We recently heard of that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had managed to establish a job shop in Hampshire, and took the opportunity to interview Ray Carr, the IWW delegate involved, recently.
RC: I work at the Co-op Retail Services in New Milton. There are 30 workers in all, 6 are now IWWs and USDAW (reformist shop workers union) have about the same.
The Co-op traditionally had a special cosy relationship with the USDAW, who survived from the checkoff of union subs from there. Was this a factor?
It was part of the reason, but although USDAW are very into social partnership, the majority of its members these days are in companies like Tesco.
The IWW is explicitly anti-capitalist, was this an issue for the other workers who joined?
The whole issue took off when management proposed to open the store till 10pm. Myself and one USDAW member opposed it and after speaking to the other workers there, there was 100% opposition. We organised by putting in a collective grievance and holding a meeting. At the meeting it was agreed that nobody would sign new contracts, which we expected they might try to impose on us, and that if any pressure was put on an individual, the others would support them. I took both IWW and USDAW membership forms to the meeting. As things carried on, there was the danger that USDAW (who had done nothing) would take the credit and get members. I explained about the IWW, the major factors in people joining were the low dues, the fact that there are no paid officials and the internal democracy. Five people joined, making a branch of 6 including myself.
What was the response of management?
On the 10pm opening issue we had one meeting with the Human Resources Manager. We told him that the grievance could only be called off by the whole workforce, s it was the meeting of all the workers there who had decided on it. The issue has not been mentioned since.
Do you see more members joining?
I see it as an ongoing campaign, not just in the co-op but in the retail industry generally.
What help could our readers give to support what you're doing?
The best way to help is to promote a different type of unionism as I've outlined above, which is what we all should be doing.