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Being Labour

Michael Jackson and the Unions

06.28.09 | 4 Comments

Harry’s already noted at workers’ total victory over Total has been overshadowed by the coverage of the death of Michael Jackson.

In years to come, it’d be nice to look back on Friday 26th June 2009, and remember that two important things happened that day:

  •  a singer, who broke down some of the barriers of race in modern music, died suddenly and in circumstances  as gorily public as those of much of his starry but probably quite sad life; and
  • workers in the UK proved that the end of union strength was always a myth, and that when workers act in solidarity they are a very powerful indeed.

Of course, the likelihood of Michael Jackson’s singing and dancing ability being commemorated is much greater than that of 4,000 workers across the country acting decisively in support of first 51, then a further 647 workers in a little place near Grimsby, and it’s no real surprise that Micahel Jackson gets five page of Guardian coverage, while beating back corporate power gets a smallish slot on page 10.

Nevertheless, there are some interesting aspects to both the actions itself, and the coverage, to suggest that this may not be a one off piece of industrial struggle, and that workers’ may finally be finding their voice again.

Of interest, for example  are the online comments to a Daily Mail article.  While there are no comments at all on the victory itself, an earlier article about Total being forced to seek a deal did receive some comments.  There was the obligatory reference to ‘Red Robbo’ from one commenter, and one comment using the opportunity to attack the government on its immigration record – again standard stuff – but most of the commenters actually wrote broadly in favour of the actions, some in terms the Morning Star would not have considered out of place in its paper:

‘Sooner or later it could be any one of us. I have been true blue all my life. Does not exist now. I support the strikers 100%.’

One voice from the 1970s, which tailed off in the 1980s and 1990s as it came to be dominated by the overbearing weight of commercial exploitation, and sought to transform itself into something it could not be, may now be gone. 

The other one, still true to itself after all these years, looks like it might just make a scintillating return to a venue near you, with an even bigger fan base than ever.

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