Inside Bylaws

Instructions for Forming Your IWOC Local Inside

  1. An inside IWOC Local may be chartered by the IWOC Steering Committee once 5+ IWW Members within a facility, state, or other regional boundary have shown evidence of collectivity through their work with an outside IWOC local, branch, or IWOC HQ.
  2. Inside IWOC locals should select a delegate for the Steering Committee from among their membership and identify a trusted outside liaison. The     prospective inside local should work with their liaison and the IWOC Steering Committee to determine how the delegate will participate in     Steering Committee work. Delegate applications are enclosed.
  3. Inside IWOC Locals shall strive toward becoming a chartered Industrial Union Branch (IU 613).

Instructions for Forming Your IWW Industrial Union 613 Branch

To create an IWW branch in your prison, or cell block, you need to have:

  1. A completed branch application signed by a minimum of 10 committed IWW members. Two applications are provided.    
  2. Bylaws. You can use the bylaws below as they are or you can change it to serve your needs. The bylaws are double spaced and you can note your changes between the lines or rewrite a fresh copy or whatever suits your needs. Two  copies are provided so you can return one to us and keep one for yourselves.
  3. A short letter describing why you want to be a branch.
  4. A copy of notes from your founding meeting which describe democratically electing branch officers, who must be IWW members:
  5. At least one Delegate to sign up new members and do organizing. Two applications are provided.
  6. A Secretary to maintain membership and communication with IWOC        
  7. A member to serve on the IWOC Steering Committee to bring branch proposals forward
  8. A completed delegate application with names of a minimum of 10 committed IWW members. Also include prison ID numbers so we can send mail to everyone.
  9. Contact info for a committed outside liaison to help your branch communicate with the Steering Committee. Let your branch know if none of your members have a friend or family member on the outside who can serve in this capacity.    
  10. Send a copy of your delegate application, branch bylaws, and notes from your founding meeting to your local IWOC or to IWOC HQ, PO Box 414304, Kansas City, MO 64141
  11. Be ready to build a force for change within the prison system, run democratically by people in prison themselves

***IMPORTANT NOTE*** The 5 to 10 founding members of Locals and Branches inside prisons should not have charges or infractions related to sexual violence. We know that many are unjustly accused and we do embrace restorative processes, however the founding members of Locals and Branches should all be people who do not have these sorts of charges. This approach will be more successful behind bars and it also supports IWW culture and policies which strongly denounce sexual violence.

IWW GEB Criteria for Reviewing and Issuing Branch Charters

This is what is required from the IWW's General Executive Board (GEB) to Charter a new Branch. Given the unique conditions of people in prisons only items #1, #2, and #6 are necessary to charter a branch. #5 is in place to protect the organization in case of internal conflict.

1. Each application for charter shall include the name, card number, signature, and date signed by each member signing the application.

2. The body that is applying for a charter shall have convened a meeting and adopted by-laws, and elected the minimum required number of officers to fulfill the obligations under the IWW Constitution (Branch Secretary and Delegate(s)), and copies of the minutes shall be submitted with the charter application.

3. The bank name and account number, if any, shall be transmitted to GHQ within 60 days of opening any account when using the IWW Employer Identification Number (US only) that is used by GHQ.

4. All dues and monies owed to GHQ must be settled before any charter is granted, unless exempted by the GEB in accordance with the IWW Constitution.

5. The GEB reserves the right, upon issuance of a charter, to regulate the name of the body, and shall hold exclusive jurisdiction on the issuance of local numbers.

6. The petitioning members shall issue a letter to the GEB explaining the intent of the proposed organization.

7. GEB members shall have satisfied all above criteria before making a motion to approve a charter.

IWOC Branch Bylaws

Article 1: Purpose

IWW Branches in prison do the following:

  1. Contribute to the formation of Industrial Union 613.
  2. Educate their members on the revolutionary unionizing principles of the IWW.        
  3. Organize incarcerated people to improve conditions, build solidarity among workers, and abolish prisons and slavery.
  4. Grow the global movement to end capitalism and all oppression, replacing this system with a truly free and just society.    

Article 2: Powers of a Branch and Industrial Union

2.1 IWW Branches can send proposals to the annual IWW Convention and send votes on the proposals of other branches relevant to them. IWW Convention takes place every Labor Day Weekend in September and proposals are due 90 days in advance.

2.2 Branches can nominate a member to serve on the IWOC Steering Committee and also have the power to send formal proposals to the IWOC Steering Committee or all other branches and organizing groups in the IWOC network.

2.3 Once there are 10 IUBs in 613 they may request an Industrial Union Charter from the General Executive Board of the IWW to become a self-governed IWW body. As an Industrial Union, members in 613 will create their own governance structure, their own dues rates and initiation fees (or continue to request that dues be waived by the union), and direct the struggle for educating, organizing, and emancipating the entire prison industry.

Article 3: Member Expectations and Rights

3.1 Due to conditions in prisons, incarcerated members of the IWW are not expected to pay dues as of July 2017. However, Members are expected to:

  • Educate themselves on the IWW, prison industry, and the liberation of all people    
  • Participate in organizing their prison and prison system including engaging their peers, electing officers, and doing what is necessary to     improve conditions    
  • Connect with friends, family, or contacts outside, in other prisons, and with IWOC to grow the power of our organization    

3.2 Members will join through an elected delegate, inside or outside prison. All groups of members will be sent the Incarcerated Worker publication, to which members are encouraged to send articles, art, or other submissions.

3.3 Members have the power to elect or remove local officers.

The IWW is a member run organization, the power and responsibility is yours.

Article 4: Decision Making and Elections

Branch Decision-Making

4.1 Voting: One member, one vote, is the rule. Majority determines the course. Collection of votes should be done appropriate to local conditions.

4.2 Meetings: Meetings should happen on a regular schedule (week or bi-weekly for example). When in person meetings are not possible, proposals may be circulated for approval, or discussion coordinated through a committee of elected delegates. Those responsible for collecting votes or coordinating meetings should rotate to grow skills and share power.

4.3 Quorum: No formal branch decision should be made without a quorum of 5 members voting, and the greatest number possible should be included in the vote. Mass participation and democracy create mass buy in and collective power.

4.4 Power to the oppressed: Those most impacted by any issue should take the lead, with others supporting them as appropriate.

4.5 Conflict: Conflict should be addressed directly between members who have an issue with one another. Talk to each other, or talk with or talk with a mediator. They will try to divide us, let us work out conflict directly. No one is perfect nor above critique. However, we don’t have to agree on everything: hence majority based decision-making.

4.6 Suspending Membership or Appealing It (the IWW’s Charges Process): If necessary a member may have their membership suspended or expelled if, after an investigation with the ability to defend themselves, they are shown to be working against the interests of their Branch or the principles and practices of the IWW. This must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Branch. A member may appeal their suspension or expulsion through GHQ and the hearing of a neutral Branch, or ultimately to the annual IWW Convention. Contact the IWOC Steering Committee or IWW General Headquarters for assistance.

Branch Elections

4.7 Branch Officers will be elected by a majority vote of the membership on an annual basis, with special elections to add or replace officers as needed. Secret ballots are encouraged. February is a recommended time for elections.

Annual Voting

4.8 All members will have a vote in annual IWW Officer Elections and Proposals. Election Committees or Branch Secretaries along with Delegates should ensure all members are able to vote and to work with delegates to compile and get votes sent in. Ideally the Election Committee or Branch Secretary will send several members votes in together to reduce postage costs.

4.9 “Meetings” or consistent times by which votes on proposals should be counted and decisions made should happen on a regular and at least monthly basis. Emergency meetings may also be called by the agreement of at least three Branch Officers, or five active IWW members, though emergency initiative may sometimes require the decision of smaller groups.

Article 5: Officers

5.1 Branch Officers are delegated by the members to lead by following the wishes of the membership and encouraging their development as organizers and revolutionaries. If a branch does not exist, IWOC may designate Delegates to sign up new members until a local group is ready to do so on their own.

5.2 One Year Terms: As elected officers, they are entrusted with crucial tasks by the membership and the organization as a whole. All officers will have yearly terms unless otherwise specified by the Branch.

5.3 Public Contact Information: Unless otherwise specified, officers should be willing to have their contact information given to other members of IWOC to facilitate communication and mutual support.

5.4 Removal: If necessary, any local IWW officer not serving their duties can be removed from their position by a majority vote of the local. However we encourage members to build with each other and help identify barriers to members succeeding at their position prior to removal.

A. Delegates

Delegates are the face of the IWW inside prisons and the formal connection point between IWOC groups who are not yet branches in prison and IWOC at large. They are responsible to:

1. Sign up and orient new members   

2. Report monthly to the IWOC

3. Encourage members to stay active and become organizers themselves.    

Signing Up New Members

Delegates are responsible for signing up new members. They should orient new members to the union ensure that the member fills out a sends in a New Member Application. In partnership with IWOC Steering Committee they should be sure that new members receive a current IWW constitution, the One Big Union pamphlet, and a copy of the Incarcerated Worker. They should also give new members access to their branch's by-laws and any other new member orientation materials the branch makes use of.

Reporting Monthly

Delegates are responsible for submitting monthly reports to IWOC. Reports may be submitted through their Branch Secretary or directly to IWOC. Delegates are expected to report every month!

Keeping Members Active and Becoming Organizers

Delegates are responsible for staying in touch with members and ensuring they have things to do to stay active.

B. Branch Secretaries

Branch Secretaries are the formal link between IWOC Branches in prison and IWOC at large. They are elected to ensure that IWOC stays informed about the branch and that the branch as a whole is informed and participating in IWOC wide processes. Branch Secretaries support members and Delegates to ensure branch functioning and democracy. They are trustworthy people who are good with details, process, people, and communication, and well situated to ensure flow of information.

Branch secretaries are responsible to:

  • Ensure and or compile monthly reports to IWOC.
  • Ensure branch functioning including elections, delegates, internal communication, and following Branch Bylaws        
  • Know up to date information on branch membership and submit a bi-annual report to IWOC with an updated list of members May and November of     every year    
  • Problem solve and inform Branch members of their rights within IWOC    

C. Member of the IWOC Steering Committee

The IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is growing into an Industrial Union of people who are incarcerated. To grow and organize for freedom. Making this growth and organization happen, in partnership with the Steering Committee and other such members in other IWOC Branches is the role of this officer.

Specifically they are required to

  • Regularly communicate, at least monthly, with other members of the Industrial Union Organizing Committee in partnership with the IWOC Steering Committee    
  • Regularly engage their branch members on the questions involved in growing IWOC and forming an Industrial Union
  • Participate in as much steering committee business as possible by phone, mail, or other means of communication

D. Outside Liaison

Outside Liaison(s) will serve as the Branch’s advocate to the world and IWOC, and form the seed or root of an outside IWW Branch or IWOC Committee in an existing branch. They should therefore be stable, trustworthy, and invested in the people inside.

They should

  • Join the IWW if they are not already a member Dues are on a sliding scale
  • Communicate monthly with branch officers, the IWOC, and local allies or organizations.    
  • Relate information from the branch to IWOC and the general public, and to people on the inside    
  • Educate oneself about the IWW, IWOC, and the prison system    
  • Be on quarterly IWOC call    
  • Attend annual IWOC conference if possible

Like all Branch Officers, outside Liaisons should be elected by members inside on an annual basis, though Branches may further grow and differentiate outside tasks as needed (creating an officer for Media, Reentry, Outreach, etc), in partnership with IWOC.

Article 6: Revision

These Bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the Branch. However, as Bylaw edits change the rules of the game, unless in an emergency situation Bylaws changes should be given more time and process to pass. In outside Branches this means being discussed at one meeting and decided at the next meeting.