They marched together. They marched together in solidarity. The primary school and secondary school teachers walked arm in arm, demanding better working conditions, better pay, better treatment.
"No!" said the Government. "We have no more to give!" And then the primary school teacher's union and the secondary school teacher's union proposed rolling strikes and went into a closed-door meeting with the Government and Oh! The Government found more to give.
It's almost as if when workers join together in some kind of unified group, and then flex the power of that unified group they can benefit the whole of that unified group. A group of workers is certainly a lot stronger and more likely to get change than a solitary worker. It's why the powerful classes have worked so hard to defang unions over the years.
In a second piece of industrial news for the week, the Government announced its changes to the "Hobbit law", an anti-union piece of legislation that the National Government passed to make sure that Peter Jackson could ruin a number of fond childhood memories. This Government is changing the law to allow film workers, who are considered contractors, to negotiate collectively. This had previously been barred. Because yay business! Boo the people who earn the businesses their profit.
However screen workers will not be allowed to strike if negotiations break down. This was reported as a "compromise" with Minister Lees-Galloway saying barring strikes would allow New Zealand to retain its attractiveness as a film location. Because workers' rights are now considered ugly I guess.
The Labour Party, forcing labour since 2017.
When I worked for big organisations I used to think that HR Departments were there to help me if things got bad. But then I realised HR isn't there to help the worker. It's there to help the work. You can tell by the name: Human Resource. We unwittingly allowed a really bleak semantic grab to happen where humans became viewed as nothing more than a resource. Then we allowed corporations to trick us into thinking these departments had our best interests at heart and we didn't need to be in a union.
"Why bother joining a union?" an organisation might say. "We have a fabulous HR department. There's even a social club! We can dock your pay every fortnight and then once a quarter you can enjoy forced socialising with a group of people where the only thing you have in common is being forced into cohabiting in the same workspace."
Why not get your salary docked every fortnight to pay for people organising and fighting for you instead?
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Why do you think titans of industry like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the New Zealand National Party are so against unions? Because unions represent the biggest threat to the hegemony of the rich.
What we seem to forget is there's a lot more of us than there is them. And unions are an example of how working together for collective goals is far more likely to be successful than working on our own.
Unions got us sick leave, they got us safety goggles, they got us weekends for goodness sakes.
And it's not even just anecdote like these examples. There is research to support unionism. In the United States it's been shown that as union membership falls, income concentrates at the top, i.e. inequality gets worse. In the 1970s the level of the United States workforce that was in a union was approximately 40 per cent, about the same as the proportion of income going to the top 10 per cent. By 2014 only 11 per cent of the United States workforce was a member of a union while the top 10 per cent was receiving nearly 50 per cent of all new wealth.
More research from the United States recently showed that since 1989 the combined wealth of the top 1 per cent went up by $21 trillion dollars. The bottom 50 per cent saw their combined wealth go down by $900 billion.
Like I said, there's a hell of a lot more people in the bottom 50 per cent than there are in the top 1 per cent. It might be time that the workers all properly united and took back what we earn. If you do the work, and you make the products or provide the services then you're generating the wealth.
You should get that wealth.
And if we all work together we've a far better chance of getting that wealth than if we attend social club gatherings, drink low-alcohol beer, sigh, and go home, only to get up and slave away to a wage, all the while directors focus on getting good returns for investors.
While primary and secondary teachers still have to vote on whether to accept the new deal, the effectiveness of their unions should be a welcome sign to all workers. Unions are here for us. And they may be all we have.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.