Today we post “What’s Your 5 Year Plan?” by Lifelong Wobbly which first appeared on his blog on December 3rd, 2014. The piece presents important challenges for the potential growth of the IWW over the next few years, and proposes a model for putting ideas to work. Regardless of whether the suggestions are ambitious or not, they’re specific milestones that can allow us to track progress. We think it’s important to visualize our desires for the union, but even more important to put them down in writing, and start working through measured goals to materialize that vision. We hope that you join the discussion not only with us but also with your branch members and people you know in the union to emphasize how we can direct our efforts toward improving the OBU.
What’s Your 5 Year Plan? by Lifelong Wobbly
In my first post on this blog, “Getting Your Second Five Year Card: Six Tips for Life-Long Wobblies“, I encouraged Fellow Workers to strategize ten years ahead for the organization. Here’s what I put as some of my goals:
“Put in concrete terms, I think an achievable membership figure for 2024 would be 10,000 in North America. (Though I worry if this is too modest, considering how much has changed in the last ten years?) This is ten times our current membership, but the organization would look far different. Right now in North America we have 51 branches with a median size of around 11 members. Only five branches have around 50 or more, and are constantly involved in actual workplace struggles, becoming a pole of attraction in their city, such as the Twin Cities, Bay Area, or Portland. (I used the information from GOB #7 2014, and assumed ten members for each of the ten branches whose information was not reported.)
For a union of 10,000 members, let’s assume 100 branches with a median size of 100. Some larger, some smaller, some cities with multiple branches. That means we’d be present in a lot more cities; it also means that in a lot of the cities we’re present in, we’d be well established, rooted in local labor struggles, and attracting workers who are interested in building a radical labor movement. If you start to imagine what this would look like, it becomes clear that our current structure cannot scale, and would collapse under all the weight. We’d have to move to something where responsibilities are both more collective and devolved.”
After reflecting on it for a few months, and discussing with other fellow workers, I think I was right to promote long-term planning, and to think in materialist terms about what our organization should look like. I also think I was right to ask if I was being too modest. I think that if we had the collective ambition, invested the resources, and had a resilient structure which could scale quickly, we could meet these goals in five years rather than ten.
So here it is. Here are my measurable goals for what I’d like the organization to look like on January 1, 2020 in the US:
- 10,000 current dues paying members;
- All members are in branches or pre-branch structures (no at-large membership);
- Four new members for every one who leaves;
- 100 cities where we have an organized presence, with a median size of 100 members;
- A yearly average of at least ten new chartered branches, and less than one dechartered branch;
- Three or more cities where we have at least 500 members;
- At least 20 branches and 1000 members in the South;
- At least 50 cities where we have stable offices or union halls;
- Three or more industries where we have a stable, organized network or caucus of at least 100 established militants, with the resources and organizational support to influence thousands of their fellow workers;
- Fully bilingual: a Spanish-language publication appearing at least quarterly, Spanish web presence, Spanish-language trainings, live interpretation at all national meetings, at least 10 branches which are significantly, if not majority, Spanish-speaking;
- Allied non-profit foundation for publishing & education with an annual budget of at least $500,000, and appropriate staff;
- Less than 1 out of 10 officers resigning before the end of their terms;
- An average of twenty new articles every month on the website, with at least two-thirds about active workplace struggles that IWWs are involved in, and web traffic 10x higher than whatever we currently have.
OK. These are concrete, measurable goals. They require a plan to get there, and a lot of work. For example, in the US we currently have ~800 members in branches, and ~400 at-large members. Getting to 10,000 could be done in four years, if we doubled in size every single year. Considering that our US membership is roughly the same as it was when I joined in 2005, that’s a tall order.
I have plenty of thoughts about concrete steps we can take to move in this direction, which I’ll turn into a post next week. I’m not putting them in this post, because I’d like to invite others to think about how we could implement these or similar goals, and because I also want to begin the discussion by talking about goals before strategy and tactics.
So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the very concept of creating five-year goals for the union? Are some of the goals too ambitious, or not ambitious enough? What measurable goals do you think are missing from this list, or which ones should be removed? Can we complete a five year plan in four years? Have it out in the comments.