Union Activism and History Conference

Saturday, October 14, 2017 - 09:00

Book online at https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=305006

After the conference, keep the discussion going over dinner and drinks at a local pub -- all welcome.
Full program: 9am registration
9:30- 11am
Unions 101: Divided country: class in Australia today
Forget what the Liberals and university boffins say. A rigorous class analysis is the best way to make sense of how modern Australian capitalism works – and how to change it, as Socialist Alternative National Executive member Louise O’Shea explains.

Panel: Media Wars: Big money and worker resistance in a changing media industry
A panel discussion of the shifting nature capitalist control, and worker resistance, in the media industry today. 
*Red Flag editor Ben Hillier on the sharpening contradiction between capitalism and effective journalism. 
*A Fairfax worker reflects on their seven day strike against mass sackings earlier this year.
*Tess Lee Ack on the history of media worker struggles in Australia, focusing on the Clarion -- a mass-distribution newspaper produced by striking journalists during their five week strike in 1980. 

Current Issues: Resisting the new employer offensive
Penalty rates slashed, construction unions under renewed assault, and a series of bitter, drawn out disputes at key sites. Red Flag industrial editor Steph Price and Socialist Alternative industrial organiser Jerome Small look at the renewed employer assault, and the state of union resistance.

11:30am - 1pm
Unions 101: The Australian working class’ greatest hits
The extraordinary hidden history of the industrial disputes that have shaped Australian society. With Kath Larkin, a socialist and delegate with the Rail Tram and Bus Union.

Panel: The economy of knowledge: Capitalism and education in the neoliberal age
Capitalism turns life’s necessities into commodities. What effect does this have on the education system and the workers in it? Join our panel for a discussion: 
*Socialist Alternative Brisbane organiser Rebecca Barrigos on how capitalism shapes the fundamental structure and content of education.
*Australian Education Union state councillor and high school teacher Manolya Moustafa on Gonski, NAPLAN, and the neoliberal drive in school education.
*David Garland, an activist in the National Tertiary Education Union, on the bitter fruits of neoliberal reform for workers.
*Alma Torlakovic, NTEU Branch Committee member at Sydney University, on the recent industrial campaign at USyd.

Current issues: Migrant farm workers speak out
Migrant workers are not just superexploited “cheap labour”. They bring traditions of struggle from all over the world, which feed into battles against the often harsh working conditions they face. This discussion on migration, capitalism, and struggle will be led by members of the National Union of Workers farm workers’ organising team, along with socialist, refugee activist and NTEU delegate Liam Ward.

History: The 1929-30 Coal Lockout: 
10,000 miners around Newcastle, NSW, fought an epic 15-month battle against union-smashing, wage-cutting coal owners. One miner, Norman Brown, was shot dead by police in an infamous picket at Rothbury. Socialist historian Phoebe Kelloway retells the story, highlighting lesser-known aspects of rank and file activity,including the involvement of militant women.

1pm -- 2pm Lunch
Special lunchtime event: a history tour of Trades: Historic campaigns, bruising political battles, tales of inspiration and intrigue. Join veteran socialist Mick Armstrong for a tour of Melbourne’s Trades Hall building.

2pm - 2:45pm
Special session (plenary): Campaigning for a UNION YES: workers against homophobia
As the same sex marriage plebiscite passes the half way mark, join us for this special session including:
*The hidden, inspiring history of union action for LGBTI rights in Australia with socialist historian Liz Ross
*A panel of unionists -- from offices to schools to construction sites -- discussing our workplace and union campaigning for a Yes vote

3pm - 4:30pm
Unions 101: How do workers become revolutionary?
How do workers go from accepting the main ideas of capitalism to rejecting them and becoming revolutionary? With socialist and Australian Services Union delegate Colleen Bolger.

Current Issues: Should unions be political?
The dismal record of Labor governments encourages cynicism about “politics” as a whole. Socialists however have a much broader and more radical idea of what “politics” consists of. Lifelong revolutionary Sandra Bloodworth looks at what this means for radicals in our unions.

History: Dare to win: Builders Labourers and the Victorian Green Bans
The “Green Bans” of the Builders Labourers’ Federation was a high point in the wave of radical workers’ in the 1970s. This session features Mick Lewis, a former BLF official who was jailed in 1970 for organising the very first green ban – a union action to save parkland in the (then working class) suburb of Carlton North. Mick will be in conversation with socialist and BLF historian Liz Ross. We’ll also show the short film “Struggle” about the dispute.

History/ Theory: Socialism and industrial unionism in 1930s USA
The upsurge of US industrial unionism in the 1930s is one of the great organising stories of the working class. Socialists played a key role. So why did no significant left wing political force – or even a Labor-style party – emerge from this eruption? With Socialist Alternative industrial organiser Jerome Small.

4:45- 6:15pm
Theory: Cogs in the machine: Alienation, Marxism and the work process
As long time socialist Rick Kuhn explains, “alienation” isn’t just having a boring job. It’s the systematic lack of control we have over our work, our work process, and the society our work collectively produces. Alienation is inherent in capitalism – so, short of abolishing the system, can we do anything much about it?

History/ Theory: Defiance: rebel women at work
Special panel on women workers featuring 
*NUW delegate and Equal Marriage campaigner Cat Rose on women’s liberation and the working class 
*Socialist historian Katie Wood uncovers the hidden, inspiring story of rebel women in Australian labour history. 
*Fighting back at work today, with Rail Tram and Bus Union delegate Kath Larkin.

Current Issues: Health, disability care and neoliberal reform
Disability care, like health generally, is fast becoming yet another commodity with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The implications for the sector and its workers are far-reaching. Join ASU delegate Adam Bottomley and special guests for this important discussion.

History: The Great Strike -- a celebration of the New South Wales general strike of 1917
By 1917, the slaughter and economic deprivations of war were leading to explosions of class struggle around the world. Australia was no exception: from the start of August a colossal strike wave -- "the greatest industrial strike wave Australia has ever known" -- spread through Sydney and far beyond.

6:30pm - 7pm
Final wrap-up (plenary)
Rebuilding fighting unions with Socialist Alternative industrial organiser Jerome Small and special guests.

Join us afterwards for a social drink and dinner at a local pub

**Please note, all union positions shown for identification purposes only