For the works: report from the 2012 IWW General Convention

An account by Ryan G of the 2012 IWW General Convention in Portland, Oregon.

Over 75 fellow workers from around the world descended upon Portland, Ore., this past Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-2, for the 2012 IWW General Convention. The Portland General Membership Branch hosted this annual gathering of IWW members, providing housing, food and social gatherings for all attendees.

Over the course of two days, assembled delegates at the IWW General Convention were responsible for representing their branch in this important decision-making body of the union. Many different proposals were heard, debated and decided upon, all of which seek to implement changes to the IWW Constitution. These proposals will soon be mailed out to every IWW member in good standing in the form of the referendum ballot. Fellow Worker: as an IWW member, you have the right to directly vote on these changes!

We heard reports from many of the mandated committees throughout the union. A highlight was hearing reports from the Organizing Department Board (ODB), as well as the Organizer Training Committee, that the union’s developmental program of workplace organizer training is alive and well. In addition to hosting dozens of Organizer Trainings (OTs) throughout North America, the ODB is also busy at work preparing for an upcoming IWW Organizing Summit next February. We also watched a great video produced by the Work People’s College and heard about plans to continue this educational institute.

Finally, delegates and members alike were able to nominate fellow workers for various union offices, such as the General Executive Board, the General Secretary- Treasurer and many others. Most offices will feature candidates appearing on the upcoming referendum ballot, again, giving all IWW members the opportunity to directly appoint their General Administration.

Being in meetings for 8 to 10 hours a day is never easy, but despite the sometimes grueling procedures and business, there was a strong air of camaraderie and responsibility amongst delegates. This spirit was perhaps aided by the amenities of the venue: a space featuring comfortable tables and chairs, catered food service, wireless internet and air conditioning!

In addition to all the constitutionally mandated business, the General Convention is also an opportunity to meet up faceto- face with our co-organizers, friends and fellow workers. These personal bonds are invaluable in building a culture of solidarity and understanding amongst various regions where the IWW has a presence. To this end, the Portland IWW coordinated social events to accommodate the General Convention in-between sessions.

A Solidarity Party was held at the Red & Black Café on Friday evening, featuring music from Brendan Phillips (son of the late Utah) and Portland’s own house band, I Wobble Wobble. The Red & Black Café is a collectively-owned and operated business and has been an IWW union shop since 2009. It was fantastic to be able to spend the evening in an explicitly IWW space, especially when it came time to sing rousing verses of all the great IWW songs.

After General Convention business concluded for the day on Sept. 1, attendees were whisked away in a school bus (driven by an IWW driver!) to a bowling alley, where we proceeded to “Bowl The Union On.”

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (October 2012)