CategoryPolitics

There is Power in a Union

This week is Heart Unions week. The campaign, organised by the TUC, is raising awareness of the importance of union membership and doing so under the black cloud of the UK Government’s nasty Trade Union Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.

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With the bill, this Tory Government is attempting to reduce workers’ rights, make it near impossible to strike and ultimately take away workers’ ability to campaign for and achieve better, safer and fairer conditions at work.

Sadly in the 21st century this is more important than ever with big corporations wanting more and more from their workers but increasingly showing an unwillingness to treat them as people, rather than just cogs in the machinery of making profits.

What you may be thinking now is ‘yeah, why should I care? I don’t work in one of them union industries’ and this is exactly why I’m writing this. Neither do I.

All the press about unions is to do with train drivers, steel workers, miners – the sort of traditional industries that are sadly not as prominent in the UK as they once were. But here’s the thing – that’s just perception. Unions matter, or should matter, to all of us. Anyone who works.

Look at the journalist who was told she was being offered redundancy and a payout only to have it taken away and be replaced with an ‘equivalent’ job that wasn’t equivalent at all. Who fights for her? Unions.

What about the waiter working in a restaurant who it turned out wasn’t getting the tips that customers thought they were giving to him, because management was taking a cut. Who fights for him? Unions.

And the workers at big warehouses and call centres who have rules so restrictive and untrusting that they hardly feel like people at all. Who fights for them? Unions.

Even if you don’t think you’ll ever need one, you should join a union. The more people that do, the more the Government will have to sit up and listen. As workers we all want rights and the best way to get them is to fight together, united.

My plea to you this week, when we’re celebrating how much we #heartunions, is to sign up. Think not ‘can I afford to?’ but ‘can I afford not to?’ You never know what’s round the corner, and even the kindest of employers can leave you high and dry if business changes.

Join your union, join in and even if you don’t need help now why not help others? If every union member recruited one more, the unions would have double the cash to fight for people’s rights. Yes, you may feel you’re paying in loads and haven’t got anything out yet, but that’s how it should be. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder.

Finally, if you still think you don’t love unions enough, here’s a clip of the final scenes of Pride, where in an enormous  show of solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers joined forces with LGBT campaigners, stood shoulder to shoulder and worked together to improve peoples’ rights. If you haven’t seen the whole film, I definitely recommend watching it.

You can join any general union, or one that’s relevant to the industry you work in. I’m a member of Unite and the NUJ (which you can join if you’re a PR, you don’t have to be a journalist). Look on the TUC website for more information.

Digital Democracy Event

The Speaker of the House of Commons is currently running a commission on digital democracy. It’s looking at the future of democracy (with particular attention to the work of parliament) and the commissioners are looking for views on topics including ‘Making Laws in a Digital Age’, ‘Electronic Voting’ and ‘Representation’.

There have been a number of events around the UK with interested people coming together to discuss, debate and feed ideas into the commission’s report. Many of the round table discussion events have been organised by or for specific groups of people but I wanted to bring together people who didn’t have a particular identity in relation to ‘digital’ or ‘democracy’, but were just interested to have those conversations.

The commission is particularly interesting to me because the questions are fairly open so there are loads of opportunities to feed in new and creative ideas.

Spying my opportunity, I arranged to create a discussion event as a fringe event to Gov Camp Cymru. I worked with the Satori Lab team, who have great ideas and supplies of pens and Lego, and co-ordinated with the commission’s staff in Parliament to bring the event together.

We heard from one of the Commissioners, technology entrepreneur Paul Kane, who told the group about the commission and its role in putting together a report on digital democracy in the UK. Sam Knight, who created YourSenedd, also spoke about his experience with open data and democratic engagement.

We then had space for discussions around the commission’s final topics of Engagement and Facilitating Dialogue between Citizens. We asked questions such as whether or not is it Parliament’s responsibility to facilitate citizen dialogue, the opportunities to increase engagement with the current political system and whether a whole new system will be the most successful way to engage citizens in decision making in the future.

Alongside informal space (and encouragement to use the hotel’s bar) we provided write-on table cloths and a big box of Lego so people could create, think and share in any way they chose. Quite a few little Lego creations and tablecloth thoughts emerged from the evening.

The full report of discussions and ideas will be published on the commission website soon, and you can follow the commission on Twitter @digidemocracyuk.

Photos by Dan Green.

Why do people give?

This morning I went to a workshop session on fundraising and giving. It was mainly focused around strategies for asking people to donate financially to an arts organisation, but included some really interesting psychology and other ideas about encouraging people to give.

One part particularly stood out and was really interesting to me, so I thought it might be interesting to other people too:

There are four different motivations for giving, and people will usually only respond to one of these. They fit into a matrix (below).

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Basically, people will either be interested in the future or present, and with a positive or negative approach. This is not to say people are negative themselves, just that the possible negative outcome of not giving will have more effect than promoting the positives.

To explain the categories, the workshop leader used the example of an HIV crisis in an African nation:

Vision: we will put a clinic in every town (positive action, in the future)

Risk: thousands of children will be orphaned if their parents die (what will happen, in the future)

Opportunity: we can buy antiretroviral drugs at a reduced price for a limited time (what can be done right now)

Crisis: people are dying right now, we must help them (the immediate problem)

It’s such a simple concept when it’s spelled out but makes so much difference when thinking about fundraising and giving. Communicating the right need to the right person is likely to increase donations and therefore what charities and organisations can achieve. Obviously I’m a passionate communicator, and I do believe that the way you communicate with someone can have a huge influence on their actions, so it’s great to see that this is part of the development process as well as the consumer marketing one.

The next stage of the workshop was to look at the organisation at hand and work our what our visions, risks, opportunities and crises are – whether it’s ‘we can take engaging theatre to every person in Wales’ or ‘people can’t pay their bills because the cost of living has spiralled out of control’.

I work for an arts organisation, I’m part of a political party and I’m often involved in charitable projects so I’m looking forward to getting better at this by practising great communication!

Coming Out

As it’s National Coming Out Day today, I’ve decided to come out. But this post isn’t about my being bisexual, or having organised my DVDs alphabetically (though I am, and I have). No, this is about politics.

POLITICS?!

To the 1% of you who are still reading: yes, I’m blogging about politics. I’ve always been interested in the goings on of Westminster and, more recently, the Senedd. I also had a few late teenage years of serious enthusiasm about Washington’s rather special brand of politics (partly due to The West Wing, I’ll admit). The trouble is, I never really picked a side. I was never a Tory (eww! ugh! etc), but I spent ages wavering around on the left wondering where there was a place for me.

It wasn’t until I met some more political friends in recent times that I figured out where I should be. I flirted with being a Lib Dem, and wondered more than once if I would be better off starting my own party, but have come to the rest and realisation that Labour was there for me the whole time. Commonly described as a ‘broad church’, the Labour Party in the UK encompasses people with a wide range of views from pretty left to nearer the centre, all with the realisation that if we work together to build a fairer society everyone will benefit. Contrast that to the Tories’ model of making life better for the rich and the corporations at the expense of almost everyone else and it’s an easy call.

I joined the party earlier in the year and these days I spend most of my Saturday mornings out with my fellow constituency members, door-knocking residents to offer help with local issues and make sure they know Labour work for them all year round, not just during elections. I’m also really excited to be helping campaign for the brilliant Jo Stevens, our parliamentary candidate for Cardiff Central in 2015. We are going to do some great things, and keep raising the bar for meaningful engagement with real people. I also had an incredible 5 days in Brighton last month at party conference.

So there it is. I’m out. I’m into politics. I hope you’ll all still talk to me!

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