15 March national strike demo demo, London 15 March national strike demo demo, London. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Cici Washburn spoke to six trade unionists about why they’re attending the How We Fight, How We Win Conference on 10 June

Gary Walker, Chep striker, Unite

At Chep UK, we have come off a 21-week strike and continue to build a rank-and-file organisation together with other depots going forward and I will be speaking at the How We Fight, How We Win Rank-and- File Conference.

Rank-and-file conferences are impor­tant and a great way for people from dif­ferent work sectors to come together, hear each other’s stories, share each other’s knowledge and pick up new things as well.

We are living in extraordinary times, and whilst our own fights are important, to really push back on the ruling class, we can’t operate in isolated battles and expect to build a movement. To turn the tables for a better society we have to build net­works across sectors and across the whole breadth of the country.

There are no saviours coming to help us in the parliamentary system, we have to organise and fight from the bottom up, and that means forging links and sharing our experiences wherever and whenever we can.

Ellen Grogan, striking RCN nurse

As a striking nurse, my experience over the past six months has brought home to me the critical need for organisational exper­tise in terms of our union work.

So I feel a forum such as the rank-and-file conference offers a hugely valuable pool of knowledge, given that it’s bringing together members from right across UK’s striking landscape.

While I feel that our health worker unions, RCN and Unite particularly, were very successful in running an effective industrial-action campaign, there is still an awful lot we can learn from more estab­lished unions.

I know that the conference offers many inspiring speakers from a wide range of unions including the RMT and transport unions, but especially the Amazon workers from Coventry who’ve displayed heroic courage in unionising in a viciously hostile environment at that company.

Another truly admirable feat of union development is demonstrated by the ADCU who’ve established a formidable campaign in an equally challenging indus­try of app-based drivers and couriers, a brutal example of the gig economy, and I’m looking forward to hearing from James Farrar about it.

Alex Snowdon, striking teacher, NEU

The Tories’ attack on teachers’ pay is part of something bigger. The government is cutting real-terms pay for millions of workers across health, education and pub­lic services. It has already eroded public services through austerity – something we see in the school funding crisis.

NEU teachers have taken six days of strike action, accompanied by hundreds of picket lines, dozens of rallies and a huge national demonstration. We have forced the government to negotiate, shifted the debate and inspired others.

We aren’t alone. We have been part of a major strike wave involving a range of trade unions. The more we coordinate, the better.

This process is opening up the possi­bility of winning better deals on pay and funding. It is also building union strength for the long term. We build stronger unions through collective action, organising in our workplaces and forging connections across the labour movement.

The rank-and-file organising confer­ence can be a step forward in those efforts.

Darren Westwood, striking Amazon worker, GMB

With the growing discontent in the coun­try, as the cost of living is bringing the working man and woman to their knees, there has never been a better time for us to fight back.

Every worker in this country should have the protection of a decent wage. But the government and employers are not lis­tening. We are bombarded by stupid sug­gestions ‘you need to get used to being poor’ and ‘eat turnips’ and even ‘wear a jumper at home’.

Did these people learn nothing from Marie Antoinette? I was told if I wanted more money, I should have bought some shares. That was also the day the blinkers came off and so did the gloves, and we began to make a stand against Amazon.

This is why I want to be there on 10 June to share our story and hopefully inspire others to get off their knees.

Margery Thorogood, Hounslow NEU Treasurer and Slough Trades Council Secretary

This conference presents an ideal opportu­nity for activists to come together and be part of the fightback against this appalling government and like-minded employers. Despite the recent council elections, any dents in Tory arrogance are only short-lived. We need to build our momentum.

Government contempt during the pan­demic brought home how workers were taken for granted. Public support grew as families and friends were affected and showed their solidarity. Trade unionists have shown their determination, some­times against their leaders. Some – like teachers – are building bridges across their sectors. We need to build on this.

This is a good time to share our experi­ences and strategies. We build a movement together and we learn from each other how best to continue the fight and strengthen our position in winning the argument. This conference is not about being told what to do. We share what we are good at and we build our struggle together to unite and stand firmly against those who hold the power.

Glen Hart, South region relief organiser, RMT

I’ve spent over 26 years as a rank-and-file activist, fighting for workers’ rights. Through my experience, I’ve witnessed how bosses exploit their employees, and how union bureaucracies often impede actual progress. That’s why I believe in the power of the How We Fight, How We Win conference, to build a stronger, more effec­tive, and inclusive labour movement.

The conference provides an essential platform for workers to come together, share their experiences, and build strat­egies for success. It’s an opportunity for rank-and-file members to take charge of their advocacy, empowering them to address their struggles in the workplace and secure genuine change. Given the cur­rent pressures from adverse governments and employers, it’s more important than ever for union members to stand up and have their voices heard.

The conference aims to foster a union culture that empowers and promotes the needs and rights of working people. As an anti-racism advocate, I’m proud to stand with my fellow union members and sup­port this critical event.

Don’t miss this Saturday’s How We Fight, How We Win Rank-and-File Organising Conference and Strike Solidarity Benefit at the Rich Mix

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