Friday, October 27, 2017

France: Unions debate how to fight Macron’s anti-worker reforms

Lisbeth Latham

One of France's largest union confederations, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), held a strike on October 19 as part of the campaign against the anti-worker and anti-union ordinances adopted by the Emmanuel Macron government.

The mobilisations were far smaller than the previous three days of protests and have further fuelled discussion within the movement over how to overcome divisions and weaknesses and mobilise the widespread latent public opposition to the government's attacks.

The October 19 strikes and mobilisations by the CGT were announced on October 9 – a day prior to a public sector workers’ strike – with the aim of driving forward the movement. However, the result was about 100,000 workers participating in the October 19 mobilisations – roughly half the size of the September 21 mobilisations and about a quarter of the size of the September 12 protests, the largest mobilisation of the campaign to date.

The call for the strike came after the first inter-union meeting involving all the union confederations was held on October 9, the first of its kind during the current campaign. It was widely known that the CGT would call the strike and that the militant trade union Solidaires would support, but there was no effort made at that meeting to draw the other confederations into the mobilisations.

Conservative unions

The failure to seek to draw other unions into the mobilisation reflects deep problems in the current campaign.

This includes the refusal by conservative unions, particularly the French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT), to join the movement.

The potential of drawing them in seems even bleaker following the publication in Le Monde on October 23 of statements made by CFDT secretary general Laurent Berger at the confederation’s October 18-19 National Council meeting. Berger described the joint mobilisations as a “demonstration of weakness” and the CGT as “the Titanic, who wants to ride on the Titanic?”.

However, the left unions have also displayed an inability to engage and draw in more militant members of conservative unions.

While this objective is easier said than done, the CGT has been heavily focused on individual sections of its own confederation rather than trying to find ways to broaden the movement. While this has at times achieved some gains – such as truck drivers and wharf workers securing concessions that would limit the extent to which enterprise agreements can undermine sectoral agreements – the isolated strikes have had a tendency to leave the more militant sections of the movement on their own.

Where they have won concessions, those victories have undermined the capacity to mobilise these militant and strategically-located workers in support of the broader movement.

New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) militant Robert Pelletier, writing in the NPA's l'Anticapitaliste, argues that a major problem undermining mobilisations has been the determination of the leaders of the major confederations to participate in "dialogue" with the government.

The worst perpetrators have been the leaders of Workers Force (FO) and the CFDT, who despite anger from their rank-and-file and lower-level leaders, have accepted the attacks and argued that engagement with the government has served to limit the damage and helped to make progress in building "social dialogue".

However, this engagement has not been limited to the more conservative unions. CGT leaders have also engaged in dialogue and are seeking to participate in the next round, which will focus on the government's proposed attacks on vocational training, apprenticeships and unemployment insurance.

Pelletier argues that this engagement undermines the extent to which the government fears union threats of mobilisation. He argues that the focus should instead be on building upon the existing resistance by workers – particularly through the calling of indefinite strikes – while moving away from union-by-union and sector-by-sector strikes towards a united movement.

United convergence

Solidaires has continued to push for united mobilisations supported by all union confederations. It had been seeking to bring union leaders together for a discussion on a united response since May – that was only achieved on October 9.

In a statement following their leadership's October 17 meeting with the government to discuss the ordinances, Solidaires called for the rejection of the current ordinances, the repeal of the anti-worker 2016 El Khomri Law brought in by the previous Socialist Party government and rejection of the government’s prioritisation of "flexibility" over security for workers.

Solidaires is working to win agreement for a mid-November convergence of the struggles of workers, unemployed and retirees. It presented proposals for how to achieve this convergence to the inter-union meeting on October 24. Solidaires stated that "the constitution of a strong and determined social movement is urgently needed".

An agreement was reached at the October 24 meeting between the CGT, Solidaires and the FO for a joint mobilisation on November 16. Although opposed by the CDFT, the call has also been endorsed by UNEF, France’s main university student union, and two high school student unions. These student organisations played a critical role in the early stages of the 2016 protests against the El Khomri Law.

Another organisation pushing for a united mobilisation has been the Social Front (FS), which was established in late April by activists frustrated by the collapse of the 2016 movement.

FS has been building up its support with more than 130 union, social justice and political organisations from across France affiliating to the organisation.

It also successfully built a series of united mobilisations against Macron following the first round of the presidential elections in April. FS has called for a joint protest on November 18 against Macron’s policies. Activists from FS addressed the October 24 inter-union meeting seeking to win support for the mobilisation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[This article was originally published inGreen Left Weekly #1159]

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Hannah Mouncey and the limits of anti-discrimination law

Lisbeth Latham

While it is important that the AFL's decision is criticised and we should highlight the troubling logic of policing “womanhood”, it is also important that we look critically at the role played by anti-discrimination legislation in the AFL’s decision and how it highlights the broader weaknesses of this legislation when it comes to protecting the rights of trans and non-binary people, particularly trans women.

The AFL’s position had been “in development” since June when Mouncey was first approached by AFLW clubs to consider nominating for the draft. On October 17 the AFL made its position clear: Mouncey could not nominate on the basis “of analysis of transgender strength, stamina and physique, as well as the AFLW being in its infancy”. Based on this, the subcommittee believed Mouncey would have had “an unreasonable physical advantage over her opponents”.

The timing of the announcement, the evening prior to the draft, has been seen as deeply cynical as it prevented any action to challenge the legality of the decision.

While the AFL’s decision was supposedly based on an analysis of “transgender strength, stamina, and physique”, it is premised on erroneous assumptions about how men and women differ in general in these characteristics with a primary focus on Mouncey's height and weight — she is 190 centimetres’ tall and weighs 100 kilograms.

In asserting that Mouncey would have an advantage over other players, they ignore the diversity of physiques within humanity and assume that Mouncey’s size falls outside the realms of what a woman athlete could be. This is clearly not true, as, if Mouncey had been drafted, she would have been taller than the vast majority of players, but she would not have been the tallest player in the AFLW. That honor goes to 194 centimentres’ tall Erin Hoare, who is also a goal shooter with the New South Wales Swifts in the Super Netball competition.

As Mouncey's coach Chris Rourke pointed out, the arguments against her being eligible to play are based on assumptions that Mouncey is a physical threat to other players. This ignores the fact that women, such as 2016 Olympic shot put gold medalist Michelle Carter, who is 175 centremetres’ tall and weighs 118 kilograms, can be physically larger than Mouncey.

The AFL’s exclusion of Mouncey is an effort to police the boundaries of womanhood. It is not just bad for trans women, but for any woman who is substantially taller or more muscular than the “average”. Champion tennis players Serena and Venus Williams are regularly subjected to racist and transphobic slurs by fans and officials. The most infamous transphobic comments were from Russian tennis official Shamil Tarpischev.

While the concern over size in the ALFW has been premised on concern over player safety, as Richard Hinds pointed out on the ABC, no such concern is expressed over the size disparities in the AFL between 211 centimetres’ tall Aaron Sandilands and 173 centimetres’ tall Lewis Taylor or that Mouncey has been and will continue to play in a lower level women’s competition.

Some commentators have raised concerns that the AFL has failed to apply the International Olympic Committee’s rules regarding the participation of trans women in women’s sport. Under this rule, which Mouncey meets, a trans woman must undergo hormone therapy and demonstrate that the total level of testosterone in the blood has been below 10 nanomols per litre for at least a year before competing.

However, while the IOC rule is clearly better for trans women athletes than the approach adopted by the AFL, there are real problems with this rule. Limits on the level of testosterone for a woman to be able to compete are arbitrary and have been used to exclude women athletes such as South African middle distance runner Caster Semenya and Indian sprinter Dutee Chand. This exclusion was overturned when the Court of Arbitration in Sport suspended the International Association of Athletics Federation’s rule on the basis that it had failed to prove that women with naturally high levels of testosterone had a competitive edge.

While the AFL’s decision to exclude Mouncey from the draft is discriminatory, it is arguably consistent with the exemptions within the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act (Vic), which the AFL relied on in reaching its decision. The law allows lawful discrimination against a person on the basis of their sex or gender identity if strength, stamina or physique is relevant. While this does not mean sporting organisations must discriminate against trans athletes, it means that they can, although the basis for doing so can be contested legally.

This reflects the reality that the law, which is supposed to provide protection from discrimination, enables transphobia in sport and other aspects of social life. Avoidance of discrimination is based on organisations going beyond the requirements of the law rather than complying with it. This reality is not limited to the Victorian law, but is a feature of aspects of anti-discrimination legislation in other Australian jurisdictions.

While we must call on the AFL to reverse its transphobic approach in excluding trans women from the AFLW, we should also call for state and federal governments to provide greater protection from transphobic discrimination in anti-discrimination legislation.

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[This article was originally published inGreen Left Weekly #1159]

[Lisbeth Latham is a trans woman and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

France: Close to half a million workers join public sector strike

Lisbeth Latham

Hundreds of thousands of workers, retirees and students joined a third day of strikes and protests across France on October 10. The protests are part of ongoing efforts by unions, left parties and progressive organisations to defeat attacks on workers and the public service by President Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were held in 140 cities and towns and drew 400,000 people into the streets.

At the centre of the day was a strike called by the nine union confederations active in France's public sector. The strike was aimed at stopping the planned 120,000 job cuts in the sector.

The General Confederation of Workers (CGT) estimated participation of 30-50% across the public sector.

While the mobilised numbers sound impressive, the movement is struggling to build momentum. The mobilisations on October 10 were slightly smaller than those on September 12, although larger than the September 21 mobilisations.

More importantly, the current movement is small compared to recent mass labour mobilisations in France.

Last year's movement against the El Khomri labour laws peaked with two national mobilisations of more than one million people. The movements in 2009 and 2010 saw multiple united mobilisations that drew more than three million people into the streets.

There are several reasons for the smaller mobilisations.

One of these has been the government's use of France's undemocratic constitution to rush through emergency ordinances without a parliamentary vote. This has reduced the extent to which people see attempts to defeat the attacks as realistic. (There will be a vote on Macron’s anti-worker laws in late November, more than two months after the ordinances came into effect)

The trade union Solidaires argued in a statement on October 12 that the present mobilisations demonstrate a widespread willingness to mobilise against the laws. However, the ability to fully engage that willingness has been undermined by divisions within the union movement as to what parts of the laws should be opposed and how they should be opposed.

The leaderships of reformist union confederations such as the French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT) have been broadly supportive of sections of the legislation.

Rather than call on members to join mobilisations, they have sought to engage in dialogue with the government regarding the text of the ordinances. They have expressed concern that mobilisations against the ordinances would undermine future negotiations with the government.

The more militant unions have instead pushed a line of rejecting the changes and mobilising workers in the streets. However, they have done so inconsistently and in ways that have not taken full advantage of breaks in the CFDT's approach.

For example, when CFDT's rail federation, along with Solidaires' rail federation, called for a strike on October 10 in support of the public sector strike, the CGT's rail federation – the largest union in the railways – refused to join the strike. Instead, it encouraged members to join the protests, meaning the strike had minimal impact on rail services.

Divisions within the movement are not just a symptom of differing assessments of the attacks and how best to fight them. They also reflect a jockeying for positions by the confederations in anticipation of union representation elections next year.

The CFDT has historically been France's second confederation behind the CGT. Today it is either the principle confederation, or at least challenging for that position in the majority of industries.

CFDT officials pointed out at mass meetings of tens of thousands of activists and officials on October 3 that they believe the current moderate approach will strengthen the CFDT’s hand in the elections.
However, the New Anti-Capitalist Party reported on October 6 that CFDT’s leaders had to spend much of those meetings defending their conservative line from criticisms from the ranks.

One positive development has been that leaders from France’s union confederations held a joint meeting on October 9. This is the first such meeting to be held during the current campaign, despite calls by Solidaires for a joint meeting since May.

Unfortunately, the meeting did not issue a joint call for united mobilisation, although Solidaires suggested that in addition to themselves, the CGT and the United Union Federation, which have all been actively pushing for joint mobilisation, there is also support for such a call from Workers Force and the French Confederation of Management – General Confederation of Executives.

The meeting did support a call for a further meeting of union leaderships on October 24, which will take stock of the full range of social attacks coming from the government. Solidaires leaders have expressed hope that the meeting will call a joint mobilisation for early November.

On October 9, the CGT called a confederation-wide strike for October 19. CGT national secretary Fabrice Angei said in a statement: “Our citizens are increasingly challenging the orders, 65% of them reject them and 57% approve of the mobilisations against the government project … the government is conducting a comprehensive deconstruction of the French social model.

“We will mobilise on October 19 against this social destruction, and for a 32-hour week, salary increases and retirement for all via mutualisation”.

Solidaires issued a statement on October 12 in support of the October 19 mobilisation, arguing that it is an opportunity to build public awareness and unify and strengthen the unions’ bases of support in the public and private sector in order to better challenge the government.

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[Originally published in Green Left Weekly #1157]

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Beyond the survey, building the struggle for queer rights

Lisbeth Latham

While the marriage equality campaign is currently focused on maximising a Yes response in the national survey, supporters of marriage equality and of LGBTI rights more generally need to look beyond the horizon of the survey itself.

This is because a majority Yes in the survey will not definitively resolve the question of marriage equality and because there are many other challenges facing the LGBTI community, particularly around legal rights.

The national survey closes on November 7, with results due to be announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on November 15. The ABS has said the number of returns in the survey is higher than anticipated. At the start of the campaign there had been a fear of complacency, but the higher than expected returns, along with polls continuing to show high levels of support for marriage equality, are both positive signs for a strong Yes response.

However, a Yes response, no matter how strong, does not guarantee that a marriage equality bill will be introduced to parliament, nor that there will sufficient support in parliament for it to pass.
Importantly, it is clear that the right, aware that the survey has not allowed them to defeat the push for marriage equality, is now seeking ways to undermine the language of any enabling legislation. This push would enshrine "religious freedom" in any marriage equality bill, which would dramatically expand in what circumstances "religious" individuals could legally discriminate against people they believe are in a same sex relationship.

The campaign must build pressure for a bill to be put and ensure it contains no expansion in religious exemptions to anti-discrimination acts.

Moving beyond the fight for marriage equality, there are several important legal rights and protections that need to be won to ensure violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community no longer have legal sanction in Australia. These include:

  • Ending of the gay/trans panic defence, which remains on the books in South Australia;
  • Prohibiting unnecessary surgical or other medical treatment of intersex children, including forced coercive interventions, until they reach an age at which they can provide their free, prior and informed consent;
  • Establishing a national standard for gender recognition that has no requirement beyond an affirmed decision of the individual. At present only the ACT and SA do not require trans individuals to undergo surgery prior to achieving gender recognition, but they still require a statement that the individual has had clinical treatment by an Australian psychologist or psychiatrist. This stigmatises and pathologises trans experiences, although not as much as in other states;
  • Rolling back the religious exemptions to the Anti-Discrimination laws in all Australian jurisdictions;
  • Ensuring that oppression on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity are grounds for asylum and that this is not based on individuals proving that they are sufficiently queer;
  • Enshrining the right for trans and non-binary individuals to use public facilities that correspond with their affirmed gender identity;
  • Enabling individuals under the age of 18 to affirm their gender at school and have this affirmation respected and protected, without requiring formal gender recognition but giving them the right to change their gender marker if they choose;
  • Ending the requirement for transgender minors to go to the Family Court to access hormones. Australia is the only jurisdiction with such a requirement, which creates a significant and unnecessary barrier to transgender individuals affirming their gender in the way they wish. Medical support with informed consent of the minor should be sufficient, as it is with accessing contraceptive pills.
Any victory for marriage equality will see the right push back on other issues concerning the rights of the LGBTI community. This push back must be firmly resisted.

We must demand the reinstatement of funding for Safe Schools and push for its expansion to more schools. Equally importantly, we should defend the rights of gender non-conforming children, including the ending of gender-based uniform restrictions — restricting dresses to "girls" and pants/shorts to "boys" places bizarre restrictions on how children and adolescents are able to choose their school clothes.

The campaign to build the strongest possible support for Yes in the survey is important work.

However, if the horizons of the LGBTI communities and their supporters do not reach beyond this objective then we risk losing an opportunity to make significant strides in the rights and abilities of members of the community to live their authentic lives.

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[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1157]

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Friday, October 6, 2017

France: Movement builds against anti-worker measures

Lisbeth Latham

France’s Council of Ministers approved five ordinances on September 22 that undermine union power and employment rights within France’s Labour Code, which came into effect the next day.

The government imposed these changes by using undemocratic measures in France’s constitution, which allows it to push new measures into law without passing legislation through parliament.

In the face of this, the movement against the changes continues to build. 

France Insoumise (France Unbowed, FI) held a national convergence in Paris on September 23 against what it described as a “social coup”. The protest mobilised 150,000 people — more than twice the size of the largest Paris mobilisation so far against these attacks.

FI leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told the crowd: “We were not able to discuss a single line, a single page, of the ordinances!”

The Washington Post reported that Melenchon said “we must bring forward the strength of our people in battle and in the streets”.

On September 26 the transport federations of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), Workers’ Force (FO) and National Union of Autonomous Unions (UNSA) began sustained strike action against the changes, including blockades of oil depots and major highways. As a result, there have been widespread petrol shortages at service stations.

On September 28, there were mobilisations across France by retired workers and students. These protests targeted the changes to the labour code, but also the broader assault by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe on social conditions.

In particular, protesters targeted the 1.7% rise in the Generalised Social Contribution (CSG) and the failure of thousands of students to receive selection advice for entry into university. The CSG contributes to the funding of France’s social security system and is paid by both workers and retirees.
Macron and France’s peak employer organisation, MEDEF, hoped that worker and union resistance would dissipate with the ordinances coming into effect. Macron has downplayed the significance of the movement, telling CNN: “I believe in democracy” and that “democracy is not in the street”.

Instead, the resistance continues to grow.

Unions have called for a joint public and private sector strike on October 10. This will be the first joint strike by France’s public sector unions in 10 years.

Unfortunately, the unity between unions within the public sector has not been replicated in the private sector. An October 3 mass meeting of 10,000 officials and activists of the conservative French Confederation of Democratic Workers (CFDT), the largest confederation in the private sector, refused to endorse strike action on October 10.

However, there was opposition to this conservative approach expressed at the October 3 meeting, which could result in more CFDT members joining the October 10 protests than occurred with the previous France-wide protests against the attacks on September 12 and 21.
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[This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1156]

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

France: Thousands join new round of protests against anti-worker attacks

Lisbeth Latham

About 250,000 people joined 400 protests in cities and towns across France on September 21, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) said, in the second round of mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-worker laws.

This was about half the number of people who mobilised for the first round of protests and strikes on September 12. The protests came the day before a meeting of the Council of Ministers to ratify five ordinances, which will undermine the rights of workers and their unions.

If ratified, the ordinances will immediately come into effect. However, the government will still need to pass legislation to permanently incorporate them into France’s Labour Law.

Much of the mainstream media has expressed hope that the lower turnout for the September 21 protests is a sign of the movement quickly losing momentum. Left unions and parties, however, remain optimistic that the movement can continue to build and beat back the current attacks.

CGT leaders described September 21 as a success and proof “that after September 12, the movement is for the long-term”.

In a statement, the CGT said: “The Council of Ministers of September 22 must hear that the citizens overwhelmingly condemn and reject the reform of the labour law and regressive government measures for young people, employees of private and public companies, retirees and the self-employed.”

The smaller scale of the mobilisations was expected. There were several factors that made larger mobilisations on September 21 unlikely.

One factor was that it was held so close to the first day of protest. Nonetheless, holding a second day of action the day prior to the Council of Ministers meeting was important to demonstrate clear opposition to the ordinances.

A second factor, particularly in Paris, was that the left-wing group France Insoumise (France Unbowed) had called for a mobilisation against the laws for September 23. It is bussing in activists from across France for the protests on a day that allows people to demonstrate without missing a day of work.

A third factor is that, at present, the mobilisations are supported by a minority of unions — primarily the CGT and the trade union Solidaires. The other union confederations have not been supporting the mobilisations, although some federations and regional unions have backed the protests.

There are, however, signs this could be changing. In the lead-up to and after September 12, a number of French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) federations and regional leaders expressed frustration at the CFDT leadership’s refusal to support the movement.

This frustration will have been furthered by the publication in the left-wing daily Liberation of an agreement between France’s five main confederations, including the CFDT, regarding “red lines” which the confederations would not accept the legislation crossing. The government has now crossed them, with little or no objection from the more conservative unions.

There are now signs that these unions are starting to be drawn into the movement. La Figaro reported on September 20 that after a breakdown in talks with the government, Workers’ Force (FO) and the National Union of Autonomous Workers (UNSA) have joined the CGT in calling for an indefinite road transport strike against the new labour laws.

The CGT has expressed a desire to extend the strike to waste collection, as well as passenger and urban transport.

Also on September 18, all nine union confederations represented in France’s public service announced a united strike for October 10 against pay freezes and the government’s planned cutting of 120,000 jobs. This will be the first joint strike in the French public sector for 10 years.

These developments give credence to the CGT’s hopes that the movement is on the rise.

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This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1154

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Why marriage equality is union business

Lisbeth Latham

In the lead up to and following the announcement of the plebiscite, now survey, on changing the Marriage Act, unions have played a prominent role in promoting and resourcing the Yes campaign.

Senior union officials have been speakers at rallies, there have been large union contingents at protest marches and unions — especially peak bodies such as Victorian Trades Hall Council and the Australian Council of Trade Unions — have been providing infrastructure to help build the capacity for the campaign to ensure maximum participation and support for the Yes side.

This strong position in support of marriage equality has attracted criticism from some union members as both a distraction from the “core business” of unions — wages and conditions — and as a failure by unions to “respect the views of members who are opposed to marriage equality”.

However, support by unions for marriage equality is consistent with long traditions within the labour movement of solidarity with oppressed and marginalised communities, and in support of democratic rights — approaches that help to build and strengthen the capacity of the union movement to win improvements for members, not just on the job, but throughout society.

Examples of the kinds of criticisms that unions supporting marriage equality have received can be seen on a recent post on the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union’s (CFMEU) Construction & General Division’s Facebook page of an email to the union by a member.

The email was from a gay CFMEU member thanking the union for taking a strong position in support of marriage equality and for organising a toolbox discussion around the issue on their worksite. It also raised concerns about the homophobic behaviour by some workmates during the discussion.

At the time of writing, this post has been shared 204 times and had attracted 123 comments. While the vast majority of these comments have been positive, there have been negative commenters who argue that the CFMEU’s support for marriage equality is a distraction from the union achieving improvements in wages and conditions for members and a violation of the rights of those members who do not support marriage equality.

These criticisms are not new and reflect a conservative view of unionism in which the role of the union in the lives of its members starts and finishes at the entrance to the workplace and unions should not seek to mobilise its members and resources on broader political questions.

The current Marriage Act and the No campaign are having a negative impact on the working lives of LGBTI union members. The act denies these union members of fundamental rights and the “debate” around the survey is contributing to a toxic culture where a section of society feel justified in vilifying LGBTI people in the street and in the workplace.

This alone is a strong basis for unions to support their members and push for marriage equality as it is the embodiment of the core union tenant that “an injury to one is an injury to all”.

Moreover as, CFMEU South Australia branch secretary Aaron Cartlege said in his address to the marriage equality rally in Adelaide: “Why does the CFMEU back the Yes vote? I'll tell you why we back the Yes vote ... for 15 years we’ve been campaigning because we’re discriminated against on building sites with draconian laws that target our members every day.

“How can we be calling for ‘one law for all’ and then have a different view when it comes to this?"

The conservative vision of unionism runs counter to the long tradition within Australian unionism, particularly within left unions such as the CFMEU, which sees the union movement as having a vital role to play in building a better world for all workers.

This vision has seen Australian unions actively campaign around issues affecting working people globally: opposition to conscription; refusing to load pig iron destined for the Japanese war machine that had invaded China; refusing to load Dutch ships in support of the Indonesian national liberation struggle; supporting striking Aboriginal pastoral workers and the struggle of Aboriginal land rights; opposition to South African Apartheid; green bans on developments that robbed communities of environmental and cultural heritage; opposition to Australian involvement in the Vietnam war and the Iraq war; in support of the East Timorese liberation struggle; and in support of the right of refugees to claim asylum in Australia, to name just a few.

These campaigns did not lead directly to improved wages and conditions on the job — but they contributed to the mobilising capacity of unions both on and off the job and helped to build respect within the broader community for the central role that unions play in building a socially just and liveable planet.
For all these reasons marriage equality is union business.


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Lisbeth Latham is a member of the Socialist Alliance


This article was originally published in Green Left Weekly #1154

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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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