I’m in the National Education Union. I have been in the NASUWT in a past life in Yorkshire, before I went to South America for a while, then moved to the South West.
I am proud Trade Unionist and I value what unions work for and their purpose of improving conditions for workers in any setting. If workers are happy, well-supported and valued, their productivity will improve. I’m not a psychologist, but I know that if I feel secure and respected in my work, I will work hard to make sure I do a good job. I’m lucky. In all the work I do, I am valued and I realise how fortunate I am to be in this position.
However, not everyone is as lucky.
Unions in the Past
History has a great way of showing us why unions emerged. Working conditions in mills during the industrial revolution. Conditions for railway workers at the height of their construction. The precarious position of merchant seamen.
The list of vulnerable workers is seemingly endless: people whose work situation depended on them knocking at the factory door each morning; people whose living accommodation was tied to a job they could lose at the whim of their employer.
Trade Unions arose out of necessity.
Shop workers on a zero-hours contract. Delivery drivers paid by the item. Supply teachers taking the sunrise phonecall. Trade Unions are necessary.
My Union and Me.
I am in a Trade Union because they are necessary. Some employers are scrupulous. Others are not. Unions help support folk working where the latter is the case. Primarily my union is there to support workers. Not employers. Not government policy. But workers. Where workers are supported, their productivity improves.
My ‘productivity’ is my relationships with my kids, my teaching, the kids’ results, the kids’ well-being, the holistic outcomes for young people in my care. When I am well and supported, my capacity to deliver all this well improves. I love my work and I love supporting young people to become their best selves.
I do not love to be lambasted as work-shy, taking the proverbial by being in a union, or to have my entire profession maligned by those with the capacity to make the noise. My union helps me be someone to make a noise to counter that.
I may not agree with every motion or campaign my union leads, but good God, I am grateful for it and proud to be a trade unionist.
Because we need them.