||Issue No. 176||02 May 2003|
Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
War and Peace
A Strange Light
A Little History
Does It Have To Be?
The conversation began at last night's May Day Toast, but will continue through the next week as union organisers and delegates from all around Australia converge on Sydney.
There is no doubting that organising has become the all-encompassing ethos for union renewal in Australia, a reorientation from top down to bottom up unionism which carries self-evident benefits.
While Workers Online has been critical of the tendency by some to turn organising into a fetish, we do not take issue with this underlying principle - it's the workplace, stupid.
For us, the big question is how to translate this orientation into a workable, effective and growing union movement.
To simply say unionism is about training up delegates to run their own issues is an example of outsourcing taken to extremes.
We need to mix delegate empowerment with a clear vision of what we are as unions - to steal a bit of management speak, we need to define our product and take it to the market.
Most with a view to labour history would say the union product is collectivism - working together to score a result we could never achieve by going one out.
But one of problems is the day to day activities of many individual union 'brands' seem completely at odds with these values.
Demarcs, poaching wars, factional battles and on-site sniping of one union to another is the cancer that undermines unionism in the workplace.
Yet today, in 2003, we still see many workplaces where unions battle for members, undercut each other for coverage or dismiss a competitor as 'yellow'. It all serves one purpose - to weaken the union brand.
As CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell says in this month's interview, a modern union movement has no option but to confine these traditional rivalries and petty jealousies to the dustbin of history.
Unions need to work together to organise industries; they need to put their members before their political agendas and distance themselves from factional politics.
One of the bright signs is that more and more unions are beginning to carry the Workers Online newsfeed on their websites, meaning unions can begin to share the struggles and celebrate the victories of each other.
We need to take this further, in an ideal world the stories you read online each week would be reproduced in journals across the movement, regardless of the union members involved in the activity. A workers' press to challenge the dominant vehicle of the bosses through the Tele, the Fin and the new neo-con daily, The Australian.
It's one of the ironies of union history that we celebrate a concept of 'solidarity' yet rarely practice it because we carry the historical baggage of the tribe we inhabit.
Our May Day message is it's time to pull off the blinkers and build a movement, not just a bunch of unions struggling to stay afloat.
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