Friday, 28 March 2008

Industrial Workers of the World, Scottish Assembly, March 2008

Report by Thomas Swann

Held on the 23rd of March, the Industrial Workers of the World's (IWW) summer assembly highlighted the role the organisation has played and continues to play throughout the world. Described as one big union for all workers, the IWW remains one of the most militant unions in the world. While the union has shrunk since being able to boast 100,000 members in the US in the 1920s, recent growth in Britain suggests that it is not a thing of the past, and while its place in the history books has been guaranteed, it will be on the front line of social struggle for some time to come. In the last year alone, the IWW's membership in the UK has grown by over 400%. It was noted of the recent meeting that it constituted the largest gathering of members and interested individuals in a long time.

The Scottish Assembly focused on a number of issues that comrades have been involved in as well as ongoing battles such as the National Blood Service Campaign, aimed at challenging the extreme centralisation of blood storage centres, reducing emergency access to such services for many in outlying rural areas. This particular campaign has succeeded in securing the existence of a centre in Newcastle, as well as many functions at one in Sheffield. In addition to this, workshops looked at ways of getting the message out about what the IWW stands for and how to encourage participation in workplace organising, and strategies for dealing with specific problems encountered on the shop floor.

One particular example brought up by a member underlined the effects of partial privatisation in public services. In the recent strike action carried out at the Department of Work and Pensions by the PCS union, the office mail delivery service, run by a private company, continued to operate, resulting in around 75% of mail being delivered as normal. This lessened the effectiveness of striking as the workplaces were not brought to the standstill that such action sought. Furthermore, it was demanded of employees of this service that they cross the PCS picket lines.

The success of the Scottish Assembly was attested to by one delegate. Andy Bowden, an IWW and SSP member, said that 'it was good to be with a fighting union that punches well above its weight and is more interested in struggle than excuses.' It was clear from the meeting that the IWW is an oranisation on the move, and it will no doubt play crucial roles in current struggles the same way it has done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.

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