NEW YORK CITY — On March 14, the Left Labor Project hosted Bob Crow, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers in the UK. He opened with a 40-minute overview of his union, their position on electoral process, the general political climate in the UK and the current struggle being waged by their working class to roll back the cuts by the Tory-led Government.
“We believe the trade union movement is not just about what wages or what contract you get but about the social side: Decent transportation, affordable housing, a decent welfare state. Decent hospitals and also when people retire we respect old age as well. So that’s what we are about 24-7.”
He talked about the necessity of socialism as the only way forward. “What else is there? Cuts and more cuts.” While the government gave hundreds of billion pounds to the banks, Crow pointed out that “The Occupy Movement felt the full force of the government. While the same people were having people thrown out of their houses left, right and center. The real criminals are the bankers not the people sitting outside the churches.”
There are 25 Members of Parliament (out of a total of 650 MPs) that the union supports on the ground and monetarily. “When one looks for our support we ask two questions: 1, will you support repealing anti-labor laws imposed during the Thatcher regime? And 2, will you reauthorize the nationalization of essential industries”? He added that 90% of the union membership does not belong to a political party.
Crow pointed out that under the New Labour Party and Tony Blair, more jobs were privatized than under the Thatcher government.
His union and labor in general do not support any party that wants to keep capitalism in tact and just “regulate” it. Rather labor supports candidates who openly advocate for socialism. He spoke extensively about labor breaking away from the major parties and creating the UK’s Labour Party. Labor made tremendous gains after WWII: the Health Care System; the Rail and Maritime System and the Welfare State in general.
The problems we face here in the U.S. are very much the same as those faced by labor and youth in the UK as Crow pointed out, e.g., “this is the first generation in England that will not so as well as their parents. One in four youth don’t have a job. Unemployment among the youth, the actual figure is about 16%. Our job is to give young people hope, jobs, and a peaceful world.”
The Left Labor Project brings union leaders like Bob Crow to speak and build solidarity and understanding among international unions. Crow has been in the labor movement since he was sixteen. He has held various positions in the movement and in 2002 he was elected General Secretary. He was re-elected General Secretary in 2007 and 2012. On both occasions he was unopposed.
There is much to be learned from these forums. LLP has made progress in bringing New York labor unions together. This will be the third May Day that the labor unions will be “taking back May Day” to its rightful creators, the working class.
Photo: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) at last year’s Stop the Cuts rally. RMT Facebook album.