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An Appeal to the Rank-and-File

We can all agree that the AFL-CIO, and business unionism in general, is a dead-end for the working class in North America. We need a new international labor movement; one that is based on workers’ self-organization and on the recognition of the inevitable conflict between labor and capital.

We of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have stayed close to our roots and feel that we have some ideas and lessons, learned from bitter experience, for such a new labor movement. We feel that a new labor movement will have to return to the strategies and tactics of the workers’ movement before it’s decent into the bureaucratic quagmire of business unionism if it is to go forward.

We have a few suggestions on how to proceed:

  1. Organize the unorganized into self-managed industrial unions. Unions built from the grass-roots by worker organizers. Unions run by the membership to address their own needs and aspirations on the job. Unions that are independent of government and political parties. Unions that welcome all wage workers and unemployed, regardless of nationality, race, gender, political or religious creed, sexual orientation, etc, on the basis of strict equality. Unions in which all officers are directly elected by those they serve and are immediately recallable by the membership. Unions in which remuneration for officers is tied to the average wage of the workers involved; where term limits for officers are strictly observed; and, where the officer returns to the job when their term in office is over. We call this Solidarity Unionism.
  2. Re-organize the miss-organized of the business unions via establishment of shop-committees that can take direct action on the job in pursuit of workers’ needs outside of the restrictions of legal collective bargaining agreements. We reject dues check-off because joining a union should be a conscious commitment to solidarity not a “condition of employment”. We reject no-strike deals because we need to be able to act to defend and extend our rights at every opportunity. We reject “management’s rights” because they are inimical to our own.
  3. Establish horizontal links between and among unions and shop committees to foster solidarity on a local, regional, national and international level. Build workers’ centers in every community to reach out to all sectors of the working class and unemployed, including their kids.
  4. Solidarity Unionism recognizes no restriction on what we should strive for. Health and safety at work, the environmental and social impact of what we produce, shorter and flexible hours of labor, universal health care - everything is fair game! Ultimately, we reject the employing class’s so-called ‘proprietary rights’. We want to gain control of the means of life!

We offer these ideas in the hope that the new labor movement that will necessarily emerge from the shipwreck known as business unionism can avoid the same mistakes of the past that have led us to the present impasse.

For the Works,

Chicago General Membership Branch – Industrial Workers of the World

P.O. Box 18387, Chicago, IL 60618, chicago@iww.org, Voicemail: (815) 550-2018

General Administration: Post Office Box 13476, Philadelphia, PA 19101 USA, (215) 222-1905, ghq@iww.org