Jack Mundey grew up amid amid the rainforests of North Queensland.
In 1973 Jack Mundey coined the term ‘Green Ban’ to describe the withdrawal of Labour for social and environmental reasons.
So by 1974 the NSW Building Labourers Federation (BLF) had listed 49 Greens Bans in the Sydney Metropolitan area.
Joe Owens, a member of the BLF, explained:
“The Green bans were a peculiar phenomenon. The BLF do demolition work, which are the first requirements before any construction can take place This gave us extraordinary power over construction we were able to control areas which other unions could not. ”
Anyway this kind of movement was possible because that was a period when people were willing to take action outside the institutions of capitalism – institutions like the courts, the parliament, the mass media – people were seeking control over their workplaces. Nearly all of that (kind of action) has disappeared now. There are pockets of it here and there but it has mainly gone.
This is the opening sequence of Pat Fiske’s outstanding 1985 documentary on a NSW Building Labourers past endeavours to preserve Sydney’s parks, neighbourhoods and historical buildings.
These workers were led by that old style of labour leader, that Jack Mundey represented.
I’ve walked through Kelly’s Bush saved by an unlikely coalition of middle class women and the BLs. Jack Mundey helped make that possible. To my surprise I found that the houses above Kelly’s Bush had been condemned because nuclear waste was discovered under them.
Jack Mundey believed that union leaders should always be ready and willing to ‘return to the tools’ and practice that he put into practice himself.
We should not forget that, in 1985, the Hawke Labor government de-registered NSW branch of the BLF.
Condolences to Jack Mundey’s family and friends in the union movement.
Unchartered Waters: Social responsibility in Australian trade unions by Greg Mallory