A 5-year plan for Sheffield IWW

These objectives are ‘possible’ in two ways. Firstly, I believe they are realistic, and can be achieved if organising energy and resources are invested wisely and efficiently. Secondly, the objectives themselves are perhaps less important than getting Sheffield wobs to think in terms of long-term wobbly planning, and the building blocks of goals, strategy and tactics for reaching our objectives. Therefore I’d invite wobs to comment about other possible objectives, missing objectives, overambitious objectives, under-ambitious objectives etc. I’d also love to hear thoughts on strategy – on how to actually reach these goals, perhaps the subject of a further article(s).

So here goes:

  1. 500 members in good standing. Why this number? To be honest it’s somewhat arbitrary, as its difficult to predict growth rates for such a long period of time. However, we recently hit 70 members, and have been growing at around a 100% annual growth rate for the past 6 months. If we kept growing at 100% we’d have 2240 members in five years. However, growth doesn’t sustain itself at such a rate. Rather, it seems to follow a rough model: a) we have X members and wish to reach Y, but are struggling to expand b) we update our organisational infrastructure c) growth expands, reaching Y d) growth requirements again outgrow organisational infrastructure, requiring a new makeover back to step b etc. So 500 after 5 years hopefully reflects the relationship between union infrastructure and membership growth and poses an ambitious, but achievable membership target.
  2. Strong branches in surrounding major cities – chiefly Leeds, Nottingham and Tyne and Wear, which in recent times have had some difficulty sustaining themselves. ‘Strong branches’ could be taken to mean around 100-200 members, branches having own long-term strategies in place, industrial focus points, consistent and efficient administration etc.
  3. Established General Membership Branches (GMBs) or groups working towards chartering in surrounding urban centres of Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley and Chesterfield. Beginnings of groups further afield e.g. Worksop, Wakefield, Scunthorpe, Lincoln.
  4. Hospitality Industrial Organising Committee (IOC) at 50-100 members, working with other hospitality IOCs around UK to form an Industrial Union (IU) by the end of 2020. At least 3 sustained workplace organising committees in the Sheffield IOC, and other relevant health indicators e.g. efficient administration, regular training, media, mentoring etc.
  5. At least 2 other healthy IOCs (most likely Education and Health Care.) with 25+ members each, basic officers and working with IOCs in same industry in other UK regions.
  6. Representation and diversity. Reflection of Sheffield demographics through key indicators. Ethnic – 19.2% of Sheffielders are non-white – this reflected in membership and active membership. Gender – 50% active membership being non-male, with gender equity strategies carried over to the IOCs. Age – Average age raised by 5 years and a continued, notable break from student/activist cultural circles.
  7. Industrial diversification. Entry/better representation in key Sheffield industries: Entering transport and distribution with embryonic IOCs (10-15 members) and stronger showing in education, health care and public admin (as above, healthy IOCs with 25+ members).

Finally, the quantitative and tangible indicators are meaningless without their less tangible cousin – workers’ power/workplace counter-culture. Its not enough to have 500 members signed up and existing in the fashion of a TUC union. What we need is pockets of organised, workplace militants dedicated to building a revolutionary union and developing new workers into new and greater wobblies. This mean workers that get the union and get the organising methodology of the IWW. It means workplaces with active committees and active workplace struggle gaining clear victories. It means militants that are able to work strategically towards long term goals, willing to put in the boring hard work and capable of weathering any setbacks that may arise.

So there’s some goals, now all we need is a plan…

Originally posted: January 17, 2015 at New Syndicalist

Posted By

Juan Conatz
Jul 27 2015 05:00


Attached files


Steel City Synd...
Jul 29 2015 19:35

When this article was first released, I wrote the following article in response (I am a member of Sheffield IWW):