Guide to direct action for workers

This translation was adapted by our comrades in the Brussels branch from a pamphlet published by BossBusters, a Bay Area IWW project (San Francisco).

Direct action is any form of activity that cripples the boss's ability to make a profit and forces him to give in to workers' demands.. The best known form of direct action is the strike., in which workers simply quit their jobs and refuse to produce profits for the boss until they get what they want. This is the preferred tactic of the “traditional unions”, but it's actually not necessarily the best way to oppose the boss.

The indignity of working to survive is well known to all who have done it. Democracy, the great principle upon which our society is supposed to be founded, is thrown out the window as soon as you show up on time for work. As we have no control over what we produce, nor on the way in which this production is organized, and that only a small portion of the value of that product ends up on our paycheck, we have the right to resent our bosses.

Ultimately, of course, we need to create a society in which workers make all the decisions about the production and distribution of goods and services. Harmful or unnecessary industries, like making weapons, or bank and insurance scams, would be eliminated. Basic necessities, like food, housing and clothing, could be produced by anyone working just a few hours a week.

Waiting, however, we must develop strategies that foreshadow this future AND that counteract the daily drudgery of contemporary wage bondage. Direct action in the workplace is the key to achieving both goals. But what do we mean by direct action? ?

bosses, with their large financial reserves, are better able to withstand a long-term strike than the workers. In many cases, court injunctions will freeze or confiscate union strike funds. And the worst, it's that a long walkout only gives the boss a chance to replace striking workers with replacement labor.

Workers are much more effective when they take direct action while staying in the workplace. By deliberately reducing the boss's profits while continuing to collect wages, you can cripple the boss without giving a scab a chance to take your place. Direct action, by definition, designates tactics that workers can undertake on their own, without the help of government agencies, union bureaucrats or expensive lawyers. Seeking help from government or legal agencies may be appropriate in some cases, but it is NOT a form of direct action.

Here are some of the most popular forms of direct action workers used to get what they wanted. However, almost every one of these tactics is, technically speaking, illegal. All of the great victories that unions have won over the years have been achieved through militant direct action that was, at the time, illegal and subject to police repression. After all, until the beginning of the 20th century, union laws were simple – there were none. Most Courts Viewed Unions as Illegal Conspiracies to Obstruct 'Free Trade', and the strikers were regularly attacked by the police, private security troops and henchmen.

The legal right of workers to organize is now officially recognized, but there are so many restrictions that effective action is more difficult than ever. This is why any worker considering direct action in the workplace – bypassing the legal system and hitting the boss where he is weakest – must be fully aware of labor law., its application and how it can be used against militant workers. At the same time, workers must realize that the struggle between bosses and workers is not a badminton match – it is war. In these circumstances, workers should use what works, whether the bosses like it or not (and their courts).

Here are the most useful forms of direct action :


Slowdown has a long and honorable history. In 1899, Glasgow's organized dockworkers demanded an increase in 10 % salaries, but met with the refusal of the bosses and went on strike. Strikebreakers were recruited among agricultural workers, and the dockers had to concede defeat and return to work with the old wages. But before going back to work, they heard this from their union secretary :

“You will return to work at the old salary. The employers kept repeating that they were delighted with the work of the farm workers who took our place during several weeks of strike. But we saw them at work. We saw that they couldn't even walk on a ship and they dropped half the goods they were carrying ; short, that two of them could barely do the job of one of us. However, the bosses declared themselves delighted with the work of these fellows. well, there is nothing else for us to do but the same. Work as farm laborers have worked. »

This order was obeyed to the letter. After a few days, the contractors summoned the secretary of the union and begged him to tell the dockers to work as before, and that they were ready to grant the salary increase of 10%.

At the beginning of the century, a gang of workers working on a railroad in Indiana, in the USA, was informed of a pay cut. The workers immediately brought their shovels to the blacksmith shop and cut two centimeters on the shovels. Returning to work, they told the boss "reduced salary, reduced shovels ».

From work to rule (Work to rule)

Almost every job is covered by a maze of rules, regulations, standing orders, etc., many of which are completely inapplicable and generally ignored. Workers often violate orders, use their own techniques to get things done and ignore lines of authority just to achieve business goals. It is often tacitly accepted, even by managers whose job it is to enforce the rules, that these shortcuts must be taken in order to meet production quotas on time.

But what if each of these rules were followed to the letter? ? This would result in confusion, a drop in production and morale. And especially, workers can't get in trouble with this tactic because, after all, they just "follow the rules".

under nationalization, French railway strikes were banned. However, railway workers have found other ways to air their grievances. A French law obliges the engineer to ensure the safety of any bridge over which the train must pass. And, after a personal examination, he still has doubts, he must consult the other members of the train crew. Of course, all the bridges were thus inspected, all the teams were thus consulted, and none of the trains ran on time.

In order to obtain certain demands without losing their jobs, Austrian postal workers have strictly observed the rule that all mail must be weighed to check whether the correct postage is applied. previously, they passed without weighing all the letters and all the parcels whose weight was obviously insufficient, thus respecting the spirit of the regulation but not its exact wording. By bringing each piece of mail to the scale, weighing it carefully, then putting it back in its place, the postal workers kept the office cluttered with unweighed mail on the second day.

The Good Work Strike

One of the biggest problems for workers in the service sector is that many forms of direct action, such as slowdowns, end up harming the consumer (mainly work colleagues) more than the boss. One way around this problem is to provide better or cheaper service – at the patron's expense., of course.

Workers at Mercy Hospital in France, who feared that patients would not be treated if they went on strike, refused to complete drug billing slips, laboratory tests, treatments and therapies. Consequently, patients received better care (since they spent their time taking care of them instead of filling out paperwork), and this for free. Hospital revenues have been cut in half and administrators, panicked, gave in to all the demands of the workers after three days.

In 1968, Lisbon bus and train workers offered free rides to all passengers in protest at the refusal to raise wages. Train conductors and conductors arrived at work as usual, but the conductors did not take their bag of money. Needless to say, public support was firmly entrenched in the camp of these strikers.

At New York, IWW catering workers, after losing a strike, got some of their demands by following the advice of IWW organizers : « stack the plates, serve them twice and calculate the checks [bills] at the lowest ".

Sitting strike

An attack does not need to be long to be effective. Well planned and executed, a strike can be won in minutes. These are “sitting” strikes, when everyone stops work and stays seated, or mass strikes, when everyone leaves work to go to the boss's office to discuss an important matter.

The Detroit IWW used the sitdown (sitting strike) wisely to the Hudson Motor Car Company between 1932 and 1934. The message 'Sit back and watch your pay rise' circulated along the assembly line on stickers affixed to work tools. The regular practice of the sit-down strike has made it possible to increase the wages of 100 % (from 0,75 dollar per hour 1,50 dollar) in full depression.

Theatrical extras of the IWW, facing a pay cut of 50 %, waited for the right moment to strike. For the play, 150 extras were dressed as Roman soldiers to carry the queen on stage. When the signal for the queen's entry has been given, the extras surrounded her and refused to move until the salary was not only reinstated, but tripled.

Sitting occupations are always powerful weapons. In 1980, the KKR Corporation has announced that it will close its factory in Houdaille, in Ontario, and move her to South Carolina. The workers responded by occupying the factory for two weeks. KKR was forced to negotiate fair terms for plant closure, including full board, severance pay and payment of health insurance premiums.

Selective strikes

Unpredictability is a great weapon in the hands of workers. Pennsylvania teachers used the selective strike to good effect by 1991, when they picketed on Monday and Tuesday, reported to work on Wednesday, struck again on Thursday and reported to work on Friday and Monday.

This alternating tactic not only prevented administrators from hiring scabs to replace teachers, but also forced administrators who had not set foot in a classroom in years to work in schools while teachers were away. This tactic was so effective that the Pennsylvania legislature quickly introduced bills to outlaw selective strikes..

Alert launcher

Sometimes, just telling the truth about what's going on at work can put a lot of pressure on the boss. Consumer industries like restaurants and packaging plants are the most vulnerable. And once again, as in the case of the good work strike, you will gain public support, whose support can make or break a business.

Whistleblowing can be as simple as a one-on-one conversation with a client, or as dramatic as the engineer of P.G.&E. which revealed that the plans for Diablo Canyon's nuclear reactor had been reversed. Le roman d’Upton Sinclair, the jungle, exposed the health standards and outrageous working conditions of the meatpacking industry when it was published at the turn of the century.

Servers can explain to their customers the various shortcuts and substitutions that go into making up the fake haute cuisine served to them. Just as Rule work puts an end to the usual loosening of standards, the technique of whistleblowers brings it to light


The Sick-In is a good way to strike without striking. The idea is to cripple your workplace by having almost all workers call in sick on the same day or days.. Unlike the official walkout, it can be used effectively by single departments and work areas, and can often be used successfully even without formal union organization. This is the traditional method of direct action for public sector employee unions, who are legally prevented from striking (because of the minimum service in the USA).

In a mental hospital in New England, the mere idea of ​​a Sick-In yielded results. A union representative, talking to a supervisor about a fired union member, casually mentioned that there was a lot of flu in the air and that it would be a shame if there were not enough healthy people to fill the services. At the same time – by pure coincidence, of course – dozens of people were calling the personnel office to find out how many sick days they had left. The supervisor understood the message and the trade unionist was rehired.

dual power (Ignore the boss)

The best way to get something is to organize and do it yourself. Rather than waiting for the boss to give in to our demands and institute the long-awaited changes, we often have the power to effect these changes on our own, without the boss's approval.

The owner of a San Francisco cafe mismanaged his money and, one week, salary checks did not arrive. The manager continued to assure the workers that the checks would arrive soon, but the workers eventually took matters into their own hands. They started to pay each other day by day directly in the cash register, leaving receipts for amounts advanced so that everything is in order. This caused an uproar, but the checks then always arrived on time.

In a small print shop in San Francisco's financial district, an old, dilapidated offset press was finally taken out of service and pushed into the back of the press room. It was replaced with a brand new machine, and the director declared his intention to use the old press “only for envelopes”. But the operators started cannibalizing her for spare parts., in order to operate the other presses. Very quickly, it became obvious to everyone, except for the director, that this press would never be used again.

The printers asked the manager to move her upstairs, in the storage room, because it was just taking up valuable space in an already overcrowded press room. He procrastinated and never seemed to want to deal with it. Finally, an afternoon, after the printers have clocked in for the day, they took a moving cart and pushed the press into the elevator to take her upstairs. The manager found them just as they put her in the elevator, and though he grew enraged at this blatant usurpation of his authority, he never told them about the incident. The space where the press was located has been transformed into an “employee lounge”, with several chairs and a magazine rack.


“Monkey-wrenching” is the generic term for a whole series of tricks, devilishness and various nastiness that can remind the boss how much he needs his employees (and how little they need him). If all these control tactics are non-violent, most of them constitute major social taboos. They should only be used in the fiercest battles, when it comes to open warfare between workers and bosses.

The disruption of magnetically stored information (like the tapes, Floppy disks and poorly protected hard drives) can be achieved by exposing them to a strong magnetic field. Of course, it would be just as easy to "misplace" discs and tapes that contain this vital information. Restaurant workers can buy a bunch of live crickets or mice from the neighborhood pet store, and release them in a suitable place. To laugh better, give an anonymous call to the Health and Safety Executive (health control agency).

One thing that always haunts a strike call is the issue of scabs.. During a railway strike in 1886, the scab problem was solved by strikers taking home “souvenirs” from work. Curiously, trains couldn't run without these essential little parts, and the scabs were left with nothing to do. Of course, of our time, it may be safer for workers to simply hide these parts in a safe place in the workplace, rather than trying to smuggle them out of the factory.

Use the boss's header to order a ton of unwanted office supplies and have them delivered to the office. If your company has a number 800 (green/free number), ask all your friends to block the phone lines with angry calls about the current situation. Get creative with the use of superglue. the possibilities are limitless.


The best weapon is, of course, the organization. If a worker stands up and protests, the bosses will crush him like an insect. Crushed bugs are obviously of little use to their families, their friends and social movements in general. But if all the workers get up together, the boss will have no choice but to take you seriously. It can dismiss any individual worker who makes agitation, but it may struggle to lay off its entire workforce.

The success of all the tactics discussed here depends on solidarity, coordinated actions of a large number of workers. Individual acts of sabotage offer little more than a fleeting sense of revenge, what, it is true, may be the only thing keeping you sane on a bad day at work. But for a real sense of collective emancipation, nothing beats direct action by large numbers of disgruntled workers.


The inverted pyramid

An organizer and a worker describe a direct action campaign that reaped great victories and then collapsed for lack of a solid foundation.

Anyone who has already taken the organizational training 101 You ITS-IWW (OT101) will be familiar with the organization pyramid shared below. If you've never seen it or need your memory refreshed, she goes as follows: A narrow point of “direct actions” is laid on a broader level of “democracy in the workplace” (for example, meetings), himself laid on an even broader floor of “colleague relations” (built through face-to-face discussions) ultimately resting on a foundation of “knowledge of one’s workplace” (who works there, how are the places divided, etc).

This pyramid is sometimes opposed to another going “from the bottom up” and in which a few highly motivated workers start taking direct action before (or instead) to build a solid organizational base.

There are several reasons why this other pyramid can be attractive: One is that for many workers who do not trust their persuasive skills or the ability of their colleagues to help them organize their workplace, concrete and successful direct action seems like good evidence to show their colleagues. that “collective action, it works !». Another is that building a well-established committee takes a lot of work., often boring, while the rapid recourse to direct action is exciting and sometimes leads to the gains that were the reasons for wanting to organize in the first place.

In return, an obvious reason to oppose this method is that direct action is likely to fail if there is not an organization behind to support the small group (what, after all, is the reason why it is necessary to organize at the beginning). This is a very good observation. However, there is another problem, much deeper still, which is that even if the action(s) works, without the rest of the pyramid, there is little to do to use this or these actions to create a sustainable solidarity or organization, and without them, all gains are likely to be very short-lived. Their duration will ultimately depend much more on the will of the bosses to withdraw them or not than on the strength of the organization to maintain them..

To illustrate this point, I would like to share with you an example from an organizing campaign that I supported and written by the organizer himself:

I inadvertently used the bottom-up pyramid model when I was a “baby organizer” working on her first campaign. I was relatively new to the IWW and although I had attended a few trainings on how to have organizing conversations and read a few books, I had not yet been able to do an organization training 101.

The company I worked for was a family business in which the different members of the family each had their own department as an independent company despite occupying the same building.. Instead of seeing this structure for what it was, i.e. an attempt to separate employees, I rather perceived my department as being the totality of the company for which I worked. So I started having one-on-one conversations with my co-workers who I felt were the most receptive and receptive to organizing our middle.. Although I had a general idea of ​​the social cartography of my environment, I had not thoroughly analyzed the social and influence relationships before starting.

I left the seasonal aspect of the business, the fact that it closes every winter, blind my judgment and justify a fast-track approach for this organizing campaign. So I managed to get three of my six colleagues together to do a “march on the boss[1]on a few key issues including hours and wages. I didn't know the IWW taught a specific walkthrough for this tactic in OT101, but we were lucky and my boss's response didn't work. We had unknowingly proceeded relatively as the training suggested., for example by making specific requests and giving a deadline. However, during this march on the boss, one of my co-workers raised issues that I was unaware of because I had not taken the time to speak to her adequately. Alas, none of them have been solved.

Nevertheless, a few days after our march on the boss, we have been successful on several important demands: First, everyone except the foreman got a raise. Secondly, the workers had control of the schedule that they were able to do without constraint from the owner or the foreman, except for his own schedule. Thirdly, we had complained that employees were cut off before the end of their day and that they often missed hours and this practice stopped. Finally, we wanted a feedback on the previous summer's "dollar days" program that had lost us sales and we got it.

In the moment, I was in ecstasy! I proudly recounted our successes at the next meeting of the organizing committee of my local branch., then the questions began to tumble : “What exact questions did you ask your colleagues during one-on-one meetings? What did they say ?Since I hadn't bothered to take detailed notes, I was not able to give exact answers, so I couldn't bring back much of what I had learned to the rest of the group. “Did during the march on the boss you did X, Y and Z, as we were taught ?"I just didn't know we had an optimal path forward for this tactic..

As the season drew to a close, the campaign gradually dismantled. I understood that one of the three participants had sexually harassed the others throughout the summer. That the boss had installed new security cameras and that had a chilling effect on our campaign. That he told everyone working under the table that he should now declare their wages. That he himself had met single people who were then suspicious of us. He finally accused me of wanting to create a union and threatened me.

Meanwhile, realizing my mistakes, I had tried to collect contacts from people I knew and to have one-on-one meetings with employees from other departments.. Sadly, the cat was out of the bag and my colleague member of the organizing committee best placed to talk to them (because she had already worked in these departments) was now far too intimidated to take a chance.

I ended up having to move and I didn't come back for the following season. Another person I had organized could not return either due to health issues. Another came back and kept her raise but no longer wanted to organize the business. I had no other contacts to keep this campaign alive and it died.

With hindsight, I can identify the key factors that made me choose to go too fast in this campaign.

Lesson learned: No to adventurism !

I wanted to accomplish something before the season ended because I wasn't sure I wanted to come back the following year. I finally understood that it is better to organize a job in which you plan to stay for a few years because you will not be tempted to do things too quickly. We must remember that the reason for which we organize ourselves is to make our job a work environment in which we will want to stay and which we will hold on to and that, even if we can't stay there, that's not a good reason to try to go too fast. It is better to start or even complete the physical and social mapping of our workplace, to have information on the employment process and then to find someone to replace us and continue where we left off, whether it is an internal person or a “salt[2]».

I was also anxious to prove my worth to other members of the branch and I believed that deviating from the course of action was necessary because of the particularities of my work environment.. In reality, if we want to impress people in the IWW more broadly, building a sustainable and winning committee will accomplish much more than anything else, but especially, the only people we should really want to prove anything to are our co-workers. Union organizing is a risky business and our colleagues deserve an organizer who is dedicated to sticking to best practices and using methods that have proven themselves over time.. Almost everyone believes their workplace is unique, and indeed almost everyone seems to have unique conditions that justify deviating from the process., but every time someone does, the same problems occur.

I had a very adventurous vision of union action. I thought it would be great to make a march on the boss, everyone stop working, do a sit-in or whatever other action, then get earnings and honestly, it was ! But we must remember that we cannot organize ourselves alone.. We have a duty to integrate our colleagues and follow the strategy with the greatest probability of building a sustainable committee capable of improving our working conditions in the long term.. Participating in direct actions is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the world, but that's not why we do it. We do it to create a lasting counterforce on the floor. Rushing into direct action before you have created a solid foundation is not the way to go..

And yes...

What if spontaneous direct action was bound to happen, whether we participate or not ?

Sometimes, and especially in a "hot shop[3]», a group of workers may decide to confront their supervisors or stop working, slowing down or complaining about unreasonable orders from bosses in a way that affects the business. If sufficient organizational capacity has not yet been created to conduct direct action responsibly, we probably don't have enough either to stop/redirect one that could go wrong.

In such a situation, our best option is often to join the action and offer the best of our support and leadership to ensure that the action is successful while minimizing the risks to our colleagues. This kind of situation can get carried away very quickly and it is very likely that we only have time to discern who is the person with the most influence on the group and ask them a few key questions such as: “What should the boss be asked to do/change/stop ? How long do we give him to do what we ask him to do? ? Who else might want to join this action ? Are we talking to the right supervisor? ? Does he or she have the power to do what is asked of him or her? ? Who else should be part of this conversation ? What do we do if one, one or all of us are fired ? What do we do if he targets one of us as the leader? ?

Texte original: Organizing Work
Translation: Maxime K.

[1]Direct action in which a group of workers goes, without warning, meet a superior to address requests.

[2]A salt is a person who will work in a company only to organize/syndicate it.

[3]A hot-shop is a work environment in which one or more issues crying out(s) agitate the employees a lot, which often leads to spontaneous but ephemeral actions.


Lessons to be learned from a failed action

Before taking action, we must identify the obstacles that stand in our way. A computer technician tells us his story.

I've been supporting unions and criticizing capitalism and big business for a long time.. However, I had never dared to act concretely, until recently. To do this, I met organizers and organizers of the SITT-IWW, I participated in an OT101 and I put my new knowledge into practice by trying to take action and organize my workplace. My organizing campaign is still in its infancy, but I recently participated in my first action and would like to share some of my thoughts.

I work in IT security for a large mortgage services company in the Midwest.. It's a questionable ethical company., but I tell myself that by helping to secure the data that is already in their possession, I protect current customers and do not help the company to attack new people. This is not concrete rhetoric, but it gets me through my days.

The lack of flexibility is one of the biggest annoyances of my job.: we are not allowed to work from home. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been forced to switch to telework due to health restrictions, but as soon as these have been lifted, we had to go back to the office. I am relatively new to this workplace, but colleagues who have been there for a long time told me that before the pandemic, our employer allowed telecommuting on occasion. I've also heard senior executives talk about it.

Since we came back to the office, the company has implemented increasingly severe measures to force us to present ourselves on site. Now, we have the choice between coming to the office or taking a day off. Sans exception. They don't care that we're uncomfortable spending our days in crowded auditoriums, without wearing a mask being compulsory and without being able to keep a safe distance from each other. Without surprise, only managers and their friends are exempt from this obligation.

Our employer also sent a memo to team leaders to tell them not to reveal the number of cases of COVID-19 among employees.. Even if a person tests positive, she still has to go back to work. Short, the company is even less flexible than before the pandemic and the ban on disclosing the number of cases has the effect of putting the health of employees at risk.

This regulation was already causing discontent among employees, but recently, it's a snowstorm that came to test our patience. Heavy snowfall was forecast for two days: all schools closed, and the media was strongly suggesting people stay off the road and stay home if possible. Despite this, our employer wrote to remind us that working from home was prohibited, and that people who did not show up to work during the storm had to take a day off or not be paid.

People worried about driving in storms were even suggested to sleep in a hotel near the office.! The company had negotiated a special rate for the occasion, but the room still cost more than most of us make in a day. This announcement was published on the company's internal portal, in a section where it is possible to leave comments. Several employees criticized this perverse initiative, and one person wrote that the situation was “dystopian”. She was fired immediately..

My colleagues were outraged by this decision. An employee from another team approached us to offer us all to take time off the next day., and thus leave the company understaffed. He told us that several people were already planning to do it and he encouraged us to join them.. Colin*, one of my colleagues, was really up for it and he got the other five team members to follow him.

I was very excited, since I had already thought about doing this kind of action. I had also identified Colin as one of the leaders of our group when I did my social mapping.. He's a big mouth and he's often the one who starts conversations. When the time comes to choose an activity to do as a team, his colleagues often tend to accept what he offers.

But I lacked confidence.. I had just started to organize my workplace and I had not yet had one-on-one meetings with Colin and with my other colleagues., and even less with members of other teams in the department. We talked about our problems as a group, but it ended there. Ideally, I should have waited before doing something like that., but Colin was up for it and he strongly encouraged the others to get on board. Conditions seemed favorable, the action itself was small scale and quite realistic: it had to include my team of five and other employees in different teams. So I said I was in too, and I created a group on Signal for me and my colleagues (with the exception of our team leader) can communicate.

This is the plan we agreed on: we were going to write individually to our team leader on the morning of the storm to tell him that we were going to work from home (and if he or she refused, that we were going to take a day off). We were going to use the Signal group to share the messages we sent and their responses., to help us keep our spirits up and to prevent any of us from feeling isolated.

Four of my five colleagues were on board; the other refused to participate. I was excited about this little collective action and went to bed with a shiver of excitement.

But the next morning, things started to go wrong.

Colin is the first to enter the office: he arrives around 6:30, then the others arrive between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and i start at 9am. By shifting our schedules in this way, we make sure that there is at least one person on site for a good part of the day, while allowing us to work as a team for a few hours. Due to his schedule, Colin was going to be the first to write to our team leader.

On the other hand, he wrote to us around 6:30 a.m. to tell us that the road conditions were really bad. Another colleague, Danielle, asked him if he had arrived at the office and he replied that yes. I wrote to the group to tell them that I was planning to call our team leader and tell him that I was going to work from home (and take a day off if he refuses). That's what I did, just like another colleague (Roger). Danielle did not answer, but when I contacted her at the end of the morning, she told me that she had decided to go to the office since Colin, the big mouth of the team, had flinched. My last colleague, Jackie, was opposed to the action from the start and she returned to the office as planned.

I must admit that I was a little disappointed with my colleagues: only two of us did not return (me and roger), while the others (Colin, Danielle and Jackie) went∙I work. From what I understood, It happened much the same way in the other teams. Ultimately, we have not been punished for our actions, but our absence did not really hinder the work in our company and we did not manage to make any concrete gains.

I was mostly frustrated with Colin's attitude, who encouraged the team to take action and who capitulated first. I decided to let this irritation dissipate before going to talk to him and tried to be empathetic and understanding.. I approached him a few days after the events and asked him for his views on the action: « Hey, Colin, How are you doing? I would like to understand what happened on your side. I had the impression that you were enthusiastic about not coming back to the office? ».

Colin was clearly uncomfortable. I reassured him by telling him that I was not angry and that I did not blame him, but that I wanted to understand what had happened. He then told me that he and our team leader were practically neighbors, and that he was afraid of looking bad to him if he decided not to return. I told him that I understood his concern and that we were going to have other opportunities to take action.. I did a similar follow up with Danielle and Roger, and I told them that other opportunities were coming.

What do I take away from all this??

First, even if the action was overall a failure (fewer 50% colleagues participated and we did not achieve our objectives), we have made some gains in terms of communication: the trust and honesty we have in each other has helped us organize, and the Signal discussion group allowed us to coordinate while helping us build a sense of togetherness outside of our workplace.

Secondly, this action taught me a good lesson on the leaders. Colin was indeed a leader within our team, but I absolutely did not expect him to bow to our team leader, and I had not done any inoculation to prevent this.

Thirdly, I remember that it is essential to carefully plan our actions and to plan all the steps in chronological order: who will act first? Who is likely to get reprimanded first? How to make our colleagues feel that we will support them if they take action? Can I anticipate obstacles (p. ex. relations, vulnerabilities) that could prevent a leader from acting as intended?

Fourth, this action taught me that all actions, as minor as they are, must be organized carefully. The action in question took place at the very beginning of the campaign and even though we agreed on the issues we wanted to address, we were not organized enough to act in a coordinated way. Short, "to be angry" and "to be able to take concrete actions to improve the situation" are not synonymous; it is not for nothing that agitation is the first step of AEIOU, while the formation of a union is the last.

fifth, I remember that our actions must be based on a solid organization and not on flukes: the course of our action depended on the road conditions, which are unpredictable. The weather forecast predicted a snowstorm, but it turned out to be much less intense than expected. The risk that employees would chicken out and decide to go to the office anyway was very present, which introduced some uncertainty among our colleagues.

Finally, I am happy to have participated in this action. I obviously would have preferred that we win, but we have a lot to learn from our failure and I will keep those lessons in mind in the future.

*All names are fictitious.

Article original de Organizing Work


Let's find other solutions than the strike!

Rasmus Hästbacka and Kristian Falk, of the Swedish trade union SAC (Swedish Workers' Central Organization, or Central Organization of Workers of Sweden), argue for a third way between the “consensual fundamentalism” of Sweden’s dominant union bureaucracy and the “idealization” of rank-and-file strikes: we need to relearn how to put pressure on our workplaces.

Let’s find alternatives to striking
1970s SAC poster: "You do the work! You have to take part in the decisions! »

What defines a trade union movement?? It is a movement made up of colleagues who stick together and act together. It must be distinguished from the union bureaucracy represented by elected officials and union officials perched far from the base and paid separately from the workers.. In the Swedish labor market, the trade union movement takes the form of small scattered islands in the shadow of the big trade union bureaucracies. These islets include the Syndicalist SAC, the Swedish Longshoremen's Union and some local labor branches within the LO central bureaucracies (Landsorganisationen i Sverige or Swedish National Organization), TCO (Central Organization of Salaried Employees or Confederation of Professional Employees) and SACO (Central Organization of Swedish Academics or Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations).

Revival of the Swedish trade union movement is hampered by “consensual fundamentalism”: senior union officials focus on building consensus (consensus) with employers through collective agreements but for decades, employers are increasingly neglecting the interests of workers in favor of the search for this consensus. The labor market is deteriorating in Sweden, and working conditions begin to resemble those of the beginning of the 20e century: there are dangerous working environments, very low wages and simply criminal employers.

As unionists, we do not reject legally binding collective agreements. In fact, at SAC, we are currently testing a new collective bargaining strategy. But we always emphasize that it is the collective struggle that gives collective agreements their value..

Romance strikes

While senior LO officials, of TCO and CESO suffer from consensual fundamentalism, the grassroots opposition often suffers from an obsession with the strike. Within the popular labor movement in Sweden, we often hear a call for big strikes, even a general strike. The use of strikes has grown in response to the questioning of the Swedish employment protection law, the proliferation of low wages and attacks on the right to strike. In 2019, groups attempted to organize a symbolic strike to highlight the climate crisis, but to our knowledge, no workplaces have been closed.

We must recognize that we ourselves, CAS members, sometimes let this obsession with the strike win us over. U.S. too, we tried to rush a few. The strike in defense of the unemployment insurance funds in 2006, which were attacked by the Swedish government, is an example. It ended in a painful defeat.

The frequency of strikes in Sweden has actually been very low since the early 1990s. 1990 and the call to strike tends to be a fantasy. The organizers of these so-called strikes idealize the French strikes, or those of Sweden before the Second World War. But the all-out strike should not be fetishized, and it has no value if it does not lead to results. This vision of the struggle is part of the fallacious myth that the strike is still the employees' best weapon..

An important fact, but little known, is that the unionist SAC has historically been skeptical of strikes. This was expressed from 1910 in the Manifesto to the Workers of Sweden, published by the SAC. Workers' struggles must not be reduced to an "arms crossed" struggle, it says in the Manifesto, and "that time is over, where it was enough to throw the shovel and the plane aside and impose our conditions on the employers.. According to trade unionists, strikes are often costly, long and can easily be ruined by scabs and lock-out. Swedish employers have often responded with lock-out of solidarity in many industries.

The objective of lock-out was not only to win the ongoing struggle. Political scientist Peter A.. Swenson talks about a longer term goal:

The lockouts enabled the ruling class to mold the unions into partners in the regularization of the labor market. The union leadership, which is closely linked to the Social Democratic Party, did not oppose the movement desired by the employers. What stood in their way, it was the lack of control over decentralized militancy in the ranks. Therefore, […] trade unionists sometimes welcomed lockouts or threats of lockouts. The employers' whiplash gave them an ideologically consistent pretext to intervene against disruptive grassroots activism.

During the golden age of strikes, in the years 1920, Swedish trade unionists have become even more skeptical of “all-out” strikes. Unionists have focused the struggle internally on union employment services (employment offices) and on increasing the influence of workers on the way workplaces are run. The internal struggle could take the form, for example, collective slowdowns. Union employment services could also stipulate that employers must follow the order and conditions dictated by unions when hiring workers.. When these services were effective, they allowed workers and the unemployed to pursue common claims against the employer party.

Increase the pressure

In SAC education programs, we have learned to emphasize that the road to successful strikes is usually a long one. Workers can simply start by speaking up, for example by asking to have their say on the schedules. Ensuite, they can have a petition signed to ask that the employer pay for their work uniforms. If the workload is high, the next step may be to ask for more people to be hired. If management is unresponsive, maybe it's time to start refusing overtime.

It takes time to develop the ability to lobby employers. We end up forgetting it by focusing all our attention on implementing epic strikes. Our colleagues must learn to win small battles before seeing if they are ready to take the next step.

We present below a series of means of pressure that contribute to strengthening the ability to strike. These options impose four different types of pressure: morale, psychological, economic and legal.

1) moral pressure

Exercising moral suasion means that workers appeal to the will of bosses to do what is right according to their own moral compass., or the desire to be seen as fair in the eyes of staff. for example, workers can question decisions made at staff meetings, conduct employee surveys and critique management actions in their local union newspaper.

Moral suasion is humiliating for bosses. of course, but it often happens that the bosses do not care about being perceived as unfair and that they and they do not perceive this pressure as a punishment. In such cases, moral suasion will have no effect, but psychological pressure might do the trick.

2) psychological pressure

Psychological pressure is shamelessly putting bosses in hot water. The goal is to disturb them. for example, unionized workers could send warnings to bosses who treated their co-workers badly. According to Swedish labor law, only employers can take disciplinary action, but that does not prevent the union from issuing written warnings to bosses and informing all employees..

Another example is to sow discord between bosses.. Employees can try to ally themselves with bosses who are receptive to worker demands and oppose bad bosses together. Workers can also visit senior managers to persuade them to put pressure on their subordinates.

Another variant of psychological pressure is to distance oneself from management. The bosses are then made to understand that the workers do not want to have anything to do with them until they come up with sensible solutions.. They and they could, for example, boycott the company party, organize Christmas dinners without the bosses or give up a business trip.

3) Economic pressure

Workers can certainly exert economic pressure on their employer by lowering their income or increasing their expenses., but they can also do it by playing the leadership game. How can this be done ?

One method is to scrupulously follow all the rules. This is called a “work to rule”, because it allows workers to remain in their workplace while significantly extending the time required to complete all tasks.

We can also think of “union subcontracting”. This means that pressure is put on an employer through another employer who has some connection with the first one.. for example, if a labor dispute arises in a cleaning company that works with other companies, the management of the cleaning company may be put under pressure by a union notice sent to client companies.

The best-known forms of economic pressure are strikes and blockades. Strikes generally cause a complete stoppage of work, while blockages lead to the interruption of certain parts of the work process. In Swedish labor law, blocking is also called “partial industrial action”.

Blockages come in many forms: refusal to work overtime, refusal to perform certain tasks, refusal to use certain work tools, refusal to participate in business trips, blocking the transfer of the labor force between different workplaces within the same company, refusal to deliver goods to certain companies, blocking the hiring of new and new employees (new employment blocked), etc.

Blocking the hiring of new people is a call for solidarity from job seekers: they are asked not to accept employment in the workplace until the conflict is resolved. Swedish law stipulates that job seekers then have the right to neutrality, which means that the public employment service must not refer jobseekers to this workplace.

Another method, called "good strike" or "good blocking", originated in the customer service industry. It consists of offering consumers a cheaper or better quality service at the expense of the employer.. It can be done, for example, by having employees only perform tasks that directly affect customers and ignore other tasks.

The struggle through the unions affects the means of production. It can be combined with actions on the part of consumers., whether the people who own the means of production call for such actions. Boycotting is a well-known method, but its opposite is less so. Unions can offer certification to employers who meet certain requirements and recommend the public to buy from them: this is what we could call a “union label”.

4) legal pressure

legal pressure, as for her, relevant when employers violate laws and agreements. According to Swedish labor law, legal remedies are mainly exercised by individuals and it is up to the union to initiate a process of collective bargaining under the codetermination law (The Co-determination Act). However, it is better for staff to keep things under control in the workplace and combine legal pressure with other types of pressure.

Reviving the labor movement

A strike is the result of a long process. Over this one, workers may find that other actions work better than striking in their workplace. Ultimately, it's the results that count: the goal is to create a better society and a more ethical professional world.

Within the SAC, union officials have a duty to help locals who decide to strike, even if they are skeptical of the strike. Locals are also well advised to think carefully about the chances of winning a strike before undertaking one.

The organization of work is not always a long calm river, but humor generally strengthens the fighting spirit. In his memoirs, Swedish trade unionist John Andersson tells the story of a wage dispute at the port of Gothenburg in 1912.

In response to longshoremen who had slowed down, foremen had been sent to the holds to compensate for losses. The workers then responded by working even more slowly and singing the Christian hymn. The prince of darkness descends ("the devil descends"). and, when the exhausted foremen started to climb the ladder to get out, the workers sang Your clear sun rises again ("Your glorious sun rises again in the sky").

Rasmus Hästbacka is a lawyer and member of the Umeå local branch of the SAC. Kristian Falk is an economic historian and member of the Enköping-Heby section of the SAC. Another version of this article was posted in Swedish.

Original text by Rasmus Hästbacka and Kristian Falk for Organizing Work
Translation: Alex V. et Florence M. for SITT-IWW Montreal.

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A History of SITT-IWW Organization Formation

Marianne Garneau presents the development of the IWW's unique training program and its innovative approach to union organizing.

IWW trade union training is virtually unique. It consists of two intensive two-day workshops. These workshops are open to any member or worker to teach them the skills needed to organize their workplace.: information gathering, the contacts of their colleges, one-on-one encounters, the construction of an organizing committee and the collective treatment of problems. The aim of the first workshop, "Organizational Training 101: Build the committee ”, is to ensure that any participant — with no previous organizing experience — can undertake their own organizing campaign at work and even organize a modest direct action with their colleagues to settle a grievance or obtain a concession. The second workshop, the "Organization Training 102: The Committee in action", presents a systematic approach to dealing with grievances based on action in the workplace, as well as the practical details and strategic issues of maintaining a shop committee.

Its curriculum is not designed for personnel employed by power plants, but good for workers, in order to teach them how to organize their workplace without the intermediary of paid union staff. The ultimate objective of the SITT-IWW approach is to build a structure whose actions are mainly carried out by the workers concerned., through a committee representative of the workplace, where decisions are made horizontally and who is able to organize direct actions on the floor to resolve grievances and secure new gains. This approach is an alternative to the steward system and the standard bargaining process, grievances and arbitration, that takes place away from the work floor and relies on lawyers and other professionals. The position of the IWW is that in addition to the fact that this process is expensive and slow, its purpose is to limit actions in the workplace, especially those that cause disruption to the economy of the business or society . To resume their language: "Work now, file a grievance later. »

It is for all these reasons that the formation of the IWW is exceptionally democratic compared to other trade union formations.. It is also democratic in its structure, since its objective is to train future trainers. Any member can attend the trainings and then apply to take a certification course and become a trainer. The program is overseen by an elected committee of five trainers and is remarkably stable and able to ensure its sustainability., considering that it is entirely run by volunteers and has a limited budget (trainers are reimbursed for the cost of travel and receive a small per diem). Its capacity has been increasing systematically — in number of trainers and in frequency of training given — since its inception, almost ago 20 years, thousands of people have been trained. This accessibility and this horizontality are among the most popular and appreciated aspects of the IWW., as well as the cornerstone of the union's most effective organizing campaigns.

The design of the IWW organization formation is an interesting story, because it follows the establishment of a unique approach to the union in recent decades. For a long time, following the loss of Cleveland heavy machinery premises in the 1950s, the union was struggling with an almost non-existent presence in the workplace and with volunteer activist members (anyone except a boss can take their "red card") that there were only hundreds. Each time the IWW attempted to reinvest itself as a labor organization, its approach was borrowed from that of traditional unions and the results were mostly disappointing. What motivated the training program was another form of "back to business" in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as the IWW began to organize campaigns again. The program was an attempt to provide best practices for standalone campaigns, then marked by cycles of expansion and weakening.

Initially, the IWW again borrowed educational materials and technical knowledge from traditional unions thanks to dual-carding members who worked as organizers or delegates in other unions, and thanks to members who had been trained by other unions, as by the "Organizing Institute" of the AFL-CIO. Through a set of scattered techniques and strategies, supplemented with a political critique of labor law, the union saw the birth of its shop committee system by developing a qualitatively different approach to the organization of workers' power.

 The "fight for gains" approach, not for recognition ” situates the IWW on the margins of the trade union world, as it always has been, but this is how he finally found his revolutionary roots by rejecting collective agreements and cooperation with employers. " The IWW does not recognize any rights to bosses ", said Big Bill Haywood to the Commission on Industrial Relations of the US Congress in 1915. "We say that no union has the right to sign an agreement with the bosses...because it is the inherent mission of the working class to overthrow capitalism and take power in its place. Throughout its long period of dormancy — as collective bargaining agreements containing clauses on the right to strike and clauses on employers' rights became normalized — the IWW maintained that the labor law was not a gift to society. working class. However, it was a somewhat abstract position, since the union had no distinct alternative in terms of organization and few active premises.

Although in recent decades, other unions have become more cynical about the National Labor Relations Board and the courts, the IWW remained unique with a workplace bargaining model separate from certification votes, certifications and conventions, nor is it based on funded activism or electoral coalitions, but relies instead on worker power in the workplace.

The following is the story of the IWW's conception of its own organizational formation and general trade union approach as it has evolved over almost five decades.. I begin with organizing manuals distributed to members in the 1970s and conclude with the latest developments of the current program.. This research is based on a review of every training manual the union has published since the 1970s., on archival material such as the newspaper Industrial Worker and the General organization bulletin, as well as a dozen detailed interviews with members, former and current.

Prehistory of today's program: Organization pamphlets and manuals from the 1970s to 1990.

« A Worker’s Guide to Direct Action » (1974)

Prior to the development of in-person training led by the Organizer Training Committee, members had access to several pamphlets and organization manuals, posted by members and available at headquarters or local branches.

One of them was "A Worker's Guide to Direct Action"., a pamphlet of 15 pages that briefly described tactics like slowdowns, work to rule, sit-down strikes, sick leave strikes and whistleblowing. This pamphlet was in fact an abridged reissue d’un pamphlet published by Solidarity in the UK in 1971. The IWW version presented these tactics as an alternative to two things: the "slow and clumsy" grievance procedure, where "a dispute goes through a series of meetings and ends up being decided by an arbitrator, usually a lawyer or a professor" and the "long strikes", which "cost too much and are too exhausting to be used often". Furthermore, the pamphlet notes that “the AFL-CIO-CLC executive…hoards large strike funds. »

The pamphlet has been reprinted and very modestly updated over the years, for example by the Lehigh Valley branch in the 1990s, who rewrote the introduction to describe the historical origins of the labor law framework, which would aim to contain the class war, and to define direct action as "guerrilla". The pamphlet was also republished by the Edmonton branch in the 2000s under the title "How to fire your boss"..

Although the use of actions on the floor is consistent with the historical approach of the IWW, these writings are addressed to individual workers and do not contain advice for the restlessness or development of one's co-workers, nor for the construction of a camp and even less for the resistance to the reprisals which follow the direct action. The pamphlet notes that to use its tactics, you have to have " organization at work ", at least in the sense of a "general agreement that working conditions must change", but the colorful examples quoted out of context are somewhat ambitious, maybe even irresponsible.

Organization manual (1978)

Another series of pamphlets—this time written by members of the IWW—were published in the 1970s.. There is an organization manual and a negotiation manual.. « The problem of growth — how to reach people and organize — dominated the convention [from 1971] », according to the memoirs of Ottilie Markholt, a longtime labor activist from the Pacific Northwest, but at the time a new Wobbly. A femma with the deceptive air of a grandmother who was in fact a hard-line trade unionist », according to a posthumous tribute published in the Industrial Worker thirty years later. According to Markholt, in light of this new priority, « a group of delegates met informally to plan the writing of an organizing manual for the IWW… The convention approved our plan and appointed me coordinator.“The group has”reflected on the problem of member-organizers with an ever-growing circle of correspondents», including Fred Thompson, emblematic figure of the IWW. The group has produced a manual for 23 pages that will be sold by the headquarters.

 From a practical point of view, the manual includes the usual good advice of the time in terms of organization: he advises getting a list of workers — though without providing much technical advice — and making house calls. He emphasizes the importance of direct contact, but also discusses having big meetings to tell workers about the union (the use of mass meetings for the development of contacts has been abandoned in the current training program: these meetings are too permeable to leaks and are often limited to what in the industry is called the lowest common denominator). The manual soberly advises to create a committee representative of the entire workplace - therefore "each department and/or shift" and "each ethnic and racial group".… balanced in terms of age and gender according to the proportions of the workplace ”. He insists on the fact that the union "must be a majority movement or it will be nothing" and on the importance of developing "democratic working rules".

The manual replicates traditional trade union approaches, including the campaign to win a certification vote. Most of his advice focuses on the use of alternative means such as picketing or striking to win a certification vote or legal recognition. (today’s trainers would argue that gaining legal recognition through these other means still opens the door to formalized working relationships). The section on union busting focuses on legal certification-blocking tactics used by management. A membership card template is included.

It is fascinating to see this focus on accreditation despite the presence of the following disclaimer:

Contrary to the official myth of liberal unionism, the right to organize and bargain collectively has not been codified… out of love for the working class. Rather, this legislation was passed to contain the growing rebellion of trade unionism… Therefore, although you can meet friendly investigators and attorneys at NLRB regional offices, you are essentially under the control of a hostile judiciary.

In fact, a long section at the beginning of the manual laments the IWW's recent capitulation to the labor relations framework. He maintains that in doing so, the union has lost sight of its fundamental intuition: worker power is based on worker action, not government intervention:

In recent campaigns, we have ignored the fundamental difference between the IWW and all other unions: recognition of the class struggle and the fact that the only way to end it is to abolish the wage system. We presented ourselves as a bargaining union with cheap dues and officers with little or no pay. We attributed the failures of other unions to bureaucratic and/or corrupt officials.

The authors make it clear that other unions are not corrupt because of the moral shortcomings of their officers, but because these unions are prisoners of a government framework that ties the hands of workers :

Conventional unions are based on the premise that labor and capital are partners, with the government as arbiter, in a class collaboration system that will benefit both parties… By recognizing the right of the government to arbitrate the partnership, these unions are giving up their only real source of strength, economic power…

Local officials reflect these contradictions. They can be very honest and sincere people, but they are immobilized by these contradictions. Even if they themselves understand the class struggle and would really like to see their locals negotiate on this basis, they just can't accomplish much against the weight of the rest of the union.

Once again, the authors point out the absurdity of thinking that the IWW can participate in the labor relations system without falling into the same traps as other unions. Their manual emphasizes the fact that participation in this legal framework is tantamount to abandoning the founding idea of ​​the IWW.:

We tried to cut the IWW in half and separate the preamble [who asserts that the working class and the employer class have nothing in common and that the wage system must be abolished – MG] and the union as a vehicle for obtaining immediate demands. In fact, our campaigns now say: "Forget those visionary ideas. We believe it, but we don't expect you, ordinary workers believe it. Just think of us as an outright union for now. “We tried to sell ourselves as a union which is good, young, poor and clean, in opposition to a union which is bad, vieux, rich and corrupt. These campaigns were uniformly doomed.

In other words, worker action directly at the point of production is essential to building working class power and securing its demands, and that is exactly what the NLRB system has worked to make disappear. By adopting this system, the IWW can't do better.

This organization manual confronts us with the contradiction of a lucid analysis that recognizes these constraints, but who resolves to advise IWW members to pursue the same legalistic strategies as other unions. While the IWW had set itself the goal of tearing itself away from historical insignificance and reorganizing workplaces, the union did not yet have a model to achieve this. In this first manual, the strategy did not match the goal — the practice was disconnected from the theory. There was no way to institutionalize the idea of ​​a worker-led or class-based organization. The IWW did not yet have its own organizing program.

Collective Bargaining Handbook (1978)

The organization manual was published at the same time as a 33 collective bargaining pages, also edited by Markholt and presumably also written largely by her.

There is also a reflection on the power of workers in its introduction.. It presents bargaining as fundamentally a struggle for control of the workplace and its conditions.. Despite this, the advice that follows are fairly orthodox and technical documents relating to the definition of the accreditation unit and the three categories of security clauses, working conditions and remuneration. It is recognized that the constitution of the IWW prohibits the deduction at source of dues, because " the increased efficiency does not compensate for the loss of personal contact between the members and the union ".

Generally, the trading manual is somewhat unrealistic, disconnected from what would be necessary to apply his advice: workers power. for example, a note explains that "reducing working hours without reducing wages should be a long-term goal for all trade unionists" and suggests that "to start, you have to try to go to a week of 30 hours with 5 days of 6 hours" — without really developing a strategy that would allow you to develop sufficient bargaining power to make your company an exception in its sector, even in the economy.

Updates to these manuals

These two manuals have been updated over the years, but not really on the successes or failures of the union's campaigns. The trading manual was updated in 1983 by Paul Poulos and Rochelle Semel, two longtime members from upstate New York, who also wanted the IWW to get "serious again" and start organizing workplaces and negotiating contracts. At that time, the union was mostly made up of radical activists — union-oriented anarchists and communists, union officers subscribing to the class struggle, alumni who remembered the golden age of the IWW, stubborn supporters and sympathizers. The total membership of the union was a few hundred, at most.

Poulos and Semel removed Markholt's introduction to the power struggle between workers and management. Other technical sections have been added (for example on probation periods) with templates for the wording of each section of a convention.

However, it is not certain whether the negotiation manual or the organization manual was used. The IWW managed to win a few accreditations and negotiate a few conventions in the 1980s: University Cellar Bookstore, le People’s Wherehouse (a grocery warehouse) and Leopold Bloom's Restaurant in Ann Arbor; Eastown Printing à Grand Rapids ; SANE and Oregon Fair Share in Portland; and recycling plants in the San Francisco area. With the exception of the People's Wherehouse (which lasted ten years) and recycling plants (who still have IWW conventions to this day), most of these campaigns were short-lived, often ending when the business closes. Many other attempts at accreditation, often accompanied by a strike, just failed.

In 1988 a one 1994 or 1996 (records are imprecise), the organization manual is updated, incorporating feedback from across the union. This most recent version has moved away from the model of the organization of a majority to file a request for certification, noting that "much can still be accomplished by a small group on the floor that strives to mobilize colleagues around particular grievances and coordinate direct action campaigns…While the earlier version recognized the various legal tactics available to management to subvert or defeat a union certification vote, updates took a harder line, noting that

even when you "win" thanks to labor laws, you end up losing — endless hours are spent pursuing the case, momentum is lost and power shifts from the workplace to the corporate courts. Although it is useful to know the law in order to make informed decisions on all possible options, the workplace remains your true source of strength.

He acknowledges that the unfair practices complaint process sometimes takes "five or seven years before resulting in a “victoire” complete. At this moment, the union was almost certainly disbanded and most of its activists found other employment. This is most likely a reflection on the IWW experience at Mid-America in Virden, in illinois. In 1977, the IWW recruited six of the seven workers there and called for a certification vote:

the long march through the courts sees union members dwindle in numbers, until there was only one left in June 1978… Two years later, in the fall of 1980, all appeal procedures having been exhausted, Mid-America finally agreed to recognize the union and begin negotiations. At this moment, of course, the union was no longer present in the workplace… The Industrial Organization Committee… [has sent] letters to current Mid-America employees informing them of the campaign and suggesting that the IWW negotiate on their behalf. There was no response and Virden's campaign was consigned to history.

This experience repeated itself in almost exactly the same way decades later, when in 2013, the IWW won an accreditation vote at Mobile Rail Systems in Chicago, only to lose all presence in the workplace (relatively small) during the negotiation of the collective agreement. The union eventually agreed to drop the campaign in 2020.

However, although this version of the organizing manual was more critical of legalism in labor relations, and even if it recognized " the possibility - and even the legality - of fighting for specific grievances, or even to ask for union recognition, without going through the NLRB ", most of his advice was geared towards formal accreditation in anticipation of contract negotiation.

Implementation of the current training program

It should be noted again that these manuals do not appear to have been used much. En1996, the year the organization manual was apparently last updated, there were several high-profile IWW campaigns. However, the members of these campaigns interviewed by the author did not declare having used it, although some have known about it. The Wobblies groped their way through their heady campaigns, guided by the advice of sporadically present members, with mixed success.

Always in 1996, the IWW narrowly lost a legal accreditation vote at Borders Books in Philadelphia. An organizer at the center of the campaign was fired and a high-profile national campaign was launched to protest the dismissal and boycott the channel, with strong participation from more than a dozen branches of the IWW. In stride, a series of new campaigns have emerged – at the MiniMart convenience store in Seattle, at Applebee's in New Orleans, at Wherehouse Entertainment in the San Francisco area, at Snyder's Pretzels in Pennsylvania, at Sin Fronteras Bookstore in Olympia and several Portland businesses.

Alexis Buss, a member from Philadelphia who later became general secretary-treasurer, said: "After Borders, we only got crumbs, and people had no other way to get involved. The nature of a union was always assessed in light of the question: “How many contracts do you have?” »

She was often sent personally to assist in these campaigns. John B, who later served on the Organizers Training Committee, described the situation as:

We had several national campaigns, very public, very visible, which totally imploded… these were essentially situations where workplaces were already under high pressure, then three guys would stand on a table shouting: “workers of the world, unite!” before being fired on the spot. Alexis looked into these campaigns and developed a training day dedicated to best practices in organization.

According to Buss: "We tried to take the time to learn and improve after each failure. » She began to organize one-day workshops for campaigns and branches:

Let's say you have a [censored name] from Applebee's contacting your branch, what are you doing? You don't give them membership cards or pamphlets about how bad their boss is telling them: " Good luck, kid. " So, we really wanted to try to build a workplace committee… We tried to explain the shortcomings of the external organizers who did the organizing work, the dangers of not having a committee, the risks of ignoring social leaders at work…

A little after, a group of four members of the IWW began to seriously collect documents from the traditional unions. It was about Buss, de John Hollingsworth (Steward in Ottawa of OPEIU local 225 at the time and researcher hired by the Canadian Association of University Teachers), de Josh Freeze (member of the Amalgamated Transit Union and later steward of the Association of Flight Attendants) and Chuck Hendricks (of Baltimore and later Connecticut, became a UNITE HERE organizer). Hendricks recalls that the group "began collecting AFL-CIO training materials, of UNITE HERE and other unions to create an organizing manual" and "trainings on the model of a school class".

Hendricks was among a number of Wobblies who attended the AFL-CIO's "Organizing Institute". This three-day workshop allowed to acquire the necessary skills to carry out a " home visit ", especially with the use of role-playing games, after which the successful participants were recruited by the unions. This role-playing class model has become the basic structure of Organization 101 training..

So, the IWW found the original core of its training program in other unions: gather contacts, socially and physically map the workplace, identifier les leaders, have individual conversations with colleagues following the AEIOU scenario (Shake, Educate, Innoculer, Organize and ”Unioniser”). An analysis of the difference between the IWW and other unions has been added. (no paid staff, no political party affiliation, no deduction of contributions), as well as a critique of labor law and a "chronology of an unfair practices complaint" written by Buss, intended to warn participants of the slowness and inefficiency of legal processes.

The first Organization 101 training was held in Portland in August 2002. According to the report of the Organizers' Training Committee at the annual convention:

Forty members came from across the western United States for a weekend of formal talks, presentations and role plays. We covered topics ranging from developing contacts, activists and leaders in workplace mapping; encourage colleges to take on more responsibilities and tasks in negotiations; challenges of high-turnover workplaces to U.S. labor law… Without a doubt, the most frequent comment we received in the ratings was that there should be more roleplaying. The trainers agree and for most future training, their place will be considerably enlarged.

In the years that followed, other members of the IWW often coming from a more traditional unionism have developed other modules: two Minneapolis organizers who both had experience with AFSCME designed a captive audience meeting and "One Big Organizer" exercise in which participants take turns asking questions to a potential union member, to stir it up and educate it. Generally, the evolution of IWW organization training has moved it from a lecture format to a popular education model.

So, from 1996 at 2003 about, the training program has been consolidated, moving from informal workshops run by Buss to a formal program run by the Organizers Training Committee. This committee has written and updated a training manual, coordinated training and accredited new trainers. When the committee structure has actually been put in place, she became a stable resource that no longer depended on Buss' talents, who had since moved on to other projects.

However, since it had borrowed heavily from traditional unions, this organizational training program still bore the hallmarks of traditional approaches in its early days. MK Lees, who would become a trainer and sit on the Training Committee for Organizers, recalls taking his first Organization 101 training in Chicago in 2002, while organizing bike couriers with the Chicago Couriers Union of the IWW. “Training continued to progress towards solidarity unionism… She was very critical of the organization as part of the NLRB, but she always had one foot in both worlds. It provided that it could be used for the organization via the NLRB or not ” — as for bicycle couriers, classified as self-employed and not as employees — "but many examples were drawn from legal accreditation campaigns. » Even if it did not train or encourage participants to apply for accreditation, the narrative of the two-day training culminated with a public outing from the union, as accreditation campaigns do. The workshop also presented the "stages of a campaign" culminating in a "recognition strategy" followed by "negotiation" — the IWW essentially presented a traditional approach that bypassed the NLRB.

In other words, the union was still forging its own approach to organizing.

Field applications and program reviews

From 2003, the organizational training curriculum begins to evolve in light of the experiences of the IWW campaigns.

Even though the Organization 101 training never advised filing an application for certification and instead warned participants against labor law, this lesson came to fruition with the credentialing campaigns in Portland in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2003, Portland published a document entitled "Learning from our mistakes", a look back at four different campaigns: a bicycle courier company, two separate grocery stores and a non-profit community organization. The conclusions are unequivocal: " The NLRB has slowed down the organization "; “The NLRB bureaucracy slowed down the process, slowed our momentum and took up a lot of time for several people "; " We did not consider the campaign without NLRB accreditation "; "We failed to recognize that direct unionism worked well without NLRB accreditation"; "The organization has focused on the certification vote rather than worker issues and fighting for concrete gains"; "Things to avoid in the future: have a vote with the NLRB ”; "Using the NLRB ; " Seek official union recognition "; " Aim to obtain an official collective agreement "; " Abandon the democratic construction within the organizing committees to focus on the immediacy of an accreditation vote ". For a campaign where accreditation was won: " The real problems were not addressed during the negotiation "; " The union was more of an idea than a reality ". "Things to do differently next time: more direct action unionism tactics ”. " Experimenting with more minority/direct trade unionism tactics ".

However, le Starbucks Workers Union, launched in New York in 2004, et le Jimmy John’s Workers Union, launched in Minneapolis in 2010, initially sought formal recognition by filing applications for accreditation with the NLRB. The former abandoned this campaign when a judgment declared that the accreditation unit must include all stores in Manhattan. The runner-up narrowly lost a certification vote, and even though that result was later overturned by the NLRB, the union never filed a petition again.

However, as these campaigns progressed from store to store and city to city, they have increased their ability to use direct action tactics at work to achieve gains, including floor mats, tip jars, temperature controls, schedule changes, toilet breaks, increases, paid holidays, the end of employer intimidation and the reversal of certain layoffs.

Since campaigns were more successful with direct action than with legal approaches, the training program has developed further in this direction. Workshops, sometimes given in addition to the training 10, became in August 2010 a full-fledged 102 course: " The committee in action ". Nick Driedger, former member of the Organizers' Training Committee and veteran "dual-carder" of the IWW at Canada Post (see below), notes that the program was created following the concretization of several efforts in organization of the IWW:

The 102 was created after the establishment of a dozen workshop committees in different workplaces. So we started developing a system to collect issues, target the appropriate manager level and bring claims to fruition in a concerted manner (direct action grievance procedure). Emphasis has been placed on creating committees that can last for the long term; some of our committees have existed for about six years.

The training consisted of two parts. The first is tactics March on the boss, where several employees confront a boss about a particular policy or the treatment of employees. First an exercise requiring detailed written answers, this training was transformed into role plays with assignment of roles (lookout, applicant, switch, etc.) and where the trainers took on the managerial role.

Another section of 102 was a section titled " Parts of a Direct Action ", dividing it into ten parts. Among others: " Requirement ", "participants", " witnesses ", " target ", " tactics ", " the results ". This section highlighted the importance of escalating pressure. Furthermore, remarks were made on the difference between "workplace contractualism" and the IWW approach, now called "solidarity unionism". The training discussed referees who make decisions without consequences for their own living conditions, agreements that make most strikes illegal and postpone the treatment of many problems until the next round of negotiations, of these agreements which "make workers lose power during the duration of the contract, usually through clauses prohibiting the right to strike and promoting management rights, and by the recognition of the employers' legitimacy in spirit, in practice and in law ”. The training opposed this model to that of the " workshop committee ". She also discussed onboarding new hires, effectiveness of staking, dealing with retaliation such as dismissals and having good meetings.

As the campaigns multiplied and the training program gained popularity, sections on direct action have been integrated into training 101, which was offered much more frequently than the 102. For its part, the 102 program has become a systematic study of the maintenance of committees and a comprehensive process for handling direct action grievances. The grievance procedure was developed after the success of the "dual carding" campaign at Canada Post in the early 2010s. IWW members within the Canadian Union of Postal Workers created and led a training program titled "Taking Back Control of the Work Floor". Their method was to identify social leaders on the floor and send them through training., using CUPW education infrastructure. Still Driedger:

We have provided these trainings to approximately 160 people and then added them to a text message list…to ensure coordination between shop committees… We have achieved great victories, especially when we forced Canada Post to hire 200 people as management attempted to cut positions through March on the boss style actions involving approximately 2000 workers [and] when we reversed a 30% wage cut for rural letter carriers through a four-day wildcat strike. D’innombrables March on the boss, with blows 8 at 120 workers at a time, have won demands ranging from changes in disciplinary measures to the application of seniority in the selection of delivery routes, through the stoppage of compulsory overtime (which we ended for about 1000 workers for about six years, while it was a widespread practice everywhere in the posts for decades before).

The Course 102 grievance process now included a grievance triage and prioritization activity, as well as an exercise where workers had to be told that their own grievance cannot be dealt with at the moment. The training also addressed issues of democratic accountability related to horizontally worker-led campaigns.

Latest developments

The last revision of the 101 program was spread over the year 2018-2019. It was again the result of new experiences: feedback on the success of the IWW campaign at Ellen's Stardust Diner and the challenges faced by other IWW campaigns.

At Ellen's, the workers went public with their union in August 2016. Management retaliation was felt in the staggering number of 31 unlawful dismissals within the next five months (16 in one day). The union ended up winning the case by reversing the layoffs and winning back wages in a settlement overseen by the NLRB. However, the campaign survived—and the settlement was imposed—thanks to sustained organizing efforts, including the recruitment and training of other workers and the continuation of direct action campaigns in the company, in addition to pickets and pressure campaigns on the issue of reinstatement. Meanwhile, the union has achieved an impressive series of victories, including a new scene, security measures, a breastfeeding room, an increase in staff, substantial repairs, raises for cooks, divers and hosts, and an end to unpaid repeats and tip theft, all without official recognition or negotiation. All of this was made possible by faithfully adhering to existing 101 training guidelines and putting in place a formal structure — union membership and dues payment., elected leadership positions, meetings and motions, a budget. This structure is a counterexample to non-NLRB campaigns which tend to be loosely organized affairs revolving around strong personalities.

In light of this experience, training 101 has been revised to remove the original "campaign timeline" that culminated in the "public release". MK Lees and this author have written two articles in an attempt to summarize the lessons learned from Stardust. The first is called « Do Solidarity Unions Need to “Go Public” ? » (Do the Solidarity Syndicates need to go public?) and underlined that this process was only a vestige of a certification campaign during which the management is officially informed of the union effort and which, from the experience of the IWW, only resulted in retaliation and loss, while the permanent struggles based on grievances did not suffer this kind of decisive backlash.

The other article, « Boom without Bust: Solidarity Unionism for the Long Term » (Explode without bursting: Solidarity Syndicalism in the long term) , was a reflection on how the IWW could maintain its model of non-contractual solidarity unionism in the long term, now that he had a few models to do it. (It must be recognized that the IWW campaigns at Jimmy John's and Starbucks themselves lasted ten years., but they were not very structured and over time, they relied more and more on advertising and the media and less and less on presence on the floor.) The article described the stabilizing organizational characteristics of the Stardust solidarity union. The training program, For its part, refocused on recruiting workers as full members in good standing, and on adopting a systematic approach in general.

The section of the training 101 on employment law, then became an incisive presentation, albeit relatively long political and historical context of the Wagner Act and Taft-Hartley, is now reduced to an inoculation against complaints of unfair labor practices and a general warning against legal procedures. This almost two-hour section has always been very controversial: she was either the most beloved, be the most hated of the participants in their evaluations, but the trainers responsible for reviewing this section realized that its length effectively contradicted its message, to know: set aside labor law and focus on direct action.

Training 101 now ends with a note on "committee sustainability" and "next steps", advising on how workers can "level up" in their campaigns without pulling the trigger on a certification vote or going public to reward their organization, whether envisioned as a triumphant moment or a desperate move to reverse a dip in energy. Rather, we suggest: " to increase the number of members " and "to take care of greater demands ".


The IWW's training program now matches its political rejection of class collaboration and its cynicism about labor rights. However, it was not developed in an ideological or "a priori" way; on the contrary, it gradually condensed about 25 years of experience in real campaigns.

While his original material was borrowed from traditional syndicates, it now stands out in every detail. The AEIOU version of the IWW, for example, is focused on direct action and not on signing a membership card. The program aims to develop broad skills and class consciousness in all workers. The rating scale indicates whether a worker actively contributes to the campaign by participating in one-on-one meetings, direct actions or administrative work, or if his support for the campaign goes beyond words (at the other end of the spectrum: workers passively or actively opposed to the union effort).

This approach also reflects the very structure of the IWW.: very low contribution rates which generally do not allow the financing of paid staff, committees and boards of directors made up of volunteer members, and campaigns in low-wage sectors, with small circles and high turnover, such as retail, fast food, restaurants and call centers, where union members tend to work and where other unions generally do not attempt to certify bargaining units for obvious cost-benefit reasons.

However, not all IWW campaigns subscribe to the approach of solidarity unionism (and this article has only touched on a fraction of the campaigns of the last five decades). There are still certification and convention campaigns within the union, in addition to other organizational models, which is made possible by the fact that the IWW is very decentralized. The 2010s saw a series of accreditation and recognition campaigns — 18 sure 20 have been formally successful — which have resulted in the closure of several of these stores or the disappearance of the union presence in a few years. Le Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) in Portland, which ran a conventional campaign from the start and is now entering its third year of trading, now asks the rest of the union to allow him to sign a clause prohibiting the right to strike, currently prohibited by the IWW statutes, and has already committed to a grievance arbitration system (where the losing party pays!). This reflects the contradictions, as the first organization manual said, to try to build workers' power within the legal framework of labor relations. In other words, the experiences of the IWW campaigns, even those that do not follow the pattern set in the current organization formation, always reflect the lessons and warnings distilled into its program, if only negatively. But the union as a whole, thanks to its solidarity union model, has passed the stage of a "negotiating union" which is only differentiated by its "cheap dues and the absence of paid leaders". Finally, the union can once again put its revolutionary ideals into practice.

Original text by Marianne Garneau, Chair of the SITT-IWW Department of Education Council and Editor of the Labor Think Tank Organizing Work.

Translation done in January-February 2022 by Felix T. Member of the Montreal local SITT-IWW.


strike record in France

On the other side of the ocean, each new day of strike up the bar a little higher and is approaching records set in May 68.

Entering already in its fifth week of activity, the protest movement against the reform of the pension plans currently taking place in France already stands as one of the biggest strikes the country has long been known.  The 2 January, railwaymen of the National Society of French railways (SNCF), outperformed strikes 1995 and 2010 and smashed their previous record 28 consecutive days, established 1986.

While nothing suggests a quick exit, many media, such Nouvel Observateur (Note l') and The Independant, announced that the current strike could appear as the third longest in the history of France, just behind the events of May 1968 and the Common Front of 1936. It must be said that the walkout began with great pomp, when the 8 December:

More than a million workers had demonstrated in the streets of more than 300 cities, public transport was stopped in Paris and in many cities many planes remained grounded, more than 70% of teachers were on strike with many schools closed, the staff of public and private hospitals has also been at the heart of the battle. It's the same in private companies, where salairé.es have largely mobilisé.es.  (CNT-F)

While some observers have noted some slowing actions that place side by side the employé.es rail and air, Health, education, oil production and some areas of justice, resume negotiations, the 7 January, could very well put oil on the fire.


Photo credit : Paule Bodilis


Montréal: Blocking Marseille Depot Canada Post

After blocking the Leo Blanchet plan and deposit the factors Bridge 10 and 12 last December, intersectoral local branch of the IWW-SITT Montreal starts over again by going this time to deposit Marseille in the heart of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.


This initiative of the IWW Montreal is part of a broader movement involving all of Canada where recall that since the adoption of a special law, charcutant negotiations and back-to-work letter carrier for Canada Post, shares of blockages and disturbances take place around the country. Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Ottawa, Mississauga, Montréal, Halifax and Sydney are just some of the cities where members of the IWW union or other citizens or groups decided to stand in solidarity with the letter carriers, giving reason to Mike Palecek, National President of the Union of Workers and Workers Post (STTP/CUPW) announcing to the CBC:


« 50 000 syndiqué.es are is forbidden to hold a picket in front of post offices, more 3 millions still have that right. We are not the willing and ready to defend our right to free collective bargaining! »



Photo credit: SITT-IWW Montreal

Canada-US border: Reactionary faced by activists, Workers

Saturday 19 May, more than 150 activists from the Montreal region are gathered es to the Canada-US border to both denounce racist factions are organizing an anti-immigration protest and to challenge the legitimacy of a militarized border, introduced by the colonialists bourgeois states of the so-called "North America". Mainly using the group's organization Solidarity Across Borders, activists boarded buses to downtown Montreal (a time distance from the border), while others have made-es at the project site in car, their own.


The context for irregular crossings

The border between the United States and Canada is an issue of utmost importance for activists in the region. In addition to the deep structural problems affecting the maintenance of borders in the colonialist states, Recent flaws in some state laws motivate more refugee-es to cross the border illegally, on one side or the other. A treaty signed between Canada and the US, called "The Agreement on the Safe Third Country", stipulations qu'un réfugié-and-and in a des deux pays ne peut pas faire une demande d'asile dans l'autre, since each of the two genocidal police bourgeois states consider that both are safe enough to decide the fate of the "poor people" of this world. The exception to this rule is the 'irregular crossing', where an applicant or applicant for asylum in one country or another may go to the other and thus be treated-e if he or she makes this journey through unofficial routes. for example, crossing the border as a refugee-e hoping to apply in Canada or the US, a person will be denied entry to the country if it comes to a customs post, but not if it passes by the many paths, forests and other entry points "unofficial". These laws, as they are, encourage migrants to cross "illegally", this should not be a surprise if several families, migrant-es, refugee-es, Workers across that way.


The reaction of the extreme right

Rather than denouncing the systemic problems at the source of the problem (the bombing and destruction of homes of people living in other countries, and the violent imposition of the capitalist system of exploitation that may well kill here), reactionary factions are trying to crack the company, with the implicit blessing of the elites, to divide and conquer the class of workers. These Canadian factions themselves into paramilitary fascist militias early 20th century (with a modern varnish) almost copied point by point the language and tactics of similar groups of the extreme right, the United States and elsewhere, many of which use a dehumanizing vocabulary to talk about refugee-es, children and families fleeing hostile situations in search of a better life. these splinter groups, especially as "Storm Alliance", "The Pack" and "III% ers", trying to gain legitimacy in civil society by posing as those who demand respect "law and order", among others that may affect the average person. In reality, not only their feeble attempts at civility and legitimacy are based on false premises, but increasingly these groups are filled with a multitude of reactionaries, fascists, neo-Nazis and other assorted members of the extreme right, which are mobilizing a takeover. Other border similar events in 2017 revealed the presence of prominent neo-Nazis and fascists in Montreal these factions, including Shawn Beauvais Macdonald, who was present in Charlottesville for the notorious neo-Nazi demonstration "Unite the Right" (it is not clear if this was the 19 May Lacolle), and was also recently exposed as a member of a neo-Nazi Discord Montreal Forum, under the pseudonym of "friendly fash".


The anti-racist position of the IWW

In solidarity with all the workers and all working, Members of the branches of Montreal and Quebec of the IWW were present Saturday at the border to the against-protest. The migrant and the scourge of the migrant worker is the scourge and the worker. Contrary to reports of false news, people who illegally cross the border not only work hard (it takes courage to cross half the planet with his family), but also their precarious position puts them in an extremely vulnerable position with regard to their jobs. The refugee-es-es are operated by business owners, that can the underpay and overwork as the threat of deportation is often enough to keep total control over them and they. The IWW denounces all forms of wage slavery, particularly with respect to the most vulnerable. The members of the IWW, either individually or by quota, will continue to work in solidarity with groups that are actively involved in the radical transformation of society and the abolition of the capitalist mode of production. Whether on the border issue, counter the anti-immigrant groups, or help workers of all backgrounds to organize their workplace, IWW stands in solidarity with groups and individuals who want to build a better world from the ashes of the old. An attack against a person is an attack against all and all!


The confrontation

Finally, paramilitary neofascist cosplayers were unable to get to their destination originally scheduled, Roxham the way, that connects the US and Canada and is quite popular among those who cross illegally. These activists and present the way Roxham held, in a relatively calm and festive atmosphere. At the official Lacolle by cons, reactionaries could provide a short presence. Despite a strong presence, activists were severely attacked by the state-are the agents of oppression. Highway 15 was seized and blocked by several activists to try to stem the motorcade of racist, or at least to prevent their access to the border as such. Sadly, riot police attacked anti-racist activists, stopping on the way a fellow worker and member of the IWW Montreal. After the activists were removed es Highway, a disturbing scene ensued. The racist convoy received first class treatment by the state with a police escort. Fortunately, comrade temperature brought predict, and almost in the space of an hour, the reactionary left their protest protected by police (also including the presence of Canadian neo-fascist commentator false, « Faith Goldy ») and regained the pathetic dark corners they currently occupy in society.

Motivated by the bourgeois media and literally protected by police, the far right takes advantage of the crisis of advanced capitalism to recruit new members. It is important that as radicals and radical militant activists, that as the working class and as members of the IWW, we mobilize in solidarity with other groups to say: «No Market! The solidarity of the workers broke boundaries and states! " Till next time, the struggle continues!


Solidarity forever,

Josip B.

Photo credit: a classmate

In english.

Canadian-American border: Reactionaries clash with fellow workers and activists

Saturday May 19th, over 150 activists from the greater Montreal area gathered at the US-Canad border to both denounce racist groups organizing an anti-immigrant demonstration, as well as to call into question the legitimacy of a militarized border enforced by the bourgeois settler colonial states in so called “North America.” Mainly organized by the group “Solidarity Across Borders” (Solidarity Across Borders), activists embarked on busses from the downtown core of Montreal (only about one hour from the border proper) or took personal vehicles themselves to the action.


The context for the irregular border crossings

The border between the United States and Canada has been an especially important issue for activists in the region. On top of the deeper systemic issues with regards to enforcing borders among settler colonial states, more recent loopholes in haphazard state legislation has given incentive to refugees to cross irregularly into either the United States or Canada. An agreement signed between the two nations called the “safe third country agreement” stipulates that a refugee claimant in either country cannot make a claim in the other, as each genocidal bourgeois police state reckons themselves safe enough to help one another gatekeep the world’s “poor and downtrodden.” The exception to this is for “irregular crossings,” whereby a refugee claimant in either country can cross to the other and be processed if they cross through a non-official means. For example, crossing as a refugee hoping to make a claim from the United States to Canada, an individual that enters at an official border crossing will be turned down, but one coming by one of the many roads, forests, and other “unofficial” points of entry will not be de facto denied into the country. The legislation as it is incentivizes people to cross “irregularly” and it should be no surprise that many families, migrants, workers, and refugees cross this way.


The reaction of the far-right

Rather than call out the systemic issues that caused this situation, from the literal bombing of people’s homes overseas, to the violently enforced capitalist system of exploitation that kills here at home, reactionary groups are attempting to create fissures in society, with the implicit consent of the ruling elite, to divide and conquer workers. Groups in Canada that cosplay early 20th-century fascist paramilitary groups (with a veneer of modernity) have nearly copy-pasted the language and tactics used by other far right groups on the American continent and beyond, with many using dehumanizing language to speak of refugees, children, and families escaping dire situations to embetter themselves. These groups, in particular those such as “Storm Alliance,” “The pack,” and the “III%ers,” try to gain legitimacy in civil society by presenting themselves as the groups calling for “law and order,” among other things that may be of concern to the average individual. In reality, not only are their feeble attempts at civility and legitimacy based on false pretences, the groups themselves are fronts for a plethora of far right, reactionary, fascist, and neo-nazis to gather in an attempt to rise to power. Similar border demonstrations in 2017 brought out famous Montreal neo-nazis and fascists on the side of these groups, including Shawn Beauvais Macdonald, an individual who was in Charlottesville for their infamous “Unite the Right” neo-fascist gathering (it was unclear if he was present at Lacolle on the 19th), and who was recently exposed as a member of a Montreal neo-nazi Discord chat as user “friendly fash.”


The IWW anti-racist position

In solidarity with all working people, members of the IWW branches in both Montreal and Quebec City were present at Saturday’s border protest. The plight of the migrant is the plight of the worker. Contrary to fake news reports, people who cross into a state through irregular means are not only some of the hardest workers (it takes guts to travel somewhere half way around the world with your family) but their precarious positions put them in extremely vulnerable labour situations. Migrants are taken advantage of by business owners, who can underpay and overwork them as the threat of deportation is often enough to keep absolute control over them. The IWW denounces all forms of wage slavery, especially in the case of society’s most vulnerable. IWW members, whether as individuals or coming through as a contingent, will continue to work in solidarity with groups that actively participate in the radical transformation of society and the abolishment of the capitalist mode of production. Whether the issue is borders, countering anti immigrant groups, or helping workers of all backgrounds to organize a workplace, the IWW stands in solidarity with groups and individuals that want to build a more equitable society out of the ashes of the old. An injury to one is an injury to all!


The confrontation

By the end of the day, neo-fascist paramilitary cosplayers were unable to go to one of their planned destinations, Roxham Road, a road connecting the US and Canada that is popular with people looking to cross irregularly. Those present at Roxham Road held it and kept a relatively calm and festive mood. Over at the official border crossing of LaColle though, reactionaries were able to maintain a short presence. Despite a large presence, activists were attacked hard by agents of state oppression. Highway 15 was taken and blocked by several protesters in an attempt to get the car convoy of racists to turn back or, at least, not have access to the border proper. Unfortunately, state agents in full riot gear attacked the brave anti-racist activists, arresting a fellow worker and IWW Montreal member in the ensuing clash. After activists were cleared off the highway, a disturbing scene followed. The convoy of racist boneheads were given first class treatment by the state with a police escort. Thankfully, Comrade Weather brought showers, and almost within an hour, reactionary boneheads left their police protected protest (which also included noted neo-fascist Canadian fake news commentator “Faith Goldy”) and went back to the sick sad shadows they currently inhabit in society.

Spurred on by bourgeois media and literally protected by the police, far right groups are taking advantage of the crisis of late stage capitalism to recruit new members. It is important as radicals, and the working class, and IWW members, that we mobilize in solidarity with other groups to say: “No market! Working class solidarity smashes borders and states!” Until next time, the fight continues!


Solidarity forever,

Josip B.

Photo credit: a comrade

In French.

Union action following a wave of abusive firings at Heritage Coffee

Wednesday February 28th, the Montreal branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (SITT-IWW) started a picket line in front of the distribution centre Heritage Coffee, situated at 5715 chemin Saint-François in Saint-Laurent. This picket line follows the firing of two workers, members of the SITT-IWW, for union organizing. A lot of members called on Monday to communicate to the employer their frustration towards this decision that goes completely against the most fundamental rights of the workers.

Friday February 23rd, around the end of her shift, Tessa Mascia was asked to come in the office of the Chief Operating Officer where she was fired. “The COO handed me a letter and said I was fired. I thought he was joking. He said he was not. He said “it just wasn’t working out,” like he was some teen kid breaking up with a high school hook up.” explains Tessa. The worker was however a good employee. She had one of the highest levels of productivity among her coworkers and was just certified to operate a forklift merely weeks prior. On Monday, February 26th, Kyle Shaw-Müller, another union member, was fired without even receiving a termination letter. He was asked to come into the office of the director after he trying to convince his colleagues to ask the employer to reverse his decision to fire Tessa. “I knew I was putting myself on the line: but to be fired without warning for talking to someone about another firing? Shocking.”

After numerous calls on Monday, a picket and a meeting with negotiators from the Union, the employer is still refusing to cancel his illegal and rash decision. The Industrial Workers of the World will therefore not only call upon the legal means at its disposal, but will also mobilize the strength of its membership (Canadian and International) to change the employer’s mind.

The Industrial Workers of the World has many branches around the world, including one it’s base in Montreal. Its members are working towards the construction of a union modal based on robust working class solidarity, known as Solidarity Unionism. This model is characterized today by a focus on direct action at the workplace, as exemplified in our campaigns at Starbucks Coffee in the United-States or at Frite-Alors! in Quebec. The Union will continue in the creation and deployment of determined flash mobilization networks directly focused at the workplace in solidarity with workers under attack.


Media contact: Sylvain Mousseau 438-345-5046

In French.