Trade Unions

US workers: from despair to victory

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After years of vicious repression, US workers rose in 1934 in a series of magnificent struggles, transforming the nation's industrial landscape.

John Newsinger reviews a new book about one of the most significant, that in Minneapolis.

In the aftermath of the First World War the US labour movement suffered a succession of crushing defeats that were to leave it on its knees throughout the 1920s. A countrywide "open shop" campaign saw union organisation broken, driven out of whole industries, and militants and activists sacked and blacklisted.

Miliband's balancing act: Labour and the unions

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Following a row about Unite's role in the selection of Labour parliamentary candidates, Ed Miliband announced a special conference to re-examine Labour's relationship with the unions. Ian Taylor looks at the tensions between Labour and the unions but also the forces that push them together.

A Labour party special conference in March will review how unions fund the party and, by extension, the link between the two. At least, that is what Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged last July to the delight of New Labour acolytes and Blairite former ministers.

Miliband announced the review in the wake of allegations of malpractice by members of Unite in the selection of a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk. It was a decision Miliband appeared to be bounced into at the time. But there seemed little ambiguity when the Labour leader declared himself "incredibly angry".

Grangemouth: Another provocation

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A chorus of condemnation has greeted David Cameron's launch of an inquiry into trade union tactics in the wake of the Grangemouth affair.

Unite the Union has described it as a Tory election stunt and rightly called for a refusal to cooperate with it.

Frances O'Grady of the TUC said that it is "simply part of the Conservative Party's general election campaign" and even SNP leader Alex Salmond has suggested that it "was entirely about seeking electoral advantage". These responses are fine as far as they go.

Taking on Crossrail

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Simon Basketter reports on an important step forward in the battle to rebuild union organisation across construction sites.

Frank Morris, an electrician sacked in a blacklisting case after raising health and safety concerns, won his job back last month. It was a stunning victory for union campaigning. Frank, a Unite union member, was dismissed over a year ago from London's Crossrail project, Europe's largest railway and infrastructure construction scheme.

'A titanic struggle'

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The revolutionary socialist James Connolly played a key role in the Dublin Lockout, taking over the leadership of the ITWU when Larkin was arrested. He wrote this article in the British socialist paper, the Daily Herald, in December 1913 as part of the fight to win solidarity from British workers.

What is the truth about the Dublin dispute?

In the year 1911 the National Seamen's and Firemen's Union, as a last desperate expedient to avoid extinction, resolved upon calling a general strike in all the home ports... the call was in danger of falling upon deaf ears, and was, in fact, but little heeded until the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union began to take a hand in the game.

The stamp of militancy

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One hundred years ago thousands of workers took part in what became known as the Great Dublin Lockout.

The Irish state postal service recently issued a series of stamps showing scenes from the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. The stamps are very handsome, but this isn't the point. Rather it is the irony of the government issuing them being responsible for imposing the worst cuts in living memory on Irish workers. This shows how important it is to properly recall the memory of the events of 1913. For the lockout is not just the most important struggle of the Irish working class; it is also one of the most important industrial episodes in British history.

Start with solidarity

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Mark Bergfeld responds to Sandy Nicoll from last months issue on the Pop-Up Union at Sussex university. Here he argues that our starting point has to be solidarity

In recent months there have been major developments at Sussex University. Two of the main unions on campus (UCU and Unite) held consultative ballots, forcing the third union Unison into a corner. In a rigorous three-page questionnaire more than 85 percent of Unison members ticked the box calling for industrial action. And yet, there is no intention of going on strike.

Are "Pop-Up" unions the way forward?

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The emergence of the Pop-Up union at Sussex University has raised important debates about how to organise in the unions and how to address the inertia of the union officials.

Some argue that the Pop-Up union represents an innovative approach to overcoming the conservatism of the trade union bureaucracy (see, for example, the article by Mark Bergfeld in Ceasefire magazine http://tinyurl.com/nuqg4xt).

'Changing the game': how 30 November can transform the unions

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In the build-up to the planned strikes across the public sector on 30 November
Mark L Thomas and Estelle Cooch spoke to socialists in different unions about the mood in the working class and how we can beat back the Tories and rebuild union organisation

"For many years we were told the working class is dead, but we're going to have the biggest strike in generations. We were told that you won't have revolutions, but the 21st century is becoming a century of revolutions," says Brett Davies, the Unite convenor at a Ministry of Defence (MoD) company in Telford.

Pension Battles

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The autumn is likely to see a renewal of strikes over the assault on public sector pensions. Charlie Kimber looks at the pressures on the big unions to join the fight.

The coalition's assault on the pensions of public sector workers is the most direct and concentrated aspect of its war to make ordinary people pay the cost of bailing out the bosses and the bankers. It is, of course, part of a much wider strategy, involving not just the £81 billion of public spending cuts but also a reshaping of the whole of British society in the interests of capital and profit. And the pensions attack goes alongside a vicious offensive against benefits, jobs and services everywhere.

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