Interview: [email protected]
Unions: State of the Union
Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Legal: Leg Before Picket
Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Health: Cannabis Controversy
Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
History: Politics In The Pubs
Review: Three Bob's Worth
Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
The Locker Room
Bus Lanes On Vic Rd
Dirt Cheap Right On Money
Politics In The Pubs
The irony was complete; an entertaining presentation at the Occidental Hotel on the increasing role played by women in the ACTU during the seventies, with the backdrop of the NRL going on behind on the wide screen TV.
Cathy Bloch was just one of four entertaining stops on what has been billed as "a labour history tour with a pint".
As far as pub-crawl's go, the third Struggles, Scabs and Schooners afternoon was a resounding success.
Four pubs, five speakers, songs, anecdotes, and at the end a great feed.
The history of SSS harkens back to 1997, when Michael Clifford organised a weekend in the Hunter Valley for a group of workers from the Finance Sector Union.
Between wineries, the group visited a memorial at North Rothbury in honour of Norman Brown, a miner shot and killed by police during the Rothbury Riots in 1929, when miners were resisting a wage cut being imposed on them.
It was a moving experience, which had an impact.
"Sitting in a pub not long after this trip, myself and two comrades, Chris Gambian and Garrett Purtill, came up with the idea of a tour in Sydney focusing on some of the disputes that have shaped labour history in Australia," says Clifford. "Focusing on some of the pubs that have their own history with Australian labour."
From this discussion came what is arguably Australia's first ever labour history pub crawl in 2003.
"Pubs have played an important role in labour history," says organiser Michael Clifford. "They are places where workers have met to celebrate victories, to support each other through disasters, to discuss tactics in disputes, and even plot the overthrow of capital.
"A labour history tour seems incomplete without the pub."
It's a popular format. So popular in fact that it has spread to Adelaide, while Brisbane held their first Struggles Scabs and Schooners tour in February this year. Even Bathurst is getting in on the act with their own SSS day set down for May and Canberra is on the schedule later in the year.
But in was Sydney's turn to knock a few back for a good cause when over 50 unionists assembled upstairs at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in the City last month.
Jim Hagen from Wollongong University started the day off with a tale about the Nineteen-Forty's Newspaper strike.
A worker controlled newspaper hot the streets of Sydney during the strike, with articles written by such journalistic luminaries as George Street and Martin Place. It was produced by striking journalists and printers, and even ended up making money, until the bosses caved in.
The Edinburgh was also once the home of Henry Lawson, and the popular watering hole of a number of writers for The Worker, based in the AWU offices which used to be around the corner in Castlereagh Street.
This writer gave a brief spiel on the history of union writers and publications, including the famous Poultry page on the old Australian Railway Union journal. Then it was barely time to wet the whistle before we were back on the bus faster than a Kon-Tiki tour on Red Bull and whisked off on the first leg of our moveable feast.
The singing (which the organisers stressed beforehand would be with passion, not necessarily talent) commenced shortly after as the tour bus rolled through the city streets on its way to green bans park in Erskineville.
There Andrew Ferguson from the CFMEU told the history of Green Bans Park - of how building workers had stood side by side with the local community to turn an old gravel dump into a community park - and the battle faced by the CFMEU today.
So many communities have been helped by Green Bans over the years, from the Rocks to the Central Coast and beyond. Now that the CFMEU has a deepening struggle of its own to survive there is a great opportunity for the communities to give something back and stand side by side with the CFMEU.
After a quick one at the world famous Erko it was back to the bus and a quick trip past Union Street, the site of the rent riots from the depression, where a house was barricaded and over a thousand people took on Newtown's finest in what later became known as the Battle of Union Street.
Then it was back into the city to the Occidental at Wynyard for Cathy Bloch's presentation.
The story of the struggle for women in the broader union movement was an interesting one, as was the frank insight into the political machinations of the ACTU.
After smuggling our take away's back onto the bus for more singing, including a rousing rendition of Solidarity Forever (including the Norman Cook remix), the tour moved on until we poured ourselves into the Glasgow Arms in Ultimo.
Here Bruce Childs did very well in keeping most of the party's attention, despite many of us by now being several schooners deep, with his stories from his days in the printing trades, before we tucked into a great feed at a place where we had "a table for sixty".
A good day was certainly had by all and a small profit of $110 was achieved, which was donated to Union Aid Abroad.
After that there was only some Sunday Morning Berocca to negotiate, and anticipation for the 2006 event, as well as the other Struggles, Scabs and Schooners to be had in Bathurst and Canberra later this year.
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