The IWW was the first union to treat all workers equally, regardless of their ethnic ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. Every working person who earns their living with their hands or their mind is welcome in the IWW.
Historically, the Wobblies have always focused on helping organize those workers that the American Federation of Labor (AFL) shunned. In the early 1900s that meant African-Americans, immigrants, women, and unskilled laborers. Today that means curbside recyclers, non-profit staffers, temp workers, sex-industry workers, co-op employees — in short, any worker in any workplace regardless of size or structure; even those the AFL-CIO considers too small or unimportant to organize. In our modern economy, with its small workplaces, minimum wage jobs, and focus on the service industry, the IWW approach of organizing by industry is the ideal way to insure that all workers are represented, and considered important parts of the union.
The IWW is Truly Democratic:
The IWW is the most democratic union in America. Each workplace is organized by its workers, and it is the workers who make all decisions, and have complete autonomy in running the local. There is no main office enforcing an arbitrary organizational structure.
All IWW locals are organized by industry so that no IWW union will compete with another. We believe an injury to one is an injury to all, and that unions need to stick together when one local is in a fight. All locals are further organized internationally as a federation. Each sends recallable delegates to national meetings which advocate the interests of their locals, and report back to the locals regarding the ongoing state of the union at large.
The IWW believes in using direct action to accomplish its goals. When there are labor laws to protect the workers’ rights, we will use the law to prosecute the bosses who violate it. Where there is injustice, we will use whistle blowing, pickets, strikes, work slowdowns, monkey wrenching, and other tactics to punish the bosses in their pocketbooks.
Historically, the labor movement has been most successful when it relied on the direct intervention of the workers to obtain their demands; rather than allowing professional negotiators to speak for them. The IWW has always engaged in those tactics which it could control itself; what some have called sabotage. Sabotage in this context does not mean arson and dynamite, however. It is more properly defined as “the conscious withdrawal of efficiency.” Staying at your workstation but reducing your production by half will bring a boss to his knees quicker than a whole team of negotiators.
If the boss tries to turn the government against us with court orders and police harassment, we will defy them. If they use violence, we will resist! We believe that violence is the last resort of cowards, bosses and police states that are losing control. Our response is to break their resolve by not allowing ourselves to be intimidated. Our strength is in our numbers, our solidarity with one another, and our resolve to protect our rights as honest, hardworking people.
The IWW has never advocated violence. By fighting for justice with non-violent tactics, the IWW has often won the support of an initially mistrustful public.
Not Political Power:
The IWW does not support politicians or any political party. Our Constitution explicitly states “the IWW refuses all alliances, direct and indirect, with existing parties and anti-political sects.” This policy has helped us avoid the sectarian feuding that can easily destroy a group.
Politicians are too easily led by money, and are thus too easily allied to the bosses. Throughout history, people with money have realized that they have to buy protection and favors from government if they want to maintain their positions and power. Once this was accomplished through bribery; now it is accomplished with campaign contributions, industrial political action committees (PACs), full-time professional lobbyists, and an army of lawyers that know how to work the professional bureaucracy and massage the rules and regulations to work for them.
It is the government that has carefully crafted the law in such a way as to give “civil rights” to corporations, protect corporate executives from any legal liability for the actions of their companies, and to provide numerous perks and benefits to business at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile this same government as consistently tried to deny workers their Constitutional rights of free speech, assembly, and due process, whenever it threatened the economic ambitions of Capital.
For over 100 years, political parties which have courted Labor and claimed to represent the workers have either turned on us or been ineffective once they found themselves in office. Meanwhile others have steadfastly and openly sided with the corporations against the workers.
The IWW is a labor union, not a political party. We believe that economic justice must be achieved through economic struggle. The institutions of government have always proven themselves to be the allies of Capital, so we do not wait for politicians to free us from wage-slavery. We believe our power lies in the workplace, not in “the vote”.
The IWW believes that wars are primarily fought to make the rich richer and weaken the power of workers. Wars between nations have never benefited the working class, and they never will.
Usually ideas like patriotism are a smokescreen exploited by bosses to trick us into cooperating. In some cases, multi-national corporations may even encourage governments to go to war to help them to exploit workers, control natural resources, and monopolize the production of staples such as food and fuel in other countries. War profiteers, safe in their mansions and boardrooms, never consider the human cost of their military adventurism. Working people are mere cannon fodder for their corporate and imperialist ambitions.
Wars force workers of one country to kill the workers of another country and to die to promote the economic ambitions of corporations and bosses that watch from the sidelines. The IWW believes that unions should exist to improve the lives of the workers they represent, and not to help kill off other workers so that the employing class can make greater profits. Real working class solidarity does not recognize the artificial borders erected between nation-states, but instead unites against a common class enemy.
To put an end to war, working people must lay down their arms and refuse to fight for their masters. Unfortunately, many have been brainwashed into thinking that their interests are the same as those of the people in power, so this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, the IWW is committed to fighting patriotic propaganda by educating workers about where their real self-interest lies.
Fire Your Boss!
The IWW believes that the only antidote to wage slavery if the abolition of the wage system itself. By abolition of the wage system, we mean that the workers themselves should own the workplace, operate it democratically, and share the benefits of all they produce. One day, through solidarity, our unions will be so powerful that we will be able to force the bosses to cede control of the workplaces to those who actually do the work.
People who work together and exchange their knowledge solve problems easier than those who work in highly regimented workplaces or rigid bureaucracies. People who are working for them-selves are more motivated to do the best possible work than they are when they are working for others. That is the situation that is present when workers are paid only a fraction of the value of their work, and bosses take credit for all of their ideas.
Once workers at other workplaces see how good employee owned shops have it, they will want to know how they can join up. The goal of the IWW is for all workers to be unionized and united under a single labor federation that will be able to protect workers from the tactics of bosses, politicians and organized crime, who cooperate to maximize their power and profits at the expense of labor.
Join The I.W.W.
The IWW is only as strong as its membership. We need your help to carry out our work. It’s a do-it-yourself sort of organization, working toward a better world and a better life.