What have the unions ever done for us?


Monty Python’s Life of Brian was recently shown on free to air TV. For those that haven’t seen it, the story revolves around Brian, who lives in Palestine during the Roman occupation and somehow is involved with a group of people that want to overthrow the Roman occupation. The movie ends with Brian and others on crosses singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. Some Christian churches protested when the movie came out that it was a parody of the life of Jesus. The line from the movie ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy’ probably didn’t help!

The point of ‘Life of Brian’ for our purposes, however, isn’t a determination of the wisdom of the parody argument: it is a well known scene in the movie where there is a meeting of those who are trying to overthrow the Roman occupation. In the scene, ‘Reg’ is decrying the Romans by asking what have the Romans ever done for us?



So with apologies to ‘Reg’ (and the Monty Pythons in general), how about we change the question slightly to ask, ‘What have the unions ever done for us?’ given the generally declining number of union members in Australia.

The New Yorker magazine recently published an article entitled ‘Dignity’ that describes the fight by people who work for McDonalds and other fast food restaurants to get a living wage of $15 an hour. There are stories of intimidation and loss of shifts affecting those who are mobilising (most fast food workers are apparently casual); and resistance from the franchise owners and the corporate headquarters of some fast food retailers to a movement to increase the minimum wage in the fast food and other low paid industries across America. Traditionally, these employees are immigrants and not members of a union. Union membership is actively discouraged by a number of the employers — although the article does give examples of other businesses in the fast food industry that do pay considerably more per hour, produce better food and still make a profit.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us in a paper released on 14 June 2014 that:

The survey also shows that 17 per cent, or 1.7 million employees were trade union members in the main job, this being the lowest proportion in the history of the series. That proportion follows a general decline in trade union membership over several years.

It goes on to say:

Of employees without paid leave entitlements in their main job, 6 per cent were trade union members, compared to 22 per cent for employees with paid leave entitlements. Trade union membership was higher in the public sector, with 42 per cent of all employees being members, compared with 12 per cent in the private sector.

So there seems to be a correlation between union membership and paid leave. Wikipedia lists the annual leave entitlements in a number of countries around the world. It is interesting to contrast countries with a history of union membership versus individual bargaining — such as Australia (20 days per annum), the UK (28 days per annum – including ‘bank holidays’) and France (25 days per annum) versus the USA (0 days per annum). There isn’t a direct correlation between any of these example countries: the relevance being that in the USA, there is no legislated minimum — it is up to the employer and employee to agree to paid annual leave.

In Australia there are 10 National Employment Standards. They include the right of paid annual leave for permanent employees (including part time workers). The ACTU’s Australian Unions website will tell you that the Union movement negotiated paid annual leave for the printing industry in 1936 and other industries subsequent to then. Full-time employee annual leave entitlement has risen from two weeks to four weeks in the past 50 years.

Traditionally people retire from active work at some point and rely on savings or contributions from others to help them live. Most Australians who are employed have one or more ‘Super’ accounts that hopefully will provide a reasonable income in retirement. In Australia, employer contributions to superannuation accounts are mandated (although the Abbott government recently determined that the next employer increase should not be made). There is also the availability of a payment from the government for those who have retired provided they can demonstrate they meet certain age or financial requirements (the ‘old age’ pension).

In the USA, superannuation (known as ‘pensions’) is a part of the ‘benefits’ package but, as The New Yorker article linked above points out, a considerable number of the low paid fast food and similar industry staff are not in receipt of any benefits over and above their wage. The USA does provide ‘Social Security’ but the USA Social Security system pays a benefit on retirement based on your income. So someone who works 30 hours a week for $8.50 an hour may only get $500 per month — depending on age and age of retirement. Remember they don’t necessarily have ‘super’ or ‘pension plan’ to fall back on. In contrast a full Australian Age Pension (in this exercise we are assuming that the person has no real savings or assets) is entitled to $854.30 per fortnight plus health care card and other concessions.

Some would say there is a ‘glass ceiling’ for women in corporate Australia. That is a discussion for another time: the issue here, however, is that up until 1969, women were paid up to 25% less for doing the exact same work as men. While there is still a gender gap in the average wage of Australians, two people doing the same work for the same company in Australia should be getting the same pay, regardless of gender. The Australian system is not perfect but it is better than the USA where its Senate in September 2014 (yes — this year) voted down a bill to legislate gender equality in wages paid.

While ‘Life of Brian’ is not an accurate portrayal of life in Palestine around two thousand years ago, there is a list of worthwhile achievements (roads, sanitation, wine etc) that were delivered by the Romans when they invaded the country. The humour behind the skit is that, after a while, these things are taken for granted and the consensus of opinion is that everywhere is the same.

The comparisons made here are only a few of the benefits of living and working in Australia. Don’t forget that the ‘centre left’ ALP and the ‘right’ LNP went to the last federal election trying to out-do each other on Paid Parental Leave (a worthy idea but the execution seems to be lacking at present). The Australian Unions website claims some of the credit for the implementation of the clearly superior annual leave, social security and ‘equal pay for equal work’ benefits enjoyed by Australians over and above those in United States — the ‘land of freedom and opportunity’. The Australian Unions website also lists a number of other achievements that were driven by the union movement, such as sick leave, long service leave and health and safety monitoring.

Not everywhere is the same. Australia has had equal pay for equal work for close to 50 years — the USA still doesn’t. Australians retiring in the future will have some form of savings that bolster (or, if they are fortunate, replace) their mandated pension entitlement: Americans won’t unless their employer decides to do it. Australia has a living minimum wage in comparison to the USA.

The ‘Dignity’ article in The New Yorker magazine demonstrates that collectivisation is still a valid tool to gain real improvement to workers’ rights and wages and, while Australians are leaving unions, it seems their employers are retaining their membership of organisations that promote the rights of business over their employees (as they are entitled to do). The problem is when employees can only find casual work (which eliminates the right to pay while on holidays for a start), they have less ability to protest when stripped of their penalty rates for working ‘unusual’ hours, when workplace health and safety measures are deliberately ignored or when compensation payments for forced redundancies are limited or eliminated by regulation (and if the employee is under 30, they may, if the current Government’s wishes are implemented, then have to wait up to six months to be eligible for unemployment assistance).

The union movement has demonstrably been a part of creating the environment that Australians enjoy. The Howard government met its downfall when it tried to take away workers’ rights, that those in other countries still don’t have — and the union movement contributed significantly to that shift in the Australian public’s attitude. While the union movement is not perfect, neither are similar organisations that protect the interests of business (Kathy Jackson and Arthur Sinodinos are examples here — one from each ‘side’). The other way to look at it is this: if there was nothing for the political right and employers to fear from the unions, why are the same groups still trying to neuter the unions’ ability to campaign and protect the perceived interests of their members in 2014 while ‘unions of employers’ are encouraged?

What do you think?



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TPS Team

26/10/2014"[quote]...if there was nothing for the political right and employers to fear from the unions, why are the same groups still trying to neuter the unions’ ability to campaign and protect the perceived interests of their members in 2014 while ‘unions of employers’ are encouraged?[/quote]" A very insightful question posed by 2353 today! Let us know what you think in comments below.

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26/10/20142353 What a superlative YouTube piece from the Monty Python series you have chosen to illustrate your splendid piece on what unions have done for us. Just as Reg was forced to admit that indeed the Romans had done quite a lot for their subjects, so would citizens of this nation have to concede that unions have done much for workers, for business, and indeed for all of us! A movement that has bought employee benefits to a generation of workers deserves acknowledgement. You have quoted benefits around wages, leave entitlements, and superannuation. Union focus on OH&S has featured strongly over the years, especially in the construction industry, where too many workers have died or been injured at work. The scandalous asbestos story shows how unknown dangers lurk, lethal dangers that may not show themselves until perhaps 40 years after exposure. The shameful way some employers have avoided responsibility, James Hardie being a flagrant example, underscores how necessary it is to have vigilant unions and safety enforcement procedures. Otherwise, workers would simply die of asbestos related illness without compensation. It would fill many pieces like yours to detail all that unions have done for workers and the community generally, ones that a Liberal Reg would be unable to refute. Yet the Reg’s of this world still argue against fair wages and entitlements, super, and leave provisions. They still seek to exploit the casual worker, the youthful worker, and particularly those in the hospitality industry. They continually whine about the cost of weekend labour, and seek to have it reduced, never offering compensation for the uncongenial hours these workers are expected to work. It is the age-old story of the employer trying to suck more and more out of the employee for as little pay as possible. We all acknowledge that sometimes, some unions have overdone their advocacy for workers, and that some employers have overdone their resistance to a fair wage for a fair day’s work. But when the system works with fairness as the guiding principle, everyone, including the public, generally benefit. What have unions ever done for us? Plenty, for which we all should be grateful. Thank you for reminding us of this so eloquently.

Ken

26/10/20142353 Sorry but in my case you really are preaching to the converted. I have been a life-long union member and retained my union membership after I retired - yes, still a union member and very proud of it, and I will die a union member (as did my father). Where I grew up, joining a union was simply a part of entering the work force. In that time and place, there was never any question about it. In my early work, the bosses accepted the union as an integral part of the workplace. My, how times have changed! And your piece, that we need to be reminded of what the unions have done for us, is a sign of the changed times. I can appreciate why some people don't like to be too involved in union activities. Like most organisations it can become riddled with politics. So, like politics, the will of the people, or the members, can sometimes be over-ridden by back room political deals. Unionism relies on the wishes of the members. In a sense, they are like a jury - their decision is final and unquestionable. As a delegate negotiating an agreement with Woolworths management and the Retail Traders Association, I found myself arguing not only with them but with my union Secretary because he was willing to concede to management on a point that I knew my members would not accept. At the end of the first day's negotiations, Woolworth's senior negotiator asked me, over a beer, what I thought of what had been offered so far - I told him I couldn't say until I spoke to my members. Unions have achieved much by listening to their members and supporting their members. Things tend to go wrong when they move away from that basic principle (the same applies to governments!) It doesn't mean union leaders can't encourage their members in new directions but the final decision always rests at the grass roots. Over the past decades, all sorts of changes have been put in place to undermine unionism, eg Labour hire companies and sub-contracting of tradies on major projects. They not only diminish unionism but diminish wages and conditions and are pursued by employers as the only means for workers to obtain a job - so that sites cannot be unionised. I'd better stop or I will be writing a comment as long as your post. There is so much to be said in favour of unions in a time when the big end of town is out to crush organised labour, but not, as you say, organised business.

2353`

27/10/2014Thanks Ken & Ad. Unions have made and continue to make considerable advances in improving the working lives of millions of people across Australia and elsewhere in the world. The comparisons to the USA are telling. It's time to tell both sides of the story rather than allow the current rhetoric of the conservatives to be publicised unchecked and become the common understanding. If membership of employer associations, Chambers of Commerce, industry bodies, professional associations (such as the AMA or colleges of surgeons and so on are valued by those that own or run business - there is little logical argument that employee associations equally do not have value. The examples of the USA versus the other countries listed in the piece are telling. One employee cannot expect to have an equal say in their employment conditions when negotiating - a large group of employees can. [i]The Political Sword[/i] and other blog sites have demonstrated time and time again that there are different degrees of 'freedom' in the land of the free (USA). In a land where Jack is supposed to be as good as his master (Australia) why do we seemingly want to follow the Americans down the path of inequality and lack of opportunity?

Casablanca

27/10/2014Morning Swordsters I've posted a list of links to some of the tributes that flowed for Gough: http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/page/Whitlam_Legacy.aspx

Ken

27/10/2014Casablanca Thank you for such an extensive range of links. I have started going through those I hadn't already found and hope to continue going through during the next couple of days. 2353 Your last question in the comment is most relevant and is why we need to keep writing pieces like this. And it is also what Labor needs to be pointing out - where the Abbott government is taking Australia. A land where, as you point out, it is okay for businesses to form 'unions' but not labour. Unions mean that labour and capital are negotiating on slightly more equal terms but what capital wants is total control!

DMW

27/10/2014Good one 2353 you have a fine head of steam up Ken in your comment @ October 26. 2014 07:08 PM you wrote: [i]... some people don't like to be too involved in union activities. Like most organisations it can become riddled with politics. So, like politics, the will of the people, or the members, can sometimes be over-ridden by back room political deals.[/i] There are possibly as many views of what 'politics' is and what it does as there days in a year At the recent inaugural address of [b]The Light on the Hill Society[/b], at the Revesby Workers’ Club, Senator John Faulkner gave a speech titled [b]Public Pessimism, Political Complacency: Restoring Trust, Reforming Labor [/b] In his opening offered a view that resonates for me: [i]I have always believed that politics is worthwhile. This is not, nowadays, a popular view. Important issues are, we are told, ‘above politics’— because politics, by implication and expectation, are the province of the low road. No more damaging charge can be made than to say someone is ‘playing politics’ with an issue — because, by implication and expectation, politics is a game played for personal gain and for entertainment. But politics is one of the ways – the chief way – any democracy works out solutions to its problems. Politics is a way to manage substantial disagreements within a society or a community, and to bring about real change for the better. Our politics is the expression of our values, our beliefs, and our policy priorities. Politics is about the public good - not private interest. Widespread contempt for the practice of politics is not because Australians have lost faith in what politics really is. It is because too many Australians have come to see our parliaments, our governments, our political parties, and our politicians, as practising not politics but its opposite: a values-free competition for office and the spoils it can deliver.[/i] http://www.senatorjohnfaulkner.com.au/file.php?file=/news/IGROPHPZVT/index.html Perhaps we need some clever person to rewrite that Skyhooks classic [i]Ego is not a dirty word [/i] as [i][b]Politics [/b] is not a dirty game[/i]

2353`

28/10/2014DMW - thanks. Faukner's comments are correct. Politics and unionism should be about altruistic service to the community - not how to build or maintain a power base (this relates to 'associations' on both the red and blue 'teams'). Its a sad reflection on Australia that service organisations such provided altruistic service to their communities (and had a lot of fun doing it) such as Apex, Lions and the CWA are now struggling to find members and have effectively shut down in a lot of the major cities around Australia. The 'greed is good' mantra has a lot to answer for. It's not 'all about me'.

Ken

28/10/2014DMW Take your point and I like Faulkner's approach, but I will explain my view. When I use 'politics' in that way it is about the negotiations/deals that go on between the political players (members of parliament, members of the union executive)often without the knowledge of the people/members. Sometimes that sort of politics is necessary even to achieve a worthwhile end but it does mean that there is a lot of activity on the poltical nature of decision-making and less on the outcome of the actual decision. I think I'm right in saying that 'politics' comes from a Greek root for 'town/townspeople' and that is the point that I am trying to make -- a lot of 'politics' now takes place at least one or two steps removed from the people/union members. Whereas people are meant to be central to democracy and politics, politics now exists in its own realm and has its own rules which do not always include broad involvement of those outside the inner circle. I hope that is making sense as I'm writing as I think.

DMW

28/10/2014Good Morning Ken I hope that you realise I wasn't having a go at you but was commenting on how, in general, many of the words and labels around governance and democracy have been debased and abused. To label someone as a 'union leader' is almost as bad as labelling someone as a politician. In some peoples' minds those people are the lowest of the low. Add 'faction leader' to the persons' 'title' and, phew, I can't think of anyone lower in the social order. In part, I think this has happened as one side effect of the move towards 'professionalism' in politics, the unions and industry and employer groups. In some ways 'professional representation' has become a career with a pathway, that is now well worn, of starting out as an organisational representative, moving on to be a politician and then, the icing on the cake, becoming a lobbyist. Unionism, like political party membership, can become [i]'riddled with politics' [/i], factionalism and careerism all of which can be cast as 'bad things' mostly because the upside of those things are explained poorly and the downsides are trumpeted far and wide by those with a different (and sometimes hidden) political, factional and/or career agenda.

DMW

28/10/2014So to emphasise some point in an odd way the first Canberra Time article I see today is: [b]Labor's Left, Right quarrel over turning back boats[/b] http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labors-left-right-quarrel-over-turning-back-boats-20141028-11cjiy.html I guess the headline: [b]Labor has another robust debate on boat turnback policy [/b] is not good clickbait nor would add to the physical paper's sales.

Ken

28/10/2014DMW Yes, we probably need a few new words to describe the different aspects of politics. When we now have people who are 'professional' politicians, who have had no other career, then I think that that aspect of politics is becoming more remote from what politics is all about. And you are quite right that, how this is reported influences the perception. The LNP has a 'broad church' but Labor has 'factions'!!! That is another aspect of politics that is overlooked. Politics does involve different points of view and arguing positions, but political parties now see any internal argument as political 'death'. Perhaps we lost something in the translation from the Greek.

DMW

28/10/2014Hi Ken [i]Perhaps we lost something in the translation ...[/i] Could it be that the translations or, the interpretations of the words, have now morphed into some form of neo-con double dutch bogan? Or, could it be that many of our leaders, illustrious or not, and those who choose to be the decipherers of the body politic have fallen for [b]The Humpty-Dumpty Theory of Language [/b]: [i]“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”[/i] [b]Lewis Carroll[/b], [i]Through the Looking Glass[/i]

TalkTurkey

29/10/2014Greetings Comrades. Why "Comrades"? - Comradeship is fundamental to Unionism! Unionism is a philosophy first and foremost. It doesn't necessarily imply fee-paying membership, it happens whenever two or more people back up one another in a spirit of comradeship to fight perceived injustice. In that sense it is universal and natural. It is essential to any fight against any foe. It has always been so, since humans learnt to co-operate in a common cause. Since time immemorial, the cattle-herding African tribe called [i]Nuer[/i] has always [i]coalesced into a single fighting unit [/i]when under external threat. The surrounding tribes are all known as [i]Tiv:[/i] they are [i]identical[/i] to Nuer in culture, language and economy, except for this one difference, that when they are under threat, [i]their fighting units fragment[/i]. Their individual warriors are as brave and capable as any Nuer, but their units have never learned to co-operate. The Nuer have always predated Tiv moieties, staging raids where they steal a small proportion of the cattle and carry off a few women, who will then be married off to Nuer, not necessarily unwillingly, since they are accepted as equals by Nuer immediately. In these raids very few of either side are killed, and any deaths are regretted: there is a self-limiting pressure on escalation of violence. The Tiv mutter darkly about retributive raids on the Nuer but they are rarely successful. Nuer say haughtily, [i]We[/i] are [i]Nuer![/i] - while Tiv say, hang-doggily, [i]Yeah, They are Nuer![/i] Yet when completely foreign tribes threaten any of the Tiv moieties, it is the Nuer who step up to their defence, marshalling and organising the various Tiv who are happy to accept Nuer leadership. Marshalling. Organising. Unionising. It's always been a dynamic in human affairs, and it's always the courageous who lead the struggle. When Roman soldiers formed 'The Tortoise' by linking shields together unionism was at its core, and it was invincible. When Magna Carta was forced on (?Harold?) it was a union of nobles that did the drafting and forcing. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution the tyrant Boycott was brought undone by a union of the Irish poor whom he so squeezed. They immortalised his name in ignominy. Hell's Angels have a rule: [i]When an Angel strikes a non-Angel, all other Angels present will also strike the non-Angel.[/i] That's unionism at work, and it works! - Even if in this case it is an illegitimate use of the power of union. The courageous and ultimately-victorious campaign of Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people, united against the pastoral company owned by English absentee landlord, Lord Bestey, was one of the most inspirational moments in the history of human rights in this country - indeed, the world. Just to think about their staunch fight gives me a rush. Frank Hardy, the great Communist author of [i]Power Without Glory [/i]and [i]The Outcasts of Foolgarah[/i], showed how powerful can be the pen in uniting people in the fight for justice. https://www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer/1967_referendum/labour.html The united efforts of ordinary workers in labour unions have brought ordinary people the decent conditions and protections we now enjoy. We take them for granted, but every concession has had to be won by continuous effort by those who have gone before. Yet those conditions are never safe, and they have never been so under attack in Western democracies as they are now. In Australia, unions have been always been targeted since the days of the Groupers and the DLP, but Howard steeply ramped up the attack, outlawing strikes, the worker's ultimate sanction, with the disgraceful connivance of Meg Lees and the so-called Australian Democrats. Reith's assault on waterside workers' unions, with the use of infamous Sandline scabs and attack dogs, has intimidated them ever since. Comrades, it is vital that workers clutch at their rights now. We must make strenuous efforts to co-opt new recruits to Unions and to the Labor party, the only political organisation which ever fights for their rights. So much more to say but I'll let some songs speak for me now. John Lennon, Power to the People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtvlBS4PMF0 Strawbs [i]Part of the Union[/i] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdOCWUgwiWs It's a great rockin' number but the words - listen to them! - are pretty weird. It's the HOOK that's good. Joan Baez [i]The Ballad of Joe Hill[/i] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f2J4ceCikI One of the greatest Union songs. Bob Marley, [i]Stand Up For Your Rights [/i]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F69PBQ4ZyNw Pete Seeger [i]Solidarity Forever[/i](The Union makes Us Strong) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCnEAH5wCzo POWER to the PEOPLE! VENCEREMOS!

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29/10/2014Folks After some busy days of property maintenance, I’m back in Melbourne catching up with [i]TPS[/i] comments. Casablanca Thank you for documenting so comprehensively the splendid tributes to Gough Whitlam. It is such a worthy collection that we should archive it in the left panel.

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29/10/20142353, Ken, DMW What a delightful conservation you have had these last few days! I have so enjoyed reading your exchanges. [i]TPS[/i] is increasingly becoming a forum for serious intellectual discourse about political matters. I agree with John Faulkner that politics is the most powerful medium through which changes can be made to our society, to our democracy. Politics is the peaceful process of effecting change. Revolution is another process, one that we generally eschew, but one that some citizens are occasionally driven to in desperation. Politics ought then to be among the noblest of pursuits. Yet its perversion by self-interest, dishonesty, deviousness, disingenuousness and downright mendaciousness has brought it to its present disreputable state, and with it politicians to a sadly diminished stature. Politicians must take heavy responsibility for this deplorable state of affairs, which in my view has been occasioned by adversarial politics, a preoccupation with power, and the pursuit of ideologies built upon self-interest instead of the common good. Business, industry, lobby groups, and the media must also accept weighty responsibility for the degraded state of politics we now suffer. One of our aims here on [i]TPS[/i] ought to be the resuscitation of political discourse and action to what it is meant to be, conceived when the concept of democracy first emerged. The pieces written for [i]TPS[/i] have advanced that aim. Thoughtful, stimulating, at times provocative, and habitually requiring deep reflection, they have immersed us in profound philosophical thought about the underpinnings of politics. Is there a place for critical analysis, for exposing the faults in our system, for revealing the dishonest, disreputable actions of our politicians? Of course there must be. This has been an aim of [i]TPS[/i] from the outset. But if all we do is critique and criticize we are doing only half of our job. The other half is to depict the ideal state of politics, to argue how our system could be enriched, to show how its defects might be remedied. Your contributions this week fit that mould. I have always thought that political commentary is profoundly affected by the author’s own personal experience and belief system – influenced as that is by our own values, ideology, and philosophy. It is almost impossible to be wholly objective, impartial, balanced, and fair when pulled this way and that by our inner selves. However, if we were to place our belief system up-front when writing political commentary, readers would be able to see ‘where we are coming from’ to use a hackneyed phrase. In a sense, the authors of recent articles have done this and as a result the pieces have been all the more meaningful and persuasive. Perhaps we should adopt the habit of prefacing our pieces with a brief statement of our beliefs and values. Readers could then judge the veracity of our arguments against that backdrop.

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29/10/2014TT Thank you for gifting us with your splendid advocacy of unionism via your insightful comment. I enjoyed reading for the first time about the African tribes [i]Nuer[/i] and [i]Tiv[/i] and the way they interacted. I admire how you have drawn lessons from their behaviour and that of the Romans, the nobles behind the Magna Carta, the Industrial Revolution, the Hell’s Angels, the campaign of Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji people against Lord Beste, and Frank Hardy’s [i]Power without Glory[/i], to show the value, indeed the necessity for unions and unionism. You capped your stylish comment with five YouTube clips, all so relevant and enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed Strawbs [i]Part of the Union[/i] – what a catchy tune; Bob Marley’s [i]Get up, Stand up: stand up for your rights! Never give up[/i], and Pete Seeger’s [i]Solidarity Forever[/i]. That is indeed a worker’s anthem – ‘the union makes us strong’. While we still have conservative politicians and rapacious employers ranging like jackals seeking to dismember unions and subjugate workers, we need strong, fair-minded unions to protect them and ensure equitable wages and conditions. Indeed: [b]POWER to the PEOPLE! VENCEREMOS![/b]

Ken

29/10/2014TT A passionate defence of the unions which I enjoyed. I was also hoping to match the great union songs you linked, and raise you one or two :-), but many of the ones I have aren't on the internet -- like 'The Travelling Agitators' who sang at CFMEU gatherings in the late 1990s. I might try to at least put some lyrics up a little later. But I can match your 'power to the people' with AMANDLA AWETHU and AWETHU ABU (the cry of my own (late teens)revolutionary group, The Black Shamrock, mixing the South African 'Awethu' meaning us/people and the Irish call 'to victory' -- now I can wait for a call from ASIO!)

Ken

29/10/2014Here is one set of lyrics I promised. Now it is not so much 'later' because I forgot to actually post my 'earlier' comment. Rise again (The Travelling Agitators) Rise again, rise again, stand up and fight To be proud of a union, it is your birthright For united we stand or divided we fall And it’s on your hands and knees to the tyrants you crawl For it’s too far we’ve come and I’m not going back I will not put my name to your stinking contract For the blood money you offer will not buy my soul As you profit on the land of the Wik that you stole Rise again, rise again, the lines they are drawn On the blood of Eureka our oaths they are sworn For you cannot defeat the passion and pride Of our brothers and sisters who stand by our sides In the factories, the mines, and the ports and the mills The CRA wheel will grind to a still Rise again, rise again, stand on your dig I will not bow to you, you capitalist pig For the wealth of this land is not here for you I will not see our country controlled by a few In the Bougainville mines, well, you did have your way But your path has been blocked by the bold BRA Rise again, rise again, raise the old fist That the CFMEU will proudly enlist And to you right wing unions from which I resigned You scratch your heads wondering why your numbers declined With your back door deals and the lies that you told To the workers like me that you bargained and sold Rise again, rise again, stand up and fight To be proud of a union, it is your birthright For united we stand or divided we fall And it’s on your hands and knees to the tyrants you crawl For it’s too far we’ve come and I’m not going back I will not put my name to your stinking contract For the blood money you offer will not buy my soul As you profit on the land of the Wik that you stole

Ken

29/10/2014A bit of a PS to earlier comments. They lyrics of the song that I put up made me think that the government and big business aren't out to crush unions (particularly left-wing unions) because they are defending the workers but because they offer a different view of reality (a Left view). If too many people are in the unions, it is not just their wages and conditions being supported but they are embracing (at least to some extent) a different ideological view that questions the basic assumptions on which business operates. I would suggest that, in that light, it is little wonder business (and conservative governments) seeks to crush unions.

Bacchus

29/10/2014Good stuff Ken - I found 11 tracks by The Travelling Agitators on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/gary-mccarthy-1/sets/travelling-agitators

Ken

29/10/2014Bacchus Glad you know how to find things. I have the 'Touch One, Touch All' CD from 1998 but the last track on Soundcloud (2011) suggests they are still around, which I didn't know. There is a history of song and poetry among some of the Australian unions. The late Don Henderson wrote songs for the unions in the 1960s, starting with the big Mount Isa strike. And (also the late) Dennis Kevans was employed as a poet by the Trades Hall (can't remember whether Sydney or Melbourne). He used to write more serious poems and little ditties like this: [quote]The worker stood with the sole of his shoe Flapping loosely on the strand The boss, he pulled out a big bundle of notes And gave him the rubber band. [/quote] And of course one of the great Australian union songs '1891' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvUfNTnr4ak

Ken

29/10/2014Apolgies that Youtube version of 1891 is not one of the better ones. I'll have to see if I can find another. Or perhaps Bacchus can,

Ken

29/10/2014I just remembered another Dennis Kevans union ditty. [quote]It's easy to wrestle a pig No matter which company employs it Trouble is, you both get covered in sh** And only the pig enjoys it[/quote] Back to more serious stuff soon.

Bacchus

29/10/2014I can find plenty of covers Ken, including one by the Sydney Trade Union Choir, but only the link you posted to an original Bushwackers Band version.

Casablanca

29/10/2014When Abbott declared on Election Night that 'Australia is now open [u]for[/u] business' I made a mental note that it was code for 'Australia is open [u]to[/u] business'. Now this naive journalist notes that surprise, surprise, [i]'Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is turning out to be an investment banker's best friend'.[/i] Only a left-wing cynic or a New York Merchant Banker could have predicted that! [b]Australia for sale: Investment bankers cashing in on Tony Abbott's infrastructure push[/b] Brett Foley. October 29, 2014 Since the start of the third quarter, regional governments have hired bankers for more than $60 billion of asset sales -- an amount that, when completed, may outstrip the value of corporate M&A this year. In July, New South Wales appointed Deutsche Bank AG and UBS to advise on the sale of 49 per cent of its electricity networks in a bid to raise more than A$20 billion. Its southern neighbour, Victoria state, in August hired Morgan Stanley and Flagstaff Partners Ltd. to sell a multibillion-dollar lease to the Port of Melbourne. Queensland has appointed advisers for several assets including ports and power plants valued at about A$35 billion, according to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. The advisory fees from those deals alone will be equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the total Australia-related M&A commissions in 2014, Freeman estimates. On October 20, the federal government said it planned to raise as much as $5.5 billion by selling shares in Medibank Private, the country's largest health insurer, in the biggest state divestment through an equity offering since 2006. Read more at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/business/the-economy/australia-for-sale-investment-bankers-cashing-in-on-tony-abbotts-infrastructure-push-20141029-11ddcu.html

Ken

29/10/2014thanks for trying Bacchus I have a Bushwackers version on CD which is better than the one on Youtube, so I don't know how or why that one is up or where it comes from. Franklin B Paverty also do a version but I couldn't find that anywhere.

Ken

29/10/2014Casablanca So true. Those investment banks rake in millions in fees for all those deals. If there is $60 billion in asset sales occurring, then those banks will be pulling in between $3 and $6 billion. Obviously it is paid out of the sale but that's a lot of money that could be used for better government services.

DMW

29/10/2014Hey TT thanks heaps I haven't been able to get rid of the earworm of the Strawbs classic ever since I read your comment this morning Classic :)

TalkTurkey

30/10/2014DMW Suggest you put your Earworm on the Hook in THAT Strawbs' SONG, and catch yourself a BABEL FISH! "The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix."[7] It is a universal translator that neatly crosses the language divide between any species. The book points out that the Babel fish could not possibly have developed naturally, and therefore it both proves and disproves the existence of God: Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.""But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.""Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic."Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing. Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's kidneys. But this did not stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme for his best selling book, Well That About Wraps It Up for God. Meanwhile the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.[8] Arthur Dent commented only 'Eurgh!' when first inserting the fish into his ear. It enabled him to understand Vogon Poetry - not necessarily a good thing.

TalkTurkey

30/10/2014Comrades Seems we needed a bit of rousing music to raise our spirits! In particular [i]Part of the Union [/i]seems to have struck a chord. So to speak. Funny, because completely coincidentally Mark Duckett on Twitter tweeted the same song. We had a series of exchanges. They surprised me! Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 28 one of the best tunes of all time.. Strawbs - Part of the Union 1973 http://youtu.be/FcaVP-1tySs #auspol #ausunions TalkTurkey I'm currently writing a post for The Political Sword, re unions, & I had already linked in it to I'm A Union Man! Weird words! 9:30 PM - 28 Oct 2014 ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 28 @TalkyTurkey its very nostalgic..tribal goodness :) TalkyTurkey Finally posted at 2.16 AM on TPS thread, What have Unions ever done for Us? http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/post/2014/10/26/What-have-the-unions-ever-done-for-us.aspx#comment … well done..I have not read it..but will be cool Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey have a lot of respect for you TalkTurkey ‏@TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett Gee that's nice! I'm pretty pugnacious a lot of the time, frustration-aggression I guess, overcompensating for MSM anaemia. :) Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey I love you [b][?!!??? :)TT ][/b] Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 I like you take up the argument...most ppl wont Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey I respect you heaps TalkTurkey ‏@TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett Check out the song links at the bottom. Boost your staunchness level! :~). Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey links where? TalkTurkey ‏@TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett As I said Comrade - Google http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/post/2014/10/26/What-have-the-unions-ever-done-for-us.aspx#comment … scroll to last comment (mine) at 2.16 AM. 2353's lead article is germane too Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey [b]its better than IA* [/b] *[NB 2353 This has to mean either your lead article or the whole of The Political Sword. TT] TalkTurkey ‏@TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett Tx, but beware of comparisons in matters sensitive; it is truly said, comparison is invidious. But IA is Gold anyway Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey me and david have issues...him being a ["grub"*.] *[Because I don't use the real Pyne word here on TPS... TT] TalkTurkey ‏@TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett I think he's a lot like me. Pissed off and pugnacious. I'm sure it helps us make points, but we're both pretty prickly yep. Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey too true! Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey ...'write your legal theory to IA!!"* he pissed me off *[I don't know to what this refers. Anyone? TT] Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey feelpinios* [*I have no idea what this means ! Anyone? TT ] TalkTurkey ‏@ TalkyTurkey Oct 29 @MarkRDuckett Que? Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey we need a new party TalkTurkey There we part company. LaborTrueBeliever me, at least to extent no other orgnztn will EVER wrest power from LNP & do hard yards. Mark ‏@MarkRDuckett Oct 29 @TalkyTurkey your heart is right ``````````````````````````````````````````````````````````` But the [i]Part of the Union [/i]lyrics are a worry. They seem to be tongue-in-cheek and NOT very sincere, even cynical about unions. I'm not sure of what they were getting at and it seems neither does anyone else. But there's some funny aspects to Strawbs, and I'll go into those words in another post. But it's a GREAT chorus, beyond any question. I love it. Meantime Mark 'I love you' Duckett has a point - I am not his only love by a long shot as his Twitter timeline reveals, but then, why not? - I love [i]The Political Sword [/i]and all who wield her, Casablanca and Ad astra and all of you. Comradely love is a tremendous and inclusive force. Your encouragement Ad, your information Casablanca, everyone's dedication and staunchness of heart - I do, I adore you all.

Ad astra

30/10/2014Casablanca Your magnificent 'Vale Gough Whitlam' deserves its special place in the TPS Page List in the left panel. Thank you so much for compiling this vast historic collection of tributes.

Ad astra

30/10/2014TT You are a twitterer extraordinaire! Your babel fish story makes me wonder if Greg Hunt has a babel fish in his ear. After his extraordinary Direct Action Plan convolutions yesterday it seems that he is, as usual, 'very clear' in his mind (like Man), that indeed black IS white, an assertion he repeats incessantly, always offered sickeningly 'with great respect'. He had better be careful on zebra crossings.

Bacchus

30/10/2014Good stuff TT :D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5mWQFGF7w8

TalkTurkey

30/10/2014Casablanca What an astonishing collection of Goughograms you have amassed (amassed is good) in the very first few days after the Great Man's death. The collection itself has many sites which themselves branch out to more sites - never mind 6 degrees of separation, I'm sure that everyone who ever interacted with him would be no more than 2 arms' length from somebody mentioned there. Even though Gough was not in office since long before the development of the Internet. That you have pulled so many brilliant accounts together in such a short time speaks volumes (volumes is good too!) for your ability as a researcher. And Gough's tremendous influence on Australia of course. I don't know whether you might like to (or like me to) bring your collection to the attention of James Carleton [mailto:goughrip@gmail.com] who, as I mentioned a week ago, is writing a book of anecdotes about Gough ..? What an embarrassment of riches he will have to sort through!

Bacchus

30/10/2014From the 2007 'Your rights at work' campaign - a version of the Monty Python video in your piece 2353 :D https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=184NTV2CE_c

Bacchus

30/10/2014The manictimes YouTube site has quite a lot of 'interesting' videos, especially the 'Fair go for billionaires' series. Well worth a look: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjx0UzAgyCtSBzM2ndnlrsw

Ken

30/10/2014thanks Bacchus The 'Fair go for billionaires' series was good and I see they were put out by the CFMEU about the mining tax. Does anyone recall seeing any of those clips? Here in Canberra we see only a limited number of election ads because Canberra is a pretty solid Labor town, so neither party wastes their money here.

2353

30/10/2014Bacchus, Wish I'd found that one. Just shows good ideas are rarely original. Ken, I can't remember seeing the ad either.

Ken

31/10/2014Further to my comment, October 29. 2014 01:44 PM, I see that Abbott has now called the AFP in to attack the CFMEU. Although the HSU (Health Services Union, Kathy Jackson et al) has also come under the scrutiny of the royal commission, it is only the CFMEU that gets picked out. I wonder why?

TalkTurkey

1/11/2014Comrades My email isn't downloading for some reason. Last incoming on Thursday. My last TPS post is from Ken on Friday at 10.49 AM. I'll see if I can post this now.

Ken

1/11/2014TT It appears you and I are left 'holding the fort'. What would you like to discuss?

Crowey

1/11/2014Hi! I just signed the petition "All Queensland Parliamentarians: Refer for investigation whether Campbell Newman misled Parliament on Thursday 30 October." on Change.org. It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link: http://www.change.org/p/all-queensland-parliamentarians-refer-for-investigation-whether-campbell-newman-misled-parliament-on-thursday-30-october?recruiter=30259473&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

2353

1/11/2014Crowy, I also just signed the petition. Hopefully it will do something to add to the momentum. Remember the Queensland election has to be in the first six months of 2015.

Ken

1/11/2014Crowey and 2353 Without knowing the full details, I would guess that Newman is doing the usual 'politician' thing and playing with statistics. He would be claiming to have offered 'above inflation' increases based on the national inflation figures, ignoring that Queensland (largely through his own government's actions) has an inflation level well above that. He would not have lied but he would certainly be using the statistics in a misleading way. That seems to be a common approach. Seems to remind me of a PM, treasurer, finance minister, immigration minister, etc, that we have at the federal level.

Crowey

1/11/2014Ken, lets go the full hog. The Liberal/Nationals Australia wide, are a bunch of Liars, they just can't help themselves it's in their DNA.

2353

2/11/2014Ken, Neman is attempting to limit all payrises to 2% - which is under the level of any inflation measure across Australia (as far as I'm aware).

Ken

2/11/20142353 If that is the case, then Crowey is right and they are all liars.

2353

2/11/2014Ken, A bit of additional reading on the payrise subject -> http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/01/campbell-newman-lied-to-parliament-about-wage-rises-says-union

Ken

2/11/2014thanks 2353
What does two plus 1 equal?