The IWW is a rank-and-file-run, international union for all workers, dedicated to organizing both on and off the job, in our industries and our communities. We are not affiliated with any political party. We organize the worker and the job, meaning that, unlike most unions, you carry your membership with you no matter what job you have, including if you are unemployed. Because we are a democratic, member-run union, decisions about what issues to address and what tactics to pursue are made by the workers directly involved. Our dues are lower than any other union, and how dues money is spent is determined by the members themselves. We believe in the power of rank-and-file direct action, shop floor organization and class solidarity, both to win better economic conditions and to build a world without bosses. Additionally, the IWW is based on two guiding principles, “the one big union” and “industrial unionism.”
The One Big Union is the idea that the entire working class must be united to act in our interests as a class and against capitalism. The united working class must be intersectional in that it must cross geographic, cultural, and industrial boundaries as well as overcome the false divisions of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and age. While we do different kinds of work, we have the same basic role in the economy: we’re the people that make our society run but who have no power over how it is run. We recognize that unionism is not about government certification or employer recognition, but about rank-and-file workers coming together around common interests.
Industrial Unionism, on the other hand, is the idea that we need to build labor organizations connected to each other logically based on the way that the modern economy runs. Industrial Unionism is understanding how we carry out our principles in action. By organizing unions in this way, we can strengthen our power across connected industrial chains. Organizing along the supply chain amplifies our power: a union of agricultural workers, food processing workers, truckers, and fast food workers in one chain has more power against the employer or employers on that chain than organizing all the fast food workers in one city.
Low wage, high turnover, precarious, and non traditional workers and industries which have largely been ignored by business or trade unions have often been the focus of IWW organizing. Migrant and seasonal workers, domestic workers, sex workers, students, and unemployed workers have organized, and won, under the banner of the IWW. For those who are temporarily out of work, unable to work, or who are severely underemployed, the IWW offers sub-minimum dues of only $6.00 a month, incarcerated workers are exempt from dues, and all members’ dues are determined directly by their income. Regardless of what dues rate a wobbly pays, they hold equal membership and decision making status and benefit from the lowest dues of any union. In 2014, the IWW established the first union for such fellow workers, the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC) which aims to move beyond providing solidarity and to actively organize workers behind bars for higher wages, safer conditions, necessary amenities, and a world without prisons.
The Milwaukee general membership branch of the IWW contains all IWW members in the Milwaukee area. We talk, act and organize together to build our impact and increase our collective power. We fight for day-to-day material improvements, and to build our capacity to challenge the roots of exploitation, the employing class.