Sweden: community and unionism

Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Sweden in the second part of the 19th century: a country of mass poverty, a country of mass emigration, still on the threshold of industrialisation. The enormous migration into the cities has just started. The natural resources are still underdeveloped.

 1899 Swedish May Day celebration

The first socialist forerunners had made themselves heard, the flow of ideas from the continent had reached our border

Less than one hundred years later: a modern industrial state, one of the richest in the world. A modern welfare state with a far reaching social security system, schools for everyone, exceptionally low unemployment despite fluctuations in the world economy, a people owning more cars, more telephones, more colour television sets than most, a people who travel more than perhaps any other people.

Two pictures. Two worlds. But the leap from one to the other is short.

Object of the Week: Samuel Rawlins and the Gasworks

Samuel Rawlins and the Gasworks

rawlins certificate


 Samuel Rawlins was the founder of the Gas Employees Union, and remained involved with the union from the 1880s when it was founded at Mortlake (the first gasworks in Sydney) for 60 years


His family donated to the Trades Hall this certificate, as well as a large collection of photographs of the union executive and early union members on site. Trades Hall holds these banners. There are also many letters from the union executive and union members thanking him for his assistance in lots of situations over the years. He was a big part of federating the union as well.


The Ones Who Know (that doesn’t include you peasant)

“In actual fact the work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life." 
Andre Gorz

The late great Alexander CockburnThe late great Alexander Cockburn wrote an article many years ago about the way we absorb insanity without realising it. His short piece “Balancing Acts” (republished in Corruptions of Empire, Verso, 1987, page 379) for The Nation in 1984 says it all. ” Are you more likely to tolerate drivel than you were 4 years ago? I think the answer is yes. 4 years of Reagan has deadened the senses against an uninterrupted barrage of nonsense.

Union Badge Collection on ABC Collector Program

Watch the video as Bill Pirie discusses  his trade union badge collectionFor generartions, Bill Pirie’s family has been involved with trade unions.  Born in Dundee, Scotland, not only were his parents union members but his grandparents too. Here, Bill discusses his badge collection featured on the ABC TV's Collectors program.  He explained a time when in Great Britain unions came to an agreement with shops that they wouldn't sell goods unless they carried a stamp guaranteeing their union origin. Manufacturers then wouldn't be able to sell goods to outlets unless they carried the stamp.  Badges were produced to mark specific stoppages.  Watch the video.

Object of the Week - Eureka Knee Board

“Trades Hall has just become the proud owner of a knee board. Why you may ask? Secretary of the Tamarama Surf Lifesaving Club, Shay Deguara, explains:

"Please find a donation from the Tamarama SLSC in the form of the Eureka Knee Board.

Despite some disagreement regarding the true meaning of the Eureka Flag and what it means we have taken it to mean the following.

Australia’s surf culture is a rebel culture that has often pushed against the normal grain of Australia’s Conservative culture. This is much like the union movement who without a fight would have nothing. The Eureka Board is a symbol of the fruits of these struggles in that through collective efforts we have been able to achieve public holidays, annual leave, weekends which we can enjoy whilst resting or recreating at the beach. The Tamarama SLSC like all Surf Life Saving Clubs enjoys this culture and is reliant on volunteers getting time off work to undertake their community service. Thank you to trade unions for giving us this privilege and our weekends. “


Who are the people in this photograph?

Can you help us? This is a great photo of Emil Voigt on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (second from left) just before it opened. We think Jock Garden is the person on far left in hat but we are not sure. ALP politicians? If anybody knows, we would love to hear from you. See related story.