Hello folks, it’s a pleasure as always. Well, for me it is. I hope it’s not altogether unpleasant for you either! I can’t be sure of course. One day I’ll e-mail all four of you and see what you think.
A couple of weeks ago when I was confined to my sickbed, I received a fantastic pick-me-up in the form of an e-mail from folk legend Billy Bragg. He was replying to a message I sent him, letting him know I’d rewritten “Which Side Are You On“, the song penned by Florence Reese in the 1930′s and rewritten by Billy himself in the 1980′s in support of the miner’s strikes. My version deals with the recent student protests and ongoing Coalition Government cuts. I was touched that Billy took the time to reply to me and I must admit, relieved that he liked my version. When one of your heroes tells you that you did a good job, it’s a fairly unique feeling.
Incidentally, if you didn’t catch the video the first time round, you can see it by clicking this angry young link.
I was reminded of the song this week when I spotted Billy tweeting an article by Billy Hayes on the importance of students and workers supporting each other in struggle, especially during this time of drastic government cuts. It’s an interesting article and obviously a concept which appeals to me, given that I’m a student and I work for the libraries, one of many public services facing harsh cuts in the coming months. Click on this link to read the article.
Now, I’m aware that some people don’t look kindly upon striking workers (or student protesters, for that matter). Perhaps this is because of their personal politics or because of the way the mainstream media tend to report on such matters. Or perhaps it’s simply because sometimes it all just seems a bit too much. When you work 30-40 hours a week, have bills to pay and ends to make meet; when you have your own problems to deal with, these sorts of issues must seem like things you just don’t want to have to think about. When you come home at the end of a long day and turn on the news, only to see some students indulging in vandalism when they’re supposed to be protesting peacefully, you might well feel angry, or fatigued at yet another issue. And when you try to get out of the country for a week or two on a well-deserved, long-awaited holiday, only to find that airline workers are on strike, inadvertently spoiling your plans for a relaxing break, you’re unlikely to see their actions in a favourable light. You just wanted to go on holiday.
For some people, it takes energy just to really care about these issues, never mind to act. Can we really blame them?
Sooner or later however, some of these same people have no choice. When your pay is slashed and your hours cut; when you’re faced with the possibility of losing your job, sometimes you have no choice but to stand in solidarity with your fellow workers and fight.
In his article, Hayes encourages more young people to join trade unions and perhaps soon, they will. He goes on to point out:
“Neither trade unionists, nor students should forget the impact the cuts are having on the most vulnerable and least organised sections of society. The unemployed, people with special needs and disabilities, and benefit claimants have all been singled out for heart breaking cuts in services and living standards. We must make the case for supporting those least able to defend themselves.”
If and when this happens, it is important to remember why people protest. Why they strike, why they take action. It’s not for more money. They fight because they have to.
Whenever I hear strikers or protesters being criticised because it looks like they’re “just trying to get more money”, I’m reminded of a line from a song by Evan Greer.
“We’re fighting for a better world, not just for better pay”.
That’s what a union represents. Solidarity with your fellow man, your colleagues, your friends, in the fight to make things better.
Thanks for your time folks,
til next time,