Unions & politics

Climate Emergency Centres: making links

Workers’ Liberty argues that real progress on the climate will only happen when trade unionists embrace environmentalism and make it their own, and when the environmental movement learns to appreciate the potential power of workers to make change. Bringing the two together is not easy but it is essential. One possible avenue opens up in the form of the new Climate Emergency Centres. As 500 local councils declared a climate emergency in response to the youth climate strikes, a group called Space Generators, with experience in the squatters movement and then Occupy, seized the opportunity to...

Sharon Graham, Unite and “workers’ politics”

Workers' Liberty members and supporters in Unite the Union have not yet decided who to collectively support for Unite’s General Secretary. Debate and discussion on the election here. Unite General Secretary candidate Sharon Graham’s proposals for “a Workers’ Politics” point in the wrong direction. In many respects they are a regression from Unite’s current political strategy. The wider output from Graham’s campaign says little about political struggles and largely disparages political trade unionism in favour of “returning to the workplace”. She has denounced rival left candidate Steve Turner...

Chance to shift Unison's Labour Link to the left

Nominations for the Labour Link Committee of the public services union Unison close on 14 July, and voting will be 7 September to 13 October. Labour Link works directly within the Labour Party and should take Unison’s policies into the party. In reality, historically, Unison has failed to push members’ priorities in the Labour Party. These elections come at an important time, just after the right wing in Unison have lost control of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for the first time ever. In principle the newly elected leftwing majority on the NEC can provide up to twelve of the twenty...

"Questions of democracy are where to focus our energies"

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, spoke to Sacha Ismail in late March. There could still be another 30,000 deaths as we approach the end of lockdown, and maybe much more. Even with the vaccine program at full tilt, in the absence of a proper test and trace system, an isolation system and social support for people, it’s still potentially a dire situation and could still overwhelm the NHS. [This was even before the "Indian variant" of Covid was widely discussed.] NHS workers have launched their demand for a 15% pay rise. Do you support that? Yes, absolutely. We need to aim high. I’m...

The threat from the right in Unite: Stop Coyne!

For more debate and discussion about the Unite General Secretary election, see here. Nominations for the Unite the Union General Secretary election closed last week. All four candidates secured enough branch or workplace nominations for a place on the ballot paper. The minimum number needed was 172. Howard Beckett (Head of Unite’s Legal Department) had 328. Gerard Coyne (Unite West Midlands Regional Secretary until his dismissal in 2017) had 196, Sharon Graham (Head of Unite’s Organising Department) 349, and Steve Turner (Unite Assistant General Secretary) 525. Coyne is the candidate of the...

Gary Smith and Eleanor Marx: why calls for union disengagement from politics are not left-wing

New GMB General Secretary Gary Smith’s 7 June article in the Morning Star suggest he is part of the trend towards union leaders disparaging labour movement political engagement. Sharon Graham, backed by much of the radical left for Unite General Secretary, is also an example of this trend, strongly suggesting that Unite is too engaged with the Labour Party and with politics as such: more on her politics and campaign here. “Over the last five years”, Gary Smith writes, “the GMB’s membership has been allowed to decline as we paid more attention to faction fights within the Labour Party than the...

Join the 26 June protest

The People’s Assembly (PA), an anti-cuts group, has called a demonstration in London for 26 June, noon from Portland Place. The PA was formed in 2013, is financed by trade unions including Unite, and now has “Corbynite” former Labour shadow minister Laura Pidcock as its secretary. The small socialist group Counterfire is important in its backroom workings. The protest is supported by several unions besides Unite (NEU, PCS, RMT, FBU...), and by Extinction Rebellion, which plans additional protests of its own on the weekend 26-27 June. Awkwardly, the protest, planned months ago, has accumulated...

Unite the Union deadline is 7 June

Two of the four candidates seeking election as the next General Secretary of Unite the Union have already won enough branch nominations (175) to get on the ballot paper. Branches can add nominations until 7 June. Voting will be between 5 July and 23 August. Sharon Graham, head of the union’s Organising Department, announced her 175th nomination on 25 May. On 29 May Howard Beckett, head of the union’s Legal Department, announced that he had 231 nominations. Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner, backed by the union’s United Left (UL), had just 120 nominations (as of a tweet on 26 May), while...

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