Friday, 27 May 2011

We are a Union Town!


Please take a moment to watch, and download, the fantastic song Union Town, sung by Tom Morello.

The song is quite literally the soundtrack to the momentous trade union victory in Wisconsin.

But that fight goes on and the organisation Save Workers provides a great site (and link to video/song) to get updates on the fight to protect union rights in the US.

Visit the site today:

In Solidarity


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Something new in the British Labour Movement


It isn't often the case that you can always look forward to signs of renewal and change in the British labour movement, but I'm gearing up for the next few days which promises to deliver this in two, small, but significant ways.

First, I'll be working at the inaugural event to launch the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU, UK). The original US-based Coalition has proved particularly successful in driving up the numbers of black members and activists across the labour movement in the States, and in strategically positioning the interests of black workers as central to the mainstream interests of the broader labour movement (

The CBTU UK is a ( is promising that this inaugural event (to be held at Ruskin College) provides a strategic framework for the organisation based on the needs and interests of black workers, not least in the context of the ConDem's response to the economic crisis.

After this I am heading off to Manchester for the 99th Biennial General Council Meeting (BGCM) of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) in my role as the Federation's Projects Officer.

Although we are a small organisation, we are unique in representing the interests of small, specialist trade unions and professional associations. The GFTU has a history central to the growth and development of the British trade union movement in the 20th Century. Historical background information, including that around our Walter Crane designed logo (pictured left) can be seen at:

For the labour movement anoraks amongst you details of the conference are available here:

The BGCM will witness the nearing of the end of the role of Mike Bradley as General Secretary of the GFTU and the election of a new President who will take the place of Joe Marino, who has also retired from his role as General Secretary of the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). The conference is a pivotal moment in the history of the GFTU as it will vote on a new mechanism to elect the new GS.

From a personal perspective I would argue that small, specialist trade unions are vital to the health and vigour of labour movements globally, and so the future role of the GFTU is a key aspect of the debate around union revitalisation in the UK.

I am looking forward to being with a large, diverse range of trade union sisters and brothers over the next few days and any comments/questions about this work is, as ever, welcome.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 15 May 2011

In Solidarity with PCS

Colleagues, just about to head off to the PCS annual conference in Brighton. A chance to spend some quality time with reps from the trade union (in CPSA as it then was) in which I discovered my lifelong passion in, and commitment to, trade unionism. It was via CPSA activism that I won the TUC scholarship to Ruskin College in 1989 and it was in that same union that I experienced first hand Thatcher's hatred of all things collective. And through that union in the 1980's I learnt of how important solidarity was and is, particularly as I joined the yearly march in Cheltenham to demand that trade unions be returned to GCHQ and that the workers sacked for defending their union membership be returned to work. I have a lot to thank that union for and haven't forgotten that debt, not least since it was that that scholarship which set me on the path to working at Ruskin College.

Another reason I welcome the opportunity to work closely with this union is that, like others in the public sector, its members are at the coalface in delivering services desparately needed by those at the margins of British society. But now these workers are exposed to the brutal assault on public services, and of all of the attacks that I feel most personally it is that at the Equality and Humans Rights Commission (EHRC).

And why? It was whilst working at the predecessor Equal Opportunities Commission in Manchester in 1986 (which along with the CRE and DRC formed the EHRC in 2007) that I began my activism with CPSA. The EOC then, as the EHRC now, lived life under a Conservative government (we'll ignore the Lib Dems in this 'coalition' as the Tories are quite happy to also) destined to weaken the work of an organisation vested with a statutory duty to root-out and challenge discrimination - in the case of the EOC on the basis of gender.

What makes the current attack on the EHRC worse than those at the EOC is the connivance and contrivance of its leadership (Trevor Phillips being at the centre) whom, one would have assumed, would have been working hard to protect the vital services that the Conservatives are kicking into the long grass with the demand that the Commission reduces it operation budget by an unprecented 68% (from £70 million in 2007 to £22.5 by 2015).

The recent national action (pictured left) against the immediate impact of the cuts on invaluable public advice services is the first of a series of action that the union is organising. As with other action against public sector cuts your help and support is needed. Links to the national petition, details of the action at the EHRC and further details of the cuts - and of all current PCS campaigns can be seen at the union's national website:

Any comments/feedback welcome.

In Solidarity


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Human Rights - Civil Rights - Trade Union Rights


Pressure of work since coming back from leave has meant that I (quite disgracefully) did not post an item for either Workers' Memorial Day (28th April or May Day.

To try and remedy this catastrophe I am posting this fantastic image of Martin Luther King (and one of his many pro-union quotes) I came across recently when discussing a book that an MA student has used for a recent assignment.

Poor Workers' Unions by Vannessa Tait is, from my perspective, a book of tremendous scope and from several perspectives. One of the most important is that it charts the linkage between the social movement of the 60's civil rights protests and that of trade union demands for basic rights (particularly pay) for black workers. The coverage also of what historically have been called 'poor workers' unions' is also important to understanding trade union history, particularly in the US, as it helps delinate between the those unions which not only have a troubled history in the organisation and representation of the interets of black workers, but whom also disinhereted the interests of those workers outside of 'skilled' professions.

A review of Tait's book can seen here:'_Unions.htm

The overall trajectory of the civil rights movement in the US can be seen as one moving from human rights (in simply recognising the existence as black people as equal to that of whites - particularly in the context of the constitution) to civil rights (with a focus on the right to vote, the abolishing of segregration etc.) and the transition to the embodiment of these achievements within the context of trade union and other social rights.

We know that the last period in the life of Martin Luther King was one where he connected social justice with the grinding poverty of black people across the US and aligned himself with trade union demands for a minimum wage and the protection of basic freedoms.

It is a legacy that all trade unionists must firstly become familiar with in its historical sense and secondly commit to as a programme of action that is still as vital today as it was then.

Any thoughts and comments are, as ever, welcome.

In Solidarity.