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Demand What is Yours.

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Asking.
Never asking for anything will inevitably lead to an unspoken assumption that you have neither need nor desire. So if you do not press for better conditions and rewards from your oppressor, your employer, or your owner, then there will be a convenient assumption that you are happy with the status quo. The result being that any improvement that you may experience will be entirely dependent on your exploiters charity.

And since charity and exploitation are poles apart, you can be sure that any such charity will be rare, and strictly tied to expectations of greater fidelity, dedication and reverence on the part of the slave towards the employer or owner. So if you want to obtain improvement then you had better start with at least asking for it.

But what if your request is denied or even laughed at? Well, you had better decide how much you want it, how much you need it and how much you are entitled to it, because the next step is obviously to demand it. It also helps if you come from a position of power, and this means getting others on board, your fellow workers, your Union, and if possible other sympathetic organizations. If you are coming from a position of moral and/or legal justice you might want to demand it anyway, but remember its your call and your neck, so it can't hurt to have others on board.

Demanding.
If you are entitled to something, and that something is not in your possession, but in the hands of someone else, then you are well within your rights to demand it. If this was not true, then what would entitlement mean?

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights you are entitled to equal pay and benefits for equal work. It's a human right, so if you are of human parentage and this right is being denied, then, regardless of race, class, sex or persuasion, it is not only your right, but also your duty to demand this equality. Of course, if your master is particularly vicious, violent or vindictive in his or her oppressive ways, then, in the interests of survival, your struggle may need to take on a secretive, subversive or even suppressed nature, but this in no way diminishes your entitlement or the right to fight for what is yours.

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Collective Bargaining.
Unions are useful institutions for workers, precisely because they in large part provide protection against the above-mentioned vindictiveness off employers. Unions are collective bodies of workers whose solidarity, strength and cohesion are derived from the common interests and goals of its members.

As the sole bargaining agents of their members, it is the function and duty of unions, to advance and protect the interests, of the workers that comprise their membership. Healthy unions are organizational bodies whose officers are delegated to execute the democratic will of the members in accordance with the working class traditions and principles embodied in their various constitutions. Given this description of the nature, function and duties of unions, it is difficult indeed to understand how a union can accept a contract that provides two or more different levels or tiers of wages and benefits for workers executing the same work, and still pretend to be a union.

In the first place, such acceptance breaches the interests of workers by directly attacking their fundamental human rights. And if a union will not defend the human rights of its members, then who will?
Secondly, such contracts are divisive and tend to dissolve the solidarity and cohesion that make a union, a union.
Thirdly, two-tier wage schemes are in such discord with working class traditions and principles that they turn our worthy constitutions into hypocritical platitudes.

Our Duty.
So as union members it is our duty to embark on a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand we have to clean up our own act and accept that two-tier wage and benefit schemes are totally and fundamentally unacceptable and therefore should be unconditionally banished from the bargaining table. And on the other hand we must make it abundantly clear to the public, at home and abroad, that companies that express a desire to implement such two-tier systems, are seeking to violate the human rights of the good citizens of this country.

In Solidarity,
John Barker

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Sept 2004