April/May Newsletter for Bristol IWW

WISERA conference 2017. Something like this but with fewer fancy hats.

Dear members and supporters of Bristol IWW,

As we move into the summer months much of our attention is naturally drawn to the annual conference for the WISERA section of the IWW but before I get into that, here’s some of the other things we got up to.

On the 16th of April we joined Bristol Radical History Group for a guided walk around the docks where we learnt about the emergence of ‘new unionism’ in Bristol at the turn of the 20th century and the events of ‘Black Friday’, 1982. A group of around 10 Fellow Workers were in attendance, along with 20 assorted history-loving Bristolians. We peaked the interest of a few and will hopefully be welcoming two new members off the back of the day. We’d like to extend our thanks to BRHG and Roger Ball who led the walk, looking forward to doing more in the future.

On April 22nd we went over to Cardiff to join IWW Cymru in an evening of officer training and scheme hatching followed by a good old-fashioned knees-up. A lovely evening was had by all and it was nice to touch base with our friends from over the bridge.

On April 28th a few of our members took part in Workers Memorial Day, which saw a few hundred strong march from Tony Benn House to a wreath laying ceremony at Bristol’s commemorative plaque, in Castle Park, which remembers those killed whilst at work.  Organised by the Bristol Trades Council, marchers included members of Unite, GMB, Unison, Bristol Hazards Group, and the IWW.

On Mayday, a few Wobblys who hadn’t made their way to Derby for the conference were part of a National Day of Action against Maypole Ltd. called by the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee.  Actions took place in Bristol, Bath, Liverpool and Leicester.

Maypole Ltd is a company that uses prison labour to make trailer boards for stores like Blacks and Millets. Prisoners are paid between £6 – £25 for a full working week. If they don’t work they are punished. IWOC is asking Blacks and Millets to stop stocking Maypole products until they stop exploiting prisoners. Thousands of leaflets were distributed and we spoke to many ex-prisoners on the streets too who had been employed in workshops such as these while incarcerated.

For more information on this campaign and the IWOC, check out their website.

This brings us onto the main event of May, the IWW annual conference which this year took place in the Peak District at Thornbridge Outdoors Centre in Derby.

Speaking to our delegates yesterday it was clear that they were very impressed with the location and the accessibility it provided for fellow workers with young children, who reportedly had a grand old time tearing around in the great outdoors.

I won’t go into too much detail on the motions portion of the weekend as these should be appearing on Loomio shortly but items up for debate included the organising summit, gender balance on the DEC and whether a regional casework coordinator is needed.

As necessary as motions are they can be hard work and as such we were all relieved to finish going through them and spending the rest of the weekend participating in the various workshops on offer. First up was a discussion on how best to provide support to the ROCs (Regional Organising Committees) affiliated to WISERA (the Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England branch of the union). At present we have GlamROC (the German-speaking countries), AusROC (Australia), GreROC (Greece) and IceROC (Iceland) affiliated to WISERA with a view to supporting and advising them until such a time when they’re able to set themselves up as regional administrations. Through this we’ve established contacts in several other radical unions, notably the German FAU who we’re working with in the Deliveroo campaign.

Other important topics were the IWW’s decision to establish an anti-fascist committee, the setting of participatory budgets and how we put together training material in future. We also heard from the ‘Leeds 6‘ Deliveroo riders about their victory, their continuing struggle for worker status, the links they’ve helped establish with riders throughout the UK, Germany and France as well as how they plan to continue to spread their message on the job through the use of spoke cards and starter packs for new riders.

All in all another successful conference but it’s time to look forward again and not take our eye off the organising ball despite another madcap electoral season. Two meetings on the horizon at the moment are:

Another radical history walk, Sunday 4th June at 2pm, from Hydra Books, Old Market. Led by Mike Richardson, the topic is the “Bristol Strike Wave of 1889-90, Socialists, New Unionists and New Women“. The walk will take about 2 hours, or so, followed by pub. Please bring along your family, friends and history buffs.

An open meeting on Thursday 8th June at 7.30, Hydra Books, Old Market. This gathering will be with a view to informally induct our new members which we’ve not had time to do so far this year. If you’re interested in being part of a ‘strong and stable’ union, then there’s no better time to come and see what we’re about.

In the meantime, try not to get overwhelmed by electoral guff and take care of each other out there.

Tom / Bristol IWW

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