A cartoon black cat eats an IWW globe logo mushroom and turns into the powered-up Sabo-Tabby.
2022, art by x364181.

Growing the IWW isn’t just about increasing the size of our membership, it’s also about increasing its depth. Part of “building the new world in the shell of the old” entails developing the people who will be able to run it once it’s built. We aren’t simply signing up workers from our jobs and industries for their dues. We are signing them up to make them into Wobblies! Being a Wobbly means that we know where we stand in the class struggle, we know the lessons learned from those who struggled before us, and we stand in solidarity with other Wobblies who are continuing the struggle today. Being a Wobbly isn’t just about having a Red Card, it’s about leveling each other up! I’ve met so many Wobblies throughout the years who sign a Red Card and then don’t know what to do next. Without a sense of direction, our members tend to gravitate towards other activist groups or they leave the union altogether. We want to keep workers involved and to give them a sense of purpose in the IWW. This article will be part of a series on how to level up your IWW membership. In this first edition, we’ll cover some ways that individual Wobblies can increase their participation in the One Big Union through developing their skills as workplace organizers. Future editions will focus on branches, committees, and other parts of the union. If you think of some additions to these lists, write them up and send them to Industrial Worker!

Take an Organizer Training

The IWW has two Organizer Trainings: the OT101 and the OT102. In the OT101, trainees learn the basic techniques of starting a workplace organizing committee.  The committee meets regularly and plans direct actions on the job to build power and address grievances. The training is revised every few years based on the experiences of IWW organizers. We keep the stuff that is working and change the stuff that has been falling short. It’s also a really great way to get in touch with other Wobblies who are organizing their workplaces. 

The 102 builds off of the 101. Once you have a committee up and running, you’ll need to learn how to sustain it. Business unions will usually start a committee and then once it’s up and running, they will petition the employer for recognition or they will file for a union election with the government. The IWW is a revolutionary union though. We don’t need or want the government to intervene in order to provide stability. We maintain our momentum through practicing better internal democracy and through recruiting more workers to take part in bigger workplace actions. You should take the 102 early on because it gets more into the details of practicing direct democracy, escalating direct actions, and sustaining your committee. It’s important to incorporate healthy committee practices and strategic planning at the early stages of a campaign. Our greatest weapon is solidarity and these trainings teach the nuts and bolts of Solidarity Unionism.

Start Organizing Your Workplace

There are all sorts of benefits that you and the union can get from organizing your own workplace, even if you just take the initial steps. When you start building good organizing habits, they will start to come more naturally over time. Getting people’s contact information will feel less awkward and you will start drawing your maps in more detail. One-on-one conversations with coworkers will flow more smoothly the more practice you get. And so even if you only make a small amount of progress at one job, you can build off of that experience at future jobs. 

Take Another Training

No two trainings are ever the same! Each time, you will be learning from different trainers and with a different set of trainees. They all bring unique training styles and organizing stories. And let’s be honest with ourselves: each training is 16 hours worth of material. We are never gonna memorize it all after one take, or even two for that matter. Take lots of trainings and have fun with them!

Become a Trainer

Organizer Trainers are credentialed by the union to give our official trainings. You can draw from your experiences to give a personal touch to your trainings. It can be inspiring for trainees to hear personal stories from the front lines, even if it is just you showing a map or social chart from one of your workplaces. When you become an IWW trainer, you will be paired up with other trainers to do trainings and so you get to learn from their teaching styles and experiences. It’s a great way to learn new lessons and to pass along your learning experiences in the union.

The Organizer Training Committee (OTC) can train you to be an OT101 Trainer, an OT102 Trainer and a Training For Trainers (T4T) Trainer. There’s a leveling up system for trainers as well. First off, you can’t become a trainer unless you have taken the training. So in order to become a 101 Trainer, you should have taken the training a few times and put it to use in your own workplace. Same for the 102 and to be a T4T Trainer. At the end of each T4T, you will be reviewed by your trainers and they will decide if and how you will be credentialed. 

At each T4T, you will learn some new training techniques, but it is assumed that you are coming in with some familiarity with the curriculum. This is why it’s good to have taken the training a few times and to have gained some first hand organizing experience. Don’t worry about knowing every single detail; you will get a better grasp the more trainings you do, and when you start as a trainer you will be paired with a more experienced trainer. On the flipside however, if your trainers don’t think you are ready, they aren’t obligated to credential you and they might recommend you go to another training and take another T4T.

Keep Organizing!

The more we organize and train other Wobblies to organize, the better organizers and trainers we become. Sometimes a campaign might only get so far as being able to draw up a social chart, but then you can use that social chart when you train other IWW members to do it! Maybe you participated in a direct action that flopped. You can turn that into a learning experience by debriefing with your coworkers or by writing about it. The more we learn to tackle the smaller hurdles, the better prepared we are to take on the next ones and to bring more Wobblies with us. Keep fighting the good fight and never stop leveling up!

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