Ex-wobblies join Gina in the Supreme Court showdown

Written By: Andrew Rosthorn
Published: November 23, 2016 Last modified: November 23, 2016

The millionaire Labour voter Gina Miller has been joined in her legal battle against Theresa May by a tiny independent trade union that fights for low paid migrant workers.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has allowed the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain to intervene on behalf of British and non-British workers in the constitutional case of the century.

Founded as a breakaway registered union by the contract cleaners who fought the successful IWW ‘Wobblies’ strike at the John Lewis store in London in 2012, the IWGB represents poor EU citizens working as couriers, cleaners, care workers and security guards in the city.

Their barrister will next month address all eleven members of the Supreme Court for up to 45 minutes on behalf of the constitutional rights of 3.3 million citizens from the other 27 European Union states who relied on Britain’s membership of the EU to live and work in Britain.

The court has also allowed the Welsh and Scottish governments to argue their case that Theresa May’s stated intention of declaring Article 50 to leave the European Union without a vote in parliament was illegal.

The British government is appealing against a decision of three judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, in the case of Santos & Miller -v- Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union. The judges found that only parliament, and certainly not the prime minister, can repeal the laws that took the United Kingdom into the EU forty years ago.


Gina Miller, a fund manager who once worked as a chambermaid, has been under police protection since the three judges who ruled in her favour were described by the Daily Mail as ‘enemies of the people’.

The IWGB want a parliamentary debate on robbing migrant workers of their rights as EU citizens before anyone in government triggers an irrevocable legal rifle shot known as Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

The American-born general secretary of the IWGB is Jason Moyer-Lee, 30, with a PhD in economics at SOAS university and speaking Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and ‘a smattering of Arabic and Chichewa’. He says the union has over one thousand members and nineteen elected officials.

In the spirit of the 1906 Industrial Workers of the World, the wobblies, that included Big Bill Haywood, James Connolly, Eugene Debs and Joe Hill, the IWGB has opened campaigns in London on behalf of Uber taxi drivers and Deliveroo couriers trapped in the gig economy.


Dr Moyer-Lee said:

Brexit represents possibly the biggest assault on workers’ rights and migrants’ rights in this country for a generation. And the idea that this Government wants to launch this assault without even an act of Parliament, despite all the Brexiters’ rhetoric about parliamentary sovereignty, is hypocritical and shameful.

The IWGB is not prepared to remain quiet while our members’ rights are stripped away unlawfully, and as such we will be intervening in the Supreme Court.


Richard Stein, a partner at the IWGB solicitors Leigh Day, said:

The issues raised on behalf of the IWGB raise additional matters which will assist in deciding the outcome of this hugely important constitutional case.

Neither the Labour Party, nor any other trades union has attempted to join the legal battle against the government on Brexit. Richard Stein, a judicial review and human rights expert, wrote in The Guardian in 2014: ‘I’ve been loyal for 30 years – but now I’m leaving Labour for the Green party.’

The Labour Party’s current refusal to fight against Brexit, pitting shadow chancellor John McDonnell against shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer, has been described as pilots crashing the plane to please unhappy passengers.