Industrial unionism

Industrial unionism is a labor union organizing method through which all workers in the same industry are organized into the same union -- regardless of skill or trade -- thus giving workers in one industry, or in all industries, more leverage in bargaining and in strike situations. Advocates of industrial unionism value its contributions to building unity and solidarity, suggesting the slogans, "an injury to one an injury to all" and "the longer the picket line, the shorter the strike."

Industrial unionism contrasts with craft unionism, which organizes workers along lines of their specific trades, even if leads to multiple union locals (with different contracts) in the same workplace.

In the United States, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) primarily practiced industrial unionism prior to its merger with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), made up mostly of craft unions.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organized even more broadly, seeking to unite the entire working class into One Big Union which would struggle for improved working conditions and wages in the short term, while working to overthrow capitalism through a general strike, after which the union would manage production (see anarcho-syndicalism).

The theory and practice of industrial unionism is not confined to the western, English speaking world. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is committed to reorganizing their current union structure along the lines of industrial unionism. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is also organized along the lines of industrial unionism.

Revolutionary Industrial Unionism

Verity Burgmann asserts in Revolutionary industrial unionism that the IWW in Australia provided an alternate form of labour organising, to be contrasted with the Laborism of the Australian Labor Party and the Bolshevik Communism of the Communist Party of Australia. Revolutionary industrial unionism, for Burgmann, was much like revolutionary syndicalism, but focused much more strongly on the centralised, industrial, nature of unionism. Burgmann saw Australian syndicalism, particularly anarcho-syndicalism, as focused on mythic small shop organisation. For Burgmann the IWW's vision was always a totalising vision of a revolutionary society: the Industrial Commonwealth.

The IWW's politics in 2005 mirror Burgmann's analysis: the IWW does not proclaim Syndicalism, or Anarchism (despite the large number of anarcho-syndicalist members) but instead proclaims Revolutionary Industrial Unionism.


Burgmann, Verity. Revolutionary industrial unionism : the industrial workers of the world in Australia. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, c1995.


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