As part of Blog Action Day, Owen blogged earlier today on the ‘Power of We’ and that trade unions are the manifestation of the ‘we’ at work. What does the ‘we’ at work actually mean and how do unions think about this to make us stronger?What does ‘we’ mean? ‘We implies a plural identity, a group identity based on a common or shared area. For trade unionists, how is our sense of ‘we’ derived? By our workplaces? By shared common values? Often, I wonder whether we make an assumption on whether when people join unions, they automatically become part of the ‘we’, especially if recruitment is within the context of protection and benefits. The building of the collective identity and ‘we’ is a key part of how unions can be strong; creating a ‘we’ imbibes a sense of belonging, loyalty and unity. Therefore, it is important that unions understand how we can build that through action and language.
In term of language, how often do we use plural words which position the individual within the collective in a consistent fashion? ‘Our union’ rather than ‘the union’ or ‘it’? Look through your recent publications and just question whether or not it consistently brings together the notion of ‘we’.
Secondly, action can play a role in creating the sense of collective identity. For example, 20 October is going to be a visual representation of the ‘we’.
However, we do have to be mindful that while building the ‘we’ we can create a ‘them’ as our identity is being defined in relation to other people. This then creates the opportunity to be painted as ‘vested interest’. I see events such as 20 Oct as a way that the trade union movement demonstrates the inclusiveness of our ‘we’. While the movement called and organised the march, it is open to all.
Let’s consider our ‘Power of We’ and how we build on that this week.