Whilst I am on a retro Union retrospective, I am pondering why people see Unions as no longer relevant.
We have the Anarchist-syndicalist take, that the unions are no more than a sop between the workers and big business. Who will at the same time, then also state that the workers need to take control from below, by combining and creating work place organisations, or Unions in reality, go figure, the IWW was a Union comrades. Other Socialist parties have similar opinions of course. The Union bosses are the enemy within, and other such nonsense. There is some merit in their argument of course, as proven over the years of inactivity and failure.
But when you factor in the fact that our current Unions are one of the most democratic institutions in the country, it does not hold water. If you want to change the workings of your Union, you only need to be active in your branch. To take part in that democratic process and put motions to your policy conference. Garner enough support and your proposal will become national policy. To change a Unions policy, you only need to be a member and you only need to be active, it’s as easy as that. Gain enough support and the democracy will enact that policy.
Then we have the selfish, what’s in it for me? I am not paying money to them, what have they ever done, nothing but Left wing loonys, brigade. They are happy of course to accept all the gains that the Union have negotiated for them.
Then we have the, I was in a Union and then I got shafted, so sod them. It was never their fault of course.
To list everything that the organised working class and Unions have given to the working class would be a huge list, but let’s just stick to the main items:
What have Unions ever done for me?
Shorter working week
Better Terms and Conditions
The weekend and the holidays you now take for granted
Equal pay (although we are still lagging behind and there is not complete parity)
Contracts of employment
Health and Safety that really protects you at work
Democracy, yes your bloody democracy, as it is, was brought to you by Unions. One person one vote, votes for all, etc.
But most of all, a united and organised voice. A united and organised working class campaigning force.
All this and much, much more, brought to you by Unions. Brought to you by our parents and grandparents, who were organised and in a Union. Brought to you by the organised working class.
But even more, our Unions created Trades Councils, who have done so much work within our communities to improve the lives of everyone, Union member or not. They campaign locally and lobby local and national Government for better conditions and outcomes for our class.
That is the key. Union membership should not be a selfish act. It is an act of working class solidarity. It is an act of community and mutual co-operation. It is what binds us and gives vent to our common causes.
To be a member of a Union, is to stand up and tell everyone, that you are not selfish, you are not insular, but that you are prepared to stand hand in hand with your fellow workers, with your neighbours, and with your community. That we will put the common good first and foremost. That we will act as one, for the betterment of all.
That is why you join a Union. Not for personal gain or profit, but for community and a better life for all.