Resolution on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Violence and Complaints Related to Issues Covered by the Safer Spaces Policy

IWW MEMBERS – Please support this message by signing the following petition to include a resolution for the enactment of our recommendations on the 2015 Union-Wide Referendum.


Fellow Workers —

As you’ve probably noticed, an international discussion on patriarchy and sexism within our union has recently begun taking place with renewed fervor. This conversation has been fueled by incidents such as the resignation of FWs Yvonne from the GEB and Nicki from the position of co-editor of the Industrial Worker, who both cited sexism as a major contribution to their decision. Unfortunately, this conversation has brought to light deeper and ultimately more disturbing problems than those which sparked it– problems that warrant immediate action.

If we are going to have an honest and productive conversation about the causes and effects of patriarchy in the IWW, then we must recognize that our own union is sometimes the source of sexual violence committed against our fellow workers.  This statement is intended to amplify the voices of two  fellow workers who have felt silenced by the IWW’s mishandling of instances of sexual violence, to illustrate the severity of these missteps, and to provide immediate and necessary solutions. While we encourage you to read the following statement and to add your name to the petition linked, we understand that some of you may need refrain from doing so for your own mental health.

First, we will share a statement from one fellow worker who details her troubling experience with our complaint process:

It is with great pain that I write this letter. I am literally sick to my stomach imagining this letter being read out loud to a room full of people I don’t know, but even more sick at the thought that this letter is required. I am a rape survivor several times over. My experiences with extraordinary violence left me nearly crippled with PTSD for a long time, which made it difficult to even find- let alone join- the union in the first place but I was assured of the good the union does as well as its commitment to safety and justice. However, for the past few months, my decision to join the union as well as to speak up when I felt unsafe  have made my anxiety attacks, flashbacks, mood swings, nightmares, and depression increase significantly and have led me to question if I made the right choice.

Once I joined my local branch it did not take long for me to learn about an FW who had committed sexual assault, he admitted it freely while at the same times making inappropriate sexual advances towards women in the branch. Although I tried for a few months to ignore my feelings of unease, after a meeting where the FW raised his voice and shouted about how he committed sexual assault, I was no longer physically able to be around him. I had to leave that meeting because I became ill.   Being relatively new to the branch, I was unsure what avenue to take to protect myself or to invoke our safer space policy. I also felt deeply ashamed of both my past and my reaction and wished to remain anonymous to avoid the victimization I feared would occur should I speak up. Thus I turned to a long time branch member who filed a request for immediate relief on my behalf.  The request stated that there were several sexual assault survivors in the branch who were made uncomfortable by the accused’s behavior and it also listed my name specifically.  That same day that the accused forwarded the request for immediate relief which clearly named me as a sexual assault survivor to the entire branch email list. Within less than a day, my anonymity, the thing I had been most desperate to protect, was gone.

Shortly after this, our branch was dechartered. On the day that members of the General Administration came to our former branch office to move union property, they had the accused in tow to help them move.  I felt near hysterical while he was in the vicinity, only agreeing to wait just outside the door, leaving me effectively trapped within the office. When I asked the delegate who had received my immediate relief why this was allowed, he stated that due to the dechartering of the branch no one really knew what to do about my immediate relief.

A few weeks later, in late june, that same delegate sent the immediate relief- including my name and email- to an FW from the GEB and washed his hands of the whole thing. Immediately the FW from the GEB showed ignorance and almost disdain for the whole process. I learned that the accused had also filed a counter- request for immediate relief against my first advocate and the FW from the GEB focused on that rather than the issue of my safety. He also stated that due to the reporting problems in my branch, I wasn’t technically a member and couldn’t pursue a complaint anyways. It was at this time that I reached out to another trusted fellow worker to act as my advocate. 

Throughout this exchange, the accused was consistently sending out emails that not only had my name but were incredibly frightening and threatening, promising he would attend meetings and no one could stop him. I have not attended any meetings as I am afraid of being confronted by this member and lack even the protection of immediate relief.

 The GEB member who oversaw issues in my branch continuously focused on the counter-complaint of the accused, who he called co-operative and friendly, and completely ignored my questions about our safer space policy.  He treated me with disrespect, never addressed me,  ignored me when I shared my fear and discomfort, and chose to focus on a personal issue he had with my previous advocate rather than work with my new advocate to solve existing problems.  I believe that the FW who admitted to sexual assaulting a young girl was being favored over me- the victim of several rapes- because of his relationship with the member of the GEB handling my complaint.

Over the next couple weeks, my new advocate continued to work towards my safety, collecting my verbal testimony and other evidence, reaching out to the GEC for assistance, and filing a formal complaint with the GEB on my behalf. After receiving the complaint, a GEB member informed my advocate that they could not move forward with finding a complaints committee to review it because the GST told them that, again due to reporting issues in my branch, we were not in good standing and, therefore, had no rights as members to file such a complaint. My advocate was ultimately able to convince them to move forward with striking the committee, but the question of enforcing my immediate relief has been ignored to date, even after my advocate and the GEC strongly and consistently encouraged that immediate action be taken.

And now, we will share a statement from another fellow worker whose complaint against a member of the GEB was subject to even more disturbing mishandling:

I filed a formal charge against my branch’s GEB contact on behalf of  a fellow worker because he raped her, as well as on behalf of his misogynistic treatment of a large number of members of my branch.  The accused GEB member initially accepted my terms of relief, with the exception of the term that required him to step back from the GEB until the complaints committee’s recommendation was made.  Because he did not accept this term, my branch held a vote on my request for immediate relief and accepted all of my terms.

The GEB overruled my branch’s vote by saying that we had no right to suspend the accused from the GEB, however,  the constitution specifically states that we can and grants them no special immunity. There was back and forth between the officer I filed my complaint with and the GEB chair where the officer acted as an amazing advocate for me and the person I filed on behalf of, however the GEB was unwilling to waver on their stance.  The only concession the GEB would make was to change our official GEB contact. Additionally, the GEB did not meet the timeline for finding a branch to strike a committee to hear my complaint and, as I waited for action to be taken,  told me that if I was lying there would be counter charges filed against me.

I feel like the seriousness of the charges of sexual assault were totally disregarded and the interests of the accused GEB member were protected while I was made out to have a grudge against him. Further, the accused GEB member was allowed to vote on motions directly pertaining to me, regardless of his obvious conflict of interest.  After this occured, I resigned from a position I held and am seriously considering leaving the entire union due to my treatment. I cannot believe the GEB acted in this dismissive way towards me and the fellow worker who is now a victim of sexual assault, overruled our branch’s decision with zero valid evidence why such action was acceptable, and allowed a member accused of raping a fellow worker to continue to serve on our executive board, let alone vote on issues pertaining to the person who filed the charge against him, while the investigation of the complaint remained open.


The failure to address accusations of sexual violence with the degree of severity they necessitate falls on all members of the General Administration. This inaction allowed for accused rapists to continue with their business unimpeded and silenced those who were victims of harassment and violence.  Even more disturbingly, a pattern of harassment, dismissive attitudes towards the validity of claims, and the questioning of members’ right to safety emerged in the handling of these charges.

It is with this gross and persistent misogyny in mind that we demand that a committee be struck with the mandate of investigating the administration’s mishandling of these complaints and abuse of power at the expense of survivors of sexual assault, and that least half of the members of such a committee be advocates for survivors of sexual assault.

The situation at hand is indicative of issues which run much deeper than the individuals currently holding office and is a reflection of serious inadequacies in our current complaints process.

In order to address the shortcomings of our complaints process, we call for the following:

(1) The training of GEC officers as advocates and the empowerment of these advocates to oversee the charges process for all complaints related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence, conduct all mediation procedures resulting from such complaints, and to formally file complaints for fellow workers upon request, through verbal testimony given to them

(2) That any fellow worker wishing to file a complaint related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence be able to do so with the GEC, whether or not the accused and complainant are in the same GMB, and that, if requests for immediate relief are not accepted by a GMB, that the decision should be subject to appeal to the GEC

(3) The waiver of the requirement for complainants filing charges related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy to remain in good standing throughout the entirety of the charges process and upon conclusion of the complaints process, should they fall out of standing, the option to pay a one time re-initiation fee or to pay back-dues without a break reflected in the record of their standing, and the reduction of the requirement for filing such a complaint to that of active standing

(4) The addition of  ‘group charges’ to be filed by any number of fellow workers with similar or related experiences, so that they may be heard and ruled upon simultaneously, with all parties able to openly share their experiences as necessary to file their shared complaint, and allow for additional parties not listed on the charge to offer statements and/or evidence corroborating similar or related claims

We must never forget that fighting for the liberation of all workers necessitates fighting all forces of oppression which affect all members of the working class.As we fight the bosses, we also must challenge sexism and patriarchy within radical working class movements and our own union.

We hope that the recommendations included in this statement will serve as the first step to the IWW’s renewed ability to truly be a union for all workers– women included.


Resolution on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Violence and Complaints Related to Issues Covered by the Safer Spaces Policy

WHEREAS, we must never forget that fighting for the liberation of all workers necessitates fighting all forces of oppression which affect all members of the working class,

WHEREAS, our own union is sometimes the source of sexual violence committed against our fellow workers,

WHEREAS, the failure to address accusations of sexual violence with the degree of severity they necessitate falls on all members of the General Administration,

WHEREAS, this inaction allowed for accused rapists to continue with their business unimpeded and silenced those who were victims of harassment and violence,

and WHEREAS, a pattern of harassment, dismissive attitudes towards the validity of claims, and the questioning of members’ right to safety emerged in the handling of charges filed regarding sexual and gender based violence,

LET IT BE RESOLVED, that a committee be struck with the mandate of investigating the administration’s mishandling of complaints related to sexual and gender based harassment and violence and abuse of power at the expense of survivors of sexual assault, and that least half of the members of such a committee be advocates for survivors of sexual assault,

BE RESOLVED,  that all Gender Equity Committee (GEC) officers not already trained as advocates be given such training and that these advocates be empowered to oversee the charges process for all complaints related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence, conduct all mediation procedures resulting from such complaints, and to formally file complaints for fellow workers upon request, through verbal testimony given to them,

BE RESOLVED, that any fellow worker wishing to file a complaint related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence be able to do so with the GEC, whether or not the accused and complainant are in the same chartered body, and that, if requests for immediate relief are not accepted by such a body, that the decision should be subject to appeal to the GEC,

BE RESOLVED, that the requirement be waived for complainants filing charges related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy to remain in good standing throughout the entirety of the charges process and upon conclusion of the complaints process, should they fall out of standing, the option be given to pay a one time re-initiation fee or to pay back-dues without a break reflected in the record of their standing, and the requirement for filing such a complaint be reduced to that of active standing,

BE RESOLVED,  that any number of fellow workers with similar or related experiences related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy be empowered to file ‘group charges’ so that they may be heard and ruled upon simultaneously, with all parties able to openly share their experiences as necessary to file their shared complaint, and that additional parties not listed on the charge be empowered to offer statements and/or evidence corroborating similar or related claims,

and FURTHER RESOLVED, that the IWW Constitution be amended to reflect these changes to the charges process, so that the General Bylaws, Article III, include the addition of Section 11 “Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Violence and Complaints Related to Issues Covered by the Safer Spaces Policy” along with the following subsections:

(a) We must never forget that fighting for the liberation of all workers necessitates fighting all forces of oppression which affect all members of the working class.  As we fight the bosses, we also must challenge sexism, patriarchy, racism, ableism, and all forms of bigotry within radical working class movements and our own union. We also must recognize that own union is sometimes the source of sexual violence committed against our fellow workers.

(b) All officers elected to the Gender Equity Committee (GEC) who are not already trained as advocates shall be given such training and these advocates shall be empowered to oversee the charges process for all complaints related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence, conduct all mediation procedures resulting from such complaints, and to formally file complaints for fellow workers upon request, through verbal testimony given to them.

(c) Any fellow worker wishing to file a complaint related to sexual or gender based harassment and violence shall be able to do so with the GEC, whether or not the accused and complainant are members of the same chartered IWW body, and if requests for immediate relief are not accepted by that body, that decision shall be subject to appeal to the GEC,

(d) The requirement shall be waived to remain in good standing throughout the entirety of the charges process for complainants filing charges related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy, and upon conclusion of the complaints process, should such complainants fall out of good standing, the option shall be given to them to pay a one time re-initiation fee or to pay back-dues without a break reflected in the record of their standing, and the requirement for filing such a complaint shall be reduced to that of active standing, or dues paid within the five month period prior to the month during which the complaint is filed,

(e) Any number of fellow workers with similar or related experiences related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy shall be empowered to file “group charges” so that they may be heard and ruled upon simultaneously, with all parties able to openly share their experiences as necessary to file their shared complaint, and that additional parties not listed on the charge shall be empowered to offer statements and/or evidence corroborating similar or related claims.

(f) The safety and well-being of complainants filing charges related to those concerns covered by the safer spaces policy shall be given priority over issues such as standing and privacy and should always be considered to be related to matters to that impact the union and approved for hearing by a complaints committee.


IWW MEMBERS – Please support this message by signing the following petition to include a resolution for the enactment of our recommendations on the 2015 Union-Wide Referendum.

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