Trade unions, yesterday, today and tomorrow: Workers' Liberty 3/60

Ramparts for the workers against the bosses


Karl Marx

From Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy

In England… permanent combinations have been formed, trades unions, which serve as ramparts for the workers in their struggles with the employers... The organisation of these strikes, combinations, and trades unions went on simultaneously with the political struggles of the workers, who now constitute a large political party, under the name of Chartists.

The first attempt of workers to associate among themselves always takes place in the form of combinations.

From the "organising agenda" to the "democracy and mutual-aid" agenda


Martin Thomas

Union density is falling, and has been falling for decades, almost across the world.

New independent trade union movements made great advances in Brazil, South Korea, and South Africa in the 1980s; Sweden’s high level of union density continued to increase until about 1990; Brazil’s unions gained a rise in density between 2000 and 2006, after a decline in the 1990s; some Scandinavian countries, and Belgium, where unions are intertwined with the welfare system, have limited their losses; but generally the picture is of decline through the neoliberal decades from the early 1980s.

"We can cause the bosses some mayhem"


Mike Treen

Mike Treen is National Director of Unite New Zealand, a union which has successfully organised young workers in fast food. In February 2008 he toured Britain speaking to meetings organised by No Sweat, and we published his speech to the London meeting Solidarity 3/127. After that meeting Mike Treen spoke to Colin Foster.

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