The IWGB is a small, independent trade union, whose members are predominantly low paid migrant workers in London. The IWGB has its origins in the big unions of the UK trade union movement. The founders of the IWGB were involved with the T&G and then UNITE Justice for Cleaners Campaigns. As a result of a lack of democracy they left UNITE to join the “Cleaners’ Branch” of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or the “Wobblies” as they are popularly known. However, as a result of political differences as well as a lack of control over their own resources, the organisers left to found the IWGB in August of 2012.
Parallel to the developments described above, a group of mainly outsourced workers were organizing and campaigning at the University of London through the Senate House Branch of UNISON (UK Public Sector Union). They won the London Living Wage in UNISON and initiated the “3 Cosas Campaign”. However the UNISON branch and London Region actively attempted to undermine the campaign and exclude the outsourced workers and campaigners from meaningful participation in the union. This tendency culminated in the nullification of branch elections in spring, 2013, after which these workers broke off to found the “University of London Branch” of the IWGB.
In addition to this three more branches have been formed: the Security Guards branch, the extremely successful Couriers and Logistics branch, and most recently the Foster Care Workers’ branch.
The IWGB is a campaigning union, which has waged a number of high profile campaigns such as for the London Living Wage at the Royal Opera House and at John Lewis, and the 3 Cosas Campaign (sick pay, holidays, and pensions) at the University of London. Other campaigns have been waged over bullying and harassment as well as improved pay for university employees (London Weighting).
In addition to campaigns, the IWGB provides employment representation for its members. This representation is mainly in workplace meetings such as grievances and disciplinaries. However, the IWGB also arranges representation in the courts and tribunals, such as for unfair dismissal, discrimination, and personal injury claims. Other activities include English classes and an English-Spanish language exchange.