When my mother was pregnant with me in the 90s, she fought tooth and nail to become the first woman in her workplace to receive paid maternity leave. It’s hard to believe now, but back then it wasn’t even entrenched in legislation.
We now not only have paid parental leave but a far smaller gender pay gap, protection against workplace discrimination, and family and domestic violence leave – all thanks to union members creating better workplaces for all workers.
Women’s rights are just one example of the social challenges Australia faces where working people are at the centre of driving positive change. Climate action is another space in which union members have campaigned on issues that affect not only all workers but everyone living in Australia.
In 2019, we saw a global outpour of people in the streets, leaving work and school to protest against the actions of large corporations and the negligence of governments in escalating the climate crisis. This enormous demonstration of collective action showed us that our voices are louder when we come together.
Union members put words into action, applying pressure on political leaders to make a fair and effective transition to renewable energy. The Sunshot report showed us that when workers’ voices are kept front and centre, we can achieve nationwide action that benefits everyone. The task is big but the goal is simple: create a healthier planet that leaves no worker behind.
In this challenging time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the big issues that plague us all – climate change, a global pandemic, growing wealth inequality and continuing discrimination against women and minorities. Though we may sometimes feel powerless under the flood of bad news stories, people still come together in the streets and online – saying ‘enough is enough’ – holding those in power to account and slowly enacting meaningful change.
Collective action is at the core of what unions do and being in your union is being part of a movement that is a force for good in society. The only thing that has changed society for the better in Australia and anywhere in the world is people power. And that’s exactly what unions are.