Workplace solidarity for Haiti

Issue 

The slow initial response from Australian aid agencies to the horrific Haiti earthquake prompted me to organise some on-the-job fundraising for the victims. The not-for-profit organisation I work for deals with homelessness I thought the people I work with would identify with the plight of the Haitians.

I initially ran the idea of a fundraising morning tea past the executive of the organisation for which I work and got an immediate positive response. I then emailed all staff with some basic facts on Haiti and suggested we raise funds to send there.

We wanted to ensure that the money was well managed and not diverted through bureaucracy, given the known instances for corruption in situations like this. I think the direct people to people aid was what my co-workers wanted to participate in.

Through the Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly, I contacted Haitian solidarity activists to locate a trusted group to which to direct funds.

This revealed that the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund would be more appropriate than Oxfam or the agency for which APHEDA (the ACTU's overseas aid organisation) was raising funds.

For workmates who might want a choice — or to donate to an organisation which was tax deductible — I had a back up of Red Cross or MSF. Our information was that these organisations were also doing good work on the ground in Haiti. As it turned out this was not necessary.

I invited colleagues to donate goodies for a yummy morning tea and also brought some myself.

I introduced the event with some background info as well as tabling articles from GLW. I circulated an envelope for people to make a pledge or donate then and there. Donations ranged from $5 to $50 and are still coming in. The CEO has also said that she will invite board members to make donations

The morning tea was very enjoyable and there was a good discussion about the role of the US, the UN, and Haitian elites, and comparisons between Haiti and Cuba.

Given that many people's knowledge to this point of Haiti was "voodoo and zombies", my workmates really appreciated the educational nature of the fundraising event as well as the opportunity to make a practical expression of their human concern.

They also appreciated that the money would be well spent and not gobbled up by a corrupt bureaucracy. I have committed to get information back to my workmates of the work of the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund.

Fundraising on the job for events like the Haitian earthquake is an opportunity to mobilise the humanitarian commitment and internationalism of workmates. It taps a powerful sense of human solidarity which the capitalist system seeks to undermine.

Workplace fundraisers — such as morning teas or smoko breaks with photo displays, videos and a background spiel — in emergency situations like this is an opportunity for socialists to speak up as fighters for the oppressed. Even the boss will find it hard to say no.

[Margaret Gleeson is a Socialist Alliance member working in the community housing sector in Brisbane.]

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