Thursday, 23 June 2022

I wonder what the union movement would do

if they were not permitted to spend any money on any form of political advertising? What on earth would they spend all those funds on? How could they possibly spend that much simply for the benefit of those who have paid their dues? 

National and state elections are expensive to run but taxpayers foot the bill for the actual election process. It is political parties and their supporters who foot the bill for all the pre-election advertising. In this the Labor party has the upper hand because they have union funds to rely on. 

Whenever they claim how much "big business" supports the Coalition (Liberal and National parties) and how much it hurts Labor's campaign people try to show them that Labor actually has far greater support. This is always rejected.

In the last election Labor outspent the Coalition. Labor was, if the figures in today's paper are to be believed, responsible for 62% of the advertising. The Coalition was responsible for 28%.  

In reality Labor spent even more because some of the "independents" were actually Labor candidates by another name. They were there to divert votes in the preferential voting system - candidates who had no real chance of getting up but who would garner votes for Labor because so many people follow "how to vote" cards either without thought or because they believe they must.  There was $12.5m spent on advertisements across Facebook and Instagram alone...$5m of that was directly for Labor, another $3.5m was indirectly for them. 

I suppose all this must do some good. Advertising is a big industry. People make millions out of making the wretched things.  

I am not immune to advertising, nobody is. We are all influenced by it and by what others think and say about products and people and ideas.  I do like to think that I at least try to think about these things. 

It is this which has led me to wonder what would happen if the union movement actually spent the money they get from members in other ways. For years the union movement was able to extort membership fees from unwilling participants. They demanded everyone in some industries "belonged to the union" - and yes, the union owned them. If the union told them to do something then they did it. The union could get them sacked more easily than the boss could do it.

My paternal grandfather was a tailor. For many years he employed almost forty people. His business was in a heavily unionised area near the docks. Grandpa's business was one of the few that had no union members. There was a union his employees could have joined, indeed he was approached to have someone come in and talk to them about it. He put it to them and they declined. They saw no point. He paid them well. Grandpa, being far beyond his time in such things, even had a sort of maternity leave scheme for the women as well as sick pay and more. They were not going to get anything from the union they did not already have and they were not going to jeopardise their working conditions by joining one. 

As a teacher I was expected to join "the institute" which was the union at the time. I stopped paying my dues when I went back to university and I never took it up again. I worked in a school for severely and profoundly disabled children and we all refused to go out on strike. We could because none of us belonged to the union. There were other avenues for people to get the help they needed. We used those if necessary. It is one reason why numbers have dropped and only about 14% of workers belong to a union. Despite that they still have massive funding they can rely on. They can still pay fines imposed for breaches of the law. Some of it must come from "bargaining" with employers. 

And so I wonder what would happen if unions could no longer be involved in funding election campaigns. What would happen if they had to actually use the money for the good of their members - and not for political power?


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