From Trade Unions towards Social Unions : Four Transitional Proposals for Consideration

From Trade Unions towards Social Unions : Four Transitional Proposals for Consideration

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Working within the trade union movement itself, to propose…

[1]  the recruitment of people into the trade union movement from all areas of ‘non-employment’ i.e. from outside the workplace. For example, students, the unemployed, home-based individuals, etc


[2] an end to the discriminatory practice within the trade unions of different types of membership. The establishment of one single form of membership in which all members of the trade unions – employed or non-employed – have the same, full, equal, democratic rights. In order that every member can potentially or actually play a full role in the life of the union.


[3] the creation of a sliding scale of membership subscriptions in which rights afforded to individual trade union members are not linked to the amount of the subscription fee paid out and such a fee is linked to the ability of individuals to pay. Fees to be waived in cases of proven need. For example, the unwaged, people on low incomes, students, etc, would pay a lower fee than those in full-time employment.


[4] the initiation and elaboration of other demands considered to be productive to the development of a wider, more democratic, more inclusive and broader form of unionism which represents the interests of a wider range and greater number of people i.e articulates the interests of the class as a whole rather than simply its paid/salaried ’employed’ sections.


The theoretical and political background to these proposals can be investigated @ in my work on trade unions and social unions.

In the UK, proposal [1] is already being carried through by some trade unions e.g. UNITE’s community branch initiative but proposals [2] and [3] (which are far more important and with very profound implications and ramifications for the way in which the proletariat actually organises and articulates its resistance to the rule of capital in crisis) are absolutely out of the question as far as the trade union bureaucracy is concerned. It would mean the creation of the conditions for a higher form of unionism which could still, nevertheless, articulate the interests of members in the actual workplace to a far greater extent and to a far higher degree of effectiveness than they are articulated at the moment with trade unionism per se.

A statistic : in 1979 the trade unions in the UK had approximately 14 million individual members. Today the currently accepted figure is approximately 6 million and falling. This means on average the trades unions are losing – as a historical trend – about 235,000 members every year!! And some on the left are still saying that the trade unions are not sinking into the quicksand of history!! The unfolding of this trend is inseparable from the emergence and development of the structural crisis of capital itself. More on this and on the work of Istvan Meszaros on my wordpress site.

Shaun May

September 2013


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