Trade union membership is on the rise in the UK. This should come as no surprise, given the dire situation that workers are experiencing.
91,000 workers joined a trade union in 2019, making it the third year in a row that the total membership increased. 2020 will no doubt have an even higher number, due to the deepening crisis. Already, the TUC have reported a 500% increase of people visiting its ‘join a union’ web page.
Traffic to our join a union page has increased by 500% this month compared to the same period last year.— Trades Union Congress (@The_TUC) May 27, 2020
Workers need the power and protection of a union to get through this crisis.
There’s never been a better time to #joinaunion. https://t.co/V0fgrXVA0o
The consciousness of workers is being elevated with every new attack from the bosses. They are being handed no other alternative than to join unions en-masse as a way to defend themselves and strike back.
There are an increasing number of women workers joining trade unions. The total number of unionised women is at its highest ever level at 3.69 million. Around two-thirds of this increase came from women working in health, social care, and education.
Workers in these sectors have been hit the hard by years of Tory austerity. Now they are working on the frontlines during the pandemic, and in most cases are being thrown to the dogs when it comes to protection against the virus. This, along with the grim economic forecast spelling even more attacks on workers, means this number will continue to grow and grow.
Over 20,000 have joined the National Education Union (NEU) in the last few months. This is in response to the stance taken by the union against the government’s dangerous policy of reopening the schools early. There is clearly a realisation that they are going to pay the price of ‘kickstarting’ the economy with their lives, and the only way to defend themselves is to organise.
Unite, GMB, and Unison have also all reported thousands of new members since the pandemic hit.
Unions such as the IWGB are growing at a rapid rate. This is due to both a rise in precarious work, and also the proactive approach of the union in taking the fight to the bosses.
This must serve as an inspiration to workers in other unions. The actions and message of their leaders must reflect the anger and militancy of their members. Their members and prospective members are looking for bold action, not backroom deals with the bosses. A leadership found lacking must be replaced by those willing to go all the way.
With no prospect of a Labour government any time soon, workers are looking instead to the industrial struggle. And with Keir Starmer doing his best to drag the party to the right, workers are now clearly turning to the unions for answers and action.
With the capitalist economy entering its deepest crisis in history, the attacks on workers will only increase. In turn, the number of workers joining trade unions will continue to rise, as millions will be left with no choice but to fight back. Militancy must be the way forward – to make the bosses pay for the crisis.