Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation

Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation

Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation

Green Bans, Red Union: Environmental Activism and the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation

Synopsis

Documents the development of the NSW Builders Labourers' Federation (NSWBLF) and their stand on a number of social and environmental issues. Tells how members of the NSW BLF risked their jobs to preserve bush, buildings and parkland in the 1970s, and also used their industrial power to defend the rights of oppressed groups such as Aborigines and homosexuals. Discusses attempts to break the bans and destroy the union, and the way in which the leaders were forced to eventually stand down. Looks at the impact of 'green bans' and prospects for the future. Includes references, a bibliography and an index. Meredith Burgmann is a Labor NLC in the NSW parliament. Verity Burgmann is associate professor in political science at the University of Melbourne. Both authors have published extensively in the field of labour history.

Excerpt

Green bans', 'builders labourers' and 'Jack Mundey' were household terms for millions of Australians during the 1970s. Sydneysiders in particular were polarised on the questions surrounding green bans and those who imposed them. To many, the New South Wales Builders Labourers' Federation (NSWBLF) represented the hideous spectre of working-class power maliciously halting progress, and restraining the liberty of property owners to undertake development, from which the public would benefit. To many others the builders labourers (or BLs) articulated the general interest of all except the greediest developers in preserving the built and natural environment from wanton destruction.

The union's guiding principle, which aroused such strong emotions and which underpinned its environmental activism, was the concept of the social responsibility of labour: that workers had a right to insist that their labour not be used in harmful ways. Strongly associated with this principle was a conviction that the organised labour movement should concern itself with all manner of social and political issues, to contest exploitation and oppression in the wider society and not just in the workplace. the union did not merely impose green bans--refusing to work on environmentally injurious constructions--it also insisted upon the right of women to work in the industry on an equal basis with men, and frequently used its power to aid groups such as prisoners, homosexuals, Aborigines, students, the women's movement, and poorer home-buyers, even imposing a range of non-environmental bans in defence of these oppressed, marginalised or vulnerable people.

The nswblf was one of Australia's oldest unions. It was formed . . .

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