Retail employees at West Marine in Bellingham have unionized with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Workers informed management Tuesday afternoon that they are members of IWW’s Industrial Union 660 and are now a union shop. The workers organized over the past week. At their request, an IWW delegate met with the workers and issued union membership cards. This is the first IWW retail union shop in Whatcom County in a century. The new union is affiliated with the IWW’s Whatcom-Skagit General Membership Branch.
The store’s employees met with management at 1:30 PM to announce the formation of their union. “Management was surprised by the announcement, but overall the meeting went well. We decided that making a union was the best and safest way to get management to agree to changes to working conditions” said union member Austin Carlson.
Bellingham IWW members gathered in the parking lot to show solidarity with the new union members as they met with management, and to congratulate them in person after.
West Marine is owned by private equity firm Monomoy Capital Partners. The Bellingham store is one of 240 owned by the company.
The new union will apply for an official Union Shop card from the IWW General Administration in Chicago. Union members will determine the next steps toward formal recognition of the union by West Marine management. The union may request a National Labor Relations Board election. As union membership in the shop is nearly a unanimous, a much simpler card check union certification can be arranged in place of an election. Union members will also decide whether they wish to negotiate a contract, or to practice the IWW’s brand of ‘solidarity unionism’ which foregoes a contract and instead focuses directly on issues as they arise in the workplace.
The Industrial Workers of the World, formed in 1905 and commonly known as ‘Wobblies’ organizes all workers in all industries. IWW organizing continues among workers in other Bellingham stores.