Thursday, April 3, 2014

.@NewUnionism March Newsletter

…Democratising Economics from the Workplace

March 2014 
Work in Progress
This newsletter is produced by the New Unionism Network to promote workplace democracy, organizing, internationalism and creative thinking in the union movement. You are most welcome to pass it on. Better still, find out about joining us here.

Putting OCCUPATION back into unionism
Industrial unions replaced guilds and friendly societies during the first wave of new unionism - starting towards the end of the 19th century. Perhaps we lost something important along the way? Look at the way people talk about their work: we do jobs; but we are occupations. In our final paper on building global unionism, Guy Standing argues: "what we do and seek to do is more important than who we do it for." In fact, a revived focus on occupation within unionism might help us address some of our most difficult problems:

  • How do we organize and bargain across borders in an age of globalization?
  • How do we organize "the precariat", who come and go from workplaces before we can reach them?
  • How do we rebuilt influence whilst struggling to survive?
What's more, an occupational layer might not require any major change to the underlying structure of industrial unions. This is an idea you need to think about!  More
A new strategic alliance?

"Fair Trade" has been quietly changing the face of retail. In fact, sales have been increasing by almost 30% per year. So what about Fair Work? Strangely enough, such a label does not exist. Yet an alliance of consumers and producers could offer huge benefits to both. A recent article by Conor Cradden proposes the creation of a new international sustainability standard: "Fair Work, Union Made". 

Such a label would certify that "wages and working conditions are set through ongoing processes of good faith collective bargaining". While such a standard would not substitute for collective and individual labour law, says Cradden, it would be an effective means of promoting collective industrial relations. You can find out more about the idea here. And if you are interested in being part of a small team to take the idea further, contact

Development-led economics

Is export-led development the only way to a brighter future for poor countries? Or is it just a convenient way for a small group of people in these countries (and their counterparts in the global north) to make a lot of money? An alternative strategy - focusing on expanding domestic demand -  has been shown to produce more in the way of social and economic benefits. However, development-led economics is a strategy that is being kept off the agenda. Could this be because it requires involving workers in decisions about pay and conditions? We take a serious look at this question with the help of a critical and widely-overlooked UNCTAD paper here

Reasons to be cheerful

Employers' representatives at the ILO have recently started worrying that freedom of association and collective bargaining rights might mean more than offering workers a seat at the table and then proceeding to ignore them. They seem to have finally realised that the point of freedom of association is to allow workers to challenge unilateral managerial control over business costs and organization. For the last couple of years they've battled to ensure this right means as little as possible in practice. However, a new report from the ILO's independent legal advisory body - the Committee of Experts - suggests the battle is not going their way. It seems that ILO workers' representatives have employers on the back foot over the thorny issue of the right to strike. More»

Reframing trade: Unions vs GATS

Network member Mike Waghorne has written in to recommend Donna McGuire's recent book: "Re-framing Trade: union mobilisation against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)". The book is derived from McGuire's thesis, in which she looked at the work of two of the biggest global union federations: Public Services International (PSI) and Education International (EI). She includes extensive case studies on union campaigns in Australia and South Africa. Not only does McGuire look at the successes achieved, she also looks at various campaign failures -- something not often found in work on union campaigns! More»

Looking for TWELVE volunteers

There are about 1,000 of us in the New Unionism Network. Among us, can we find TWELVE people who would be willing to spend a month each as Guest Editor? We need your ideas, your energies, your perspectives and your networks. It's not just about running our Blog and FaceBook pages. We're happy to see things shaken up... you're very welcome to propose new projects, or conduct thought-provoking interviews, or organize local Meet-Ups, or launch a YouTube channel, or create a Prezi, or design a smartphone app... Play to your strengths! There's no particular job description for our Guest Editors, just like there's no wages (sorry - I should have mentioned that earlier!). This is not because we're tight, just because we have a budget south of shoestrings. (Hey - if fund-raising is a strengths of yours, we'd also like to talk!). More than anything else, this is a great chance to work alongside some inspiring battlers and thinkers. The only restriction is that your work has to be in keeping with our principles (here) and our content guidelines (here).

Interested? Please get in touch!! It's

Got something else you'd like us to discuss? Check out our content guidelines ( then email us at Please note, you need to be a member in order to have your work published. 


This newsletter comes out every couple of months-ish. Ok, so we've been a bit slack lately. Anyway, we welcome your feedback, no matter how blunt the language. Contact feedback@newunionism.netIf you'd like to subscribe, just email with the word SUBSCRIBE  in the subject line.  And of course, you can also reply with the word CANCEL.
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Peter Hall-Jones · Communications guy · Kaiwhakahaere whakapā · Ph +64 4 2360-209
New Unionism Network · Skype: peter.hall-jones  ·

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