Industrial Workers of the World Gender
Statement / Call to Action
August 1, 2014
Events of harassment, sexual violence, abuse and misogyny have transpired in many branches and projects of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A recent job survey showed that 1 in 6 people experience sexual harassment in the workplace. This survey goes on to say (1) (2) that 51% of those harassed say it was from a peer, not their boss. However grassroots and radical our union’s purpose, as a union made up entirely of peers, without bosses, we are not exempt from societal norms—such as the subjugation of people based on sex, gender identity, race, disability, sexual orientation and class. Women and gendered minorities within this union are intensely and disproportionately affected and victimized by these incidents which are without a doubt the rotten fruit of patriarchy.The result is often the resignation and continued disenfranchisement of valuable and capable fellow workers. These fellow workers are lost to our cause because of our union’s frequent inability to enact compassionate healing and judicial processes. The IWW Gender Equity Committee (GEC) strongly recommends that EVERY branch of the Industrial Workers of the World make the active resistance of patriarchy, sexual violence and other forms of oppression a priority for their branch and the members within. We encourage our fellow workers to diligently develop and effectively implement official practices and policies that address incidents of injury where terms of immediate relief, punitive action, and transformative justice prioritize the needs of the survivor(s). We also encourage branches and members to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the existing complaints procedure and conflict resolution policies outlined in Article III of the IWW Constitution’s General Bylaws(3) as well as any additional relevant policies that may already exist within your branch.
If we are really going to work in solidarity with each other then we can not stand idly by while the safety and wellbeing of gendered minorities and female members are cast aside. Patriarchy, misogyny, sexual violence, harassment, gaslighting, domination, condescension and privilege are tools of our oppressors and they have no place in this union. And while we have all internalized aspects of systemic oppression, to spur true revolution we need to address these internalizations in ourselves and enter into a dialogue with each other.
In order to do this we must be present and mindful of our thoughts and actions that perpetuate and enable systems of oppression into the new world we wish to create. If we do not learn to effectively confront patriarchy we are merely perpetuating the agenda of the capitalist class and furthering a divided workingclass.
When we are unable to successfully address these injuries it becomes fodder for our critics and oppressors to use against us.
It is a historic motto of our union that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” This is never more true than when we are confronted with patriarchal abuse.When our branches have to redirect time, energy, and resources to rectify abuse it is time, energy, and resources taken away from organizing campaigns, projects, direct actions, and the morale of this organization. It is important to recognize that when an issue arises it deserves a branch’s full attention and needs to be taken seriously.
Let us agree here and now that the safety, wellbeing, respect, and trust of our fellow workers needs to always be paramount in our organizing.
Let us agree here and now that the tools of our oppressors are NOT welcome in our organizing.
Let us vow to be careful with each other so that we can be strong together.
Let us work diligently to respect and support survivors and encourage their participation within our union.
Let us work together to support and encourage women and gender nonconforming individuals in our organization.
Let us work to prevent incidents of abuse and continue to educate each other and ourselves how.
Let us always work in true solidarity with all of our fellow workers.
Some things branches can do to prevent further instances of injury or when an instance of injury or patriarchy is revealed, in no particular order, are:
1. Take all concerns about and instances of patriarchy/injury seriously and start addressing them immediately with care and respect for survivors. This will help deter similar behavior. It sets a precedent and can prevent the patriarchal behavior from escalating.
2. Respect the privacy and vulnerability of survivors and do not share their name(s) or details about their situation(s) without their permission.
3. Form an antipatriarchy / antioppression committee run by women and gender nonconforming fellow workers. Consult “A brief guide to creating a group that can work to dismantle patriarchy in your branch,” written by the Portland Patriarchy Resistance Committee which can be obtained through the Gender Equity Committee Listserv . Report on the work of your 4 committee to the GEC Listserv(http://lists.iww.org/listinfo/genderequity) and share what you learn with fellow workers in other branches.
4. Create a ‘Safer Spaces Policy’ for your branch.
5. Host workshops, discussions and events that allow members time to grapple with and learn
about patriarchy and the way it intersects with capitalism and other forms of oppression.
6. Learn to embrace conflict, think towards solutions and develop processes for dealing with problems before matters escalate. Having a process, a procedure, or an outline previously agreed upon for approaching these conflicts and seeking solid, fellow worker affirming, solutions can fast track our branches / organizing committees towards resolutions. These resolutions, when found with the survivor(s) wishes being of highest priority, may lead to gender nonconforming and women FWs staying participatory members of our union. How these conflicts are handled won’t solely affect whether a member stays an active member, or a member at all, but will and does affect how survivor(s) remain engaged in any social justice movements, or society in general. A spurned survivor often goes into complete isolation when not heard or supported. This is clearly furthering patriarchy’s agenda.
7. Learn to be “called out.” In other words, resist the urge to become angry or defensive and instead learn to listen to our fellow workers when they have the courage to tell us that we or others have violated their boundaries or contributed to their oppression, especially when we do not understand.
8. Do not leave the vigilance, surveillance or correction of patriarchal behavior to those most oftenvictimized by it. If we see something bogus happening, we need to say something or check in with our fellow worker(s).
9. Be mindful of the subtle manifestations of patriarchy in language. Remember that we live in a
society that has created norms and preconceived notions within us. We must be mindful to the
language we use that acts to advance capitalism, patriarchy and other forms of oppression. Slurs,jokes, condescending tones, “trolling,” and rationalizations are all a part of an agenda to divide.
We must work to wipe these elements of communication from our organizational efforts in order to create stronger solidarity between all members.
10. Be mindful of our immediate biased relationships with the accused (family, romantic or sexual partners, friendships, etc) and recuse ourselves from participation in rectification processes whennecessary or requested by a survivor/complainant.
11. Hire trained conflict resolution facilitators (from outside the branch) with expertise in patriarchal oppression / sexual violence / transformative justice to assist with restoration. Utilize what we learn to continue this work, when possible, within the union. We may also call on another branch for assistance with conflict resolution
12. Be honest and transparent while working through problematic situations within our branches.
Communicate processes and results clearly to the union at large whenever possible to avoid
misunderstanding and gossip. This may mean electing a point of contact or preparing a statement for other curious fellow workers outside of your branch.
13. Try to assume that our fellow workers are working towards the same goal of antioppression.Note that not all survivors will agree about strategy. Survivors and allies can and should work together by listening to and respecting each other in order to help create a safer union.
14. Reach out to the members of the Gender Equity Committee for resources, guidance, support or help with anything on this list. Join our listserv: Genderequity@lists.iww.org and
Always in Solidarity,
The Industrial Workers of the World Gender Equity Committee and Contributors
Voting members: Nicki M, Dakota D, Sarah M, Lauren V, Ryan G
Additional Contributors: Amity D, Kaleigh H. Liberte L, Monika V
Related resources and similar statements:
“How We Struggle: A Response to Ongoing Patriarchal Violence in the IWW.” Industrial Workers
of the World. N.p., 9 Oct. 2013.
“Statement from the Patriarchy Resistance Committee of the Portland branch of the IWW.”
Patriarchy and the Movement. Patriarchy Resistance Committee of the Portland branch of the
IWW, 29 Apr. 2013.
Meier, Nicki , and Amity DePeuple. “Embodied Wobbly Solidarity .” The Industrial Worker 1 Aug.
2014: 4. Print.
“Trans 101 for Wobblies, part 1: Understanding basic terminology.” Industrial Workers of the
World Boston GMB. N.p., 15 May 2013.
Walia, Harsha. “Challenging patriarchy in political organizing.” Colours of Resistance Archive.