Union organising

How to organise young workers

One of the most visible impacts of capitalist globalisation has been the massive expansion of low-paid (and often semi-casual) jobs in the service sector. This “precarious” employment — in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, fast-food chains, supermarkets, high-street retailers, call centres and elsewhere — means long hours, barely-legal wages and unsafe working conditions. Young people fill these jobs. According to a recent TUC survey, workers between the ages of 16-24 make up nearly a third of the total workforce in hotels and restaurants in the UK (migrant workers and women of all ages...

Workers' Liberty 3/3: Factory bulletins in the 1920s and today

Workers' Liberty 3/3 (March 2006) reproduces many communist factory bulletins from the 1920s, and discussion from that era about how they should be produced. "Workers cannot write newspapers? Really? Just tell us some news about your factory". It also includes information on workplace bulletins produced by the AWL. Click here to download pdf.

Class Power on Zero Hours

The book is the culmination of six years of “getting rooted” in Greenford in West London. It documents in workers’ enquiry style some key jobs and the lives of the supporters and organisers of the Angry Workers of the World (AWW) have been doing while based in an area of West London that has an extensive history of class struggle, but not an area of London that is heavily populated by the organised left. It also seeks to lay down a kind of manifesto or programme for others to consider “getting rooted” as well. The editors even included this Trotskyist’s reflection on working in a library out...

Couriers: push the courts, organise at work

An important legal case is in the works. A claim for holiday pay and the minimum wage for couriers working for food delivery app Stuart (the delivery arm of JustEat) is being brought to court by law firm Leigh Day. In December 2019 a judge found that a courier employed by Stuart was not an “independent” contractor, but a “dependent” contractor, also known in legal jargon as a “limb (b) worker” — the reason being that a courier working for Stuart is obliged to accept a food order if no other worker picks it up. That means that theoretically, all couriers working for Stuart have a claim on...

Kino Eye: Unionisation films

Great news that Google workers are unionising. Despite its long history, the theme of unionisation has not been so well-served by the film industry. Honourable exceptions include the British film Comrades (Bill Douglas, 1986), which shows an early attempt at organising a benefit society (an embryo union) at Tolpuddle, Dorset in 1834; Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 1979) set in the Deep South of the USA, where a young woman enlists in a unionisation drive in a textile mill and eventually becomes its inspirational leading force; and The Killing Floor (Bill Duke, 1984), a tale of migrant black workers...

A trade union at Google

“We are the workers who built Alphabet. We write code, clean offices, serve food, drive buses, test self-driving cars and do everything needed to keep this behemoth running." The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was launched on 4 January by 226 workers at Google and its parent company Alphabet, in partnership with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Within their first week they trebled their membership and denounced YouTube for “its insufficient response” to the storming of the Capitol on 6 January. In 2018 Google deprioritised the motto “don’t be evil”. The company’s main business is...

Help sex workers organise!

The key and simple question at the heart of debate around sex work is: what best empowers sex workers to fight for themselves? The answer is unequivocally recognising their work as work and giving them the rights and means to organise: against the bosses in brothels and clubs, for better pay and safer conditions. The answer is not, no matter which way you look at it, to make their work more dangerous and make it more difficult for workers to seek help or exit the industry, which is precisely what the Nordic Model does. In her article “No to the Swedish Model”, Apsi Witana makes this point well...

Couriers: half a step forward

Food delivery firm Just Eat is set to bow to pressure and start employing couriers as employees rather than as spuriously self-employed “independent contractors”. The company plans to start employing 1,000 workers “directly” via a delivery arm (Scoober) which will be operated by the recruitment agency Randstad. This means that these workers will all receive some measure of sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights which most UK food delivery workers are currently denied. Just Eat’s move is part of a Europe-wide move by the firm towards regularising the employment of its delivery...

Shutting down all the apps

On Wednesday 25 November the majority of the takeaway food delivery workforce in Sheffield struck. The strike affected all of the big apps — Stuart, Deliveroo and UberEats — and involved over 100 drivers. It effectively shut down the delivery service across the city. On the drivers’ WhatsApp, pictures flooded in of restaurant order boards overflowing with uncollected orders. The workers were united around three key demands: living wage after expenses; a fair process around discipline, with hearings and natural justice for drivers accused of infractions; and a hiring freeze, to stop the big...

Frozen for years? (John Moloney's column)

We’re now hearing rumours that the public sector pay freeze may be for several years, across the whole sector. If that’s true, that reinforces the need for unions to work together and build coordinated action as soon as possible, aimed at breaking the freeze before it becomes a “fact-on-the-ground” over a long period. The wider the coordination, the more impactful the action will be. Having said this, aiming for coordination can’t be allowed to hold back those unions, or groups of workers within unions, from taking action when they’re ready. If PCS needs to act alone, or in coordination with a...

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