UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Organising workers and the question of race

Within recent memory part of the substantive debate around trade unions and equality was centred on the question of the extent to which white workers were seen to benefit from racism and working class men to benefit from the oppression of women. That debate has moved on significantly in the face of the collapse of trade union density. From the high of the 1970s with 13 million union members in the UK to the present day with 6 million there is less debate about the `social location` of members and much more about the sheer absence of members.

Dr Jane Holgate (Leeds University) in her review of `Racism, class and the Radicalised Outsider` (Satnam Virdee Glasgow University) draws on her vast knowledge of organising to remind us that those debates still have something concrete to say about the decline of union membership. In particular, in this work, with regard to the paradigm of race and class. Set against a background of two widely accepted trends – most trade union members are female and proportionally workers from an ethnic background are more likely to be trade union members – it is essential that organisers and activists consider the implications of this question.