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Is the IWW still active and helpful to workers?

+2 votes
Or is it at the point where workers would be better off joining other and/or specialized unions?
asked Aug 3, 2013 by anonymous
for what it's worth, i don't think this question has anything to do with anarchy. IWW is not anarchist *and* unions are a failed experiment. if people hadn't answered it, it would probably have been taken down.
I think you bring up a good point, dot: the IWW is not anarchist (they take pains to make sure that everyone knows that). That said, I think it was worth answering, because there is still that association, however tenuous it might be.

2 Answers

+1 vote
The IWW is still (marginally) active, in recent years in North America (which is really as much of the world as it ever had much sway in) it has worked to organize Starbucks baristas, various book sellers & restaurant workers, and some smaller factories (I am sure I am forgetting some campaigns...) Whether their brand of organizing or that of the big unions is more helpful might depend on the situation.

Overall, from my perspective, unions are essentially tools of industry. They certainly serve to improve or maintain some workers conditions (those that are members), but they don't challenge anything fundamental about capitalism or industry.

Even the IWW still assumes the maintaining of social structures and modes of production that I am not sure are compatible with anarchy. And on top of that, the actions you engage in outside the workplace might end up making the IWW an extremely fickle comrade (look up Marie Mason).
answered Aug 3, 2013 by ingrate (21,900 points)
"unions are essentially tools of industry"

Yep.
When the industrialists made their faustian bargain with the domesticated unions to break the radical ones, that was the bargain - compliant sheep, to be fleeced by their masters and their shepherds both.  (If anyone can provide a link to fill in the breaking of the radical unions, i'd be grateful.)

As an example, and one among thousands, when the auto companies crashed in the last Great Economic Lurch, there was a story about a small parts company in Oshawa.  They had recently been sold from a family ownership to a small company in California/Switzerland, but when things went sideways they shutdown in the middle of the night; but the workers were all members of the auto workers union so they weren't worried - the big union had their back, right?  Well the parts and fabrication molds were locked inside, and the company was offering something like half of back wages and ten percent of the pension funds; so naturally the workmen struck and locked the place down.  But then the Union men come in and say 'we don't want trouble down here, we've bigger fish to fry... pack it in or you'll have no help from us.'  Now provincial law made it a criminal offence to walk away from pension obligations, ... guess how long it took the provinciales to throw up their hands and walk away from that one?
So, they had no tradition of resistance, and their imagined avenues of support had abandoned them, so they buckled and gave in.
0 votes
It all depends on what you want to get out of a union. If you want to improve the health and safety of your workplace and your shop is not unionized, you have a lot of choices. If you want that organizing to go smoothly (that is, with the least amount of harassment from the bosses and their tools), you might just consider a union already affiliated to the AFL-CIO since they have funds and lawyers. Starting from scratch with a cash-poor outfit like the IWW might not be the best strategy for fighting a large employer.

The main reason the IWW has had as many successes organizing in certain workplaces is that most are either small businesses in marginal industries that can't afford union-busting lawyers, or are franchises that don't necessarily want adverse publicity.

The few successes the IWW has had in the past decade or so have been in almost completely marginal workplaces (food service). If that applies to you, sure, get an IWW local started.
answered Aug 3, 2013 by lawrence (550 points)
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