What’s a union?

Good question, and the weekend is a great time to answer it. 

We don’t have days off – including annual leave, maternity pay and pensions – because everybody got together and agreed it was sensible. Employers would prefer we work more. 

Working people fought against employers to force them to grant these improvements. How? By seeing that they had common interests, getting together, and threatening to or actually disrupting their employers’ flow of profits.

‘If there is no struggle there is no progress… This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.’ – Frederick Douglass, abolitionist

Workers can and do build unions to rebalance the scales of power between them and the boss. Even ‘friendly’ bosses have the ability to withhold the means of survival from workers. On the other hand, without the workers, the boss has no company, no power, no wealth.

Largely because working people are now much less aware of this potential power, we’ve been seeing a big backslide of pay, rights and living standards. 

Often people say ‘we’re not allowed a union at our work’. Bosses love you to think that, but it’s your right to join one. One lone worker becoming a member doesn’t tip the scales much though… That’s why build – something you do together – is a much better verb than join.