Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Unite All Who Can Be United Around Widely, Deeply Felt Issues

Ned K.                            24 October 2019


Conferences at which the organising of theory and practice, presented to union organisers and delegates at ACTU-run training courses, has for many years encouraged participants to find the issues that are not only widely felt by workers and their communities, but deeply felt and around which it is possible to organise in collective action to win the issues.


Not all issues are won by this method and rarely is victory complete. For example, Your Rights At Work Worth Fighting For was a widely, deeply felt campaign that succeeded in throwing out the Howard Government and the hated Work Choices industrial legislation. However, workers were left with "Work Choices Lite" under the new Labor Government.

The long-lasting positive effect of the theory and practice of uniting around widely, deeply felt issues is that through the collective actions, workers and their communities realise the power of the collective and the associated benefits of establishing networks and of bringing forward newly emerging leaders within their own ranks.

Whatever happens to Labor policies?

The stark contrast to this organising theory and practice within progressive sections of the union movement is the transactional relationship between unions and the ALP embedded in the bourgeois parliamentary system. This system encourages and promises workers through their unions and their community sub-branches to express their widely, deeply felt issues in ALP policies determined at State or federal conferences.

Year after year, union leaders trudge along to ALP conferences and sometimes get quite progressive resolutions passed only to see them never implemented even when a Labor Party forms government at state or federal level.

However, the issues highlighted in many of the resolutions tabled at ALP conferences do give an indication of many of the widely felt issues faced by workers. According to one union leader, the recent state ALP conference in SA is an example of this. He said there were many resolutions that rank and file unionists and sub-branch members spoke passionately about. He gave the following examples of widely felt demands:

* secure and affordable housing - There are 6,000 homeless men women and children in SA. 43% of homeless people are women and that percentage is on the rise
* end and reverse privatization of public services with resolutions covering a diverse range of public services from pathology to trams and trains
* renewable energy with demands for the state government to support the $650 million solar thermal power station at Port Augusta and the demand for a state-owned clean energy generator as part of a transition to a low carbon economy
* all government infrastructure projects to use Australian Certified Steel 100% locally produced
* government support for electric vehicle manufacturing in SA
* increase New Start to $430 per week
* no Australian acquisition of nuclear weapons or basing nuclear weapons on Australian territory
* no export of gas until local needs satisfied. Australia is currently the biggest gas exporter with the world's highest gas prices!
* no nuclear power
* affordable public dental health system. 32,000 South Australians are on the general dental health waiting list

The list could go on. Any of these issues and more may be not only widely felt but deeply felt and the "spark that lights a prairie fire".

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