May Day – Educate, Agitate, Organise!

The Mayor says
20,000 dead in Mariupol
But nothing is done
What does it take?
Is it true?

They keep saying whatever they say
Yes, they send arms
But who will stop the killing?

If it is true why had nothing been done?
How many dying would it take?
Six million?
Twenty-two million?
If Putin is the problem,
Why doesn’t someone talk to him,
And make him see sense?
From Nothing Done by Ian Curr

The 2022 May Day celebrations in Brisbane saw a big turn out in a federal election year. The Labor Party put its speakers on the main platform to rally union members to the cause of winning the 2022 election. The official platform was largely ignored by the unions … the biggest unions kept to their own tents.

However, during the May Day march, there was an expectation that this would be a big year for the Labour movement. Generally the unions stuck to the issues that concerns them: (1) wages stagnation and (2) lack of secure work. The best organised contingent was the building workers under the CFMEU banner closely followed by the nurses under the Queensland Nurses Union banner. These were also the largest contingents.

Looking at the slogan educate – agitate – organise, the group most interested in agitation was the Socialist Alternative who tried to challenge the Labour Party on the official platform with the slogan tax the rich. Of course they know that this is not possible under parliamentary democracy even at the Labor Party did win the election on 21 May 2022. They also challenged the Labor Party’s policies on coal. This kind of intervention at the official platform has been tried many times before with limited success.

May Day platform?
The QCU placed the stalls across the road which at first looked like a poor option; but when you saw it in action, people drifted across the road and participated by visiting the stalls. In future years it is possible that this space could become a venue for a proper May Day platform where some serious politics can be discussed outside the confines of parliamentary elections. However she do so would require unity by the Red contingent.

If the standard of living continues to decline, real unrest is likely in coming years.

Just some of the issues not raised by Australia’s alternative prime minister, Anthony Albanese, in his May Day speech at the Exhibition ground were: 1) casualisation of the workforce since the introduction of neoliberal policies introduced by Labor and Liberal governments; 2) No Wars: whatever happened to Peace is Union business? 3) Independent foreign policy; 4) no US bases; 5) no nuclear submarines, 6) no AUKUS agreement; 7) end the US blockade of Cuba; 8) climate action; 9) fund tertiary education; 10) workers power & worker control of the workplace; 11) worker safety on site; 12) worker solidarity; 13) land rights, 14) free Julian Assange; 15) a nuclear free Asia-Pacific region and 16) Justice for Palestine.

Labor leader Albanese got his say about how he is going to manage capitalism through its latest crisis but what about the workers having a say? The aged care workers are on strike, why not get a worker from that sector to get up and speak?

Workers BushTelegraph has put together a comprehensive podcast of the celebrations and included comments, interviews and speeches from the various union and labour leaders and workers .

Workers of all countries Unite!

Ian Curr, Ed., May 2022.

Podcast of May Day ’22

Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed 102.1FM

This week’s show is a May Day workers special. Andy asks Queensland Council of Unions general secretary, Michael Clifford, some existential questions about the role of unions in 2022, plus offers some musings of his own on what makes a working class analysis actually useful. And some great union songs!

Playlist
Mat Ward – The workers united will never be defeated
Evan Greer – Picket line song
Wurst Nurse – Dedication doesn’t pay the rent
A Commoners Revolt – The martyrs eight
Jenny Pineapple – Rock against work

Transcript (this is partly machine generated (i have done a bit of work on the transcript as well, editing and adding in headings) … however there are likely to be some typos & mistakes. You can listen here and see the subtitles at the same time).

SPEAKERS

Michael Clifford, Andy

Intro and Welcome song by Uncle Country Matheson

Welcome to the Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed 102.1FM, where we challenge the assumptions of our current society to resist oppression and investigate alternative ways of living and doing for a world based on justice, solidarity and sustainability.

Andy – Welcome to the Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed 102.1FM is your local community radio station here in Brisbane, on the lands of the Jagera and Turrubal people. My name is Andy and I will be hanging out with you for the next hour. And this week on the show, we are going to be talking about unions and workers. That’s right, it is May Day.

This Sunday is May the first, International Workers Day. And of course, this Monday will be the public holiday. And as ever, the Brisbane Labour Day March parade, and celebration will be happening starting at 10am at the corner of Turbot and Wharf streets in Spring Hill and finishing at the Brisbane Showgrounds in Bowen Hills. Next week will be the fourth four-day week in a row for people in Queensland, following Easter, and Anzac Day public holidays as well.

The Working Week

And that’s worth remembering to as we commemorate May Day, of course, it does celebrate those who fought for the eight hour day. And when they did it, they weren’t fighting for the right to the grind, you know, or the hustle. What they wanted was to work less. They wanted lives that didn’t revolve just around working for money. Eight hours of work was meant to be equal to eight hours of relaxation and play and family time and passions, as well as eight hours of rest. And so I think it’s worth remembering when we have these four day weeks, we could have this all the time.

What is Work?

There’s so much of the work that goes on in our society is completely useless or detrimental. Or even the work that’s good, it stresses us out. It’s inefficient. There’s unemployment rate of four or 5%. You know, he could spread out those jobs between more people. There are all kinds of reasons why you could say we should be spending less of our time doing paid work when, as it happens, it seems like we’re going the opposite way. As people get hustled into unpaid overtime goes through the roof with working from home and smartphones, meaning your take your work home and all kinds of things like that.

Eight Hour Day

So I feel like a good way to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs and everybody else who fought so hard and long for the eight hour day is to be asking questions about what is the nature of work? And should we be doing it as much as we are? Or should we do less? It’s 140 years ago, since people got the eight hour day? Why are we still working eight hours a day? Or did they envision that it would be stuck that way forever? So anyway, all kinds of questions that are part of I think, broader questions that we should be asking you about work and unions and today on the show, I’m going to be talking with Michael Clifford.

Qld Council of Unions

He’s General Secretary of the Queensland Council of unions. And I spoke to him because I wanted to ask some questions about what is what’s the nature of union organizing. Has it changed? Does it need to change once upon a time? You know, the Australia was heavily heavily unionized workforce now we’re down under 15% of the workforce unionized the nature of work has changed with casual work and things and the I guess people are less used to being part of civil society groups and unions sort of seem less relevant for all kinds of reasons.

You know, you hear about unions all the time and corruption scandals or labor branch stacking scandals, and it’s understandable not wanting to join a union, if it means that your union dues are lining the pocket of some overpaid, corrupt Labor party hack; which let’s face it, they sometimes are. I didn’t ask that question as directly as that to Michael Clifford. But we do talk about some kind of existential questions about the union movement, and where it’s at. And I think it is, unions have been historically incredibly important in the fight for a better world for all of us. And ultimately, it’s one of the things that so many of us have in common is that we are working together on certain projects, you know, certain jobs, but also together as a class, you know, we’re forced to work to survive to pay rent and to, to get buy in.

Andy interviews QCU Secretary, Michael Clifford

And so, this is a big commonality for a lot of people. And but also, it’s a power that we have, you know, workers do keep the worlds and the essential services and the non essential-ones as well. We are the ones that that do all these jobs, and so we can organize collectively about how to do them better, and how that work can go to a better world altogether. And so I have never been heavily involved as a union organizer or anything like that; it’s never been where I’ve directed my activism but I’m a believer in the power of unions.

May Day Song

And so I thought it would be good for May Day to check in with accounts of unions and and talk about where it’s at. And then I also have to Michael, I’m going to share a few thoughts on out what it means to be working class and I guess, the way that this idea has kind of changed through time and the way that maybe we can learn from some of those struggles with the past that are commemorated in things like made a as we will hear shortly. So anyway, before we get into all of that, let’s start off with a very apt song for the weekend.

SongWorkers united will never be defeated
This is Matt Ward with his album full of songs inspired by protest chance this is workers united will never be defeated

Andy 

That was Matt Ward there with the workers united will never be defeated. You’re on Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed . And as I mentioned earlier, I did speak with Michael Clifford, secretary of the Queensland Council of unions for a bit of a May Day interview. Let’s have a listen to Michael.

Andy interviews QCU Secretary, Michael Clifford
Can you start by introducing yourself?

Michael Clifford 

Yes, Michael Clifford, General Secretary of the Queensland Council of unions.

Andy 

So, Michael, it’s a big day for the unions coming up with May Day on May 1st. But you want to start off with telling us why is made a significant for unions and people that work?

Michael Clifford 

Well, here in Australia, it’s started really as a celebration of unions winning the eight hour day. In Queensland, it’s been a public holiday for a very long time for over a century. And it was celebrated here, first of all in Barcaldine. But then spread to Brisbane and around the states soon after. And it’s really moved from being a celebration of the eight hour day or the winning of the eight hour day to a celebration of all of the achievements that working people have won through their unions.

Andy 

And what kind of achievements are we talking about here?

Michael Clifford 

Well, there are many. So we’ve got a 38 hour week, we’ve got in most places a five day working week, that hasn’t always been the case. So the fact that we now have weekends for many workers, is an achievement by working people through their unions, annual leave, sick leave, long service leave job security arrangements, like redundancy pay if people lose their jobs, a whole raft of health and safety. Provisions that keep people safe at work have been won by unions and by workers through their unions. Superannuation is another achievement of the trade union movement. Just about everything that you point to, in, you know, the benefits that people receive at their work, have been won at some stage by the trade union movement, parental leave family and domestic violence leave is one of the newer entitlements that people have won, the list goes on.

Andy 

And this is I mean, the power of a union, I guess, getting together with workers collectively. I mean, how does that work? How’s it traditionally worked? And how does it look now in a more casualized workforce?

Michael Clifford  It’s changed a lot Andy, we’ve, probably a couple of decades ago, most of the conditions that we enjoyed came through our award system awards are basically documents that provide conditions of employment right across any industry. So you’d have unions would go out and sort of fight enterprise by enterprise to win things like, you know, accident pay, we talked before about annual leave, carers leave those sorts of things.

Arbitration

And once they’ve won those in a good number of work sites, they would go to what was then the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which is now the Fair Work Commission. So it’s an independent party that operates a little bit like a court, they would go there and make arguments to flow those conditions on across a whole industry. So, for example, if annual leave had been won in a certain number of workplaces, you would make the argument that this is now an industry standard and should apply across the industry. And then the commission would make a decision on that. And in that way, many of the conditions that we enjoy today came about, once they were in a particular industry, they would then spread to other industries in a similar fashion. That is, people would go and make applications other unions would go and make applications to have those conditions spread right across their industry. And then it became a community standard.

Enterprise bargaining

In the early 1990s, we saw that the first move away from that to enterprise bargaining. So instead of conditions being one right across the industry, people were expected to fight for conditions on an enterprise by enterprise basis. There were certain protections and strengths in that system in the 19, early 1990s. But it’s, it’s basically changed since then, John Howard came to power tried to make bring in individual contracts. So again, taking a step away from us being able to create conditions right across the community and making them individual unions fought against that we killed that legislation. In 2007. We got new legislation, soon after that. But now, what we’re seeing is a whole lot of conditions having to be fought for workplace, workplace, by workplace without an ability to spread them right across industries, and right across the community again, and that’s created a real problem, I think, for working people in Australia, and a real problem in terms of advancing air conditions. And that’s one of the things that humans are fighting for, is to try and make sure we get better laws to allow us to create decent community standards.

Andy 

The traditional idea of unions in Australia, I guess, it’s tied to this slack barcode and shares strike kind of idea or like picket lines, and, you know, mines and factories and things like that. How accurate is that? And how useful is that for our current, you know, workforce?

Michael Clifford 

Well, it’s, it’s true that the industries have changed dramatically. And, you know, in parts that’s resulted in Union decline in a number of places. So we’ve had real strongholds in certain areas, like manufacturing, for example, but the manufacturing industry has taken a real hit in recent decades. And that meant that union membership has taken a real hit as well. So unions need to and have been moving out into new areas of work. And that in itself is credited with challenges. So what we see now is jobs in the gig economy, for example, where many gig economy workers are not covered by those industrial instruments that are talked about, they’re not covered by enterprise agreements. They’re not covered by awards. And they’re not even considered employees. So the consequence of that means that for a gig economy worker, they’re not getting valuation, they’re not getting workers compensation insurance, they’re not getting penalty rates if they’re working on weekends, or working late at night. And in too many cases, we’re hearing where they’re not even getting minimum wage. So one of the things that we have been campaigning for, is to ensure that there are more secure jobs in a whole range of areas. But certainly, we’re focused on the gig economy as well as the level of casual employment that there is around at the moment, we might call secure employment. We have got some good commitments from the Labour Party to try and address that secure employment issue.

Song

Well, my mother never sold me what was right or what was wrong. Get her to play guitar never taught me to write songs. One thing that she taught me y’all remember for all sides, not that you should never walk across the picket line. Why would Ross solidarity forever sometimes. Cross my heart is bolstered by Chanel. Ross. She took me to the factory where the workers were on strike company called Breakthrough units. My mom went to the front She addresses respond to that I dare any of you men who walk across the picket line Why would never walk up to me just sometimes why stood out one of them came forward and he had something to say no woman who will stand between me and one day’s pay. I don’t care about the other Zion sake in what his mind that he tried to walk across our Union’s picket line. Why would never walk around some picket line sometimes get bumped, Coughlin attorney stabbed and gave him two pieces of her mind picked up and she threw every rock she could find and on each off the jumps on her cheek checked his behind it said that’s what you get when you walk across the union’s picket line to lie with John mean just sometimes I shoot out in line fiddle I can still remember what my mother used to say. We’re fighting for a better world not just better pay we don’t walk on each other’s picket lines everybody I walk around the solidarity.

Andy 

Oh yes, that is Evan gray there featuring the late and Fany. Also on that track. It is called the picket line song, you are on the enterprise bargaining and we are talking about unions. It is of course the May Day long weekend coming up and International Workers Day where we remember the struggles of workers for people to get dignified and safe employment. And I have been speaking as well with Michael Clifford, General Secretary of Queensland Council of unions about what’s the state of things for the union movement in 2022. Let’s go back and have listened to that interview.

Andy

For, you know, the working class in Australia in 2022, what are the big issues around workplaces that unions are working on?

Michael Clifford 

Wages

So there’s there’s a couple of big issues that the union movement as a whole is focused on. One of the is stagnating wage growth. So we have some of the lowest wage growth that we’ve ever seen in our history. And there are a range of factors behind that. But we really need to be lifting wages. That can happen through enterprise bargaining. But it requires a whole lot more government action to make sure that we address the wages crisis in this country, so that people can keep their head above water. The Morrison, government, for example, has actively tried to keep wages down. They’ve done that by voting against legislation that has sought to restore penalty rates. So they’ve cut wages for some of the lowest paid people in the community.

Aged Care

They could have backed the aged care case in the Fair Work Commission to give aged care workers, higher wages. But they haven’t done that I’ve made a choice not to back aged care workers in that respect. They could be making submissions to the annual wage case, which is a case to lift the minimum wage and minimum award wages for millions of workers across the country. But again, they choose not to do that they could be a model employer in the public sector, which employs hundreds of 1000s of workers. But they’ve been keeping wages very low. They’ve got a purposeful strategy to keep wages low. So we need to turn that around and we need better buy gaining power to be able to do that. So there’s an issue with the legislation that unions and workers have to operate under, which really is designed to try and rob workers of their power, we need to turn that around to make sure that workers get power back to fight for better wages and better conditions and fly those conditions right across the community.

Casualisation

May Day march – photos Lachlan Hurse 2022

The second big issue that we’re fighting on is secure employment. We are seeing record high levels of casualization in the country, but it’s not just casualization. It’s also things like temporary employment contracts, which lead to insecure work where people don’t know, you know, from one year to the next, whether they’re going to have their jobs. So we just see temporary contracts being rolled over and over and over again, robbing people the certainty that they need. I’ve talked before about the gig economy, where people don’t have employment security, and labor hire firms, we’re seeing increasingly being used to casualized the workforce and to drive down wages. So we’ve been fighting for policies like save jobs, so pay, which the Labor Party is committed to, so that you if you do outsource your work to a labor hire firm, then the workers have to be paid the same amount, which really robs companies of the incentive to be outsourcing their work to labor high. So those are the two really big broad issues, wages and secure employment that the union movements fighting at the moment.

Andy 

One of the things I think about a bit is the eight hour day struggle that workers had, and that’s close to 150 years ago now or more in some industries. What about, you know, reducing the working week further, you know, with such a stressed out population, more time off more time, do things we care about more time with family? Is that something that the union movement thinks about?

Michael Clifford 

Yeah, absolutely. And look, one of the last big wins that we did have in the commission, when we had a system that allowed us to win conditions through the awards and flow right across industries was the carer’s leave case. So that was to, you know, before that, people would have to take their own sick leave if their child was sick, or if somebody in their household was sick, or if their parents were sick, they’d have to take their own sick leave and lie about that have to say to their employer, that they were sick.

So we fought to make sure that we got carers leave so that people could take that time off to care for their families. Of course, it’s unions that have won all sorts of leave. The most prominent I suppose is annual leave to give people the opportunity to spend time with their families and spend time in the community. And that was what, you know, when there weren’t penalty rates.

Weekends

That’s what that was about, as well, to make sure that we created weekends where people could spend time with their families, and spend time in the community as well. We do need to reignite some of those fights. So the pandemic, as seen a number of countries around the world, experimenting with four day working weeks, lower working hours, this is a debate that we need to be having. We need to fix things like insecure employment, we need to fix things like low wage growth, but we also need to be looking to the future, about the sorts of working hours that we have, and even things like annual leave, like we won the fourth week of annual leave back in the 1970s. It’s time for us to be having a look at that again.

Andy 

And, of course, another big issue that will come up inevitably in this coming election is the issue of jobs versus the environment and things like that, you know, is that something as well and unions radar about weighing up that balance and how to how to transition into cleaner jobs or things like that?

Michael Clifford 

Yeah, we’ve …, the union movements always been involved in social issues. Climate change is, of course, a huge issue. And unions have been part of the debates in this area for many, many years. And unions have been talking to their members who work in coal mines in the energy sector, about the future in those industries. We recognize that renewables are a growing area of energy production. And we recognize that we need to be creating secure jobs in those areas. That’s the thing that we’re talking to government about, is there needs to be investment in these areas. There needs to be investment, though, that actually creates secure employment. We hear still too many stories where for example, solar farms are being built using labor higher before the pandemic, in particular using people on visas, who were on incredibly low wages with no job security.

We think that we know we need to be investing in renewables but we need to be doing it in a way that creates secure employment for people and decent wages and decent jobs for people so that’s that’s our focus we also need to be supporting communities where we expect there will be a transition and this is not just in the energy sector this should be true of any major area of employment where we see a shift so where we’ve seen plants in the past in Newcastle or in Adelaide that have been closing down unions have been front and center of those debates to make sure that those workers get retraining and get jobs in other areas and again that’s got to be a focus wherever we are.

Song

Andy 

You’re on Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed 102.1FM … that song there was wurst nurse out of Melbourne, a bunch of nurses singing about their working life and the song was called don’t pay the rent. And as we’ll talk about shortly, of course, nurses do make up a very large chunk of the unionized workforce these days. And there that industry still remains heavily unionized when others don’t and so for a lot of advances in working people’s conditions across the country that might be gained by unions. A lot of that could be down to no nurses who, as well as caring for people a day in, day out, still have a notion of solidarity at work.

I have been talking with Michael Clifford, from the Queensland Council of unions. It is, of course, International Workers Day coming up. And so we’re talking a bit about what is the state of things for the workers movement in 2022? Let’s go back to listening to Michael.

Andy

Well, the last thing I want to touch on is, I guess the idea of what a worker is, and what like, I guess so much now, it gets drawn into culture wars, this idea of elites and hard working, you know, quiet Australians or something like this, and the ones that it would have been a higher proportion of workers that were unionized. And, you know, various things have changed that, I guess, what is a worker, you know, what can the union movement do to keep standing up for working people keep using, you know, collective strength for for working people in an era that’s quite different now to even like the 1980s, when the union accord was signed, but certainly quite different to some of those glory days of eight hour day movements and things like that.

I think when people think about unions, and we, you know, workers, people often think about blue collar workers in particular. And it’s certainly true that many of the conditions that we’ve learned have come through our building workers industrial Union, as an example, which is now part of the CFMEU. The Meat Workers Union was responsible for advancing a whole range of conditions and superannuation for workers, the Maritime Union to say, the nature of unionism has changed a little bit. So our biggest unions now female dominated and white collar unions.

Qld Nurses Union

In Queensland, for example, the biggest affiliate of the Queensland Council of unions is the nurses union. And the second biggest affiliate is the teachers union, there are still very high levels of union membership in those, in those sorts of professions, in terms of what we need to do to ensure that workers have power, and to ensure that unions are effective in in representing their members and getting wages and conditions for their members and for workers generally, is, first of all, to change the laws that we are currently operating on.

These laws are designed to stifle workers power, we see it in the way that industrial action can or can’t be taken, how it’s restricted just around bargaining periods. And then there’s a whole lot of bureaucratic nonsense. And you know, and hoops that unions have to jump through, before they can take industrial action. Those, those sorts of things are things that we need to address to ensure that working people have more power. And we need a bargaining system that allows us to move conditions right across the community, not just to win the enterprise by enterprise. And that’s where they stay. Because that’s resource intensive. And it does not empower workers everywhere, what we find is we have really, some strongholds of union membership where we get really good conditions. But then in lots of other areas where there is low levels of membership or no membership, those conditions get undermined. And that’s a real problem for everybody. In it’s, it’s a system that is basically taking us backwards. So that’s the first thing I think that we need to do.

Who is a worker?

To your point about what is a worker? Well, I think again, we traditionally think about a worker as as a wage earner or a salary earner. But again, the concept of this is changing. There are a lot of people with working class consciousness who are earning salaries. I used to work in the finance sector union. And there were some reasonably high paid people there who were extremely good unionists and would fight to make sure that the conditions were right for everybody around them. So I think when we define what’s a Unionist, what’s a worker? One thing is it’s about wage earners. That secondly, it’s about the consciousness that people have and where they decide they stand on the issue of workers power. And importantly, one of the things that we strive for is to make sure that there is a better distribution of wealth, we are seeing the workers share of gross domestic product decline more and more. Whilst we’re seeing capital’s share of gross domestic product and profit share. Increasing we need to turn that around our primary objective is to make sure that more of lore of workers output goes back to workers.

Andy 

Alright, thanks Michael, Is there anything else you want to leave us with?

Well, I think that’s it. Right. Thank you.

Andy 

(Do you) want to give a final plug for why people should join a union?

Michael Clifford 

Union

Yeah, look, people want to join a union for our whole range of different reasons. One is that we operate on an individual basis where people have difficulties at work. Unions are there to represent people to make sure that they get a fair deal in the workplace. We’re there to make sure that at an enterprise level, we can get decent conditions of employment, that people can bargain more fairly when your union behind you at an industry level, it’s unions that are fighting to make sure that industries have what they need.

So for example, the Metal Workers Union has done a hell of a lot of work to ensure that manufacturing in Queensland is rebuilt, and you’ll see this as part of the Labour Party’s platform in the upcoming federal election. So trains are now being built again here in Queensland that would not have happened without the lobbying efforts and the campaigning efforts of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

Many unions have been campaigning to ensure that procurement practices in Queensland you know that when government spends its money, that that money is used to create secure jobs. So again, at that industry level, there is a whole lot of good work being done by unions and people should be a part of that. But really being part of a union is about getting together with your mates getting together with your work colleagues, and building a better workplace a respectful workplace, a safe workplace with decent conditions of employment creating a better world is what the union movement is all about. We’d like people to be a part of.

Andy 

that All right, thanks very much Michael. Thanks Andy.

Andy 

You’re on Paradigm Shift on four triple Zed 102.1FM. That song there is a communist revolt out of Canberra with the martyrs eight, their tribute to the Haymarket martyrs who died were killed back in 1886, as part of attempts to suppress the movement for the eight hour work day. And sometimes I think the workers movement and radical politics in general gets a bit caught up on these ancient figures in the union movement and ancient ideas of what it means to struggle in the workplace.

Haymarket martyrs

And I’ve tried to dispel that a bit in an interview I did with Michael Clifford, which you heard just before that song, where he talked about what does it look like in 2022. But I also think there are useful things to be picked up from, from history, and the way that people organized at that time for making a better world. And I think one of the things that’s interesting is to talk about what does a class analysis look like? And the people like those that Haymarket people in Australia who were the first in the world, both to in a single industry to get an eight hour day and also legislated across the board, eight hour work day in Australia? What were the things that were motivating them to do that organizing and to get those wins for everybody? And is that useful for us today in thinking about that, and I think it’s worth talking about what that class analysis look like, and how does it compare to how we talk about working class today, because things change, that’s all right.

Class Consciousness

But I think in some ways, our idea of what it means to be working class has changed in a way that is less useful for any kind of actual political organizing. And by this, I mean, to say that the idea of being working class has been seen to come to mean, an idea of personal identity, that because you’re a person who grew up poor, or grew up in a poor suburb, or grew up with specific cultural tastes may be that that’s what makes the working class and that oppression against working class is this kind of individualistic oppression of people don’t understand what it’s like to be poor, or to have a family that economically depends on you to not be as refined in your tastes or manners, or to not have the same opportunities for education and things like that. And this is all fair enough. And it’s true. And I think if you, if you want to identify that way, like in a personal identity, well, that’s fine. But I think that’s not what the original idea of working class consciousness meant. And it’s less useful. I feel like for changing the world, the original idea of what it meant to be working class was seeing our economic system structured in a way that there are two classes of people economically, one of which were those who owned the means of production, the businesses, the tools factories, the shops and cafes or, and, and these people made money by investing money that they already had into something to start up a business. And then by skimming the profits off the top of the work that everybody else did. And that’s the owning class and the working class are the people who don’t have the capital to start up businesses. And so then are forced to work for the owning class, and do the productive work that makes the profits and then have those profits taken off the top of their work. And so it’s a very broad understanding of what working class means. And that’s useful because it means a lot of people have something in common. And it’s useful in another way, in that it is an analysis of oppression, right in that profits are being taken off, you are always earning more money for your employer than you are being paid. And so there’s an unequal distribution of the money that’s being made. And so it’s an analysis of oppression. But it’s also an analysis of power, because it says that the actual work is done by the working class people. And so when it comes to having power to make a change, it is the working class people who control the world who do. And so this was where this idea of big strikes to withdraw your labor, which was the actual thing that gained profits, and that did or services that we need to live. And so the idea of being working class wasn’t just this idea of an oppressed identity, it was an idea of how do we find what power we have in everyday life, and how to use that power to make better world, for ourselves, and for everybody else, who we share this planet with.

Andy 

And that’s one thing that I feel like he’s missing from the recent more, I guess, individualistic idea of what it means to be working class. It’s a way of seeing the world Sure, but it’s not a way of seeing the world in how we can change it.

And I’ll tell you, one of the other things that I think about it is a bit lacking. And Michael Clifford touched on this as well, is that working class analysis is not a working person analysis, it’s not an individualistic idea. It is a class and now it’s seeing the world in a way of finding commonalities between people. And so then the struggle for rights at work was not just a struggle for any one individual, it was the whole class against the class of capital, right, their class of money that gets invested to make more money. And that’s what’s missing. When you have that more individualistic idea of what it means to be working class, and we have seen over the last, I’m gonna say four decades, the conservative political class political parties mobilize this idea of ordinary working people against cultural elites.

Right wing politics

And they’ve been quite successful from Reagan in the 80s in the US to John Howard claiming like Howard’s battlers, and we’ve seen it, you know, Boris Johnson, and Brexit, mobilizing these traditional labor areas, or they do it on cultural lines. And so this idea of individual beliefs is what defines you as your working class, does that lead to a world where we’re all better together? Well, I’d say it doesn’t, because then the whole idea is premised on each individual being out for themselves. And there’s just not everybody can win, right? If everybody fights with as much as they can possibly get themselves, not everybody can win. And that’s the the state of the world that we find ourselves in. And so for those who want a more collectivist way of seeing the world who want to organize for a world that is more collectivist based, and that is more just with the world’s resources, more equally distributed. And if we’re going to reclaim that idea of working class, I think we have to do it in a way that doesn’t just see it as a set of individual attributes. I just don’t think that that is a useful way of framing the world to to gain anything. And that’s where we can learn a bit, look back at history and learn a bit from the struggles of the past and To try to put them into action and make them useful for creating a better world in 2022.

Anyway, there’s a little Mayday Spiel from me. You’re welcome. Before I go, I want to give a couple other plugs.

Workers Power

One is for, of course, the workers power show, which is on four triple Zed every Tuesday from 10 to 12, where they talk about work and struggles going on. It’s not just a once a year event, of course, it goes on all the time. And while we’re talking about for troubles that I should mention, as well, it is April atonement this month, there are some great prizes on offer, if you subscribe to support for triple Zed this month, and it’s just like unions really, if you want to be if you want to have a voice in your workplace and across the industry as a whole, then you’ve got to be a part of it, pay union dues to keep it all going and save up for troubles that if you want to have great independent media, you’ve got to pitch in and help it to happen. So I invite you to do that. And let’s go out with one last song we’ve talked a lot about work this week.

We’ve talked a lot about workers on the show today but I want to go out with this one to remind us what it’s really about that life isn’t meant to be about going to work dragging yourself out of bed in the morning slugging your guts out for some boss who doesn’t appreciate your efforts and for jobs that ultimately often are destroying our planet or not working towards the end we really believe in this is not the best we can do right there’s a better world than what we’re currently living that’s possible so I want to go out with one track from local legend Jenny pineapple This is rock against work see you next week

Song by Jenny Pineapple

See transcript also @ https://otter.ai/u/hAjixclD5ubx3UGfQnD51Kr3ouc

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