Trade Unions

A right royal crisis prods dormant unions into life

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Recent upheavals in the Royal College of Nursing are a sign of a wider transformation among nurses and white collar workers, argue Andy Ridley and Mark L Thomas

There were unusual scenes at the end of September in the Royal College of Nursing. Delegates at an Emergency General Meeting in Birmingham clashed with the RCN’s leadership over the way it had sold the 2018 NHS pay deal to members, while the leadership in turn attacked their critics as “political infiltrators”. Such red baiting however failed to stop a motion of no confidence in the RCN Council being overwhelmingly voted through. As a result the bulk of the RCN Council has stepped down to face immediate re-election contests.

Unions and democracy

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The strike by lecturers this year led to a new confidence which clashed with the leadership at the congress of the University and College Union. Megan James looks back at the history of holding leaders to account.

Over the past twelve months, struggles in Higher Education have had a potency and engagement with people moving into political action for the first time that is unprecedented, certainly since the early 1970s. I personally have known nothing like it and the past year has been the most exhilarating and productive of my political life.

Time's up for unequal pay

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48 years after the Equal Pay Act, companies are still finding ways to pay women less, as Carrie Gracie’s case against the BBC revealed. Anna Blake investigates the complexities of gender and pay today.

In this centenary year of the Representation of the People’s Act — when some women, those aged over 30 who met specific property qualifications, were first granted the right to vote — much has been made of how far we have come.

From #MeToo to #WhatAboutUs

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What began as a discussion of sexual harassment has broadened out to other aspects of the fight for women’s liberation. But working class women must be at the centre of debate, writes Sally Campbell.

The #MeToo movement, which took off in reaction to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault revelations, has continued to reshape discussions around women’s equality.

What chance a fight over pay this year?

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The cost of living is higher and the squeeze on earnings is back with a vengeance, but pay in the public sector and most parts of the private sector is still being held at below-inflation levels, as it has been for the best part of a decade. The Tories reacted to near-defeat in the general election in June by shifting their position slightly — increases of just 1 percent became 2 percent for some groups.

IWW: songs the struggle taught us

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Part eight of our history of the Wobblies celebrates the great contribution of radical songwriter Joe Hill.

Song played a vital part in the struggles and campaigns of the IWW. On the picket line, at meetings, during the free speech campaigns, around campfires and in prison cells, the Wobblies sang their defiance.

In 1908 James Wilson reported from Spokane that the local Wobblies had been livening up their agitational meetings with “a few songs by some of the fellow workers”. He went on, “It is really surprising how soon a crowd will form in the street to hear a song in the interest of the working class.”

IWW: A tale of two cities

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Part seven of our series on the IWW looks at a victorious strike in Lawrence in 1912 and a defeat in Paterson a year later.

The two most famous strikes led by the Industrial Workers of the World were those in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, and in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1913. The first of these battles opened the way for IWW organising in the East while the second seemed to close that door.

Striking back after the Trade Union Act

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With the Tories’ latest anti-union attacks set to become law,
Mark L Thomas argues that there are ways to initiate struggle that can help stregthen workplace organisation, and prepare for clashes to come.

The Tories’ new Trade Union Act, which passed through parliament last year, is due to come into legal effect this month. The new restrictions it contains, above all thresholds for strike ballots, will further curtail the legal space for strikes.

The IWW has stood with the Negro'

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In part six of our series on the Wobblies, John Newsinger tells how, at a time when lynchings were common, the IWW fought for unity between black and white workers.

One of the great weaknesses of the US labour movement was the way that many white workers fell for the race card and played into the hands of their employers, both North and South.

The concern of many white workers was to keep black workers off the job rather than to build a united movement to fight the bosses and their political representatives.

They stood by while black workers were oppressed, denied the vote, discriminated against and brutalised on a daily basis. The public torture and lynching of black men and women was almost an everyday affair.

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