Around our union

A round-up of IWW news. Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001).

Montreal Wobs win union recognition

The recently organized Montreal IWW now claims 15 members and should be applying for a branch charter soon. The two workers of the CFS-Q (a student union) have joined and are preparing to negotiate their first contract.The IWW is also close to securing a majority at a local vegetarian grocery, and has several Wobs working at a large marketing research firm.

They have also been busy translating IWW literature into French, and have distributed 1,000 copies of a "Direct Action Gets the Goods" newsletter.

IWW organizing Pitzer College

The General Executive Board has chartered an Industrial Union Branch for faculty at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. The Pitzer faculty began organizing in October, and now have more than a third of the faculty signed up and have begun reaching out to faculty at nearby colleges.

A member of the Boston Education Workers IU 620 Branch met with several Pitzer Wobs in January, discussing strategies for reaching majority status and possibilities for organizing effective solidarity actions for Pitzer faculty and cafeteria staff (who have been struggling for union recognition for several years).

Industrial union organizing summit

The East Bay (California) IWW hosted an industrial union organizing summit the weekend of October 15th, which kicked off with a discussion of industry-wide versus individual shop organizing. In the long run, participants agreed, organizing industry-wide is the more practical approach.

Other discussions addressed the challenge of how Industrial Union and General Membership Branches can more effectively support each other. Although the IWW generally begins by organizing GMBs and working to build Industrial Union Branches from that base, Seattle and Portland began with industrial campaigns in the food service and nonprofit sectors with some success.

Participants were interested in targeting a few industries, such as education, restaurants, construction, and transportation, for organizing. This will require developing issue-based campaigns and networks of activists as we work to build a base in these industries capable of making our presence felt.

Another union café

Workers at Madison's Café Assissi lined up in the IWW in December, bringing the number of job shops in the city to three. (The other two are Lakeside Press and the UW Greens Infoshop, an independent educational resource center.) The café serves natural foods, and has a space for performers and film showings. It is the only unionized coffee house in Madison.

Boston actions hit sweatshop labor

Several members of the Boston IWW joined demonstrations outside Niketown and the Gap December 16, joining over a hundred protesters with our banner and exhorting passersby in Boston's toniest shopping district to take a stand in solidarity with our fellow workers overseas.

We were soon joined by a horde of police who decided the Wobblies were blocking an entranceway too effectively and shoved us aside. Police were much rougher with a follow-up demonstration the next week, preventing protestors from congregating on the public sidewalks in front of the stores.

IWW elects general officers for 2001

In balloting last month, IWW members have voted to re-elect General Secretary-Treasurer Alexis Buss to serve a second one-year term. The 2001 General Executive Board will include: Sam Adams (Minneapolis), Jeff Brite (New Orleans), Mark Damron (Cincinnati), Joshua Freeze (Austin), Breeze Luetke-Stahlman (Lawrence), Mickie Valis (Atlanta), and John Persak (Seattle). Jon Bekken (Boston) was elected to edit the Industrial Worker.

The International Solidarity Commission members will be Liam Flynn (Baltimore), Ron Kaminkow (Chicago) and Peter Moore (Ottawa). Eric Chester (Western Massachusetts) is first alternate.

Elected to the union's Conflict Mediation Committee were Bill Bradley (Portland), Heather Hall (Winnipeg), Robin Hood (Detroit), Betsy Law (Louisville), and Mona Tapp (Louisville). Mark Damron will also serve as secretary of the General Defense Committee.

The IWW's 2001 General Assembly, at which members come together to discuss union policy and nominate officers for the coming year, will be held the first weekend in August in Boston, Massachusetts.

Constitutional amendments to reorganize the General Defense Committee, streamline the union's election process, and speed the issuance of recall ballots in the event that members petition to remove an officer were approved. A proposal to make it more difficult to press internal charges against union members was defeated.

Farewell, Fellow Workers

Fellow Worker David Miller, who lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills near the old Gold Country, died Dec. 14. He rejoined the IWW about 18 months ago. Last time I spoke to David, he was looking for suggestions on how to organize loggers at Sierra Pacific Industries to try and oppose clear-cut logging.
Fellow Worker Dave Johnson, formerly of IU 510, Marine Transport Workers in San Francisco, is dead at 57. A deck-hand at Red & White, he was a great guy, always friendly and amiable.

They will both be missed.

-- Steve Ongerth

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001)