The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a global member-run union for all workers, dedicated to direct action and workplace democracy. Formed in Chicago in 1905, for well over a century the IWW has held that “it is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism.” As such, the union is organized and run on direct democratic lines by rank-and-file workers.
Unlike most unions, dues are never deducted automatically from members’ paycheques, but are instead paid in person directly to union delegates to maintain members’ connection to the union. Furthermore, rather than divide workers against one another on the work site, the IWW aims to organize industrially, such that all workers in a given industry are members of the same Industrial Union (IU). Through this method of organizing, when workers in one area take job action then workers across the same industry can join in bringing the whole industry to a halt, thus preventing the bosses from outmanoeuvring us. To learn more about the aims and methods of the IWW, give our One Big Union pamphlet a read.
The Vancouver General Membership Branch (GMB), located on unceded Coast Salish territories, was initially formed on May 5, 1906. It was one of the most active branches in the early days of the IWW, particularly in the resource industries of mining, logging, and shipping – some of the very first members being the predominantly Indigenous dockworkers of the Lumber Handlers Local 526 (which was composed of some 18 different nationalities). After building mass workers’ power, the arrival of the First World War saw the IWW declared a banned organization by the Government of Canada from 1918 until 1923, which debilitated the union for many years afterwards. Fortunately, IWW organizers have been able to keep the union alive despite this and other forms of government repression. The current branch charter was issued in 1999.
Ready to become a member of the IWW? Think It Over, then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join in person at our next monthly meeting! For more info about becoming a member, check out the official IWW page on joining the One Big Union.