Monday, 30 June 2014
Why i joined the IWW
The IWW - the international workers of the world or wobblies as they are often known as is a movement i came across earlier this year i find their politics fascinating and a new take on trade unions which i had not come across before. After todays confirmation that Len Mckluskey of unite who i am still a member of also for the time being to fully bankroll the labour party at next years general election i may consider leaving that union. I do not wish my money to go towards backing a labour party determined to carry on the destruction of the gains we as workers have made over the last decades. So much hot air from red Len is too much for me he threatens to break the labour link each time it comes out with another neo liberal policy yet nothing changes and yet again Len and his unite union will be cheerleading for labour in the coming year this is a huge let down for me and may well be the final straw in a union which gives me very little say in things. This is on top of the undemocratic attempt to ram through a merger with the PCS union who have been one of the more left unions of late and do have a reasonable record of fighting back. Why PCS and unite are merging will become clear in time but aswell as financial it is also as i understand it being forced through as a way of moving unite further left and in the hope it'll break with labour. This is all being aggitated for by the socialist party who control a majority on the PCS NEC at present who feel a merger with unite getting themselves onto the unite NEC could be the best way to break the labour link. But do we really need to close down an independent civil service union? Even if we did, surely joining up with Unison, the largest public sector union would make more logical sense from a trade union viewpoint. As usual political agendas are put before members interests in the myopic world of Serwotka & the Socialist Party. PCS needs to put it’s own house in order before going cap in hand to other unions. The whole issue of a merger has led to the creation of at least two Face Book groups The first I came across is simply called No to the PCS-Unite merger and states categorically: Page for PCS members opposed to being consumed by the monolithic bureaucracy of Unite in the proposed merger of the two unions Description The leadership of the PCS is driving the union towards a merger with Unite. This merger is not in the best interests of members: • It will be a takeover rather than a merger, with PCS consumed whole • It is an arrangement of financial convenience to preserve the perks of the paid union bureaucracy • Unite is a vastly less democratic union than PCS on every possible level • Unite is an FTO-dominated bureaucracy, whereas in PCS lay reps run their own branches and have a far greater degree of autonomy • Unite is affiliated to the Labour Party, who are in turn wedded to capitalism, austerity and the boss class Overwhelmingly, PCS members disagree with the concept of a merger or are at best indifferent to it. The possibility of a merger passed through conference in 2013 only thanks to a strong whip from the leadership and the Left Unity faction and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again with the merger proper. A second group is: Members against the merger. They have gone with a much simpler statement: Quite straightforward really: PCS are open to an approach from Unite with a view to merging. This groups is for PCS members who want to stop it. There you go. The Left Unity/Democracy Alliance has run PCS for eleven years. Over that time it has totally failed to overcome successive governments’ divide-and-rule policy of carving the civil service up into a huge number of “delegated bargaining units” and to regain civil service national bargaining. Yet that same leadership now asserts that merely by joining Unite it will overcome the bargaining divisions between public and private sector workers. The PCS leadership effectively assumes that union “merger” is a shortcut to the development of wider working-class political awareness and industrial militancy. The PCS leaders state that “merger” (transfer!) would create “a new, powerful force in the public sector adapted to today’s changing industrial circumstances that can deliver more for members” but has not explained precisely what it sees as the changing industrial circumstances and precisely how this new force within Unite would be better able to deliver for Unite and PCS public sector members. They do not say how the awful defeats PCS has suffered under their leadership would have been avoided if we had been Unite members. The underlying and only very partially stated argument would seem to be that: • PCS cannot “win” against the state on its own (winning is rarely defined by the PCS leadership), • Public sector workers must therefore strike together on pensions, pay, jobs and services (and presumably keep striking until the demands of all the different occupational areas of the striking public sector workers have been satisfied – not a model the PCS leadership followed in the pensions dispute with the last Labour Government) • Unison and other unions cannot be trusted to do so, as shown by the pensions debacle in November 2011 • If PCS “merges” with Unite and a large public sector group is created, then Unite will be able to call out its civil service, NHS and local authority workers at the same time, and thereby put pressure on Unison and other unions to join with it. There is plenty of talk about a “new powerful force”, “making a difference”, needing “a more effective trade union fightback in the public sector” and PCS and Unite sharing the same basic approach of being genuine fighters for members. However, nothing has prevented Unite and PCS from calling such joint action before now if they wanted to. In reality, Unite remains a relatively minor player in the NHS and local government. A fully united public sector fightback would require Unison to play an effective and committed role. That is extremely unlikely under the current Unison leadership. PCS should certainly agitate for joint action, but has to develop its own independent strategy for winning on issues facing PCS members. There is no short-cut through merger with Unite. The PCS leaders hint that they see themselves (in Unite) as competing with Unison for authority in the TUC and members in the NHS and local government. They say, “A merged union would become the second largest public sector union. It would be the first public sector union to hold substantial membership in…the NHS, local government and central government.” PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka spoke at last year’s PCS conference of creating a “left wing pole of attraction” in the union movement. But competition with Unison is unlikely to attract its membership in mass numbers. If a few left-wingers are won over, that will be at the price of them abandoning the fight to replace the leadership in Unison of Dave Prentis or a successor in the same mould chosen in Unison’s next General Secretary poll in 2015. Mark Serwotka or the Socialist Party, the dominant group in the PCS leadership quite clearly see themselves running Unite’s public sector group. They are certainly not going to give up the leadership of an independent trade union just to play second fiddle in one sector within Unite. And Socialist Party must have high hopes of dominating Unite’s “United Left” through the much bigger PCS Left Unity membership. Merger is likely to mean losing PCS’s democratic structures and its actual and potential industrial coherence. PCS has annual elections at all levels; annual national and group conferences; delegates directly elected by branch members; and a widespread membership understanding of the key industrial issues. Delegates to Unite’s national conferences are indirectly elected by regional committees and regional industrial sector committees; national policy conference takes place every two years; national rules conference every four years; industrial sector conferences every two years. Elections for the Unite NEC, Regional and Branch Committees are held every three years. PCS’s very different circumstances enable direct relationships between members and the different levels of the union and within the single “industry” that is the civil service and the private sector support companies that provide services to the civil service. The end result is a membership with common workplace experiences and issues that gives national PCS an explicit and (potentially) unifying coherence of trade union purpose. That makes accountability (potentially) easier to judge and deliver. There is simply no real industrial logic to merger with Unite. There is some opposition on the left and right to merger with Unite because of its relationship to the Labour Party. It’s an opposition which either sees PCS in apolitical terms (a union for state employees!) or sees politics purely in terms of standing would be left-wing independent candidates in opposition to the Labour Party. Both are wrong and fail to outline any way in which PCS can help remove the Tories from government, ease the considerable pressures on members, and replace them with a trade-union based party whose leaders need to be opposed and tested with positive working class policies. For certain an alternative to Labour will not be found through TUSC or similar candidates. Serious socialists opposed to the merger should not get caught up with opposition on sectarian grounds. Well it is a cynical move which ignores members interests once again. It is a lash up for small political means i suspect. Members of both Unite and PCS should oppose any merger as this would not advance any strategy that would benifit them i believe a independent voice in your own union is far better for now. So... Why Join the IWW? It does not take long to figure out that workers and their employers do not have the same interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, and better benefits. We want our work to be less boring, less dangerous, and less destructive to the environment. We want more control over how we produce goods and provide services. We want meaningful work that contributes to our communities and world. Our employers, in contrast, want us to work longer, harder, faster, and cheaper. They want fewer safety and environmental regulations and they demand absolute control over all decisions, work schedules, speech, and actions in the workplace. PRACTICAL BENEFITS OF A UNION The easiest way to stand up for each other in our workplaces and communities and the easiest way to improve our working conditions is to join a union. That is why employers fight so hard, and spend so much money, to keep unions out of their workplaces. Workers with unions generally have higher pay and job security, better benefits, and fewer scheduling problems. More pay equals fewer hours at work and more hours for enjoying the good things in life. Union workplaces are safer and have less harassment, discrimination, and favoritism. This is because a union gives workers the power to make workplace decisions. The less we let our employers make all of the decisions, the better our lives and communities will be. Unions also provide mutual aid and community. This means assistance with problems at work, but it could also mean help with a community project or fighting a landlord. WHY EVERY WORKER SHOULD BE IN THE ONE BIG UNION Whether your job sucks or is "pretty good" (at least today), we in the IWW believe you should join us for the following reasons. We need to start sticking up for our coworkers in our workplaces and in our industries. Ask around on your next shift. How many coworkers have two or three jobs? How many are one paycheck away from an eviction? We have a duty to our co-workers, and those who will follow in our footsteps, to make things better. The only way to do this is to organize together. When we band together around our common experiences and interests, we can improve our jobs and industries. Our labor, not our bosses, is what makes our workplaces tick and we can use our labor power to improve our jobs and our communities in the short term. In a lot of ways, that is what unions are all about. With the IWW, you also belong to a union that has a long term vision and plan for workers' control of their own work, without bosses, making our industries and economy democratic. As an IWW member, you get: 1) volunteer organizers if you choose to organize your workplace and industry. 2) union organizing expertise in areas of strategy, media, community support, infrastructure building, and bargaining. 3) commitment to democratic unionism, which means members control their own organizing campaigns and the direction of the union. 4) an international organization dedicated to working together to build worker power on our jobs and in our communities. 5) mutual aid and support. 6) some practical things: a subscription to the Industrial Worker (union newspaper), the IWW internal newsletter, access to the IWW website, the union's constitution, your local branch newsletter (if applicable), and a member button. ABOUT THE IWW Founded in Chicago in 1905, the IWW is open to all workers. Don't let the "industrial" part fool you. Our members include teachers, social workers, retail workers, construction workers, bartenders, and computer programmers. Only bosses are not allowed to join. You have a legal right to join a union and your membership is confidential. It is up to you whether you discuss the union with your co-workers. If you are currently unemployed, you can still join. We are a volunteer-driven union, and this means we, not union bosses, run the union. The IWW is not controlled by or affiliated with any political party or political movement. No money goes to politicians. Membership dues are used to maintain the union and assist organizing campaigns. As a result, monthly dues are low. So lets not put up with endless bureaucracy lets start by organising ourselves for ourselves and taking control of our own struggles.