Trade Unions

Founded on the class struggle

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In a new ten-part column John Newsinger tells the the remarkable story of US revolutionary trade unionists the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the Wobblies

On Tuesday 27 June 1905 Bill Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners called the first and founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to order. He told the 200 delegates assembled in Brand’s Hall, Chicago, that they had come together “to confederate the workers of this country into a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class”.

Trade unions and Corbynism

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The low level of industrial struggle is in contrast to the huge political earthquake of Corbynism. How can socialists work within this contradiction, asks Julie Sherry

The events of Saturday 24 September summed up the key contradiction of the current political situation. As celebrations were breaking out at Corbyn’s triumph in the Labour leadership election, you caught a real feel for that huge mood for an alternative to austerity, and of the possibilities and opportunities for socialist politics in this moment. Scrolling down your news feed, that sense of jubilation was palpable.

Get ready to break the Trade Union Act

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“Strike to win”, “Unity is strength”, “Workers’ solidarity”. Old fashioned? Yes, but these trade union slogans have never been more relevant than today.

All of the above is enshrined in the ethos of the Grangemouth trade unions hub — where various unions across different sectors have joined forces. The hub was founded just after the Ineos dispute in 2013, in order to bring together refinery workers, dockers, rail workers and tanker drivers to give us more leverage during any future disputes.

Signs of recovery

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The junior doctors' dispute has combined with teachers’ anger and the Tory crisis to present new opportunities

The government has stumbled into a key trial of strength with junior doctors, who by the end of April had taken five rounds of escalating strikes, including a full walkout without cover. As the BBC’s health correspondent wrote after the full walkout, “this is going to be a fight to the bitter end…both sides have been briefing about how determined they are not to give ground. But who will break first? Ministers or doctors?” The answer will have far reaching consequences.

Bringing politics into the union movement

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The low level of industrial struggle in Britain today is frustratingly at odds with the political radicalisation represented by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Michael Bradley sets out a strategy to rebuild workers' confidence using our strengths to overcome our weaknesses

Bitterness against years of Tory austerity and the failure of the Labour Party to lead any effective opposition has laid the ground for the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. This political earthquake has opened up exciting possibilities for the left.

For Corbyn to join a mass protest in defence of refugees within minutes of being elected and to make his first visit abroad as leader to refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk is pretty incredible by previous standards.

We learned to be bold

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After over 100 days of strike action National Gallery workers voted to return to work last month having won nearly all their demands. Socialist Review and five strikers discussed the lessons learned.

When did you all join the union?

Patrick: Nine years ago!

Eva: I can’t remember if it was before the first strike or not… Less than a year ago.

Lucy: Did you join because of the privatisation?

Eva: Yes.

Kill the Tory Trade Union Bill

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November is set to be a crucial month for trade union members in Britain. With the third reading of the Tories’ Trade Union Bill due to take place this month we have a fight on our hands to defend our rights.

And this fight is not abstract — steel workers now fighting to defend their livelihoods, junior doctors taking to the streets in their tens of thousands, and public sector workers facing the eleventh year of pay restraint, all desperately need strong collective struggles.

The challenge for the unions

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One of the pillars of the Tory government's agenda is the Trade Union Bill. This is an ideological attack aimed primarily at the public sector, and it must be resisted, writes Ralph Darlington.

The Tories’ Trade Union Bill threatens the most sweeping and radical tightening of the rules on industrial action and trade union representation since the Thatcher era of the 1980s. The restrictive measures could potentially rebalance power in the workplace, reduce the capacity of unions to represent their members at work and undermine the basic right to strike.

Strategies to defend our unions

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The Tories' election victory has provoked moves towards 'doing politics differently'. Shaun Doherty stresses how workers' confidence to fight back lies in industrial struggle.

In April 1974 I attended my first union meeting at a north London comprehensive school. The NUT rep, a member of the Communist Party, read out a request for support for a demonstration in work time protesting at the jailing of Ricky Tomlinson and Des Warren — the Shrewsbury Two building workers. More in hope than expectation I suggested we support it. To my surprise there was a near unanimous vote to take unofficial solidarity strike action in support of the demonstration. I thought, “Yes, this is what unions are about.”

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