Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The following originally comes from the October issue of the Industrial Worker, the paper of the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World(IWW). It's a report about the first General assembly of that organization to ever be held outside of North America. this version comes via the A-Infos anarchist news website. You can download a printable pdf of this issue of the Industrial Worker at the IWW website highlighted above.


General Assembly in Europe an IWW first:

The Industrial Workers of the World held its first General Assembly outside of North America in London, England on August 30-September 1, 2008. Hosted by the IWW British Isles Regional Organizing Committee (BIROC), 89 confirmed delegates from Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland and the United States met to discuss proposals, hear officer and organizing reports, and make international officer nominations for the November referendum.Observers from the French Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT) and Courant Syndicaliste Révolutionnaire (CSR), Workers’ Initiative of Poland, and Solidarity Federation of the United Kingdom also attended.

General Secretary-Treasurer Mark Damron began the meeting with “excellent table-thumping singalong,” as one wobbly described it, and on the last day it concluded with the traditional chorus of “Solidarity Forever”.

The meeting was co-chaired by the treasurer of the British Islands Regional Organizing Committee (BIROC), Frank Syratt, and Sarah Bender of the United States. Ant Ince, Stuart Melvin, Nick Durie, and Louise van der Hoeven took minutes.

Notably, a new Assembly committee to address the critical issue of gender in the union was formed, with Rhiannon Edwards of Canada elected as chair.

Delegates made reports on their local and regional activities. IWW Regional Organizing Committees (ROCs) reported making progress in building the IWW outside of North America. In addition to the BIROC, which has about 500 members, delegates reported organizing in the Netherlands and Portugal that may lead to new ROCs. Delegates from the Frankfurt and Cologne branches of the IWW German Language Area Regional Organizing Committee (GLAMROC) reported that this new body had 45 members and was growing.

In the United Kingdom, a number of BIROC branch members are involved in the National Shop Stewards Network (, which is slated to be a rank-and-file cross-union means of rebuilding the grassroots of working class solidarity and unity in the United Kingdom. The network’s first conference was backed by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT).

The West Midlands branch in England reported that it has organized a print shop and is agitating in the health sector with the National Blood System campaign, alongside the London and Leeds branches.

The Clydeside IWW of Glasgow, Scotland, reported that it has an education job branch at Glasgow University. The Edinburgh IWW reported that it has formed an education industrial organizing committee. It has also focused on doing outreach to Polish workers who are eligible to work in the UK, but are unfamiliar with their British labor rights.

From the United States, the Chicago IWW reported that the Chicago Couriers Union was holding a conference on the same weekend. The Philadelphia IWW also reported organizing with couriers. The Olympia IWW delegate said it has an organizing drive with bike mechanics. The New York IWW branch reported that 20 more workers have been fired for participating in the Industrial Union 460 food warehouse campaign.

Meanwhile, the Providence IWW delegate announced a $15,000 fundraising campaign to pay for the legal expenses of Alexandra Svoboda, who in August 2007 was badly injured by police during a solidarity march with New York’s food warehouse workers.


An emergency motion to support the Workers’ Initiative union in Poland “to defend both victimised workers sacked recently in several industries for organizing” passed. The BIROC and the Polish union signed a Solidarity Alliance last year that committed to card recognition between the unions, mutual aid, exchanges, and closer ties.

The Assembly also endorsed a statement to support the world’s migrants who are under attack in North America and Europe. The statement denounced the “detention and deportation or removal of foreign nationals for purposes of immigration control, whether they are asylum seekers, migrant workers (documented or undocumented), or any other category of immigrant, is a breach of basic human rights and class solidarity.

“[IWW] members should therefore refuse to participate in detention, deportation or removal processes. Members are also encouraged to support action in solidarity with immigrant workers and asylum seekers (such as supporting the right to work whilst claiming asylum).”


Assembly delegates faced a packed agenda of 11 proposals for consideration.

The much-debated proposal to change the General Assembly into a Delegate Convention was amended and sent to referendum, with two-thirds of the votes and proxy ballots in favour. If approved by the members, this proposal would allow the Delegate Convention to make union policy, if it is sustained by a referendum vote. Currently, the General Assembly cannot make policy decisions; it can only endorse a proposal and send it to referendum. The convention would be made up of elected delegates elected by each chartered branch. Individual members who attended the convention would be able to speak but not vote on motions. Currently, any IWW member in good standing who has the means to attend Assembly has vote and voice.

The International Solidarity Commission proposal for branches to elect a liaison person “to build greater collaboration between the ISC and the general membership of the union” passed.

The charges reform proposal to clarify jurisdiction and procedure for the IWW’s internal disciplinary process was amended and passed. A proposal to introduce a conflict mediation procedure that branches could use to deal with internal conflict, rather than rely on charges, also will be on the ballot. In the 2007 referendum, two competing charges reform proposals both failed to get the two-thirds of votes cast necessary to amend the constitution.Nominations

As of the Industrial Worker’s press date, the complete list of confirmed nominees is not available. All positions have one-year terms, save the post of the Industrial Worker editor, which is a two-year job. Members should check their General Organizing Bulletin for details.

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