Which union can I join??

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Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 12 2005 20:39
Which union can I join??

Now I'm working fulltime as a cashier at Spar, I've decided I'm probably best off joining a union. The shop's workforce is no more than about 12, and I'm pretty sure the place isn't unionised (it's a pretty laidback atmosphere, and noone really has any serious qualms with the boss - myself included, surplus value excluded). I was told I can join TGWU, but I don't see any section for retail workers on their site.

Someone help out. I'm tired and lazy.

Barry Kade
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Feb 12 2005 20:54

There is, of course USDAW- Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

http://www.usdaw.org.uk/

Anyone got any info on them? Are they worth joining?

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 12 2005 21:01

I've only heard bad things...although they have a membership of 338,000 so maybe they have some clout.

Truth is, I'm a fucking novice as concerns this kinda stuff so some help in finding a union (and the right one for me), deciding whether I really need one, what exactly i can do once I do join etc etc would be appreciated.

phoebe
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Feb 13 2005 15:31

I was in USDAW. To be honest I never had a clue about who I was supposed to talk to about issues which I should take to the union or anything. Given no contact details, not ever talked to. Generally it was much like not being in a union except technically I was a member. They were of absolutely no use to me.

However that was at a Tesco superstore and if you organised it in your workplace you might have more scope for making something useful about it (I don't know anything about whether USDAW as a whole is good or bad, I just know that they were crap at my Tesco)

Just looked at the site. It looks like it was entirely designed by whoever does Tesco's marketing. That's freaky

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Feb 13 2005 17:08

USDAW are one of the worst -- colaborators with management to the Nth degree. maybe marginally better than joining no union, but I'd look into what your local GMB or, even better, T+G are like and joining them.

Joe Hill
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Feb 14 2005 01:19

Given that we have a 'labour govt' and all of them are up to their armpits in it, you can't expect much more, but they do provide legal back-up if you need it. there is nothing to beat workers in a workplace dealing with issues together.

Sounds like you need to work in the political arena from where I am standing.

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Rob Ray
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Feb 14 2005 09:58

Well in theory you could try unionising them just in that workplace on an a-s basis, building up your own strike fund etc and then affiliating to Solfed or IWW wink, but at a pinch I seem to remember Amicus have been arguing with the big stores recently and seem particularly predisposed to throwing their weight around in that sector.

ftony
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Feb 14 2005 10:24

yeah i've heard some good stuff about Amicus.

Would it be possible to perhaps affiliate to bothe a 'mainstream' and 'radical' union at the same time? It might be tricky, but worth a go.

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the button
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Feb 14 2005 12:37

I would ask around & see what (if any) union your workmates are in & join that one.

TUC-affiliated unions are much of a muchness & any strength a union might have in your workplace (same as any other workplace) will come from its members, & the extent they're prepared to stick together.

Vaneigemappreci...
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Feb 14 2005 12:48

Agree with sali, form your own little union within the store, news of any actions will spread quick and create more solidarity than through affiliating with some employers lackey. Ok so it takes a lot more commitment, audacity, risk and a greater degree of communication with your fellow workers, but isnt that what were supposed to be about?

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 14 2005 21:55

Well in a workforce of 15 (I think...counted today, including bosses), everyone is under 30 (I reckon), most are under 25 and are students or drop outs. There's a pretty tight atmosphere anyway and everyone gets on and both my bosses are pretty nice. To give an example, one of my two managers is best friends with a supervisor who's going out with another employee who's older brother is another supervisor (who also went out with the first supervisor).

The manager's best friend acts as the kinda mediator between the employees and bosses and she seems to be the one people count on in those kinda situations. Once the other boss left up a notice that personally attacked a supervisor and he took her into his office and they had a go at the boss, leading to the notice being taken down. Of course, this story spread pretty quickly around the workplace, what with there being so few of us. So maybe there are kinda mechanisms set in place already.

There are certain things though: like how the mediator supervisor works a 13.5 hour shift overnight one night a week, and like how tonight the assistant manager is working from 5pm-3.30am and then again 7.30am-5pm tomorrow, and yet they seem to kinda volunteer for those shifts. I also don't think it'd be too much to ask for more than a £1/hour wage increase overnight, considering how it involves screwing up my sleeping pattern for the rest of the week and the amount we gross when the clubs shut at like 3am.

Realistically, I'm more interested in joining a union that can actually represent me well at my job, rather than some wanky syndicalist union with 3 other members. I wasn't aware that Amicus covered retail workers, and it kinda seems like T&G don't either. USDAW looks crap. Who are GMB??

Cheers.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Feb 14 2005 23:45

Alan, no one else is in a union? Or is keeping it quiet...

If you work for a chain, take a look at what unions are active in the other branches of the cahin, if any.

GMB -- 'general municipal and boilermakers' union' -- another general union like the T+G.

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Steven.
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Feb 15 2005 13:24

Yeah USDAW are so shit it even looks like for Tesco workers the company helps them make the leaflets cos thye're all in Tescos colours with Tescos logos everywhere!

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 15 2005 20:03
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Alan, no one else is in a union? Or is keeping it quiet...

It kinda looks like noone else is in a union, cos of the demographic of my colleagues.

Quote:
If you work for a chain, take a look at what unions are active in the other branches of the cahin, if any.

I work for Spar, which I think maybe operated pretty much on a franchise basis. How might I "look into" unionism in other branches.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Feb 15 2005 20:26
Alan_is_Fucking_Dead wrote:
I work for Spar, which I think maybe operated pretty much on a franchise basis. How might I "look into" unionism in other branches.

Get in contact with your local GMB, T+G and USDAW branches and ask them if they've got recognition at any Spar branches; failing that, any similar small supermarkets in the area. Bear in mind that these unions are really crap at organising and, unless you come accross a particularly good rep you may have to keep nagging for a while to get much support or info. sad

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Steven.
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Feb 16 2005 11:14

Are people on local trades councils worth asking if they can help organise? (If there is one near you)

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the button
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Feb 16 2005 11:26
John. wrote:
Are people on local trades councils worth asking if they can help organise? (If there is one near you)

I've been looking for a contact for Colchester Trades Council on the net (anything to be of assistance smile ) and all I could find out is that there is one. Couldn't find any contact details, though. confused I really must learn to use the internet one day.

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Rob Ray
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Feb 16 2005 11:33

Yeah we had that trouble as well. If you get hold of one of the local social centres they usually have some contacts, or the NUT/T&G will probably be in it.

BB
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Feb 16 2005 13:16
the button wrote:
I've been looking for a contact for Colchester Trades Council on the net (anything to be of assistance smile ) and all I could find out is that there is one. Couldn't find any contact details, though. confused I really must learn to use the internet one day.

Hey B!

Isn't there a way of getting a listing of trades councils, as i'm not sure of the way a trades council works, are they a grouping of local TUC affiliated unions? If so shouldn't the TUC have contact details?

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the button
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Feb 16 2005 13:19
Brighton Bomber wrote:
shouldn't the TUC have contact details?

... you'd think so, wouldn't you? I checked the TUC website & they have links to trades council websites. However, not all of them have websites.

The TUC is, however, prepared to sell you a directory of Trades Councils for twenty quid. Fucking good of 'em. roll eyes

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 17 2005 13:24

Thanks for all your help. I'll drop Amicus an email today.

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the button
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Feb 17 2005 13:31

That's what we're here for smile . Keep us posted -- all the best & try not to get yourself fired wink

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 17 2005 16:26

OK I just rang Amicus' regional office in Needham Market and organised for them to send me an application form. The woman wasn't really that helpful, telling me simply to encourage other workers to unionise (without any advice on how to do this) and get in touch with the Colchester rep, who apparently is contactable on the same number as I rang, yet for some reason I didn't talk to him.

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the button
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Feb 17 2005 16:35

http://www.iww.org/PDF/org.pdf is the IWW's basic organising-&-how-to-do-it leaflet.

I'm not in the IWW, but I think it's pretty damned good anyway wink . They have lots of good stuff on their US website -- good, basic know-how about workplace organising. It's www.iww.org then just click on the "organise" tab at the top.

Also, SolFed do a good, general your-rights-at-work leaflet, "Stuff Your Boss," which is available from...... er......... me, if you like. Otherwise, drop them an e-mail at solfed@solfed.org.uk

red n black star

wageslave
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Feb 20 2005 20:28

Ring around the main local unions. Have a look at the phone book and just ring them up, ask to speak to someone in the retail section and whoever's on reception should be able to tell you if they have one or not. Once you get through ask them what stores they're organised in. If they don't have members in Spar maybe they have them in similiar type shops.

Obvioulsy its better if you can convince everyone else to join too but even if you can't the union might be able to help out if you're in danger of getting sacked etc.

Joe Hill
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Feb 21 2005 00:20

USDAW organises the delivery workers for Spar if that helps.

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Stripey
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Mar 8 2005 02:05
ftony wrote:
Would it be possible to perhaps affiliate to bothe a 'mainstream' and 'radical' union at the same time? It might be tricky, but worth a go.

You can join the IWW if you are also a member of a mainstream Trade Union. You pay £1/month in subs regardless of your takehome pay, although I guess if you're working at Spar you'd be paying that anyways. wink

As for what union to join generally. Until Saturday, I was working in an ununionised student union with appalling conditions that I will spare you hearing me moan about. I'd been trying since starting last April (minus the uni holidays) to organise, to build up resistance to mistreatment but was finally forced to give up in the face of many of my coworkers being either apathetic students who don't care, or shitscared of being fired. I'm also not an experience union organiser and didn't have much local support from anyone who was, because of the small size of the IWW generally. I don't know if I would have been more sucessful trying to organise with a Trade Union but honestly I doubt it.

Down the road from me there is another student union which is organised with GMB. The staff there get better wages and more respect, but I think a lot of the difference comes down to the culture of how the two places are run, because my freinds who work there, while generally happier about the jobs, are also still of course subject to ridiculousness at work. The union isn't very accessible to them and when they do have problems it doesn't really represent any power they have to solve them.

I am personally quite comitted to the IWW and will continue to try and organise, now that I have this experience under my belt, wherever my next job is. There are problems such as the lack of support and infastructure, but my view of it is that I don't want to fight for a trade union because that's fighting for a concession.

I think that IWW organising tactics (linked to by someone else above) are better in the short term because they rely more heavily on groups of workers asserting themselves and claiming power over their workplaces and less on appealing to the law and the state for help. The emphasis is on direct action and solidarity rather than on playing legal games. In the long term, the means are the ends, and if we manage to shift power in the workplace from one centrally-organised, authoritarian body (capitalists) to another (labour bosses) then we haven't achieved much. On the other hand, if we organise unions the way we would like to organise the economy, we are much better set to make that "new world in the shell of the old" a reality.

So while unionising will always be hard work, and if you go with the IWW you don't have the law even vaguely on your side, it's more worthwhile and more likely to end in success, I think.

Solidairty,

Gwen