutions, and aren't all corrupt, as *the same* as the boss -- which is clearly the common enemy, even if there are disagreements on strategy and tactics and goals.

And, on top of that, just because there are disagreements, doesn't mean there isn't stuff you can't learn from them. It's not like everything that comes out of the AFL-CIO is a necessary evil, or something. They have a point, to a point -- and even though they are in decline, in many ways, they still have more members than the IWW. So, what's up with that? That's a very real issue. More members = more power. So, why isn't that important, to some people? Why is advocating for membership and dues something contentious within the union, at all? That shouldn't be contentious. It will help with our aims and goals.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

gram negative

Mr. Huxley

If you can get people to do more, then great. If they feel suspicious about dues and just want to do union activity, then sure. But that's a blue-moon situation. More or less, most people are comfortable paying union dues before they're comfortable doing anything else

I completely disagree; in my experience, people are much more skeptical of paying dues before being part of workplace struggle. Sure, signing up and paying dues are measures of committment, but I think that organizing activities like marches on the boss and having conversations with coworkers are much better barometers of committment as well as more useful for organizing. In an IWW organizing drive that I am involved with (as an outside organizer), asking workers to sign up and pay dues backfired completely. The organizing has become more successful now that we've dropped trying to sign people up and pay dues. Why should we ask people to pay dues before we have gained their trust, and before they have invested at all in organizing their workplace?

I'm guessing you're disagreeing with the "blue-moon situation" line, and that's how I'm responding here.

The reason why is two-fold.

The dues discussion is a low-risk way of navigating that trust-building. Rather than building trust and a relationship while simultaneously trying to fight a boss, you're just talking about your relationship with one another -- and it makes it an explicitly public relationship, not a friendship, not a club, etc. It sets the terms of the relationship clearly, and lets you work through the anxieties which every worker who hasn't done union stuff has -- such as not trusting you with their money, not thinking you can do anything anyways, "I'm just not a union person", "I have to talk to my wife", "I have kids...", etc.

It's a way of building a long term organization, because all those fears are anxieties are still there even if you're doing concerted activity together -- which can also backfire, and if they aren't properly prepped, then that backfire will just prove that you can't do anything anyways.

Number two: there's a difference between doing concerted activity as a collection of individuals, and as an organized group of workers. It's not like workers have worker-identity put into them. They're just within a social system that exploits them. That's the only common bond. But if you're going to organize the worker, you need to get them to a point where they recognize their membership in a class, and their membership within an organization. Talking about dues is the easiest and low-risk way of doing that -- and, truth be told, most workers -- in the end -- are more comfortable paying dues than doing direct action. They may be up for direct action when things are rough, or if there's an immediate goal, etc., but it's the lowest level activity that actually contributes to the cause.

Not everyone, mind. I'm just saying generically speaking -- especially if you're trying to organize a workplace that is not a hot shop.

gram negative

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gram negative on September 18, 2014

Honestly, I think there are two related issues with your wish to push signing up and dues payment. We shouldn't be looking for low pressure ways to talk about the union - the problem is that our coworkers are rationally afraid to stand up because of the consequences. Not confronting those fears does a disservice to them and the organizing. The second issue is that creating paper members does little for the union; the spectrum of activities that people can take part in is not just strike/pay dues, but includes coming to meetings, visiting coworkers, leafletting, and on and on.

I am not against paying dues in any way, I just think that the emphasis on signing people at the beginning of a campaign is misplaced. This may also be biased that all of my organizing has taken place in historically non-union industries.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

gram negative

Honestly, I think there are two related issues with your wish to push signing up and dues payment. We shouldn't be looking for low pressure ways to talk about the union - the problem is that our coworkers are rationally afraid to stand up because of the consequences. Not confronting those fears does a disservice to them and the organizing.

I wasn't clear before.

The conversation on dues is what allows you to address those rational fears. It's not a trick. It's low-risk, in the sense that you're not jeopardizing their job. And it allows them to accept the possible consequences of being organized without, simultaneously, having to deal with a boss.

The second issue is that creating paper members does little for the union; the spectrum of activities that people can take part in is not just strike/pay dues, but includes coming to meetings, visiting coworkers, leafletting, and on and on.

Sure. And, as I said before, if you can get someone to do more then that's awesome. That moves the union forward. But the facts are, many workers aren't willing to do more -- and having resources to hold meetings [have a union hall/rent a space/buy pizza], visit coworkers [taxis/busses/gasoline], print leaflets, and so on, is participating in the struggle.

But it's still pushing the union forward to have members paying dues. That's a real action.

I am not against paying dues in any way, I just think that the emphasis on signing people at the beginning of a campaign is misplaced. This may also be biased that all of my organizing has taken place in historically non-union industries.

Well, I'm certainly biased, too -- there's no getting around bias. Haha. I wouldn't say anyone is *objective* in this dispute. :D

I've done both. But, it's whatever. I'm not interested in pulling cred. I think that the tactics and strategy speaks for themselves, when you try them. And that's also why I qualify -- I mean this in a general sense, not a formulaic sense. There are times when you have to do other stuff, and sometimes it can work. But dues actually help us, for realz. And so does having members who are part of something.

syndicalist

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 18, 2014

Still haven't heard from the author after all this wheel spinning. Sez something, indeed

akai

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on September 18, 2014

Hi. About paid staff again, it is a question of union model. I should say that I am a very happily unpaid person with some mandate, which means some work. But if there was much more work, I would not insist on a salary - I would first insist that some people help out. Because it is total shit to expect one person to work full time when tasks can be shared and spread out. It also encourages more people to feel responsible and, when time comes to rotate duties, at least some other people will have experience in things.

May I say I am quite glad yours is a minority position. :-) No offence to you intended, just cannot agree with you.

Just a clarification, I know in the past the Secretary of IWW (or whatever you call it) was paid and could pay staff. So is that abolished now?

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

Mr. Huxley

But if you're going to get large, then eventually staff is just an inevitability. It's unrealistic to expect people to hold the equivalent of two full time jobs all the way until they retire. People hardly have the energy to hold one full time job all the way down the line, these days -- especially the job of organizer, which is seriously stressful work.

Mate, you know that in the UK pretty much all the base level work in the unions is done by rank and file members who are not paid, right? Some people receive facility time which is some hours off work.It's rare for unions to employ organisers. Admin staff, yes, and regional officials are paid, but the NEC for example of my union I think is mostly people who are still workers. And in my workplace the maximum facility time anyone gets is three hours a week.

I think our union density is nearly double what it is in the States so I woudn't say that the paid organiser model is an inevitability.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

fingers malone

Mr. Huxley

But if you're going to get large, then eventually staff is just an inevitability. It's unrealistic to expect people to hold the equivalent of two full time jobs all the way until they retire. People hardly have the energy to hold one full time job all the way down the line, these days -- especially the job of organizer, which is seriously stressful work.

Mate, you know that in the UK pretty much all the base level work in the unions is done by rank and file members who are not paid, right? Some people receive facility time which is some hours off work.It's rare for unions to employ organisers. Admin staff, yes, and regional officials are paid, but the NEC for example of my union I think is mostly people who are still workers. And in my workplace the maximum facility time anyone gets is three hours a week.

I think our union density is nearly double what it is in the States so I woudn't say that the paid organiser model is an inevitability.

I don't know anything about the state of UK unions, but I know that unions work best when rank-and-filers take on the tasks of the union. I know about facility time, etc.

All that I'm on board with.

My only point of contention is this notion that organizing isn't a job, that it inevitably leads to corruption, and that it wouldn't help things -- not to mention the demonization of the labor movement as a whole. That's just silly. Organising is hard work, you can have a corrupt union without paid organisers, and having an organizer on staff does help things.

They have to be good at the job and know its parameters, but I'd, for one, would like it if the wobs hired an organizer. It would help in making the union stronger.

I'm stating things too strongly in saying "inevitability" -- but it certainly helps. You do have staff, yeah? I'd be surprised if the staff doesn't help in organising activities. Tho, you never know, every local is kind of its own beast in the end.

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

No, we really don't. The local branch is responsible for a certain level of admin and we just have to do it ourselves. No one has any kind of paid position in the branch at all. You only get paid workers at the regional or national level of the union. There are paid regional officials and national officials, and there are a lot of paid workers who do admin and so on at that level, but we don't have staff in the way you use the word in the States. Keeping track of the membership lists and so on is the responsibility of one member of the union committee, but organising is everyone's responsibility.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

fingers malone

No, we really don't. The local branch is responsible for a certain level of admin and we just have to do it ourselves. No one has any kind of paid position in the branch at all. You only get paid workers at the regional or national level of the union. There are paid regional officials and national officials, and there are a lot of paid workers who do admin and so on at that level, but we don't have staff in the way you use the word in the States. Keeping track of the membership lists and so on is the responsibility of one member of the union committee, but organising is everyone's responsibility.

Fair enough.

I don't disagree that organising is everyone's responsibility.

That's what kills me. I'd say that having an organiser on staff doesn't erase that responsibility of being a union member. It just makes the organising effort go more.

For instance, in our local, if we didn't have an organiser, the darn thing would fall apart -- it's just the way of things, here. I know this by looking at the history of the local. But, all the same, keeping the local together helps those workers, and gives the opportunity to develop workers into member-organizers. And, hopefully one day, staff.

Vs. doing the same thing, but without protection in a workplace without contract, history of union organizing, or even the expectation that you should be paid enough to be paid your bills, it's much better. So it's worth keeping the local going.

gram negative

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gram negative on September 18, 2014

Have you spoken to union staffers in the US before? The staffers who work for the union at my workplace are overworked - most work 6 days a week, with 10 hour days common. Though the union is not a profit generating entity, it is still subject to economic pressures. A new shop with +1000 new members has just opened and instead of hiring new staff the union is instituting a speedup by reshuffling the shops staffers represent whilr adding no one new. In fact, this mainstream union wants to transition to unpaid staff, not simply for the organizing utility but for the economic benefit of unpaid work. The economic issues of having staff are just one problem, the other issue is the development of specialists skilled at organizing separate from the bulk of the membership. Having paid staff sets up the organizing to fall on their shoulders; the ideal should be for workers learning how to organize through doing it. I don't think organizing is neccessarily so complicated that an expert is always needed; organizing just requires practice.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

Yeah, I have. What's your point? I know these facts. They don't address what I've said, though -- namely, that having a paid organizer doesn't mean that the membership shouldn't worry about organizing, that having paid staff doesn't mean that the union will become corrupt, and having paid organizers makes sense because it's hard work.

You just have to do it correctly. It's not like every union with paid organizing staff is a corrupt union. Yeah?

And, it makes sense to do it correctly, because it works better than just hoping that workers will figure it all out on their own. Training program or no.

The economic issue is easy to solve. Pay them a wage in accordance with the folk who make up the union. Work is about 40 hours a week, salaried. Use progressive discipline and eventually fire them if they don't work. [which is what I mean by "ideological purity", here -- that's the part that usually snags people]

Having paid organizing staff pushes the organizing efforts further, because you have someone dedicated to that important task, and gives someone time to help workers learn how to organize. There's a real skill to it -- and you can benefit from someone helping you.

I know there's a training program in the wobs -- a very admirable one at that -- but imagine being able to run that program more often. That's the sort of thing a paid organizer could do.

Juan Conatz

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Juan Conatz on September 18, 2014

akai

Just a clarification, I know in the past the Secretary of IWW (or whatever you call it) was paid and could pay staff. So is that abolished now?

The General Secretary treasurer of the Union is a paid position. The editor of the newspaper and a couple administrative positions are stipended. And occasionally outside organiErs are placed on a stipend.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 18, 2014

So, first, it's not at all about “corruption” – it's about the role of the union in workplace and the structural pressures a union feels via registration, recognition, full-timers, etc.

Signing people up is active involvement in struggle, though.

Is it, though?

If you can get people to do more, then great. If they feel suspicious about dues and just want to do union activity, then sure. But that's a blue-moon situation. More or less, most people are comfortable paying union dues before they're comfortable doing anything else.

So, having worked in various union shops and having had some modest organising successes in non-union shops, I've had basically the opposite experience. People don't join a union unless they have a reason to and, they don't have a reason to join until they're involved in union activities.

Not to mention, to me, it just seems like the ass-backwards way to organise. I want, first and foremost, my workmates actively involved in fighting together. Dues, joining, deeper political conversations, that shit all comes after getting people to act collectively together.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

Chilli Sauce

So, first, it's not at all about “corruption” – it's about the role of the union in workplace and the structural pressures a union feels via registration, recognition, full-timers, etc.

Signing people up is active involvement in struggle, though.

Is it, though?

Yes, I think so.

If you can get people to do more, then great. If they feel suspicious about dues and just want to do union activity, then sure. But that's a blue-moon situation. More or less, most people are comfortable paying union dues before they're comfortable doing anything else.

So, having worked in various union shops and having had some modest organising successes in non-union shops, I've had basically the opposite experience. People don't join a union unless they have a reason to and, they don't have a reason to join until they're involved in union activities.

Not to mention, to me, it just seems like the ass-backwards way to organise. I want, first and foremost, my workmates actively involved in fighting together. Dues, joining, deeper political conversations, that shit all comes after getting people to act collectively together.

Then we have opposite experiences. Nothing wrong with that. It should be expected. It's not like union organizing is formulaic, or like there's some one-size-fits-all method. It's a skill, but concrete conditions differ all over the place, and so what works differs, too.

It seems to me that getting folk to participate in direct action is the ass-backwards way about, personally. Dues and joining come first, IMO. You build a group identity, and not just doing stuff together. You are able to work through the anxieties and fears that workers have without jeopardizing their job. And you build the union up. All good things.

People don't join unless they have a reason to, sure. If they like what you're doing then they'll join up. [well, sometimes -- that can vary, too. But it's a good rule]

But I disagree that they don't have a reason to join unless they're involved in union activities. There's many reasons to join. Most people have their issue.

Dues and joining, to me, is that first step. It means you're in it. You're down. I don't need a deep political conversation -- that's not what I'm talking about. It's just a sure sign that we're on the same side.

Then we can talk about acting collectively together. Why would I want to act collectively together with a bunch of people that aren't down, to some degree? That doesn't build class-consciousness.

gram negative

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gram negative on September 18, 2014

Mr. Huxley

Having paid organizing staff pushes the organizing efforts further, because you have someone dedicated to that important task, and gives someone time to help workers learn how to organize. There's a real skill to it -- and you can benefit from someone helping you.

I agree that having someone with experience organizing helps with training. But why does that person need to be paid? I volunteer as an outside organizer on my local Wob campaign since I have experience organizing. While my expeeience is useful, I cannot move workers to the same extent that their coworkers can. Even the staff members of that mainstream union understand this - it is soooo much harder to do organizing as an outsider. A salt or a militant worker already working somewhere is worth more than a staffer. I know this because the ratio between the amount of work they put in versus the organizing results is completely unbalanced compared to what a worker can do on the inside.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

gram negative

Mr. Huxley

Having paid organizing staff pushes the organizing efforts further, because you have someone dedicated to that important task, and gives someone time to help workers learn how to organize. There's a real skill to it -- and you can benefit from someone helping you.

I agree that having someone with experience organizing helps with training. But why does that person need to be paid? I volunteer as an outside organizer on my local Wob campaign since I have experience organizing. While my expeeience is useful, I cannot move workers to the same extent that their coworkers can. Even the staff members of that mainstream union understand this - it is soooo much harder to do organizing as an outsider. A salt or a militant worker already working somewhere is worth more than a staffer. I know this because the ratio between the amount of work they put in versus the organizing results is completely unbalanced compared to what a worker can do on the inside.

I volunteer to help folk as an outside organizer consultant, too. I think it's important [tho, you better believe, I make sure they're paying dues. Haha. I suppose it comes with the territory of my general attitude, tho]. And I totally agree -- an insider militant can move workers much more than an outside organizer, always.

I don't expect to be paid for everything I do. I do it for the cause, after all.

But I also know that having a full-timer can help not just one campaign, but multiple campaigns at once. I agree that even the work between the insider and the outside is not balanced. The insider has more at steak than the outsider, even if you tie wages together. All these things should be recognized in hiring a staffer.

It's just that you get more done, for whatever reason, when someone is assigned to full-time organizing.

The ratio I've seen work, there, is about 3000:1 -- but I wouldn't put that out as a hard and fast rule. It just depends on how much there is to be done. The workers do most of the work (even 3hr/month/worker is decent), and they have decision-making power, but having an outside organizer with experience on staff can help multiple campaigns along -- by pushing for membership (because that's the action that lots of folk are uncomfortable with), by keeping good records, and by generally serving the member-leaders on the shop floor. Among other tasks.

EDIT: Also, even though it's true that the insider has more at stake, it's still true that organizing as a staffer is hard and stressful work. People deserve to be paid for hard and stressful work -- and tend to do more/stick around longer when they are too. So the organization benefits, the movement benefits, and the organizer benefits.

Ed

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on September 18, 2014

Mr Huxley

Chilli Sauce

Mr Huxley

Signing people up is active involvement in struggle, though.

Is it, though?

Yes, I think so.

I'd say about about three-quarters of my workplace are union members. Last strike, I'd say about 10% of us went out. I think this proves quite clearly that being signed up to the union is not the same as active involvement in struggle.

Pennoid

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Pennoid on September 18, 2014

A fair days wage for a fair days organizing!

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

Ed

Mr Huxley

Chilli Sauce

Mr Huxley

Signing people up is active involvement in struggle, though.

Is it, though?

Yes, I think so.

I'd say about about three-quarters of my workplace are union members. Last strike, I'd say about 10% of us went out. I think this proves quite clearly that being signed up to the union is not the same as active involvement in struggle.

Alright, fair enough.

Would you also conclude that the 65% who are just members are doing nothing?

Because I'm more than happy to say that these are different from one another. The gist of what I'm driving at is that dues paying members are contributing -- and what proves that are the gains maintained in workplaces with dues paying members that are not, then, active in the sense you mean here.

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

But Ed's saying that signed up, dues paying members were prepared to undermine a strike which their own workmates were participating in. It's a strike they would have been balloted about and that is over issues that will affect them and they wer sabotaging it. Not the same at all as people who pay subs but are too busy to get very involved.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

fingers malone

But Ed's saying that signed up, dues paying members were prepared to undermine a strike which their own workmates were participating in. It's a strike they would have been balloted about and that is over issues that will affect them and they wer sabotaging it. Not the same at all as people who pay subs but are too busy to get very involved.

True enough. I'm willing to grant that, too.

But I still haven't heard an answer to the question -- from anyone, mind, else I wouldn't bring it up again -- about whether or not paying dues is doing nothing, or something.

I argue that it's doing something. I understand wanting folk to do more. And I understand not wanting people's dues, in the case that they're wanting to pay dues just to sabotage the union. Totally on page -- I didn't just start in the labor movement yesterday, or anything.

But I'd still say that people who are just paying dues -- though we'd want more -- are still doing something. And that's a reasonable position to take within the wobs.

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

In the situation Ed is talking about, people pay dues as an insurance policy in case they have trouble at work, but they don't feel that it binds them to collective action or basic solidarity with their own workmates or the rest of the working class.

In organisations where the members have a say on what money is spent on, yes I appreciate people paying dues but who are too busy to come to meetings because the rest of us spend their money to do stuff. And I appreciate that support very much.
In a big union where all the members at my level have zero control over funds, I feel differently about it. In my union no subs money is kept at branch level, it all goes directly to the HQ.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 18, 2014

fingers malone

In the situation Ed is talking about, people pay dues as an insurance policy in case they have trouble at work, but they don't feel that it binds them to collective action or basic solidarity with their own workmates or the rest of the working class.

In organisations where the members have a say on what money is spent on, yes I appreciate people paying dues but who are too busy to come to meetings because the rest of us spend their money to do stuff. And I appreciate that support very much.
In a big union where all the members at my level have zero control over funds, I feel differently about it. In my union no subs money is kept at branch level, it all goes directly to the HQ.

Right on. I feel differently about that situation too. No democratic control =/= very good organization. [tho I still say joining is the better thing to do than not joining, I agree with the sentiment -- it doesn't feel quite right]

And sure they think of it as an insurance policy. They were probably organized under that notion, unfortunately. That's a sentiment that needs to be combated. But, I'd argue at least, that it's easier to combat that sentiment within a union environment than it is in a non-union environment.

But that's where the IWW is very different, to say the least. Ya'know? It's, like, the *most* democratic labor organization around.

So having members, in this case, makes a difference. And why I'd like it if we had more members -- which could be better facilitated by having staff dedicated to that purpose. I mean, shoot, we don't even promote contracts, so it's not like folk don't pay willingly. It'd just be good to have more people, because you get more power that way. Even if they're not walking on the picket line.

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

(cross post)

Ok when my union gives a really substantial amount of money to a protracted strike, yes the subs money of passive members is clearly important. But sadly I don't think that's what the majority of our subs money goes on, and we could have rank and file control of funds and we'd give that money to strikers and we'd give more, as evidenced by how much money is raised by rank and file collections (on top of subs money that we've already paid).

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

Mr. Huxley

But that's where the IWW is very different, to say the least. Ya'know? It's, like, the *most* democratic labor organization around.

So having members, in this case, makes a difference. And why I'd like it if we had more members -- which could be better facilitated by having staff dedicated to that purpose.

Mate, I do actually know that the IWW is different to a normal mainstream trade union, and I would also like it if the IWW had more members, and I also think it would be good if the IWW had more money, but I disagree with you about paid organisers. To be specific, I disagree with people having full time jobs as organisers. Giving people money sometimes so they can do a short term intensive project, paying for childcare, stuff like that I think can sometimes be really good.
Same as facility time, if there is money available it should be shared as much as possible, so that as many people as possible can develop skills and experience. So I agree with my workplace limit on three hours a week for example.

fingers malone

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fingers malone on September 18, 2014

Union militants should never be separate from the working environment, so if there is a redundancy threat, we are also at risk of losing our jobs, and if there is an increase in workload, we are also experiencing that, so that we are still in the same boat as everybody else.

Mr. Huxley

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mr. Huxley on September 19, 2014

fingers malone

Union militants should never be separate from the working environment, so if there is a redundancy threat, we are also at risk of losing our jobs, and if there is an increase in workload, we are also experiencing that, so that we are still in the same boat as everybody else.

I agree there. That's why I say the decision-making power needs to be separated from staff. Just by the nature of the job, staff can acquire more power than folk on the shop floor if they go about it the wrong way.

A staff member is not a union militant or a shop-floor organizer. They offer support. They offer training. They help the workers on the shop floor with experience and guidance, and a bigger picture view. But, in the end, it can't be their decision.

And even though this is so, I'd point out that the fate of the union is very much something which staff cares about -- it's their jobs, after all, that are at stake. There's no point in saying that the situation is the same as the union militant -- which is why I make the distinction between staff and leadership -- but I don't think it makes sense to say that staff doesn't care about the union, and consequently, the working conditions of people. There's way less stress-inducing work out there that pays more than union staffing positions do, that give more free time, that allow more freedom in your personal time, and receive way less criticism/play less politics.

The reason why it'd be nice to have an organizer on staff is because then we'd have more folk in the union. Insofar that that is a worthwhile goal, then it makes sense to pay people to do it. Not as the end-goal of unionism -- we don't put money into a pot to pay people to do what we can and must do ourselves, and if we did, we'd be better off investing it anyways -- but simply to facilitate our end-goals of worker emancipation. In the case of an organizer, by signing up more members, and developing members into the union militants we need -- because we certainly need more than are developing naturally.

Least, that's my take on it. Does that seem completely unreasonable to you?

klas batalo

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by klas batalo on September 19, 2014

In fact, this mainstream union wants to transition to unpaid staff, not simply for the organizing utility but for the economic benefit of unpaid work.

hear that marxvx maybe you can get that gig and be severely overworked and not paid at all! #birddoglyfe

Croy

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Croy on September 21, 2014

commenting to keep track of this discussion

syndicalist

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on September 21, 2014

Join the Staff Union, comrade.

plasmatelly

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by plasmatelly on September 21, 2014

Juan Conatz

akai

Just a clarification, I know in the past the Secretary of IWW (or whatever you call it) was paid and could pay staff. So is that abolished now?

The General Secretary treasurer of the Union is a paid position. The editor of the newspaper and a couple administrative positions are stipended. And occasionally outside organiErs are placed on a stipend.

Is that meant to say General Secretary and the treasurer or is the GS also the treasurer?

Chilli Sauce

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on September 21, 2014

GST all in one.