“When we build these campaigns we can win them because although the governing party of the day may have a majority in parliament, we have the majority on the streets.”
By Mercedes Villalba MSP
We want Boris Johnson Out, We want the Tories out, but not just any other government will do. We need a Socialist government that will work in our interests – in the interest of workers.
In Scotland we don’t have a Tory Government, we have an SNP-Green government. They may be better at saying the right things than the Tories, but not better at reducing poverty or empowering workers – time and again we see them cut and run down services to undermine public confidence in them before selling them off to private companies.
We’ve heard talk about the ambition for a ‘national care service’ in Scotland but the government up here aren’t ruling out privatisation. They have recently sold off our renewable energy through leases to multinational, and they are continuing to cut public transport – services cut, no investment in local manufacturing supply chains to create jobs in Scotland.
It’s clear that the only way we can win the socialist society we need is by organising collectively to mobilise a force so large that it cannot be ignored.
That means having persuasive conversations with everyone you know to encourage them to join a trade union, to organise in their workplaces and to build campaigns on issues that matter to our communities: whether that’s opposing insecure employment contracts, fighting for rent controls, or calling for public ownership of essential utilities and services.
When we build these campaigns we can win them because although the governing party of the day may have a majority in parliament, we have the majority on the streets. We have the collective power to drive the political agenda and win the change we need for a fairer society.
So it’s brilliant when we have allies in parliament (we’ve heard from some today), and we want more workers’ representation in parliament, but we also need to make sure that no matter who is in parliament, that our movement is organised enough and powerful enough to set the agenda and push legislators to work in our interests.
I want to end with an example of what this grassroots organising can achieve. On the 22nd December, a hospitality worker in Dundee sent a WhatsApp message to a group of comrades from a mix of trade unions asking for help and advice about a litany of abuses facing workers in the bar where she worked.
Over the course of 1 month, in standing up for her workplace rights, that 1 worker organised her colleagues across 13 venues reaching well above the 50% density required for trade union recognition.
The mistreatment they raised in their collective grievance was not new, each issue had been raised through ‘proper channels’ time and again to no avail. What numerous individual workers could not achieve alone, this organised collective have achieved in just 1 month.
Now the employer has met with trade union representatives, they have committed to a full investigation of the allegations, and workers are seeing missing pay appearing in their bank accounts. But the workers are not stopping there. They will accept nothing less than trade union recognition and collective bargaining rights. I have no doubt they will win and I will be doing everything in my power as a Member of Scottish Parliament to support them in that.
This is how we can win socialist change in our communities – through standing up for our rights, through organising collectively, and through cross-union solidarity.
Keep fighting. Solidarity!
- Mercedes Villalba is the Scottish Labour MSP for North East Scotland. This article is an adapted version of a speech given at the Arise Festival #JohnsonOut rally on January 29th. You can watch it in full here.
- You can follow Mercedes on twitter here, and Facebook here.