One year with the SITT-IWW Montreal
Here twelve months I was active in the Montreal chapter of the Industrial Union of Workers and Workers - Industrial Workers of the World (SITT-IWW). This organization is actively involved in union renewal made necessary by our time. I would like to explain a little what attracted me to this union .
To begin, a brief history of the Montreal chapter. It has existed since 2008, but she's been really active since 2013, while about twenty people, very determined, joined the organization. Today, the Montreal section has more than 160 members. She is the first section (in part) French-speaking IWW, therefore a titanic work of translation and production of texts has been done. By the way, I congratulate the Translation Committee for doing an incredible job and, Unfortunately, barely visible.
A first section in French therefore, but not the only one! A section was recently formalized in Sherbrooke and others are being formed in Quebec and Drummondville.
Why I became a member?
I joined the union mainly through its "Claim Your Pay" campaign. In short, this is a great and very effective direct action initiative. We are contacted by people who have been cheated by a boss without qualms (do they have any, a soul?). Most of the time, a pay, or part, will not have been honored; other times, it's the 4% or the training hours that will be "forgotten".
Faced with this, our operation is simple. We have several techniques that we integrate into a rigorous schedule : if on such date the amount due is not paid, we take the next step… and beware of the consequences!
Among these techniques, there is the "March on the boss" which consists of going as a group to meet the employer to formulate our demands, or, the "Communication Zap" where we are launching a wave of calls, messages, fax, reservations, in order to block the target company. When the employer receives calls from all over Quebec (and around the world!) the same day, or the visit of five people who are not afraid of anything, the boss quickly does the cost / benefit calculation… What will cost him the most? Payer, or not to pay? The success rate is very high, more than 80% cases. In the 20% remaining, we still pissed off a boss, while experiencing solidarity and collective action. And that's not nothing!
SITT-IWW is a political organization that wants to transform society. So we have a program, summarized in the preamble of our constitution. This program is simple but effective. Here is my summary : "Organize as a class, seize the means of production, abolish wage labor and live in harmony with the land ”. It is also about enjoying "the finer things in life" and laying "the foundations of a new society within the old one" *.
To implement this program, we think it is necessary to organize ourselves from the ground up. We therefore suggest that all our members create SITT-IWW organizing committees at their workplaces., little imdoor if a corporate union is already present on site. Our organization committees are designed as mobilization committees, place of self-management, of emancipation and struggles.
Organizing committees at each workplace communicate with the local who can provide assistance, logistical support, funding for its actions or for the dissemination of information, money for his strike fund or arms, according to the need.
An organic structure
This is what I love about the union. Our organization is not a rigid structure, Is it a living being! An organic structure that grows in the shell, more and more empty, from the old world. On this desert of meaning pushes our organization, whose roots draw their strength from solidarity. The idea is therefore to build and live now the future world we want. The union is therefore a place of emancipation.
A balanced organization
Finally, we seek to find the right balance between the vital freedom of all individuals and the necessary rigor of an effective organization. Because the mess, it's getting organized! (We saw it on May 1, 2015…)
The union structure is strong and diverse, composed of several committees and a sovereign monthly assembly. Simultaneously, everyone is free to get involved (or not) in the committee of his choice, up to its possibilities and this, so that there is no prioritization in
A global organization
Join the union, It also means joining a global organization and regularly receiving news of struggles and concerted initiatives towards the same goal, from Taiwan to Sheffield, via Rostock and Winnipeg. Knowing that SITT-IWW has a section in Reykjavík, Iceland fascinates me. That this section brings together several dozen people on an island of 330.000 inhabitants give me hope. That Iceland's wobs ** offer training for migrant workers shows me that we are on the right track. Not to mention that it makes us a good address there, for the round the world we plan to do, my girlfriend and me. A good address there and everywhere else.
Le 1er mai 2015 and solidarity in action
And then, of course, there is the chance to live experiences of active solidarity from within. Let's talk for example of the beautiful day of May 1st 2015. The project to make this day a moment of fighting spirit, with a view to union renewal, was decided in the spring 2014. This idea slowly spread and eventually escaped us completely. And so much the better! Groupuscular or frankly flat, the day of 1is May is popular again. Someone at the union is to compile the actions that took place that day… and she hasn't finished yet! To give you an idea : more than 800 community groups and teachers from around 20 CEGEPs on illegal strike, hundreds of blocking actions across the province, four very populous protests that converged on downtown and paralyzed Montreal for hours, despite the terrible repression, etc. I place this day in the top five of my best days : Blocking of Stationnement Montréal at 7 a.m., participation in the demonstration of community groups at 10 a.m., at the FTQ at 11:00 a.m., Popular BBQ at Parc Laurier with blocking of rue Brébeuf all afternoon and finally, convergence towards the city center with a procession of 400 people! You can read a fuller account of the day here : https://sitt.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/retour-sur-le-1er-mai-du-sitt-iww/
The problems of the radical left
What also interests me about SITT-IWW, is that the organization is pinpointing many of the problems of the radical left. Yet these are questions that we too often want to avoid or push back. These pitfalls are, however, major obstacles for the long term..
Some examples :
The (small) victories
I've been in a few militant battles but hardly ever saw a victory. Free education? Deportations of undocumented migrants? Green struggles? It's not often that I jumped for joy, in the arms of my comrades shouting "hurray! ». This perhaps explains, in part, regular resignations in militant circles : fatigue, depression, overwork, studies dropped, broken relations… But with SITT-IWW and very simple campaigns such as “Réclame ta paye”, my hope is constantly nourished by small victories, maybe skinny, but which show us better days.
Every social movement brings its wave of new people into the nebula of the radical left. Left that constantly renews itself, but don't really get fat, the former-borns leaving the militancy for a good job or a life in the countryside. As if it was incompatible… I want a good job and live in the countryside, but I also want to continue to engage, to militate! Taking this problem head on, we have at least two committees responsible for ensuring the cohesion and sustainability of the union, in addition to a day care service for members with children. This is the work of our Organization and Events committees. Our goal is therefore to be sustainable, while leaving no one behind.
By making the link, the hyphen, between the tiny radical left groups and the big progressive organizations, we want to avoid operating in a vacuum We want to popularize our revolutionary ideas to the point of making them "mainstream". It, this is the job of our Solidarity committee, which allows us to appear alongside postal workers regularly, workers fired from Mueller Canada in Saint-Jérôme in January 2015, CSSS and community employees, workers on strike, locked out workers, of comrade Noah in his fight against Savoura in July 2015 and so many others, year round.
Solidarity is a weapon, it's not just a slogan.
My grandmother was a rebel and insulted cops, his life. However, she would never have come to a far-left demonstration. Too often we get bogged down in militant folklore on the fringes of society. By dint of being unconventional, we have created cultural conventions that are not very inclusive. As a way to protect ourselves, strangely. We forget that the image is important and ours is detrimental to us, it must be said.
This is the ransom of our time, we must communicate to exist and to develop. This problem, inherent in radical circles, is often discussed in our meetings.. Without taking anything away from everyone's lifestyle, we are putting in place mechanisms in our bodies so as not to be just a small group of people with a punk look., skin, anarcho-student or leftist-bearded. For example we avoid self-referential jokes, who need to know a person or an environment to be understood.
Too bad, I had a good one : "How many anarchists does it take to change a light bulb? »***
Sometimes, an affinity group, a small group, a movement or an organization collapses, because the know-how is held by a handful of super-activists, who are men most often. To the union, we bet on co-training, of "step-up / step-back" **** and the sharing of know-how. We actively try not to have a hierarchy, formal or informal. We have many mandates of representatives and delegates but they are mandates limited in time and revocable. So, know-how is passed on. A practice we also have is to try to get everyone to leave a meeting with a task to do, as minimal as it is : I will invite an-e love-e, write the report, contact such organization, buy fabric, whatever, the interest is to ensure the functionality of the committee, to ensure that it does not rest on the shoulders of one person and to make equality between members effective. Because the Women's Committee reminds us too often, parity is far from,be reached in our organization… We do not want and must not reproduce the different forms of domination, starting with the patriarchy.
Another reason for militant desertion, it's the tiredness, the exhaustion of devoting oneself entirely to the "cause". How we want to live the society of tomorrow today, we must not allow ourselves to be tyrannized by activism. Collective action is a long-term race, and not an untenable sprint. She must be nice. Now, when I see overworked comrades, it scares me. I tell them "help the movement, take a vacation ", "Come drink a lemonade, ask yourself, take time ", or, "How would you like a bike ride in the Eastern Townships? ». Because activating shouldn't be a nightmare, because life can be beautiful and work takes it away from us, because we are a hedonistic organization and because we want to enjoy "the finer things in life".
"Embrace the discomfort"
“My workplace is unorganisable! My colleagues will never be interested in forming a union or participating in a SITT-IWW organizing committee!». This is what we often say to each other. We, left activists, like to get involved in great causes, but when it comes to looking in your own house, we feel uncomfortable. The private is political and in our personal relationships as in our workplaces, you must also know how to be straight.
We leftists, anarchists, green radical activists, we often lead a double life. What we don't realize, it’s playing into the hands of the bosses. We are the archetype of the flexible employee. We work overtime because we need cash for studies and travel, we say yes to any job and when we have had enough, our only weapon is to slam the door, by having the joyful impression of having put our boss in the shit.
But quit a rotten job, it's not really an act of resistance, we just pass it on to the next person. Who knows if this person will have the same ease as us leaving their job and the same network of friends who will help us find one in a few days?? In the main training given by the union, the Labor Organization 101 or OT101, we are taught to cope with discomfort. To consider work as the common denominator of the proletarian class to which we belong. To also consider our work colleagues as members of this class, to organize ourselves with them and they, not to systematically resign or slam the door for a better job that will ultimately not be better. Embrace the discomfort, it means deciding that all workplaces can be organized and that everywhere we can create a local SITT-IWW union.
I no longer wanted to militate, I was disappointed with the activism. A classmate however piqued my curiosity by telling me about the union and the "Claim your pay".
Sunday evening in October, I entered the union room without a second thoughtinvention. It is located on rue Brébeuf, in front of Laurier Park. The first Sunday of the month, this is the section's monthly meeting, the assembly during which major decisions are taken and where the activity of the committees is reviewed. The world introduced themselves and explained what they wanted to change in their job. At the end of the meeting, someone said : "Do not forget that the activity of the union is done in the committees". Yes
said to myself, why not? That night, I signed my card and paid my first membership fee. It's been a year.
Of course, the union has gaps, encounter problems, conflicts, like any group of human beings. To make it better and stronger, we need you. No more lamenting, let's organize!
Sign : X372139
* The quotes are taken from the preamble to the SITT-IWW Constitution
** "Wobs" is the diminutive of "wobblies", the nickname of the members of SITT-IWW
*** Reply : have you ever seen an anarchist change something?
**** « Step-up/step-back » : a practice that pushes those most at risk to take up less space (go down a step) and vice versa, to invisible people, to speak ( to climb a step).
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