Besides a "little history" what else can the reader
expect to find within the pages of your book?
book tries to explain why employees form unions; how they
have been constrained or opposed by employers and governments;
what they have won; and what is still to be fought for.
Why have you written The Little History of Australian
Unionism and what do you hope to achieve through its
aims extend from the humble to the ridiculously ambitious.
Starting small, I want to tell a simple and effective story
that is little known. More ambitiously, I want to contribute
to the battle to maintain a powerful union movement in this
country. I hope that a successful volume might encourage
other writers to focus on the stories and struggles of ordinary
also hope that if the book is able to circulate through trade-union
networks it might encourage similar projects in the future
(taking up issues besides 'union history').
It appears that you want to target an audience who wouldn't
already be exposed to the operations and achievements of unions
Australia. How do you envisage your book reaching these people
getting them to actually read it?
raise a very interesting (and difficult) question. In some
ways, there are sharp limits on what writers can do. We can't
demand that people read our books. Many people who I'd love
to reach won't be interested, or won't be aware of the book,
or won't like it (even if they pick it up).
can writers do? Specifically, what can I do in this book?
I will try to write as simply and accessibly as possible.
Second, the book will be short. Third, it will be illustrated
with cartoons and will be attractively designed. Fourth, it
will be cheap. Fifth, and most importantly, the book will
be distributed outside conventional channels.
books sit in bookstores that are patronised by the middle
class (and the middle aged), hopefully this book will be distributed
through trade unions themselves.
Do you see your book as a promotional tool for unions? In
the sense that it will be publicising the benefits and achievements
of Australian unionism, and therefore a tool that unions could
potentially benefit from?
'little history of Australian unionism' is designed as a promotional
tool for unions . I hope to explain to a younger generation
of Australians why unions exist; how they have been organised;
and what they have achieved. The current industrial changes
have made many more citizens conscious of the importance of
'industrial relations' and work.
There is a hunger for knowledge about these issues; the book
is designed to satisfy at least part of that hunger.
Some people have suggested that in the current climate of
industrial changes, with the new work place reforms being
introduced, unions will slowly be phased out. Do you think
unions will retain their authority and continue to be a key
component in the workforce or will they be phased out once
the position of power has shifted?
fate of unionism is still open. For much of the twentieth
century, employers and governments accepted the legitimacy
of unions. However, this appears to have changed over the
last 15 years or so. Many employers and conservative politicians
no longer accept that unions are a legitimate presence in
Australian society. At the same time, many of the workplaces
that were strongholds of unionism (especially manufacturing;
wharf-labouring; public sector employment) now employ fewer
workers. The new jobs that have appeared in their place are
often casual and part-time, and unions have struggled to connect
with this new constituency.
The new legislation will make it much more difficult for unions
to operate. The right to strike will be circumscribed; the
ability of union officials to enter a workplace will be curtailed;
the removal of 'unfair dismissal' protections will make it
easier for hostile employers to victimise union members. However,
this does not necessarily mean that unions will disappear.
The union campaign against the legislation has been impressive;
a large number of Australians continue to belong to unions;
a larger number believe that unions play a vital role. Unions
have resisted attacks in the past (and they do so in other
countries, too). In this sense, the future of unionism is
a story that still contains many possibilities.
Tell me a little bit about yourself in regards to your own
history and involvement with unions.
grew up in a family committed to unionism. My great grandfather's
membership ticket for the Waterside Workers' Federation (the
'wharfies' union) was a prized possession. My father worked
in many occupations, but especially as a labourer, truck driver
and salesman. My mother worked as a typist and office worker.
Both emphasised the value of unions, and Dad still works as
a truck driver (and is a member of the Transport Workers'
My keen enthusiasm for unionism fed an interest in 'labour
history' when I managed to go to University. While studying,
I paid the bills working as a cleaner and a removalist. I
joined the Miscellaneous Workers' Union and the Transport
Workers Union while on the job, and I was highly conscious
of the protection that unions offered to me as a young and
inexperienced employee. Today, I'm employed as a Lecturer,
and I'm a proud member of the National Tertiary Education
I haven't been a formal office-holder. However, I have been
on strike as a removalist and an academic, and I've enjoyed
the fruits of union victories. Writing the 'little history'
is a way to communicate to others what unions can offer to
us all. It's also a way of using my own skills as a writer
and researcher for the good of the cause.
by Danielle Clark