Five reasons why Australian unions can defeat Abbott

 1.     We remember the Your Rights At Work campaign

Last time the Coalition launched a massive attack on working people’s rights, the union movement ran a three-year Your Rights at Work campaign to defeat these laws. This campaign was less than a decade ago, so it is still fresh in the collective memory of our movement. Hundreds of thousands union members participated in this campaign. We remember what it took to win. The current generation of union leaders know what it took to win. The memory of this campaign also helps overcome cynicism and defeatism which can hold back campaigns, especially at the beginning. Union activists believe it is possible to change a government because we have done it before.

YR@W National Day of Action 2006
YR@W National Day of Action 2006

2.     They have the resources and own the media; but we have two million members

The union movement will never have the financial, political, legal and media resources of Australia’s rich and powerful. We will never be able to win in a ‘top down’ media war—let’s face it, even if we had the same advertising resources and media voice, it would never be a fair fight while the media is owned by pro-Coalition forces. What we do have that they do not is two million members. This is our greatest strength which is realised when we focus on educating, organising and mobilising our members.

YR@W National Day of Action 15 November 2005
YR@W National Day of Action 15 November 2005

 3.     Union members have a wide and powerful circle of influence

 It’s not surprising that union delegates and activists are not just leaders in their workplace, but they are also leaders in their local communities, such as sports clubs, volunteer fire brigades, faith-based communities, P&Cs and community organisations. Union activists have a circle of influence much wider than their workplace; they are often respected leaders in their community. So once union delegates and activists become active in a campaign, their influence starts to resonate. The activists in the Your Rights at Work campaign were overwhelmingly, in fact almost exclusively, made up of four groups of people—union members, partners of union members, children of union members and retired union members. We don’t need to reach out to ‘the community’—we are the community! Our immediate past successes show that the key to a successful campaign is the education and mobilisation of union members, most importantly delegates and activists.

Union Strong
Australian Unions Facebook page graphic made up of activists profile pictures.

 4.     Living with a union member is good for you and bad for Abbott

Being a member of a union shapes your views on the world. You are more likely to vote progressively and to hold progressive views. This influence can rub off on those living with union members—partners of union members are more likely to vote Labor or Green and this influence might even extend to other family members and flatmates. Right-wing commentators like to go on about unions only representing 18% of the workforce. But it is a serious mistake to equate this with our influence and capacity. Even still, our 18% is powerful. A 10 point decline in the Coalition’s two party vote among union members translates into a 2% swing nationally—more than half of what’s needed to defeat the Coalition in 2016.

Time to Care Campaign
Time to Care Campaign

 5.     We know how to unite when faced with a common enemy

John Howard taught the union movement something very valuable—how to be unified in the face of a common enemy. Your Rights at Work was only possible because the 1998 Maritime dispute taught our movement to overcome political and occupational divisions to work together. The unity of the Australian union movement, though not perfect, is one of our greatest strengths. Many other national union movements are divided, and these movements are held back and their energy wasted because of internal division. This unity still respects the independence and democratic processes of each union and is something very valuable.

When the Australian union movement decides to act and campaign together, with the reach we have into our communities and our households, we are an unstoppable force.

 

Strength in numbers
Strength in numbers

 

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21 thoughts on “Five reasons why Australian unions can defeat Abbott

    • Hi all

      Can you please email the General Secretary of the PSA Sydney Anne Gardiner to circulate this to all the membership AGardiner@psa.asn.au They have present membership, just retired officers, retired officer group etc

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    • Very good point Andy, but as well as Social Media we need to somehow get our message Mainstream. How to do it? Anyone out there got any constructive ideas?

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      • If anything is anti-LNP, then it could be ‘accidentally’ delayed, put under the wrong headings, and so on. In effect – sabotaged. Cannot trust them to even that.
        Hmmm, I am tempted to stick my sabots in their presses.

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  1. I am a casual worker (registered nurse) and can no longer afford to be a union member. My shift lengths have been cut from 8 hours to seven hours, and I foresee them being cut again to six hours as the government tries to save money, despite how hard my amazing manager fights for us. I fully support my union (ANMF) but I believe they just don’t really give a shit for casuals.

    The reality is, that when it comes down to it, I will feed my family over paying union fees.

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  2. I am a pensioner and there is no union for me to join. I reckon there would be thousands like me who don’t want to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. I would be more than willing to contribute a small sum toward Lissys’ union fees.

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    • Ian, I totally agree with you. I find it so sad that there’s no union for us pensioners. I would be happy to contribute a small amount to help with Lissy’s union fees, but oh! how thrilled I would be to be paying dues for myself.

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      • Pensions have a group called COMBINED PENSIONERS AND SUPERANNUANTS, membership is $12 per year you get 12 or 13 Newspapers on what matters to us. If in NSW there are branches from Bega to Griffith to Port Macquarie and beyond. Head Office is located in Foveaux Street, Sydney (Central) Elizabeth exit

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      • Thanks Mara. I immediately got onto the CPSA, but they don’t seem to have a branch in South Australia. I have contacted them, asking for advice about how a branch could be formed here. Thanks so much for your advice.

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  3. Excellent short article and really important comments that have followed. We need to build on the perspective in this article. For example, a casualised worker in precarious straits can still have strong union, collectivist, solidarity instincts. We must respect that and find a way to support casual workers organising themselves, even building a bridge to long term unemployed workers. This has been done in the past and can be done again. Social media is more advanced – how can it be used to bring people together in real, face to face discussion and action? YRAW started as a grass roots initiative that roused the official union movement to make a coordinated, national effort. We can do this again. How can it happen so that when we defeat the very backward Abbott – Business Council coalition (the real coalition) we get a much better Labor – Green – independents government than we had last time? Let’s keep talking and acting on this.

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  4. Thinking about Lissy gave me an idea. The Unions should change their Membership requirements to have various categories, and therefore various membership fees. As Lissy has pointed out her heart is Union, but her pockets are not.

    The AFL footy clubs are doing this. You can buy a membership for just three games – this suits a lot of busy people and helps clubs like Collingwood (shudder) to boast of their HUGE membership base. For statistic purposes they are all listed as members.

    Also the ACTU should create a base for us previous union members along the lines of the RSL – the UOU – Unity of Old Unionists. Give them the sense of belonging again and marching with their zimmer frames and rolling along in their mobile scooters. I can see it now. The retiring baby boomers would love it. – “are you UOU?”

    Think of the merchandising – t-shirts, hats, badges- but more importantly pride.

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    • Lissy, the Retired Officers Group have been saying this for the last two years, we are missing out on people who really require services of the unions whether they part-times, hourly etc

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  5. Hi guys, in my experience in the environment sector, if you make enough noise on Social Media, the mainstream will eventually pick up the story.

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  6. I would urge the union to ask its members to cancel FoxTel and stop financing Murdoch who is responsible for this extreme right wing Junta getting elected, working people in this country are going to be screwed like never before the agenda of this Junta is to cut wages pensions and any other benefits that workers are entitled, to sadly Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd warned them but the dumbing down by the media was intense without union protection the clock will turned back to Charles Dickens..

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  7. Defending the pay, conditions and security of all the low paid workers, permanents, casuals or seasonal whether union members or non members will get national attention

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  8. It is true the media (and in particular the murdoch media) is much more right wing than in the days of your rights at work. But on the other hand circulation and readership is in steady decline and its interesting to speculate on the whether the editorial position has contributed to that decline. In any event, I suspect people will see them for what they are and their political influence will steadily decline accordingly.

    As the internet becomes more dominent so the print media’s circulation will decline and with it it’s influence. In time (and I suspect sooner rather than later) commercial TV, both free to air and paid will be similarly affected.

    Personally, I think getting things “mainstream” isn’t (or shouldn’t be) our challenge. Rather we should be seeking to communicate our message via social media. After all, as anyone in marketing will tell you, nothing beats word of mouth. How this can best be achieved is the question.

    While using the internet through websites such as this, Facebook and twitter are important, its not sufficient. They should be employed with other means. As a movement we should give serious consideration to investing in video and audio broadcasting as well.

    The cost of setting up a quality video broadcast studio has fallen significantly over the years and with it the cost of ‘transmission’ and/or distribution. No longer are expensive transmission towers needed for example. Increasingly, we will be watching ‘TV’ not through our TV antennas but through the internet. We should be investing in Youtube.

    To get an idea of what can be possible, have a look at “The Young Turks” (TYT) in the US. It calls itself the largest online news show network in the world. And for good reason, it has well in excess of 1 million subscribers and many of their videos regularly garner in excess of 150,00 views. They cover the news from a ‘progressive’ point of view in an entertaining and thought provoking manner. Its slowly grown over a relatively short period of time – and it turns a profit.

    Over the coming years, I reckon more and more of us will turn to the internet for our ‘TV content’ and to podcast for our audio content. TV becomes internet streaming, radio becomes podcasting. This is the future of broadcasting and we should be moving aggressively into that space now.

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