a10 – One big struggle – One big union

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has a long, impressive record of fighting the ruling class and its many forms of oppression by the use of non-violent direct action and militant union tactics. In upstate NY, the James Connolly Branch continues the work of our predecessors in organizing workers across all industries while also bringing organizing tools to our other struggles. Our focus as a union is on rank-and-file organizing on class lines committed in the many struggles of our members of our class.

Our namesake, James Connolly, understood that the struggles of working people were connected to the struggles of all oppressed people and used this knowledge in Ireland and New York to fight for an end to tyranny in the workplace as well as fighting landlords and the British Empire.

Our branch has grown in recent years leading to the formation of nearby branches and campaigns to train workers to organize their workplaces. But we are also supporting efforts for tenants to organize and fight against evictions. Our Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) is communicating with incarcerated people to help them organize to protect their rights in prison. 
Our branch continues to support the movements for Palestinian liberation, Black Liberation, and Queer Liberation. We are a regular presence at community events supporting adjacent causes. 

Why would a labor union take an active stance on these intersectional issues? Why not just stick to organizing workplaces?

Unlike unions commonly thought of in the mainstream, the IWW has a long history of understanding the interconnection of all struggles faced by working, poor, and otherwise marginalized people. 

Some of the larger mainstream unions have begun taking a stand on other issues, throwing support behind intersectional causes. Yet the IWW actively works on a grassroots level to support those facing oppression locally and globally, because their struggles are also our struggles. We recognize that oppressions stem from the interconnections of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. Organizing against one of these oppressive systems involves organizing to fight all of them.

The IWW may be on the ground at various events, but there are some activities you won’t find us backing, such as electoral campaigns. Our individual members may pursue campaigning, voting, or other involvement in electoral politics, but unlike most other unions, we do not throw our support behind candidates or endorse a political party as a union. We put our focus on changing the material conditions for poor, working, and other marginalized people through direct action, mutual aid, and organizing, instead of playing the political game and worrying about the optics of supporting one politician or another.

The hours and money that some organizations devote to propping up politicians, only to act surprised when said politicians trample on the rights of workers and other oppressed people, are spent by our union investing in educating, agitating, and organizing the public.

We do not discourage individual members from supporting various politicians if they choose, but we believe in using our collective strengths and resources to benefit the people directly. We pool our resources to help striking workers, to send members to larger actions and help our members show up to support these interconnected struggles of all people. 

Focusing on rank-and-file workers and supporting the liberation of all oppressed people requires involvement from people from all walks of life. No one individual can do it all, no matter how passionate about organizing. We continue to grow and benefit from the experiences and perspectives of new members. Our members are our strength, not politicians, not corporate donors. 

The more individuals we train, support, and organize, the more individuals can go back to their workplace, home, school, and community and share their skills to organize on every front. 

If you’re tired of dealing with a soul-draining job, and you realize that putting resumes in at another soul-draining job is not going to make things better, it’s time you join the One Big Union. If you are paying more than half of your income to your landlord who hasn’t made repairs, if you’re tired of feeling powerless in the midst of abusive bosses and managers, we want to give you the tools to fight back.

We regularly host Organizer Trainings to teach every working person how to start organizing their workplace. If you don’t have a union already, we can help you organize one.

If you are already in a union, you can still join us as a “dual carder.” Dual carders are an integral part of IWW history. These are members who also belong to one of the mainstream, or what we refer to as “business unions.” The business union’s basic philosophy is formed on the premise that the boss and the worker have something in common. But we have always known this is false. The class-conscious worker recognizes the inherent injustice of Capitalism’s exploitative hierarchies. Business unions have a history of compromising with the bosses at the expense of the working class, while the IWW seeks complete worker liberation from oppressive systems. Dual-carders often serve as a force to transform undemocratic workplaces — and the unions whose members have agreements with those employers — to recognize that the status quo is not permanent and the One Big Union is possible!

Are you in New York State or Western Mass? Contact us at:

upstatenyiww.wpcomstaging.com pr PO Box 77 Altamont NY 12009

Want to get involved but not a resident of the above-mentioned areas? Contact IWW General Headquarters (GHQ) at ghq@iww.org, or by calling (773) 728-0996. We have over 70 branches across North America, Europe, Australasia, & Cyprus among other regions.