Founded in 1905, the IWW is open to all workers. Don’t let the “industrial” part fool you. Our members include teachers, cleaners, social workers, retail workers, construction workers, bartenders, and computer programmers. Only bosses are not allowed to join. If you are currently unemployed, you can still join. You have a legal right to join a union and your membership is confidential.
We are a volunteer-driven union, and this means we, not union bosses or bureaucrats, run the union. The IWW is not controlled by or affiliated with any political party or political movement. No money goes to politicians. Membership dues are used to maintain the union and assist organising campaigns. As a result, monthly dues are low.
Why join the IWW?
It does not take long to figure out that workers and their employers do not have the same interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, and better benefits.
We want our work to be less boring, less dangerous, and less destructive to the environment. We want control over how we produce goods and provide services. We want meaningful work that contributes to our communities and world. Our employers, in contrast, want us to work longer, harder, faster, and cheaper. They want fewer safety and environmental regulations and they demand absolute control over all decisions, work schedules, speech, and actions in the workplace.
Practical benefits of a union
The easiest way to stand up for each other in our workplaces and communities and the easiest way to improve our working conditions is to join a union. That is why employers fight so hard, and spend so much money, to keep unions out of their workplaces. Workers with unions generally have higher pay and job security, better benefits, and fewer scheduling problems. More pay equals fewer hours at work and more hours for enjoying the good things in life. Union workplaces are safer and have less harassment, discrimination, and favoritism. This is because a union gives workers the power to make workplace decisions. The less we let our employers make all of the decisions, the better our lives, our families lives, and our communities will be. Unions also provide mutual aid. This means assistance with problems at work, but it could also mean help with things outside of work too.
Why every worker should be in the One Big Union
Whether your job sucks or is “pretty good” (at least today), we in the IWW believe you should join us for the following reasons. We need to start sticking up for our coworkers in our workplaces and in our industries. Ask around on your next shift. How many coworkers have two or three jobs? How many are one payday away from an eviction? We have a duty to our co-workers and those who will follow in our footsteps to make things better, not only in terms of immediate gains but also as part of a bigger plan to build a radically new worker-run economy for the benefit of all. The only way to do this is to organise together. When we band together around our common experiences and interests, we can improve our jobs and industries. Our labour, not our bosses, is what makes our workplaces tick and we can use that power to improve our jobs and our communities. In a lot of ways, that is what unions are all about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Doesn’t Industrial just mean factory workers?
Every worker is an industrial worker, whether the industry they work in be steel, health care, tourism, education or finance. If you earn your living by working with your hands or brain, then you’re welcome to join us. The IWW is a trans-national union with members in many countries. It is independent of all political parties and seeks to organise all workers into a single strong union.
The IWW has historically organised those workers that the traditional unions have shunned. In the past that meant immigrants, women and unskilled labourers. Today we also find the IWW organising the employed and unemployed, housewives, students and prisoners, those in the black economy and the self employed.
Can the IWW help me to improve the wages or working conditions at my current job?
That depends on you. The IWW does not provide an all knowing leadership or hefty treasury to fight your battles for you. But if you’re willing to organise where you work by talking with your colleagues about the issues that matter to them, then you can count on the IWW members to lend their full support to your struggle.
Individuals can do little by themselves and are likely to be sacked if they raise a lone voice in protest, but by joining together in a union such as the IWW, workers are far more powerful when confronting the boss about any workplace problem.
What our union essentially does is to provide tangible low cost resources such as legal and organising advice, information and bodies on a picket line if necessary. You will not get union leaders in shiny suits telling you how to run your struggle or affairs. What we do offer is friendship, support, solidarity and guidance on how you can empower yourself.
The union is able to call on the knowledge and experience of many members who are or have been active in trade unions and therefore have experience of union activity. We have members who can give advice on special issues such as health and safety and we have access to the most up to date information available in a variety of areas including employment law, your rights (such as they are) and the best way to defend yourselves or exact revenge.
Can I join if I’m aleady a member of a trade union?
Yes. Many IWW members are also members of other unions. They are women and men who form the fighting heart of such unions; rank and filers who strive to make their unions yield returns for the membership.
Do we still need Unions?
With the lengthening of working hours, the removal of job security, an increase in work related illnesses and injuries, yes we do still need unions. Corporate culture is creating a world where we live to work rather than work to live. Bullying and harassment, health and safety, job security, wages and hours, these are all areas where standards have generally declined for workers in recent years.
The result has been more frustration, more stress, more absenteeism and a decline in the overall quality of life. This can only be changed by a rebirth of the best traditions of the labour movement, based on a strong commitment to self-organisation, solidarity, union democracy and internationalism.
What do we think of the trade unions?
For many decades, the trade unions have worked hand in hand with employers to quell rank and file militancy. Their overriding concern has been industrial harmony not social justice, and so they fail to question the most basic assumptions of the way our society is organised. The objective of many unions has been to keep British companies profitable with union consent as a means of maintaining employment.
However, the truth is that the major companies in Britain are multi-national and employ people all over the world. Ford, Rover and Unilever are examples. These same companies and the vast majority of others have seen their profits (and boardroom salaries) rise to astronomical proportions while their workforces have been slashed to the minimum.
The remaining workers have had to put up with excessive workloads and many have cracked under the pressure. The trade union response to recent developments has been far too inadequate. Surely we deserve something better?
While regular trade unions only organise in single countries and split workers up according to their skills, company or employment status, allowing the members of one union to cross the picket line of another, the IWW believes in one big union, organised world-wide along industrial lines. If, for instance, the nurses carry out some form of industrial action, they should be able to count on the support of the doctors, porters, pharmacists and clerical workers in their hospital.
Many of our members also belong to trade unions where they work where we often agitate for more rank and file democracy. We do not believe in signing away the right to strike, nor do we recognise the authority of the courts to impose injunctions upon unions.
While we are happy to do strike support for workers in struggle whether they are union members or not, we also work towards building a better alternative. In these circumstances we are developing IWW Industrial Unions in the shell of the old TUC unions.