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

By Meredith Burgmann; Verity Burgmann | Go to book overview

7

PIONEERING
SOCIAL
MOVEMENT
UNIONISM

Since the mid- 1970s new social movement theorists have argued that the labour movement is no longer a social movement, that class no longer has the mobilising power it once had, and that identities based on gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality have eclipsed class. Trends within academic thinking reflected transformations within political life: from the late 1960s the rise of the new social movements--such as the anti-war, women's, homosexual liberation and black rights movements--appeared to have seized the political initiative from the labour movement. Accordingly the labour movement's capacity to effect social change was contrasted unfavourably with these new social forces. It was deemed the 'old' social movement, and these theorists even suggested that the labour movement was not only 'institutionalised' into the political system (and therefore incapable of providing social opposition) but that labour now shared interests in common with capital: they were both involved in the production process and committed thereby to maintaining capital growth, which was necessarily destructive of the environment.1

Thus it is interesting to examine the way in which the NSWBLF successfully transcended the stark dichotomies erected in new social movement analysis, which would argue that traditional labour movement concerns, such as wages and conditions, job control and job security, are generally at odds with those of the new social movements, such as women's rights and saving the environment. Drawing on caricatures of trade unions as bastions of homophobia, machismo, racism, ethnocentrism and ecological irresponsibility, the distinction between old and new is frequently depicted as that between bigoted workers who never think about anything but their material self-interest and the enlightened

-121-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xi
  • Part 1 - People Before Profits 1
  • The World's First Green Bans 3
  • 3 - The Greening of the Union 36
  • Part 2 - A New Concept of Unionism 59
  • 4 - Organisational Principles and Practices 61
  • 5 - Industrial Relations Strategies 77
  • 6 - Civilising the Industry 103
  • 7 - Pioneering Social Movement Unionism 121
  • 8 - Feminism and Machismo: Women as Builders Labourers 146
  • Part 3 - Preventing the Plunder 167
  • Defending the Open Spaces 169
  • 10 - Preserving the Built Environment 194
  • 11 - Saving the National Estate 228
  • 12 - Breaking the Bans, Breaking the Union 248
  • 13 - Green Bans Forever? 276
  • Endnotes 300
  • Sources 324
  • Index 339
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