Ottawa-Outaouais IWW

The General Membership Branch of the Ottawa-Outaouais region

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The Organization of Industry

Who Makes What?

All industry is interrelated, so much so that it could be said that there is really only one industry–the production of goods and services. Consider your coat and the processes necessary to its production. It required not only the labor and materials used directly in making it, but also the buildings and machinery where it was made. It required the production of the material and the dyes. It required the transportation and the planning for all the trips for all the materials in it, and for the machinery and buildings used in making them.

The workers involved in all these processes could not have specialized in making cloth and dyes in building factories and textile machinery, in operating this equipment, in transporting goods, and the like, if other workers had not specialized in building houses for them, providing food for them, and offering the various other services they needed. In fact it is difficult to think of anything the workers do anywhere that does not have some connection with the production of a simple coat.

But this work is not random chaos. It is subdivided and organized much as your own body is subdivided and organized. It divides first of all into six major departments:

* 100 – The raw materials that can be grown or raised;
* 200 – The raw materials of the mine, quarry and the like;
* 300 – Construction of roads and buildings, ships, docks, canals, etc.;
* 400 – Manufacture of the materials into food, clothing, tools, machinery, etc.;
* 500 – Transportation and communication;
* 600 – The various services offered by schools, hospitals, theaters, shops, and public utilities.

Corresponding to these major divisions are the six departments in which the industrial unions are grouped in the table at the end of this pamphlet. The advantages in practical union matters in providing these departments will be pointed out later on.

Within the departments are the industries and their industrial unions. Because of the interrelations that bind all productive efforts together, it is impossible to mark off the disputed territory of each industry with indisputable precision. An industry, after all, is a social aggregate of workers, equipment, and processes only somewhat set apart from other workers by their close interrelations. Accordingly, the line separating the industrial unions should not be thought of as a way of keeping the workers apart, but as a better way of keeping them together.

Industrial Classification

To organize the working class into structures corresponding to the facts of industry is the aim of the I.W.W.. As a system of classification for this rational industrial unionism, it uses a decimal method that provides ample opportunity for any changes and additions that new inventions and industrial processes may make advisable.

It is much like the system used by libraries to number their books, so that no matter what book may ever be written about any subject, there is a logical number to assign it so that it will stand in its proper relation with all other books ever written or to be written on the same subject. Similarly there is a logical grouping for every worker in the One Big Union plan of the I.W.W.

Without the coordination furnished by One Big Union, it would be impossible to provide a scheme of organization that would unite workers so that they could take whatever joint action various occasions might require. The interweaving of industrial relations makes that so. For instance, the steel industry requires iron miners, workers in lime quarries, in coal mines and coke ovens and the fuel oil industry, railway, road, and marine transport workers, as well as the workers at the furnaces and rolling mills. Often these workers furnishing materials are employees of the steel companies. But for other relations it is most convenient to have these coal miners organized with other coal miners, these transportation workers with other transport workers.

For effective working-class solidarity it is necessary that workers be able to plan jointly with either their fellow workers in their own industries, or with their fellow workers to whom they furnish materials. Only with the sort of industrial unionism that adds up to One Big Union is this flexibility possible. The lines marking off the industrial are not barriers; they are universal joints.

In the table is shown in general outline the arrangement of industrial unions currently used by the I.W.W.. In all instances workers on the same job are to be members of the same union, and by all workers is meant all wage and salary earners (except those what have the effective ability to hire and fire), each industrial union deciding for itself who is eligible and who is not.

How Employers Organize

Workers cannot blindly imitate employer organizations, but we should find it instructive.

Employers organize primarily as partnerships, corporations, etc…, on an industrial basis to take direct action on the job, to run it so as to get the most out of it. This means running us so that they get the most out of us. They even set up special departments to make sure they do run us that way.

Workers have little or no reason to compete or quarrel with each other, but we often find ourselves competing against each other. Employers have many reasons to compete or quarrel with each other, yet they manage to cooperate. The chief secret for that is that they organize special bodies for special purposes, and don’t mix these purposes up. For example, they don’t split up their trade association or federation over their political differences.

They have built many intricate financial organizations, including worldwide companies. Through these organizations the capitalists of even supposedly hostile nations work together. Many of their most critical undertakings depend on an unwritten mutual understanding of their collective interest. They make it hard for any employer who does not play along with them. And they have managed to keep on running the world although they have repeatedly made a mess of it.

All Trades–One Union

Somewhere in the One Big Union plan there is a logical place for every wage worker, so that all fellow workers can most effectively exercise their solidarity.

A few notes should be added about the structure of the One Big Union. Some of the industrial unions may appear to have too wide a scope for convenience; rolling mills, building textile machinery, and watch-making may seem to be more than one union should include. But the system of classification used permits any subdivision within the union for the formation of any section for which there may be actual practical reasons. Further it should be remembered that all the workers on one job form their own job or shop branch, and in it decide all matters that relate exclusively to that particular job.

Since some jobs include a considerable number of subordinate activities, the rule that all on the job belong in the same union requires that workers be in different industrial unions than their occupation might lead one to expect. For instance, in a hospital, besides nurses, doctors, technicians, interns, etc., there are laundry workers, cooks, electricians, and many other hands, all of whom are in the same industry, and therefore in the same industrial union of Health Service Workers (I.U. 610).

If it were not for the One Big Union idea, such industrial organization might build some handicaps. The laundry workers in hospitals might want to meet with other laundry workers to establish standard conditions in all laundries. With One Big Union to which they all belong, they have all the facilities for doing so, and for electing any committees to carry out their decisions. Or drivers, if they work for a shop or a factory, belong in the job unit and industrial union of their fellow employees. Yet they may want to meet with other drivers to agree on a common policy in regard to loading, using helpers, or the like. One Big Union enables them to do that, too. In any job situation, apprentices, trainees, skilled and unskilled workers all have more in common with each other than with the boss. One Big Union welds them all together to fight the bosses with the combined strength of the work force.

Other Practical Advantages

Industrial Union structure is designed to unite workers in the way that will be most convenient for us. With whom can we best bargain collectively? With whom are we most likely to go out on strike? Such questions as these are the practical ones that decide in what industrial union any group of workers should be placed. The kitchen crew on an oil rig, the mess department aboard ship, the staff of a factory canteen, all do the same sort of work as that done by the employees of a restaurant, but they can bargain more effectively if they are organized respectively with other oil workers, seamen, and factory workers.

In distribution, these common sense rules must be applied. Where the workers involved distribute only one company’s products, as with many gasoline stations, it will be best to organize with the workers supplying the product. The workers in the oil fields and refineries will be in a better bargaining position if they can cut off the distribution of their product. Similarly the bargaining position of the gas station attendants is better with the backing of those other workers employed by the same company. Crews on oil tankers however may find it best to organize with other seamen, but they will not touch “hot oil” in oil worker’s strikes.

But where there are no such close relations with production, distribution workers will be better off organized together whether they work in department stores, clothing shops, or whatever. In all these instances it should be plain that unless industrial unionism adds up to One Big Union the labor movement will be handicapped in providing the different types of coordination that varying circumstances require.

One Big Union is the glue that holds the industrial departments together. Without it they would fall into a useless, disorganized confusion.

One Class–One Union

The division between the industrial unions must not be considered as walls keeping workers apart but as devices to unite them more effectively. In the I.W.W. all members are directly members of the I.W.W. itself, with voice and vote directly on their own industrial union affairs. They also have free universal transfer from the industrial union covering their last job to the industrial union covering the job to which they move, but with no voice or vote on the affairs of other industrial unions.

Our immediate job organization is the job or shop branch organizing the place where we work, and only those working on that job have any voice or vote on purely job issues. Each part is responsible for itself except that industrial unions must not adopt rules conflicting with the general constitution, and central and job branches must not adopt rules conflicting either with these or with the by-laws of their industrial union. The I.W.W. is not a federation or congress of industrial unions; it is One Big Union of the working class. The interrelationships of modern industry make any other structure inadequate for the needs of labor.

The One Big Union structure further avoids disputes about jurisdiction over workers whose classification is made doubtful by the complexities of modern production processes. For instance, it is desirable that all in the metal mining industry be in one union. But we find for example, that magnesium is obtained by chemical processes from sea water, first making milk of magnesia, then magnesium; that aluminum is obtained by electrolysis from the clay bauxite.

In a federation of industrial unions there would be grounds for argument in which union to put them. In One Big Union this is of no great consequence, and they can be organized in whatever way they find most convenient. Or again, if a concern making a general line of electrical equipment turns out radios as a sideline, all employees will be metal and machinery workers, while if another concern specializing in cabinet work of different types, also makes radios, these radio workers will be organized as furniture workers.

Industrial Departments

Unions in allied industries constitute industrial departments. The advantages of such organization are especially obvious in the instance of transportation. Railways, bus companies, truck companies, airlines, all provide substitute methods of transportation. If workers in these various industries are organized to act together when the occasion arises for them to do so, they will have all power that it might almost be said that the destiny of the world is in their hands.

Think how much suffering humankind might have been saved if organized transport workers had refused to load or carry goods to any warring nation or any nations whose transport workers would not follow the same policy. It would have been a good investment had the rest of organized labor assessed itself the small sum each it would have taken to repay these transport workers for any wages they lost in consequence of such a policy. In this way a great good could be accomplished with hardship to none.

Or consider how similar arrangements could make it foolish to hire scabs by making it impossible for scab-made goods to be carried. If we workers stick together right, we cannot be beaten down.

What is proposed here is the organization of the working class so that it can stick together in effective solidarity. Every union member who has talked about unionism to other workers is all too familiar with the complaint, “A union is all right, but the trouble is that workers won’t stick together.” We don’t believe that complaint.

We don’t believe it because we have seen so often the efforts of workers to stick together, and seen those efforts shattered by faulty organization that stopped them from practicing solidarity. Things do substantially what they are built to do; the same stuff goes into making a typewriter or a sewing machine, and behaves differently because it is put together differently.

The same workers can be in a loose federation of organizations formed to serve some special sets of interests, or they can be in One Big Union. If a union is designed to keep us separated, then it will not be a surprise to find that “Workers won’t stick together.” But if we are organized to stick, then stick we will and be strong in the fact that we can.

Rational industrial unionism designed by the I.W.W. to meet the conditions of modern industry emphasizes these basic rules:

* All workers on the same job, regardless of trade, belong in the same job organization;
* All workers in the same industry belong in the same industrial union;
* All members of these industrial unions belong directly as members of the One Big Union of the working class;
* Any worker changing jobs is entitled to transfer free of charge to the industrial union covering the new employment–“once a union member, always a union member”;
* No part of the labor movement should accept any obligation to work on materials furnished by strikebreakers, or to furnish material for them, or to fill the orders that strikers were supposed to fill; or cross any picket line, or aid in any way to break the strike of any group of workers.

Such is the form of organization the I.W.W. offers to make the working class invincible. Are you with us?