Industrial Workers of the World

The Philippine experience in labor movements shows that workers’ unions are singly focused on the protection of workers’ interests through peaceful negotiations although strikes, walkouts, and slowdowns are resorted to as leverage in a few instances when bargaining negotiations reach a standoff or there were perceived abuses committed by employers

August 12, 2022

This article is a reaction to the research on ideology and revolution by Jade Saab, a Lebanese/Canadian, a Ph.D. candidate, a thinker, and a writer specializing in politics and labor union organizations.

In a blog he posted in 2020, he analyzed the philosophy and ideology in the preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World or IWW 1905 constitution which aims to overthrow capitalism and build a new society within the shell of the old.

If his research is near factual and unless another scholar disputes the narratives he presented, his story compels employers and policymakers of the free world to be wary of the misguided purpose of some labor movements within their jurisdictions who are leaning towards the IWW doctrine.

This article also aims to invite lively academic discussion on the real role of a labor union in nation-building under a capitalist economic system where it was held that profit objective was the main driver for business until the UN officially adopted sustainability as a goal in 2015 under the program of Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG. It is important to mention, however, that even before ESG became a buzzword many generational family-owned enterprises, which have since become public, embraced the principles of ESG.

According to Jade Saab, the IWW with members known as wobblies has the ultimate goal of overthrowing the capitalist system. It has undergone several iterations up to 1908 and has remained unchanged apart from small additions in 1991.

In the preamble of its constitution, it postulated that there should be a ceaseless struggle between the employing class and the working class for they have nothing in common.

This preamble permeates and becomes a template for many unions in many countries in the world. However, stripped of its euphonious phrases to win the hearts and minds of workers, the IWW constitution is a manual for a labor union’s self-destruction.

There are three categorical imperatives embedded in the IWW movement. First is Marxism, after Karl Marx’s classless society. The second is Anarchism, which postulates a utopian society where each member voluntarily acts for the good of all and has no need for government and calls for the abolition of the wage system, and the third is Syndicalism, which is a political and economic system where workers seize and own the enterprises by direct means such as a general strike.

But in the Philippine setting, no labor union subscribes to any of the IWW philosophies. Even the two unregistered and most radical and militant labor groups nor anyone of the 119,486 registered labor unions (as of the second quarter of 2022) publicly espouse the three extreme dogmas of IWW.

The Philippine experience in labor movements shows that workers’ unions are singly focused on the protection of workers’ interests through peaceful negotiations although strikes, walkouts, and slowdowns are resorted to as leverage in a few instances when bargaining negotiations reach a standoff or there were perceived abuses committed by employers.

To preserve capitalism and shield it from the IWW goal of abolishing or completely taking over the capitalist economy, the International Labor Organization or ILO adopted a convention on Tripartism, a partnership for interaction and cooperation between labor, management, and state to resolve issues of common concern.

Tripartism aims to achieve lasting industrial peace, promote decent jobs, encourage sustainable business operations to thrive, and provide job security.

Now, more than ever, the country needs a tripartite partnership to work in harmony as the economy needs to rise above the existential crisis caused by the pandemic as well as other natural disasters and global armed conflict.

Employers are confident our labor unions are patriots who will not be mesmerized by the revolutionary swan song of IWW. We want to believe that they share the same dream for the common good and the inclusive economic development of our country to uplift the lives and promote the welfare of their members.


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