Who We Are
The North American Education Workers Industrial Union is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World. We work in schools, in day care and learning centers, and on campuses. We teach. We fix equipment. We cook. We order and shelve books. We clean. We research. We tutor. We file and type. We keep computers running smoothly. We do what needs to be done to bring education to the world. We are in the same union.
Currently, we are building local Industrial Union Branches, participating in rank and file activity in business unions, and forming unions. We are organizing to improve our working conditions, and students’ learning conditions, today, and building the sort of union power that can bring about a better world.
Anyone who works in or for an educational institution is an education worker in the IWW’s eyes. Teachers, lecturers, trainers, classroom assistants, nursery staff, admin workers, caretakers, cleaners, porters, librarians, kitchen staff, technicians, ancillary staff, and so on. If you work in the education sector, irrespective of your job, you are an education worker.
Why an industrial union?
There’s currently a plethora of trade union initials in the education sector: the AFT, NEA, UAW, CAUT, and others for teaching and lecturing staff. Then there’s AFSCME, SEIU, UNITE-HERE, CUPE, and others for support and ancillary workers, and all of these trade unions operate separately and sectionally, with members of one union all too often pitted against members of another. Many contemporary unions lack any sort of logical organization, with graduate student workers in unions like the United Auto Workers yet in a completely different union from co-workers in the same workplace.
Added to this is the idea of ‘professionalism’ which falsely sees teachers and lecturers as some kind of middle class elite who are somehow separate from their fellow non-teaching workers. The worst aspects of this kind of ‘professional’ thinking are indicated by some of the more partnership oriented education unions.
The upshot of all this division is, it’s not uncommon to see workers from one union on strike, with other workers advised by their own unions to cross picket lines because their strike takes place on a different day.
This kind of ‘organization’ can only be of benefit to the management, but for education workers, it is a millstone around our necks.
Another set of initials?
No, the IWW is not just another set of initials thrown into the education unions’ alphabet soup. Our aim is to bring all education workers together, whatever your job or professional credentials, whether trade union member or not, into a fighting rank and file organisation. In the IWW, the teacher, the classroom assistant, the cleaner, the caretaker, the admin worker and the cook all stand united as workers.
Since the education sector is one of the most unionised sectors in North American, many IWW education workers operate as a network of workplace militants within the mainstream education unions. As such, the IWW welcomes education workers who are already in another union. Our members are engaged both in independent IWW organising work, and pushing a radical and democratic platform within the mainstream unions.
The state of the union
The Education Workers’ Industrial Union (No. 620) is one of the largest section of the IWW. We have active organizing campaigns and committees in branches around the country and our numbers are growing apace. Our members are involved in organizing at their own workplaces, representing other members at grievance and disciplinary hearings, supporting struggles elsewhere and participating in community-based campaigns.
We remain small, but we are growing in numbers, strength and confidence. This is because a radical, rank-and-file run industrial union for all education workers is both possible and necessary.
Why not join us?