Last weekend the KY IWW took the opportunity to spread the message of the One Big Union at a local rally for Bernie Sanders. Since salting that event, where we tuned folks in to our branch through discussions of unionizing, workers’ rights and solidarity, it was brought to my attention that something needs to be made clear: the IWW endorses no candidate and distances itself from electoral politics of any kind. We are not a political group, but a workers’ union. We organize for workers, not for politicians.
But it strikes me that wherever people gather to discuss the needs and rights of working people, Wobblies would be wise to present themselves as the One Big Union fighting for those needs and rights on all fronts.
Or better yet, in the words of FW Mick Parsons, Secretary Treasurer of the KY IWW:
Wobs wade in strange waters wherever we go. Even amongst ourselves, the cross currents can catch any one of us and toss us around. As a member of the IWW, though, you are never alone. That’s solidarity. And that’s the point.
Whether it’s in your workplace, your local bar, the gym, or a political rally, to be a Wob means not keeping it under wraps. It doesn’t always mean being obnoxious, either. But if, in the process of discussing recent world and political happenings, you happen to introduce someone to the OBU, then there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are a musician, poet, or other artist, and your Wobbliness comes out in your art – so be it. Be aware and be a good messenger. In order to build a new world out of the ashes of the old – we need everyone. That’s solidarity.
To “salt” an event doesn’t mean to endorse an event. It means to recognize an opportunity–an opportunity where working people are ready to band together–to most effectively spread the message and cause of the IWW. And, in my mind, the Sanders candidacy speaks to a political consciousness that is learning to value unionization and worker solidarity in a way it has not been for quite some time. I, for one, will not pass up a chance to soap box to a primed audience.
Now in the spirit of opportunity and growth it’s time to look forward.
At the end of the month (July 30th @ 6 p.m.) we’ll be meeting at our new space in the Mammoth (on 13th and Broadway) and discussing new opportunities for adjunct activism, the Joe Hill Tour, digital media organizing and activism, and tabling the next Flea Off. For full descriptions of these and other events and projects, click here.
Among these events and projects two salient themes stand out. First, all three speak loudly about the IWW’s commitment to organizing and building solidarity among freelance and precarious workers. Where trade unions fall short among supporting workers (the freelance musicians, writers and artists, the short-term teachers) the One Big Union stands for you. Second, there’s an increasingly apparent digital and social media presence in the movement. What some in past years have called “Twitter activism” or “Slacktivism” is exposing–as we expected–a vast network of outlets, transmitters and receivers that tie nodes of the movement together, and provide us avenues to bring leftists and progressives within range of our message. The opportunity this fall to continue learning about, and participating, in that work with the KY IWW is, for me, one of the most exciting opportunities for the workers’ movement today.
So to steal from FW Mick once more (and to paraphrase), at festivals, in meetings, during idle talk, and, increasingly, in these digital spaces, be a Wob wherever you go.
Press Officer & Literature Committee Chair
Kentucky IWW GMB