Revisiting the Five Year Plan – can we do it in four?


  • 10,000 members in North America
  • 100 Branches in North America, with an average size of 100 members
  • 1,000 members and 20 Branches in the US South


  • Fully automated luxury syndicalism
  • Eradicate amateurism
  • Strong metrics on membership recruitment, engagement, and attrition
  • Crush bosses
Complete the five year plan in four years!

A while ago I wrote an article about the importance of planning for the union. (There were two good responses to it, but I never did revisit the topic directly.)  We have to have an idea of where we’re going, to measure how we’re doing. I suggested the three goals above plus some more. I still think we can do it – but now we have to do it in four years.

We are the only organization in North America that has a vision and a plan for a fighting labor movement which escapes from the prison of labor law. We have to come up with a program for applying that vision, and winning. If we show that our program is the best bet for a better life, workers will bust down our doors to join. IWOC is an excellent example – the excitement it creates is contagious.

But inspiring workers to join is not enough. We have to show that it’s worth it to stay in the IWW. To be serious about building revolutionary unions to overturn capitalism, we have to get much better at the day-to-day, hum-drum administration. This means rethinking everything that we’ve assumed is working.



We’ve moved past the technology that the union’s founders had in 1905. We made a big leap around 2005 – it’s time to do that again. We need to minimize manual procedures which are prone to human error, forgetting, disorganization, and duplication. Relying on thousands of emails, having to ask each other for contact information, not knowing who was the last to talk with a potential new member – all of these add unneeded extra work and possible mistakes, and we can move past all of them.

One of the keys will be the database (CiviCRM). CiviCRM isn’t the end of our use of new technologies, it’s the beginning. There are a lot of other tools that we’ll be able to use as well to allow us all to spend more time agitating, educating, and organizing, and less time administrating.

We also have to prioritize scalability. If we’re going to double in size every year, we need our processes to scale much better than they currently do. We need to standardize the best practices from our best branches across the union. We need branch formation to become much simpler. We need to have new member webinars broadcast from GHQ, as a pilot towards similar programs.



Let’s start with the new member webinars, which are already in development. We can build tools to automatically inform new members anywhere in North America about upcoming webinars. We can track how many of them read the email or RSVP. We can track how many members actually attend, from which branches. A year later we can track how many of them have gone to OT101’s, or run for Branch office, or built new Branches, or left the union.

We can also build tools to keep track of potential members, and use marketing automation (or “agitation automation”) tools to keep in touch with them, track how interested they are, and assist organizers in recruiting members. In fact all of this would be the same tool, and all of it could be done with CiviCRM.

Keeping thorough metrics will allow us to do a much better job knowing where to focus on improving, so that we can continually get better at building the OBU and crushing bosses.



Amateurism is a plague on the Left and it affects us too. It’s the attitude that we are constantly dabbling and doing things willy-nilly. As an organization, if we are going to challenge the organizations of the employing class, then we have to hold ourselves to at least as high of standards as they do. A lot of the tools which they use work well, and we should use them ourselves.

For example: on the Southern Speaking Tour we used contact sheets at each event to follow up with people who came. We tried to send them all emails with surveys, and share the contacts with local organizers. We probably missed a few people, or took too long in some cases.

Now imagine that after every public event, we create (or update) contacts in CiviCRM and mark that they went to the event. Our agitation automation tool sends an email to all of the attendees three days later and tracks who opens it or fills out the survey. If there is a follow-up event three months later, our tool emails all contacts in the city, and tracks who comes back. We can then track if they join, or form a branch.

There are many areas of the union where we can “professionalize” our tools, our attitude, and our expectations. However, it isn’t just a light switch that can be flipped – it’s something we need to continually push ourselves on, and find new areas to improve.

We need to stand for One Big Google Drive, and a serious fighting organization of the working class.

Note: This is a slightly edited version of my candidate statement for the 2017 IWW General Executive Board. I am reproducing it here as it touches on several issues which have been raised on this blog. A few points more related to me as an individual have been removed.


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