The Industrial Workers of the World

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 here a read.

The Vancouver General Membership Branch

The Vancouver General Membership Branch (GMB), located on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) 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.

What We Are

  • The IWW is a direct democratic union led by its membership. That means we, the rank and file members, make all decisions and have the final say.
  • The IWW is organized industrially, rather than by trade or craft.
  • The IWW is versatile and uses a wide range of tactics to achieve our goals, most importantly direct action and solidarity. We don’t just rely on contracts and Labour Relation Board elections.
  • The IWW is open to all workers, regardless if one is unemployed or a member of another union.
  • The IWW is a revolutionary union that organizes to win better conditions today and build a world of economic democracy tomorrow.

What We Are Not

  • The IWW is not a union only for workers in heavy industry.
  • The IWW is not linked to any political party or group.
  • The IWW is not led by high-salary union bosses who cut secret deals with employers behind your back.
  • The IWW is not stifled by union bureaucracy or top-down leadership.
  • The IWW is not a business union, believing in "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work."

Our Decision-Making Model

  • We are directly democratic, meaning all members have a say in branch decisions.
  • At our meetings, we follow a procedure called “Rusty’s Rules.” You can read about it in depth here. You don’t have to know it to participate, but it will help you understand what’s going on at meetings.