Subfonds - Industrial Workers of the World

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Industrial Workers of the World

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ca. 1.2 meters of textual records.
ca. 200 photographs.

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In the late 1960s, Tom Wayman, along with a group of other young activists, resuscitated the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the Vancouver area. The organization-which was founded on the principle of organizing all
workers into “one big union”- enjoyed a vibrant period of activity from 1905 to 1930, attracting tens of thousands of members throughout North America’s mid west and west coast. By the 1950s, however, the IWW had declined in size and vigour. Inspired by the social movements of the 1960s, Wayman and his Vancouver colleagues sought to bring the principles of the IWW to a new generation of young workers.
The local organization for the Vancouver area in the 1970s was termed a General Membership Branch (GMB). Among other activities, the GMB recruited construction crews to the IWW, organized an IWW musician’s local, produced pamphlets on various labor and political issues and published a monthly newsletter entitled Solidarity Bulletin from 1972-1973. At times the 1970s Vancouver GMB had a confrontational relationship with the IWW’s main co-ordinating body in Chicago, the “General Executive Board”
(GEB). As with other sections of the Canadian labor movement in the 1970s, Canadian members of the IWW (mostly from the Vancouver GMB) sought greater autonomy from their US central office. These members formed a “Canadian Administration” of the IWW and held a founding convention at Simon Fraser University in 1973. Later however, the international IWW refused to allow a separate Canadian Administration.
After a 9 year hiatus, Wayman and others again resuscitated the Vancouver GMB. The 1980s version sought to organize workers into IWW “job shops” and published the Solidarity Bulletin along with many other leaflets and pamphlets. They were successful in organizing two “job shops”: an East Vancouver computer and graphics co-operative store and a Kaslo area bread-making co-op. The GMB also became heavily active in various social and political campaigns, mainly involving unemployed and low-wage workers. The Vancouver branch also put on cultural events including an annual May Day dance. During this time, the GMB’s relationship with the international IWW became somewhat less confrontational than it had been in the 1970s. Although, there was further discussion of Canadian autonomy, members from Vancouver served on the GEB and in 1987, the IWW’s annual convention was organized and hosted by the Vancouver GMB. This was the first time the organization’s conference had been held outside of Chicago.

Custodial history

Records from all three periods of the IWW’s existence in Vancouver remained in Tom Wyman’s custody until 2006, when they were transferred to Rare Books and Special Collections.

Scope and content

This sous-fonds consists of records that document the Vancouver GMB’s internal business, its relationship with other IWW bodies such as the GEB, its publications and its external activities. These records include minutes, correspondence, photographs, posters pamphlets and drafts of the Solidarity Bulletin newsletter. Also included in the sous-fonds are important historical IWW publications from the 1920s and 1930s. Although there are records from the 1970s, these are arranged in a separate series from the 1980s records because they are less complete. Additionally, the Vancouver GMB lay dormant between 1973 and 1982 and the functions of the organization changed significantly during the hiatus.

The fonds is arranged in the following series:
• 1970s series.
• Internal branch business series: as part of the regular activities of the branch,
leading members, organized branch business meetings, prepared financial
statements, corresponded with members and corresponded with the central IWW
body in Chicago.
• External IWW activities series: this series contains the records of a number of
Vancouver members who were active in other IWW bodies such as the General
Executive Board and organizing for the 1987 convention that was held in
• External social, political and cultural activities series.
• Solidarity Bulletin series (1980s).
• Publications Series.
• Photograph Series.

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Acquired from Tom Wayman, November, 2006.


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