For the last few weeks I’ve blogged here about the role of grassroots organising in mounting successful campaigns and in prioritising building activism within a campaign in the run up to our Grassroots conference at the end of May. As we often say on this site, there is no silver bullet in the work that we do, but conversations such as the ones we had during the event are a key part in us understanding what we do and how we can be effective in that. The challenge for us is finding space and time to continue to have these conversations.
Unions in the community — Page 2
It’s not unusual when the TUC’s Leading Change group visits the US each year for the trip to coincide with a significant event that provides a context for the discussions we have.
In 2005 the US Labour movement had split just a few months before we arrived and in 2008 the trip came in the initial aftermath of the financial meltdown and just days before the election of Barack Obama. The context to our visit to Harvard University last week was provided by the Occupy Wall Street and other similar protests in what now amounts to around 900 cities across the globe.
All week, alongside the presentations and discussions on strategies for trade union revival, a debate took place on what, if anything, was the significance of the ‘Occupy’ protests for the anti cuts movement and trade unions and what it would be appropriate for unions to do to provide support.
Peter Wallsten had an interesting article in the Washington Post on Thursday about the links between unions and Occupy Wall Street.
As I’ve said here before, unions won’t want to co-opt the protests – and the protesters wouldn’t want them to. But there is a clear alliance to be formed with a new social movement, and a job for unions to do in responding to their concerns (as well as offering the practical and reciprocated support that in a past era characterised the US union relationship with the civil rights movement).
The first ever conference of labour film festival organisers took place in Washington last week, trying to kick start a worldwide labour film festival movement. The number of organisers attending from across the globe was a testament to the growing interest in this area of film-making.
Although these films do not formally constitute a distinct cinematic genre, it is easy to imagine that they could. Labour films, be they documentary, feature film or cinema shorts, are about celebrating social commitment through the medium of film, and the festivals help show the diversity and complexity of film’s treatment of labour and working people, both locally and globally. The films tell entertaining and heartfelt stories of working people that are as vital for us to see today as ever before.
It was quite something listening to the peoples stories of organising labour film festivals. With projects running across North America and Europe, the level of commitment and creativity on display is really uplifting.
Days ago, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in the USA was on the fringes – on the outside left, a howl of protest that many might have sympathised with, but which stood outside the mainstream of political debate. But today, America’s trade unions marched with the movement, and AFLCIO President Rich Trumka issued this statement of support.
Trade unions came on board at the weekend, when transit workers in the TWU were ordered by police to carry away over 700 arrested protesters. They didn’t want to do it, and their union backed them, but the courts ordered them to proceed. So the unions – unable to strike over the issue – joined the protests instead, taking to the streets in a mass march this afternoon.
Have you checked the loose change in your pocket or purse today? Got a 50 pence piece? How would you feel if you had to work a fifty-hour week for that one coin?
Well, in 1910 the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath won an industrial dispute which gave them a weekly income of 50p – ten shillings in those days – for working long hours in poor conditions as their means of earning a living. This level of income was only achieved through one of the most important labour disputes of the last century which took place in the Black Country.
On Sunday – the only day most of their members have for union activity – Justice4DomesticWorkers protested outside Parliament about Government plans to return migrant domestic workers to conditions of forced labour, only allowed to stay in the country if they stay with the (possibly abusive and violent) boss who brought them in. J4DW is part of Unite the Union, and they are a fantastic bunch of people who deserve our support. Just so you know.