Submitted on Tue, 10/29/2013 - 7:05pm
By the Patriarchy Resistance Committee of the Portland GMB - October 9th, 2013
To our Fellow Workers:
The Patriarchy Resistance Committee (PRC) of the Portland GMB has recently been notified of multiple instances of misogyny and sexual assault that have occurred within branches of the IWW. We write today to condemn these acts of violence and to encourage FWs around the world to actively resist misogynist and patriarchal behavior in all of its forms.
A member of the Kansas City branch was recently accused of being a serial rapist. In order to secure the immediate personal safety of the rest of the branch, he was asked by a coalition of Kansas City Wobblies to resign. The PRC supports the members of the Kansas City GMB who have prioritized the participation of all workers over that of a potentially violent man.
Time and time again, we see people (specifically and disproportionately women and people who do not identify with the gender binary) leave our organizing projects in response to physical, emotional and/or symbolic manifestations of gendered or sexual violence in our circles.
In the essay On Solidarity and Sexual Violence: An open letter to the Palestine Solidarity Movement Cassandra Solanas states:
Often targets of patriarchy don’t want to be a victim twice; once from the original incident and again for having comrades betray them by not listening, not taking them seriously, and not acting.
We wonder why, in radical circles and in our own union, are so many willing to fight against bosses who disempower the working class, but choose to ignore, or worse, actively defend individuals whose patriarchal behaviors systematically disempower survivors. The IWW is built around the principles of direct action in the struggle against capitalism. We empower workers within the shop to determine the organizing tactics that will be most effective while keeping the workers safe from the bosses.
We would like to start a discussion on how these principles may also be useful in addressing gendered and sexual violence within our union.
The charges process described in the IWW’s constitution (see article III of the bylaws) can be a useful tool for some situations. Similarly, some survivors have found accountability processes to be helpful. However, both systems have serious flaws and can bring negative repercussions to both individuals and communities including: retraumatization, alienation, and lack of transparency, justice, and survivor-focused approaches.
Consider the following analogy: The IWW does not rely on the law for the protection of workers, recognizing that those who have the power to design and enforce the law do not share the interest of workers. IWW organizers are often told by capitalist sympathizers that we should just engage the legal system, that the system is fair and democratic. Our experience has proven otherwise. Similarly, some individuals may find it hard to trust a charges process when those who are in control of the process often do not experience the dynamics of our oppressions. We also are reassured that the system is fair and democratic, but our experience proves otherwise. This is demonstrated by the growing number of Fellow Workers who continue to leave the union due to a lack of organizational support.