The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee supports prisoners’ efforts to build their own labor union and organize for their own self-defense against inhumane treatment. We function as a liaison, building bridges between inside and outside to support prisoners organizing their local chapters. We advocate the abolition of incarceration, white supremacy, and capitalism.
POINTS OF UNITY
Our work, as an outside chapter, is to support prisoners in taking and building their own power. Prisoners set the agenda for their own pursuit of liberation.
We offer critical support, not unconditional servitude. We retain our own principles, judgment, and decision-making power. This is mutual political development. We are comrades in a struggle that grows and evolves on both sides of the wall.
We’re up-front and clear with prisoners and the public about our politics and goals.
We offer immediate material support and solidarity, not just symbolic actions and statements.
We build and maintain intentional accountability relationships with other groups and individuals, to give us perspective, critique, & feedback about ourselves and our work.
We don’t allow our work to be hijacked by people who want to use us as a platform for their own gain or other purposes.
We follow through on our commitments. Promises get kept or we don’t make them. There’s skin in the game and people are depending on us.
We advocate prison abolition, not reform. If prisoners are making demands to reform the policies at their institutions, or for legislative reform that could bring them material relief, we may support those demands – but not at the expense of pursuing abolition in the long term.
We oppose white supremacy. We consider incarceration to be, among many other things, an expression of white supremacy. We acknowledge that racism has its own nature and consequences, independent of class oppression (though often operating in conjunction with it). We challenge our white members to confront how they benefit from and exemplify the racist patterns in our society, and to fight these tendencies continually.
We reject labels given by the state such as “guilty,” “criminal,” or “gang member.” We do not choose who we work with based on these or other simple moralistic designations. We may refuse to work with prisoners who espouse ideologies opposed to these points of unity (such as white supremacists), or who will jeopardize other prisoners’ willingness to work with us (such as child molesters), but such decisions are made in the context of ongoing critical discussion.
We are organized in a mostly horizontal fashion, with three levels of membership distinguished by extent of commitment, accountability, and actual work done. We make decisions collectively and discourage authoritarian behaviors.
Prisoners are on the front lines of wage slavery and forced slave labor where refusal to work while in prison results in inhumane retaliation and participating in slave labor contributes to the mechanisms of exploitation. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has consciously grasped the importance of organizing prisoners so that prisoners can directly challenge prison slavery, work conditions, and the system itself: break cycles of criminalization, exploitation, and the state sponsored divisions of our working class. At the same time, the prison environment and culture is a melting pot of capitalistic and exploitative tactics and all forms of oppression. These poisons must be challenged in prisons, institutions, and in all of us, through organized working class solidarity.
Members of the IWW have created the IWOC, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, which functions as a liaison for prisoners to organize each other, unionize, and build solid bridges between prisoners on the inside and fellow workers on the outside. Prison is a setup, a big business, there to make money off the People. Neither the setup, nor the slavery inside of prisons can be combated without the conscious participation of prisoners and the working class on the outside through mutual aid, solidarity, and the building of working relationships that transcend prison walls and the politics of mass incarceration. The IWOC has been actively reaching out to prisoners while at the same time prisoners have been reaching out to the IWW for representation and assistance in building a prisoners union. The IWOC has taken up the cause and is helping prisoners in every facility organize and build a union branch for themselves, which will together form a powerful IWW Industrial Union.
To achieve this cage slave/wage slave alliance the IWOC is accepting IWW membership applications from prisoners who agree with the IWW Constitution and believe that to truly change prison conditions prisoners must be organized and working towards such goals with the help and support of the working class on the outside. Prisoners will be full fledged members of the IWW with their own local prison branch to maintain and develop and will have the same rights and responsibilities of members on the outside. However, due the exploitative nature of the prison system, prisoners are granted free IWW membership, and will not be required to pay dues while in prison. Outside members of the IWOC will be in direct communication with prisoners and provide organizing training, support and guidance in union building, solidarity, and collaborative actions.
We have a world to win and nothing to lose but our chains. In every ghetto, barrio, trailer park, and prison cell, working class solidarity will prevail!
IWOC Statement of Purpose ~ July 31, 2014
1. To further the revolutionary goals of incarcerated people and the IWW through mutual organizing of a worldwide union for emancipation from the prison system.
2. To build class solidarity amongst members of the working class by connecting the struggle of people in prison, jails, and immigrant and juvenile detention centers to workers struggles locally and worldwide.
3. To strategically and tactically support prisoners locally and worldwide, incorporating an analysis of white supremacy, patriarchy, prison culture, and capitalism.
4. To actively struggle to end the criminalization, exploitation, and enslavement of working class people, which disproportionately targets people of color, immigrants, people with low income, LGBTQ people, young people, dissidents, and those with mental illness.
5. To amplify the voices of working class people in prison, especially those engaging in collective action or who put their own lives at risk to improve the conditions of all.