I admit it, I have a passion for extreme sports. I love whitewater kayaking, I had a blast when I tried kitesurfing and I'm just waiting to finish my studies to have enough time to devote myself to roller derby. But decidedly, the extreme sport that makes me experience the most strong emotions, it’s the absolutely endless race to find your way through the ever-rebuilding maze that is our immigration system. You probably won't believe me, but I swear it's really exciting!
Since Canadian immigration policies are a headache for absolutely everyone, including myself, I decided to make a series of articles aimed at popularizing all this. If all goes as planned – but please, don’t expect too much – I hope to finish a text on temporary immigration status and human trafficking and to lay another on the history of racist immigration policies since confederation. I am also open to suggestions. I like challenges and I am a bit proud, bring it your trick question!
Short, we are going strong with a topic that is far too hot for my text to remain up to date for a very long time, and I named: Safe Third Country Agreement and Roxham Road.
Hope this helps you understand the issues better.!
A few basic notions by way of introduction
No one is illegal. Never.
People are sometimes without status or papers. Sometimes they don't have the right papers, but they are never “illegal”, because not being in an irregular situation with regard to one's immigration status is an administrative offense, not criminal. Exactly like a parking ticket. On the other hand, it is a criminal offense to hire people who do not have a work permit. It can sometimes even be seen from the angle of human trafficking in certain circumstances.. We will see this in more detail in the next edition.!
Extremely few people arrive in Canada undocumented.
This is partly due to the geographical location of the country.. Indeed, unless you go through the United States, only land border with Canada, it is absolutely necessary to take a boat or a plane to come to the country. Or, unless you come in a container on board a cargo ship – we are talking about twenty people a year over the last few years. 5 last years1 – you will need at least a passport and a visa (working, study or tourism)2 to be able to board these transports and finally enter the country.
People who are without status in Canada have to very, vast majority already had legal authorization to be here and lost it along the way. This also applies to people crossing the border on foot from the United States.. This is my next point.
Roxham Road, a specter that haunts conservatives
The Roxham Road which, in another life, dreamed of being recognized across the country for being the gateway to the incomparable Parc Safari, is now rather famous for being the main gateway to Canada or the United States – depending on which way you take it3 – for migrants in search of a more stable life.
Indeed, passing said park, Roxham Road narrows into a kind of country road surrounded by houses far apart from each other separated by fields and patches of forest. The path continues in the same way on the American side before becoming a busier road again a few kilometers further on.. On the border between Canada and the United States: nothing. No official border post, only an RCMP command post and a mound that appears to be artificially constructed to mark the border.
Source RCMP Post : Google Map, 26 January 2023
End of Roxham Road on the Canadian side. Source : Google Map, 26 January 2023
This crossing point is by far the most popular among migrants., first and foremost for practical considerations. Indeed, rare are the border areas not controlled by customs officers that are crossed by an almost complete road. To cross elsewhere without facing a customs officer, you have to walk several kilometers without landmarks in the forest, which increases the risk of getting lost along the way.
Now, why people want to avoid going through customs? Contrary to messages bombarded by the anti-immigration right, it's not because these people have more "things to hide" than others.
To fully understand the origin of the popularity of Roxham Road, we have to go back to the very troublesome era of the War on terror decreed by the United States in the aftermath of the attacks on 11 September 2001. Thumbing up on the rumor that the attackers of the twin towers had joined the United States through the Canadian border – a myth that will later be dismantled – the Republicans of George W. Bush campaign for increased border control. It was felt that the Canadian border was a sieve for foreign nationals looking for work in the United States..
In this context, Canada and the United States signed theAgreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in Determining Refugee Status Claims by Third-Country Nationals4 often referred to simply as the “safe third country agreement”.
Don't be surprised, this agreement, among other things, on the principle already well known at that time in Europe of… “safe third country”. Basically, this principle establishes the responsibility for the processing of asylum applications for the first State deemed safe which would have been crossed by foreign nationals during their migratory journey.
for example, a person from Latin America who would have visited the United States, then crossed to Canada before seeking asylum, would be automatically refused and sent back to the United States to process their application.
At the twist, is that the agreement provides an exception to this obligation for people who cross the border on foot without crossing a border crossing. So if we take the previous example, the person from Latin America could have their asylum file processed in Canada if they go through… Roxham Road!
Passing by this road, migrants know that they will not encounter customs officers, but they also know that RCMP officers will be on the other side to accommodate their asylum application from the first minutes of their stay in Canada.. Reason why people who cross there should not be qualified as "undocumented".
They are asylum seekers.
Until the March Biden-Trudeau deal 2023, the RCMP officers who were sent to this area did not have the mandate to determine whether the persons crossing had valid grounds for seeking the protection of Canada. They also had no right to send people back to the United States.. They therefore had to transport the migrants to what they call the “Immigration Monitoring Center” in Laval., read: a newly expanded prison. But do not worry, on the site of theCanada Border Services Agency we are assured that the dining rooms of the Laval prison are spaces with natural light5. #Canada, #PaysDesDroitsHumains, #Monk.
from jail, the identity of applicants will be verified. If they are not notorious criminals in their countries of origin, they will be released after some time with a temporary status until their request for protection is analyzed on the merits one to two years later, in front, there Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
[I had written a very long piece on the course of these kinds of hearings, but I realize that it probably does not interest anyone but me, so I'll spare you all that. To get a better idea of what these audiences look like, I invite you to read the excellent novel Boat people by Sharon Bala, translated into French under the same title. It's describing! For the others, just know that the process is terribly painful and traumatic for victims of violence. You should also know that the procedures are very expensive and that on average 30% files are rejected and therefore go to appeal6.]
The Biden-Trudeau agreement, a shit show populist flavor
First thing to know: the entire safe third country agreement is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court. This saga began in the first year of Trump's tenure in the United States. With its migration policies cowboy, Canadian advocacy groups stopped viewing the United States as a safe country for migrants and questioned the constitutionality of the deal that no longer respected, in their eyes, the charter of rights and freedoms. Hearings are over, a decision should be made shortly.
So do a hillon the side it is not particularly necessary since everything could be redone in a few months.
That said, the Biden-Trudeau agreement that came into effect on 25 mars 2023 confirms the rigorous application of the agreement on safe third countries. So, it closes the loophole that allowed asylum seekers to circumvent the agreement. For simplicity: Yes, the side deal technically closes Roxham Road with a few exceptions, especially for unaccompanied minors (on average 4 per day), people with family in Canada or people facing the death penalty in the United States (no joke!)7. Other applicants will no longer be able to, until further notice, enter Canada through this crossing point to seek asylum.
But hey… immigration is never that simple.
The Biden-Trudeau agreement provides for a new exception: if people cross from the United States and manage to avoid being caught by the authorities in the 14 early days, they will be able to seek asylum in Canada. How will they be able to prove the exact time of their crossing to have access to this measurement? It remains a mystery! I am so looking forward to the case law that will analyze evidence based on the veracity of the plaintiffs' Tim Horton receipts... Big legal candy!
Finally, the new agreement provides that Canada will accept 15,000 more migrants this year from the “western hemisphere”. What does all this mean? What status will these people have?? Will they be here temporarily or permanently?? They will be asylum seekers or refugees? Honestly, it's really confusing! Even Minister Fraser refused to elaborate on this…
Refugee or asylum seeker?
Finally, the distinction between the status of refugee and that of asylum seeker is often the subject of confusion.
You should know that you cannot apply for asylum from abroad. As we have just seen, people seeking asylum in Canada must do so once inside its borders. So, contrary to the media discourse presenting asylum seekers as “irregular migrants”, know that there is no “right” or “regular” way to claim asylum. When your life is threatened… well you go crazy! No matter how and usually without much thought or planning. Many asylum seekers are fleeing individual persecution, such as violence by armed groups (gang, drug traffickers, to be threatened for being on the wrong political side, etc.), gender-based violence (domestic violence, forced marriages, sexual mutilation, honor killings, etc.) or homophobic violence (death threats, torture, conversion therapies, etc.).
In the reverse, refugees are people who have taken all the legal steps to obtain the protection of a State before traveling to it. These people therefore arrive in the country with all the right papers to rebuild their lives here.. Refugee status is usually granted to people who are collectively threatened, by a war, for example. All refugees are sponsored, either by the government, either by community groups. They are responsible for financially supporting refugees during their first year and must provide them with the necessary to meet their basic needs.. In doing, the number of refugees accepted per year is limited.
Interesting fact, the choice of files accepted by Canada is eminently political. During the war in Syria, practically only people of the Christian faith have been able to settle here. In this context, no wonder the Ukrainians had priority over the Afghans…
Persistent myths about asylum seekers
They get paid for the all-inclusive hotel
Once they get out of the detention center, asylum seekers can be supported by organizations that offer temporary accommodation. We are talking about stays of a maximum of 3 weeks, the time that migrants find accommodation. I don't know who finds accommodation in 3 weeks in Montreal… Got there, it's a miracle! Hosting resources are indeed overwhelmed, but not because we are invaded, only because all the governments of the last decades underfund social services. Short, there is no space, which forced institutions to requisition hotels to temporarily house migrants. We are not talking here about luxury hotels offering room service. We are talking more about large families in one room, no kitchen or any cooking facilities. Short, nothing adapted to the needs of newcomers.
They are “job thieves” and “BS” at the same time!
Once released from detention, asylum seekers can apply for a permit to have the right to work. Currently, this permit takes approximately 9 months to arrive. Waiting for the precious document, migrants cannot work, but they are allowed to apply for social assistance benefits. The vast majority of them would prefer to work as soon as they arrive, but they and they just can't do it.
Furthermore, let us recall, that the needs of asylum seekers upon arrival are important. They and they literally start from scratch with only a few clothes in their backpack. So you have to buy furniture, appliances, winter clothes for kids, kitchen items or any other necessities in addition to food and accommodation. It is certainly not with 923$ per month for a single person or 1431$ for a couple that we manage to do all that.
Many people will therefore be tempted to work “under the table” to meet all the needs. Or, without a work permit, migrants often inherit the most arduous and dangerous jobs, generally for ridiculous wages, in addition to risking getting caught by the authorities8.
Nevertheless, these people are often perceived by local workers as a threat to their own working conditions. Before talk of the supposed “labour shortage” took up so much space, these workers were often referred to as “job thieves”. Now we say rather that these last eras are putting downward pressure on wages because they are ready to accept anything.
The solution here the gang, it is solidarity between workers against the bosses. Nothing else!
Everyone doesn't even speak French
Yes, asylum seekers have the right to francization and yes, during the months following their arrival, I can guarantee you that everyone goes to class because as long as they don't have the right to work, as well get a few extra pennies with the services for learning the language in addition to acquiring skills that allow you to find a better job afterwards.
Pis, all asylum-seeking children go to school in French, it's only been a few months, they become the interpreters of their parents, when they have. You will try to teach your mother yourself that she has cancer when you have 12 years. It's rough in ostia!
What do we get out of all this??
First, whatever the situation at the border, when people feel in danger, they will find a way to pass. No matter how high the walls, the length of the desert or the depth of the sea. It's no use trying to stop them. Worse honestly, you would probably do the same if you were in their shoes.
The advantage we had before the Biden-Trudeau agreement, it was that we could know more or less exactly the number of people who entered the country without going through a border post. Now, we can expect that the number of people who settle in Canada without papers without taking steps to regularize their immigration situation will jump. If all this fine anti-immigration world had the impression that we had lost control of our borders, they are not ready for what is to come.
Finally, seek asylum, it is a difficult process, often humiliating, always precarious. Asylum seekers too often end up in the worst, but oh so essential, jobs. The best we can do is stick together.
2 Generally, people who come from “global north” countries do not need to apply for a tourist visa before traveling. The stamp affixed in the passport by a customs officer on arrival acts as a visitor's visa.
3 For reasons of efficiency and clarity, this text will focus only on migrants who transact from the United States to Canada. Be aware, however, that the migratory flow is important in both directions.
4 Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in Determining Refugee Status Claims by Third-Country Nationals, 5 December 2002, on line : https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/organisation/mandat/politiques-directives-operationnelles-ententes-accords/ententes/entente-tiers-pays-surs/version-finale.html
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 bosson 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».
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..
What if spontaneous direct action was bound to happen, whether we participate or not ?
Sometimes, and especially in a "hot shop», 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? ?
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.
An anonymous source describes the direct actions employed, during the public health crisis in Ontario, by long-term care home workers now that grievances are on hold.
The 17 mars, Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency in Ontario. For most people, it was now forbidden to meet in groups. Shopping malls and public places have been closed, and workers have been forced to stay home trying to figure out how to feed themselves and pay the bills ; but for health personnel, it was something else.
The declaration of emergency has suspended a large part of the collective agreements in the health sector. For the employer, this means that all the measures restricting working hours, assignments, workplaces and tasks, are no longer in effect during the pandemic. All holidays and vacations have been canceled, to the point where – when asked – employers said they now believe they have the right, under the declaration of emergency, to cancel maternity leave if they so wish, while hoping that it would not be the case.
The usual mechanisms that unions use to resolve workplace issues have suffered a lot of collateral damage. Accelerated Arbitration, where a union can ask the Ontario Labor Relations Board to appoint an arbitrator and hold a hearing within the 30 days, is not currently used. The CRTO routinely fails to respond to these requests, so the layout may as well not exist. In normal time, an order for the execution of dangerous work can be resolved by a refusal, and by contacting the Ministry of Labor to investigate and decide on the safety of the work required. Since the COVID-19 crisis, this ministry first contacts the management, then talk to the workers, and ends by publicly stating that there is no problem. Employers just ignore grievances because they know they can. Union representatives cannot visit the workplace, because they have been classified as “non-essential visitors”.
In some workplaces, it's disastrous. Without a visit from a union representative and without grievance meetings, some workers feel that the union does not exist right now. Managers take the opportunity to tell employees that unions cannot help them and that they will only be relevant again after the pandemic. Members call their union representatives begging them to act but nothing happens as the usual methods are suspended.
For other workplaces, however, it is a chance to progress by pushing even further the gains made in the past. These units, even if they also use the grievance procedure, don't just rely on her to get things done. Some of these units have a long history of direct action, others flex their muscles for the first time… But all have improved their working conditions !
I would like to share two of their stories. One is an already combative unit ; the other is a unit where they begin to realize that the struggle pays. Both employers will remain anonymous..
Planning and Assignment
The first unit is a long-term care home that practices coordinated action to achieve gains. In the past, they mobilized residents and their families to fight against unpopular management decisions such as contracting out. Long before COVID, they were already banding together regularly to collectively refuse to allow the employer to replace full-time positions with additional part-time shifts. In a number of cases, when an employee has been unfairly suspended, they collectively refused to agree to fill the suspended position to send a message to the employer. Sometimes, this. suspended employee was even brought back to work before the end of the suspension in order to maintain the workforce in place.
Workers at this nursing home continue to make gains despite the current suspension of part of their collective agreement. One of the elements of the emergency declaration is an order that all health care workers can only work for one employer. When a manager tried to take advantage of the declaration of emergency to implement a schedule of 12 extremely unpopular hours, more than half of the employees in this unit have banded together and told their manager that if this happens, they would go to work in another care facility, forcing the manager to reconsider his decision.
In another case, of workers were displaced in the establishment during their shift, sent from a non-COVID unit to a unit dealing with the virus, then returned to the non-COVID unit during the same shift. After a brief discussion with management, they were threatened with termination for quitting their job if they refused to return to a non-COVID unit during the same shift. After discussing the situation between them, they went back to their manager with an ultimatum : either movement between units stops immediately, or each worker discharged to a non-COVID unit during the same shift calls Public Health and reports COVID exposure. They knew very well that Public Health would quarantine them for 14 days before allowing them to return to work, which would cause a huge problem – due to understaffing – for the manager. By working together, they were able to achieve their goals despite the dismantling of the grievance procedure.
Individual protection equipment (EPI)
In another unit with no direct action history, workers begin to realize their power. When the emergency order was issued, managers told shop stewards that the union was no longer relevant and would only be after the pandemic. Grievances were filed and ignored. Shop stewards approached management to discuss issues, and they were told to go away and come back after the pandemic. Not wanting to wait to deal with these important and urgent issues, these employees needed another plan. Meetings have taken place (virtually, of course) and an action plan has been agreed.
The first point to be addressed for these workers was access to PPE. Chief Medical Officer of Public Health has ordered PPE readily available, but their employer was putting a spoke in the wheels. A one-procedure mask was provided when they arrived at work, and if they needed another, or an N95 mask, or blouses, or gloves, they had to go to a manager. The director asked a lot of questions so as not to grant their request.. Several times, they were told that an N95 mask costs 7 $, which should be the last security concern. It turns out that the evening manager, tasked with guarding and reluctantly distributing PPE, was not herself a health worker, but was working in an auxiliary support role. A night, two employees approached and asked for additional PPE, what was refused. One of the employees gave her a copy of one of the directives from the Chief Medical Officer of Public Health, which specifically excluded all non-essential visitors and workers from long-term care homes. The manager asked how this was relevant, and the other employee said: “We are three here, but only two of us are essential employees. You can do it in two ways : either you give the PPE to any employee who asks for it ; either we send you home now by calling Public Health if you refuse to leave. The manager called (and woke up) its own director, and the manager showed up on the scene to try to dissuade the workers from the PPE they had requested, but they stood firm. Finally, the management relented and the next morning, a new directive has been sent to all workers informing them that “as a precautionary measure”, PPE would be distributed free of charge.
Another lever that workers use is the media. Their place of work was recently highlighted in the news, and it's not positive. The direction, who normally tries to control what the media can say about this company, is overtaken by events. Employees regularly use it to challenge management decisions regarding staffing and quarantine policies. When management implements a change, workers have a virtual meeting to answer a question: is it stupid now or will it be stupid at six o'clock, to the news? This phrase caught on, and managers don't know how to respond.
While some workers speak openly to the media, many others are more reluctant. So, a spokesperson who is not employed by the company has been selected to brief the media on what is happening inside the healthcare home. In the break room, there is a television which is usually tuned to one of the local news channels. A few weeks ago, a manager blocked all news channels out of spite. To work around this problem, workers organize Facebook viewings during their breaks, seated six feet apart in the dining room, on their cell phone, the volume clearly audible. During this pandemic, management began alluding to discipline to – as they put it – “restore order” to work, but she can't do much without putting herself in a worse situation than she already is.
This unit realizes the power of direct action and begins to understand its power in the workplace. New leaders begin to emerge. Some “official” representatives fall into rout, while others play a leading role in collective direct action at work.
The conclusion that can be drawn is simple. Collective agreements, grievances, arbitrations and formal union channels can be used to mitigate some of the harm a bad employer can do to workers, but they can't fix everything. Not only are they flawed by design, but they can be suspended or rendered ineffective very easily by the government in place.
Grievances can be delayed but not direct class action. Collective agreements can be suspended, temporarily, as in this case ; or even permanently as has happened throughout history ; but direct collective action is always in the present. Workplaces where workers have erected a rampart, or have a proven history of collective direct action, are faring much better during the pandemic than those who don't.
Postal workers in Canada staged rotating strikes in early winter 2018 when, following a special law of the Federal Government, they were forced togo back to work. Since that time, the negotiations were subject to arbitration, which led to two extensions. Postal workers had also been subject to a similar law in 2011, under an article that was later proven to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, this case law failed to prevent last year's strike from ending in the same way.
Workers today face all sorts of impromptu legislation that interrupts their strikes, of the Taft Hartley article in the United States, that prevents support strikes, New York State Taylor Law, which effectively prevents public service workers from going on strike. Severaladvanced that unions must challenge these laws in order to turn the tide on these draconian laws and actualize union activism in order to fight for real gains in the workplace. But how do you get there when the penalties and obstruction fees are so high? In the case of Canada Post, some workers are subject to fines of $1,000 a day simply for taking part in the strike.
I spoke with Roland Schmidt, Local President 730 of the postal union in Edmonton. Workers in this section have established a method of disobeying back-to-work laws and fighting against the establishment of new laws of the same kind. These direct actions begin by building a balance of power in their workplace and then disperse into a larger training program..
How do these direct actions, in your workplace, did they start?
In 2011, our local branch has had a very positive organizing experience with several activists who fought against a mandatory overtime regime. Tangiblement, this meant that if we were short-staffed, the corporation could force letter carriers to stay on the job. Instead of hiring the necessary staff, bosses could therefore use these measures to force employees to stay at work until the tasks were completed. We called this measure ‘force back’. Workers would have finished their usual route, and then had to follow up with another hour and forty-five more minutes, be another person's road. If it happened once or twice in a few months, All right, we would have just made a little more money. But the, this exception to the rule happened three times a week. Fighting against this measure has been a real springboard for activism in the local. Field work committees have emerged, coordinated refusals to apply the bylaw and stood together against the corporation. A campaign has emerged across the city, bringing together all the suppliers of all the stations. We organized mass meetings. Canada Post recanted on threats of suspensions and changed its methods of organizing its employees and the problem was solved!
Based on our experience, we have developed a course called ''Taking back the workfloor’’ (Reclaiming your workplace) which was largely inspired by the training given by the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), a labor organization that has always been responsive in supporting the postal union when our rights are violated.
Ironically, in the same period of time when we were entering the outbreak of a strike, (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper threw us aspecial back to work law. This legislation has really deflated our troops. We didn't have an action plan to fight the law. Following this event, our section has entered a long period of inactivity which only recently ended, in the last 6 or 8 month.
There is still a lot of misgivings and concerns that have not been addressed – we still have issues around workplace structures and understaffing that result in injuries to a quarter of our members every year. Following last year's law, our members were pushed to the limit, resulting in a departure from the usual union process. I was part of a small group of activists in Edmonton and we decided that we had to openly assume that all union procedures – grievances, arbitrage, the judicial system, the constitution – let us down. We need to get back to fighting to revive CUPW activism.
I was an officer in the organization at the time, and we brought out this course to train people through these issues. Our group has grown, from 5 person to 30. We finally decided to go completely, and I became president of our local in June (2018). We fully recognize the limitations of union bureaucracy, but we thought that we could use this platform as a lever to promote an organizing campaign among all postal workers.. Since I am no longer a postman, I spend most of my time at the union office and so I can spend half of my days visiting different Canada Post buildings to explain why the union spends its time losing its fights, why we still receive strike-breaking laws and why union organizing is the best way to counter these measures. Together we can turn the tide and put pressure on the company. I wasn't sure how the workers would react to my ideas, but, with the help of other activists, people enlisteda lot and we filled our classroom 6 times in June, with 20 people every time. This mass of people represents the core of our new contingent of organizers and we now had representatives in every area of the business.
We had several direct actions in seven of our eleven main workplaces, thus involving new workers in direct actions; confront intimidating bosses, address payroll issues etc.. With direct action, we were able to see a major improvement in our working conditions within a few weeks, when we had not seen any change in several years.
Are you afraid of penalties, following all these direct actions, considering that you are subscribed to the back-to-work laws?
This is a very present concern. Some people believe that it is not really important to consider fines, but the reality is that with the majority of our members, This is an issue not to be taken lightly.
Many of our actions take place around the fact that our collective agreement gives us the right to complain. Let's say you have a bullying boss - like last week, there was a section of 25 workers at a site who struggled with a harassing supervisor who systematically fell on their heads. He wouldn't let people leave until the very last minute., which is largely badly received since it is necessary to put at least 5 minutes to cross the huge shoppe. They got tired of filing grievances against this supervisor and 20 of the 25 workers marched to the Director’s office to urge him to listen to them. The latter left the premises and the workers told him “We'll wait for you until you come back."He eventually came back and they were able to explain all their problems with the Supervisor in question to him.. The manager then reprimanded him and the supervisor even apologized to the workers.. Since that time, he seems to stand straighter and act with more respect.
The company then issued disciplinary letters to all the workers on the pretext that they had stopped production for half an hour.. We fought against this disciplinary measure. As part of my duties as President, I said: ‘’We made use of our right to complain. The director fled his office, thus lengthening a meeting that could have lasted only a minute.Even though we have stopped production, why didn't they bring us the law ? There were several times when they could have put it back in our face, but I think the bosses are afraid to add fuel to the fire.
In Rosedale, one of the largest mail sorting centers in Edmonton, there was an error in the categorization of a certainflyer, the bosses therefore insisted that it be delivered individually to everyone. This request added up to 4 additional kilometers of walking for already overworked letter carriers. I was still a postman at that time and we made amarch on the Boss saying '' You need to re-classify this flyer.The management of this station then ordered that we still issue the flyer. Rather than comply, the workers went to the vote on the subject and voted no. Now, the management told them ''We will have to carry out disciplinary measures. but we all laughed in his face. of the 60 people who refused to distribute theflyer, only 5 were targeted and received a one-day suspension. Normally, we would have received a suspension of 5 days for such an act of blatant insubordination. Considering that we had twice received a direct order and still refused to obey.
This incident would have been another opportunity to use the Special Law against us that the employers did not take.. Why didn't they and why aren't they tougher on the workers who participated? We think it doesn't take much to scare them.
What is the course about?Take Back the WorkFloor?
AEIOU form date (Shake, Educate, Inoculate, Organiser, Unit) teaches workers how to build a support team in their workplace. Performing workplace mapping often increases the register of potential allies.. How to organize a meeting of colleagues. We also do a lot of role-playing and simulations of meetings and potential confrontations – all in a day of 8 hours.
We try to convince as many people as possible since we want to recruit more widely than from people who are already ideologically convinced.. We register people according to their working hours. They participate with other colleagues who share the same kind of tasks and the same rank. Ensuite, we ask them if they would like to continue their union involvement, and then relegate them to Facebook groups, Signal as well as email list.
We have been so successful that all different levels of our union have been excited to take our course. We are part of the prairie region – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – and the rest of the region seems inspired to join the effort as launched in Edmonton. Other locals ask us why such a program does not exist for them and them. We therefore share our organizational methods with other locals – Lethbridge, Grande Prairie Saskatoon, Winnipeg. So, we therefore send our trainers to the various premises to give the course but also to train other workers so that they can then be autonomous. We help them look like an alley so that their premises can then be managed by themselves. With these different premises we can even create regional organizing committees – a first for our union!
How the CUPW National reacted, did he even react?
It's hard to say. With regard to the trade union organization as such, it is interesting because we are facing a success never seen before. We have almost tripled our levels of participation in the Monthly Meetings, resulting from the immense participation in the organizing committees, to groups of volunteers, to everyone who shares our progress on social media. All these things that get people reacting on our Facebook page where groups across the country are starting to question 'why is this kind of activity not emerging elsewhere?’’
It is difficult to determine whether these people, au national, are also skeptical because they did not initiate the movement and are now embarrassed , sort of, to join it so late, or if it is because they are totally opposed to our methods. I like to compare unionism to a bird. A wing is only procedures; put the bars on the T's, handle grievances, arbitration, consultations etc.. The other wing represents the Field Organization. Our union has relied only primarily on its procedural wing since 1985. It was then that the penalties and fines awarded to strikers changed from prison penalties to the back-to-work laws we know today.. Ensuite, the strategy changed based on the following reflection : ‘’We are the specialists in our field, we are the ones who are going to have much better evidence for the arbitration.” The idea was probably not to demobilize the workers., but this drive to emphasize procedure came at the expense of collective solidarity. The danger is that once we get used to thinking about trade unionism this way, it becomes hard to believe that it can exist in any other way. I do not want to ascribe malicious intentions to procedural unionists, but I believe that we can draw our collective strength from accepting that there are many visions and approaches worth considering. I understand that someone who has spent their entire career filing grievances might feel threatened by members who are fond of another strategy.
I saw that you have decided to survey your members regarding the issue of compliance with the back-to-work law. Why did you decide to do this and what was the result of this survey??
It's interesting because while we were planning the campaign and providing union training to our members, they were already looking at the situation wondering ''How are we going to fight against that?
The roads of a department were being reassessed. It is a practice that occurs every 4 or 5 years, depending on the number of packages and letters. Even if the number of letters keeps decreasing, the quantity of packages, she, increases faster, thus creating more work for our members. Our collective agreement does not have a clear clause in relation to these assessments of our roads and does not require the employer to provide us with exact numbers.. This numbers, provided by union observers, are sent to Canada Post, which adds them to its algorithms and then gets mixed and twisted in some incomprehensible way. We asked them to show us their calculations, but their response has always been : ‘’If you are not happy, file grievances.As an answer, we circulated a petition throughout the city by almost every letter carrier, 800 people, by asking for the exact figures and the creation of 3 new positions ; requests based on calculations of our own figures. We threatened the CEO of Canada Post with an escalation of pressure tactics if P.C did not respond to our demands. Basically they were going to cut 8 posts, but ultimately cut only 3. We have therefore succeeded in preserving 5 positions through our organization – although any cuts are, in our opinion unacceptable.
A mass meeting was organized where 120 workers came to support the workers of this department saying ''How are we going to increase the pressure, while being subscribed to back-to-work laws that put us at risk of fines of $1000 per day?’’ Since no one can afford to pay such fines, we wondered ''Do we have enough support to fight so that the fines are not enforceable? ‘’ And we collectively decided that we didn't have the manpower to escalate the pressure tactics.. It was too big for us, at this moment ; we needed more support.
I was asked to organize a referendum in October. So I went to all of our Edmonton branches with ballot boxes and ballots, ashort presentation about our working conditions, the back-to-work law as well as plenty of examples of times when our rights did not have, and are not, taken seriously by the employer. I also insisted that there was no right or wrong answer – in case the workers did not want to disobey the law. After all, we want a realistic solution, not idealistic. The result of the vote, through the city, was in favor of disobeying the back-to-work law at 83%. However, this disobedience was conditional on the support of the whole local, in addition to national.
Ensuite, I wrote an open letter on behalf of the local, “We need to get out of this endless cycle of back-to-work legislation.and we insisted that nothing differentiates us from other letter carriers in the country, here in Edmonton. If someone were going to ask these same questions across Canada Post, our colleagues would probably agree with us. So, so the national helped us extend our referendum outside of Edmonton.
We had our first call with the national union at the beginning of November then a second last week. In their defense, they were honest up front that they couldn't really stand disobedience of scab laws. I don't see anything wrong with being honest about it. If we had $20 millions, half of our members could have defied the law for just one day ; and that's really not enough. But the idea has always been that if we wanted to be successful in our campaign, it's not because some of us can afford the fines, but because we would have such a large workforce that these fines could never possibly be implemented.
The national did not have the financial resources to support us, and was not prepared to make public outings in favor of disobeying the laws, but was very encouraging and present for our campaign. So they very elegantly got away with the idea of the referendum.
On the other hand, if you want to do civil disobedience, it is not necessarily by going through the national and waiting for permission that you will succeed. It is rather on the ground of the cows, in theshoppes that this kind of thing will escalate. A good way to think about it is to manage your local problems, then regional then eventually it will be easier to have this kind of conversation at the national level.
Even if the national is not thrilled with the idea of our mistrust, at least he's not hindering our campaign. For anyone who has ever had todealer with big trade union centers, this is already a victory. It is often our own organizations that limit our potential.
How do you plan to expand your approach?
We know that other levels of the union – regional, national- are not going to embark on such a program without having more than enough proof. So in Edmonton, we just focused on the process. We keep planting seeds and hoping something takes root. If you give the right tools to workers whose rights are being bogged down, it is inevitable that they will use it. More, the rumor about our successes begins to spread. Social networks have helped us a lot on this front..
I also had the pleasure of sharing our stories in aeducational forum where I shared that Edmonton would be willing to share their tools and even send trainers to anyone interested. At once, we have had several responses from other locals and will lend a hand in the new year. If remote sections pay the fees, we can even send our trainers by plane to train other colleagues and quickly allow them to organize themselves independently. We believe that all these grassroots actions across other locals will inspire regions to join too.
It's impossible to have too many trainers. I will continue to promote my course as long as there is demand. If union actions multiply, the stigma around these methods will surely diminish and more workers will lend themselves to them. The longer we continue building this organizational model, the better prepared we will be for the future, no matter the situation, be it laws or indecent working conditions. Because that's actually what awaits us. It is the logical continuation of the whole history of the working class. So we have to keep our focus on the organization. Disobeying back-to-work laws is the only way to push the labor movement in the right direction and keep things from getting worse.
If it's just a department in Edmonton, they are going to fall on you at full speed. But the whole town? One of the things I insist on in my presentation for the referendum is trade union organization as the starting point for any protest movement.. It's inevitable. And these workers will start something magnificent. But it's one thing to dream about it, and another to organize accordingly.
Article Original de Organizing Work Translated from English by Elizabeth Stone Mars 2020
We will be told that we exaggerate : what to ask for a minimum wage of 22$ time is unrealistic, utopian or that it just doesn't make sense. Some unions have recently demanded a minimum wage at 18$ /h. This proposition, based on IRIS studies, is not interesting. As one of my comrades said: "You have to say it when the plants do a good job". So, good job also to the activists of the FTQ who towed at the Frontenac metro a few weeks ago to inform workers of the changes to the law on health and safety at work. It's important to put aside your corporate interests and reach out to people. You are several in the power stations to push in this direction, probably against the tide, don't let go.
As regards the demand for the minimum wage at 18$ /h, unfortunately it's too little. Faced with exorbitant rental costs, skyrocketing food prices, the price of gasoline that costs the eyes of the head, 18$ /h, even in the opinion of some who work for crumbs, it's not enough. Especially since the big bosses of this world have only gotten richer since the start of the pandemic. This is without mentioning the heaps of subsidies that have been distributed to private companies, leaving out the people who are pulling the most out of it.: front line workers, from the community sector to grocery stores, who had to return to work in difficult and unusual conditions. We won't talk about unemployed people either., people on social assistance, people without status and those living on the streets who have suffered the most from the pandemic and the lack of resources. The People's Organization for Social Rights has been fighting for decades for a guaranteed minimum income. It is surprising to note that this proposal is not taken into account more by the unions and political parties.. We should listen to them.
Of course, money doesn't solve everything.. But it remains one of the most essential resources to survive in this capitalist regime.. Having a good salary allows people to have a better living space, to have access to better food, to have access to small pleasures as banal as going to the cinema. Have a good salary and good working conditions, be recognized as workers or simply as a person in their own right, it’s also important for mental health and overall health. In case you don't know, the bosses and the rich live longer than the rest of us… In short, money doesn't solve everything, but lets hope to live a little better, Longer…
As you know, the IWW is not a partisan union. We have no party line. Some of our members are communists, other anarchists; some are social democrats. Although our members are free to choose their political, we will never support, as an organization, a political party, whatever. The history of parliamentarism and political parties, left and right, have demonstrated their inability to radically change the way of life of ordinary people. Worst, the leaders of the political parties have all more often than not harmed the common good through various policies put in place. On the other hand, we are a union that fights daily to improve people's living conditions through direct action and self-training. We are not perfect, but we try to propose solutions that will help the most precarious workers. Demand minimum wage 22 $ /h, and try to bring our comrades to fight for this claim, this is a solution that can help concretely, here and now, workers who need it most.
Come hit the streets with us on 1is May 2022 at the Papineau metro from 12:30 p.m. to claim, among others, minimum wage at 22$ Of time.
Morgan M takes a look at the wave of strikes in Italy in light of the coronavirus pandemic and government and industry responses, interviewing an activist firefighter in a local grassroots union. Image: Workers at TNT FedEx facilities in Genoa and Bologna on strike 7 April for safer conditions.
When COVID-19 hit Italy, the government tried to isolate people while letting the economy roll. As the government banned gatherings and stressed the importance of isolation, he was also pushing workers to keep showing up for work, whatever the conditions. This contradiction caused a wave of wildcat strikes across the country.
In Italy, Labor is generally negotiated at two levels: sectoral agreements setting industry standards and specific agreements set for a particular company.
There are three major trade union confederations (like the CSN, the FTQ, and the CSQ) as well as two small right-wing confederations. The three major confederations are the CGIL, which is the largest and affiliated with the Communist Party ; the ICFTU which was a Christian democrat ; and the UIL which was affiliated with the Socialist Party.
On a national level, the union confederations negotiate with theConfindustri, which represents employers and government in a kind of tripartite social partnership.
At the company level, there are “work councils” which represent the workers. All unions that have the support of more than 5% of employees (there is no Rand formula like in Canada) can participate in the council. There are two types of councils where the strength of the union depends on the breadth of membership within the company. The two types differ depending on whether unions appoint shop stewards or employees elect them..
in parallel, there are the Cobas unions – theCOmoths of theBASe (union). There are many Cobas unions, ranging from the very small to those who are between 40 and 50 000 members. They operate similarly to the Industrial Workers Union-IWW in North America., i.e. organized inside and outside the legal structure of work. SI Cobas has drawn attention for being able to organize strikes in the logistics sector. SI Cobas will often strike until the end (until a resolution is reached) as opposed to limited strike, which is a more common tactic.
Sadly, the different Cobas union leaderships often see each other as rivals and do not strike together.
I had the chance to interview Mariopaolo, a firefighter and grassroots activist of the Cobas union "Unione Sindacale Di Base" (USB), about the strikes that took place there. He's been working there for a few years., fighting for USB to stay out of national agreements in order to maintain its freedom to strike. He is also active in a coordination of grassroots Cobas activists, encouraging unity of action between the different Cobas unions.
When the pandemic broke, Italy has started isolating individuals in the north of the country. Can you explain the reaction of the working class to the limitation of workers' actions ?
In Italy, as in most countries – especially those where capitalism is old – the working class has for years been marked by a general passivity.
In this general passivity, a government deciding to limit the freedom of action of unions is not seen by most workers as a problem. Indeed, if we are no longer used to using a protest tool (strikes, assemblies, stakes), when it is taken away from us, we only notice it in principle: in the facts, we no longer notice his absence.
However, there were exceptions. Friday 4 mars, ArcelorMittal – the largest steelmaker in the world, owner of both Bethlehem and Republic Steel in the United States – has reached an agreement with the government over redundancy plans and dismissals at its steel mills in Italy. At the Genoa steelworks, the FIOM-CGIL union – the largest union for metalworkers and autoworkers in Italy – called a factory meeting on 9 mars, what they can do at any time for union matters. ArcelorMittal banned the meeting citing the social isolation decree the government issued that day. The FIOM union at the steel plant replied that it would declare a strike and hold a meeting outside the plant. The next days, however, the spread of the epidemic has worsened considerably, which led to the dismissal of the assemblies.
However, it should be noted that neither the government decree of 4 March nor subsequent decrees banned strikes. Therefore, for fear of contagion, that is, to defend their own health, workers went on strike in many factories over the next few days.
Has the government made it compulsory to work in isolation areas ?
The government did not stop essential activities before the 23 mars (we will come back to this later). The first cases were discovered 21 February in 10 small towns of a few thousand inhabitants in the province of Lodi (in Lombardy, south of Milan) and in a small town in the Veneto region. The government closed these 11 municipalities as “red zones”, from which no one could enter or leave. As these were small municipalities, it was difficult for the companies located there to continue production because a more or less significant part of their staff lived in other municipalities ; and these workers could therefore no longer access their jobs in the red zone. It should also be noted that these companies no longer had access to the raw materials and semi-finished products necessary for production..
However, the situation has changed 9 mars, when the government created a much larger red zone, which included the entire region of Lombardy and 14 provinces of other regions.
Thereby, the government has extended its control over the movement of people and the limitation of demonstrations, meetings and gatherings in a third of the national territory. But since no production shutdown had been announced, the companies of 11 red areas of the original municipality were able to resume production.
The same thing happened on 11 mars, when the government extended the red zone to the entire national territory.
These measures to extend restrictions on movement and assembly have begun to worry workers, which had the effect of causing them to go on strike in many factories.
Strikes spread across the country. It should be noted that the latter were not instigated by the leaders of the regime's unions. (CGIL, CISL, UIL – the trade union centers that sign the national agreements), which had not happened in Italy for many years.
The 14 mars, in front of this situation, the trade unions of the regime have signed an agreement with the government and the largest organization of Italian industrialists (the Confindustria) aimed not at stopping non-essential production, but rather to guarantee safety measures for workers.
Was there a legal way to protect yourself at work?
Government decrees have established mandatory measures to mitigate the risk of contagion. In several cases, unions have used these legal provisions to impose temporary layoffs on employers pending the implementation of these measures, as provided for in the protocol of the 14 mars.
Where unions and companies failed to reach an agreement on temporary layoffs, strikes were organized. In some cases, the unions said they were not strikes but “abstentions from work”. It goes without saying that a strike is nothing but collective abstention from work.. However, this distinction was probably used by unions – and workers – in the hope that unemployment benefits would be paid, as provided by government decrees.
How did the wave of strikes start? Were they spontaneous? From Cobas Unions? From inside the CGIL?
The strikes began to multiply when the severity of the epidemic became apparent. They are also the product of escalating government measures, of 21 February 11 mars.
We need to clarify what a “spontaneous strike” is. Certainly, workers exerted pressure to strike. In many cases, they have found the support of factory representatives [union delegates] regime unions, who did not oppose the strikes. Some of the regime's regional trade union structures have declared general strikes. This was the case of the IMF (CGIL- automotive and metallurgy) in Lombardy, in Trentino and Turin; and the houses of the FILCAMS-CGIL-CGIL (the trade union CGIL, services and tourism) in Genoa.
These are the national leaders of the confederations – the CGIL, the CISL and the UIL – who did not organize the strike movement in order to stop non-essential activities on full pay. They did not call for a multi-sector national general strike and the 14 March – when the epidemic had already shown its full gravity and caused thousands of victims in northern Italy – they signed the aforementioned protocol.
Base unions – SI Cobas, USB, CUB, ADL Cobas – have called for national strikes in certain industries and, the 25 mars, USB called for a strike in all industries, except for essential workers.
However, these unions do not have the strength to promote real general strikes, even within corporate industries, with the exception of SI Cobas, located in logistics. Even after the 8 and 11 mars (with the extension of the red zone first to the whole of Lombardy and then to the whole country) and the multiplication of strikes which resulted, national strikes by Cobas unions failed to involve a significant portion of workers. This is due to the fact that the trade unions of the regime – although supporting the strikes that took place at the corporate and regional level – never try to unify the strikes at the national level.. Furthermore, even in this situation conducive to the mobilization of workers, the leaders of the Cobas unions refused to unite and continued to wage war on each other.
How were these strikes organized?
Strikes are the expression of a grassroots movement on the part of workers who, in the face of calls from the government to remain confined, found themselves forced to go to work with an obvious risk of contagion. Union delegates are themselves subject to this double constraint, this partly explains their broad support for strikes.
On another side, the lack of unification of the strikes not resulting in a national strike of all categories of work, aimed not only at not exposing workers to the risk of contagion but also at obtaining full wages, prevented the extension of the strikes. These strikes are thus limited to the areas where the epidemic was the most important, where workers were grappling with the choice “health or wages”.
CGIL and other unions seek to work with companies, like the UAW does in the United States (or the major power stations in Quebec). If I understand, the CGIL tried to work with the industry but did not succeed and wildcat strikes then broke out ?
The seriousness of the epidemic was already clearly manifested on 8 mars. Faced with the generalization of strikes, the protocol signed by the national leaders of the CGIL, of the ICFTU and UIL – together with government and industry – has enabled the complete closure of non-essential economic sectors to be postponed as far as possible. This protocol provided that the implementation of the measures (health and safety, and containment) is done in concert between the company and the unions in each production sector. The protocol also provided for a temporary suspension of production, with unemployment funds for workers, if no agreement could be reached. If that were the case, the union reserved the right to call a strike.
So, the unions of the regime do not oppose the strikes, but rather reserve the possibility of organizing them. On the other hand, unions have allowed the government to postpone the suspension of non-essential activities until 25 mars, 11 days later.
Compliance with confinement rules (agreements between the union and the company) was possible in companies where the unions of the regime had sufficient strength and where the delegates were combative and combative.
At the end, workers in most small and medium enterprises – where the majority of Italy’s working class works – are left at the mercy of the bosses.
The author, who preferred to remain anonymous, worked as a field organizer for the largest public service union in the United States, before becoming a teacher in a large urban area. Today, he organizes with colleagues and students around issues relating to the accessibility of education and obtaining driving licenses for undocumented migrants.
I started thinking about a series of advice that I would give myself, if i could talk to the young organizer i was ten years ago. I've learned so much over the past decade and I've made a lot of mistakes too.. So here's what I wish I had heard ten years ago, based on my personal experience, as well as my own mistakes. Sure, this advice still applies to me today; I still did not become a perfect organizer.
It is important to organize around clear objectives, realistic and represent progressive points that allow us to measure the progress and success of our campaign. Awareness and festivities alone do not allow us to measure these things.. We must organize around tangible things that have a direct impact on the quality of life and work of people.
Participating in protests is not the epicenter of union organizing. Sometimes, it can be good times, but you must not let yourself believe that it counts as "doing something" constructive and putting your energy into jumping from demo to demo.
Listen to the opinions and input of people around you. Listen to their ideas first. Check where they are, what their problems and issues are rather than guessing and anticipating them.
Avoid organizing only with people from the same subcultures and cultural scenes from which we come.. The result of such an organization will create an effect of exclusion among people who do not come from the same backgrounds..
Do not get carried away with super ideological and dogmatic theories. The majority of people don't give a damn about the ideological bickering that took place in 1936 or your political differences with such and such a. Although it is interesting as a hobby and the theory and history can feed ideas, thegauche is sometimes too obsessed with ideology as an identity. Instead, demonstrate your methodology through your organizational methods.
Respect the collective process by working through disagreements and planning collectively.
Knock on doors, pick up the phone and make calls; contact people without always going through social networks.
Be consistent, like a drum riff. Be on time and keep your word on your commitments.
Do not close the door to certain people following a clash or an ideological dispute. Do not leave comrades behind or forget certain people. People are not an inexhaustible resource.
Include and reach out to people who are not already in authority. Too often, organizers instinctively go to people who already have a lot of social capital and therefore more authority.
The power is in theshoppe, not in the office. See the rows as they are on the ground floor.
No need to ask permission.
Stay close to workers.
Help build students' organizational skills. Consider students as adults and even comrades in struggle, while knowing that you are their teacher. The key is to build real relationships, make them laugh.
Don't be afraid to disagree, but do not become obnoxious..
Do not get caught up in all the frills of the organization. Although the posters, leaflets and newsletters are great tools, you don't deserve dessert before you've eaten your plate!
Organize the working class, not the left.
Article original d’Organizing Work. Translated from English by Elizabeth Stone
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.