By Daniel Lang - Managing Director
A rejuvenated and reinvigorated Union movement has flexed its muscles as hundreds of thousands of ordinary workers took to the streets across the country yesterday in a sure-fire sign things have to change.
The slogan is ‘Change the Rules’ and it appears to have resonated heavily with the masses who met en masse in capital cities around Australia in a show of solidarity and strength in the face of an unsteady set of circumstances for those underemployed or employed casually.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews joined ACTU secretary Sally McManus and an estimated 160,000 people in Melbourne as the strains of an AC/Dc cover band rocked and the placards and banners rose and flew freely.
There was a sense that the heady days of vibrant unionism were in the air and that united, together those there ready for the fight stood a battler’s chance against the current Liberal federal government and its big-wig corporate cronies.
CFMEU chief John Setka got the day under way by giving the Liberals a chance to exercise their outrage as he quoted a number of historical figures, including Martin Luther King via Twitter.
Setka’s tweet included well-known words from MLK which pointed out that legality and morality are not always aligned and in sync.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal,” he wrote on the social media platform and while some on the right saw it as a chance to stamp up and down and cry foul over perceived comparisons to the Third Reich and Hitler’s regime, most saw it for what it was, a tacit acknowledgement that the current government can hide behind the legalities that allow underemployment or the exploitation of workers but that doesn’t make it right or just.
The federal jobs and industrial relations minister Kelly O’Dwyer took the chance to spit rage as only a conservative can, but was quickly jammed back into place by thousands of social media users and several high-profile political commentators.
The fact of the matter remains that Australian workers have for too long been horribly exploited and left behind while corporations around the country make higher and higher profits.
Corporate Australia has benefited for such a long period of time from a weakened union movement, but under the stewardship of charismatic and principled leaders like Sally McManus, the tide is turning.
That more and more young people are seeing the union movement for what it is, a force that fights for and on behalf of them and their colleagues can only be seen as a positive.
No more is the image of the old standover union hard man appropriate or relevant. The movement is in the right hands and it is moving in the right direction.
At 29-years-old, I’m too young to have remembered the last real period of union strength and unity here in Australia, but having learned lessons from my parents and grandparents, hard-working ordinary folk, I have always been a unionist.
For the first time ever, though, I was asked by a younger colleague what a union was and what it meant for them.
There was no sales pitch, no need to fluff up the importance of a union. After a brief discussion and a few handy links, another young worker understood the importance of the cause.