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Members’ Corner: Dues Money

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In the IWW, like all unions, we pay membership dues. But what are these dues for, and why is it important that we pay them? John O’Reilly explains dues in this article from 2011.

Members corner: dues money by John O’Reilly
Originally appeared in The Organizer # 26(April 2011)

Like many other organizations, our union takes in dues money to fund its activities. But what does our dues money get used for and who decides where it is used? This month in the Member’s Corner, we discuss these issues and talk about why paying dues is useful. In Article 8 of the IWW Constitution[1] the way dues are collected and split up is explained. While a bit confusing at times, it breaks down all the different ways that dues can be paid, collected and split up based on the different types of local organizations. In the Twin Cities, we have a General Membership Branch (or GMB), which means our branch is made up of all the IWW members in the area, regardless of which industry they work in. The Branch Treasurer of our GMB keeps half of our dues money and sends the other half to IWW General Headquarters in Chicago.

While that percentage may seem high, the amount of our dues sent to Headquarters serves an important purpose. “Dues that come to GHQ go to maintain the basics of the organization,” say Joe Tessone, General Secretary-Treasurer of the IWW. “We use that money to file forms with the government, to print and publish new member materials, and maintain membership database.”

Dues money that goes to headquarters also pays for FW Tessone and Headquarters staff to be a resource for our membership: “Dues money allows us to have a general place where people can call and ask questions and maintain an international informational and distribution center for material and information,” FW Tessone, a former Starbucks Workers Union organizer, adds.

Democracy and accountability are an important part of dues “per caps,” as the money that goes to headquarters is called. FW Tessone says that “reading the Financial Reports in the back of the General Organizing Bulletin is the best place to see exactly where money is coming from and going” at the international level. Members can “check the balances of all our bank accounts and where money goes for various organizing drives, can see monthly profit and loss, and our budget vs. actual, which shows overall income and expenses for the entire year to date,” points out Tessone. Members can play a direct role in deciding how that money gets allocated by participating in our yearly referendum and making informed decisions about who gets elected. He also suggests that members can get involved in international committees like the Budget or Audit Committees, made up of rank-and-file workers. Ask your delegate about how to get involved in these and other international committees.

Then there is the other half of our dues money: the part that we keep here in the Twin Cities. As a democratic organization, the membership of the union gets to decide how to spend our dues money. The first Tuesday of every month, the GMB has a monthly business meeting where all members in good standing can vote to decide how to allocate our dues. Every branch of our union meets to allocate funds in a similar way.

Liberté Locke, a union member in New York City and a Starbucks barista, points out ways that her branch has helped her: “We have often cut checks from our account for workers who have been fired for organizing and we’ve also had dues money allocated as a donation for legal fees for a worker fighting deportation.” FW Locke adds that dues money has allowed her branch to get business cards, fliers, tables, and supplies for protests.

In the Twin Cities, we use our dues money in similar ways. We use our dues share to fund our organizing campaigns, assist our members when the bosses retaliate against them, and pay part of our office rent. In short, dues money is how we pool our resources and organize. Individually, workers do not have much power. But when we come together, we can do great things. Similarly, dues are just a tiny part of our monthly income, but when we use dues collectively we can give crucial financial support to support our organizing and each other. Make sure to get in touch with your delegate each month to pay dues so that we can move the work along.

[1] available online at http://www.iww.org/PDF/Constitutions/CurrentIWWConstitution.pdf or on paper from your delegate

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