CWU Against Racism – fighting racism strengthens us all

Union Matters, Equalities

Friday 19th June 2020

“As we fight racism, we gain strength in the rest of our struggles,” said our general secretary Dave Ward to over 6,000 members as he brought this evening’s powerful CWU Against Racism Facebook live debate to a close.

“As a trade union, we get our strength from making common cause,” he pointed out, explaining why organisations like ours are ideally placed to take the fight for equality into the workplaces of Britain and thanking the Friday night panelists who each contributed so much positivity and determination.

From the CWU’s own ranks, we heard from national executive council members Ian Taylor and Ali Moosa, our head of education, equality & development Kate Hudson and the union’s north east regional BAME lead Quincy Raymond.

And we were also honoured to be joined by our special guest former Irish international right back footballer Curtis Fleming – capped 10 times for his country and making 266 appearances for Middlesbrough – who now works with the Show Racism the Red Card campaign.

Dave Ward said that recent events since the terrible killing of George Floyd by American police and the Black Lives Matter protests that had taken place in so many countries, he had been “reflecting on whether we do enough to stand against racism.”

The CWU must be at the forefront of the renewed fight against racism, he insisted, explaining that “trade unions stand for equality. Everyone, regardless the colour of your skin, should have equal life chances and equal outcomes.

“And we’re talking to our members, listening, and finding out what we can do. We’re coming together and making our anti-racism campaigning something to be proud of.”

Speaking of his own experiences, Curtis Fleming said: “I remember as a kid being told: ‘You black this or you black that, get back to your own country’. It’s not true that sticks and stones don’t hurt – they do.”

There were some horrendous situations when I was playing – getting coins thrown at me, being spat at, and abused – and other lads telling me: ‘That’s how it is’,” he recalled, highlighting the common attitude of those times.

But although the more overt racism has lessened in the game, institutional racism continues, with only six of 92 English league clubs having BAME senior coaches.

His daughters had encouraged him to attend recent BLM protests on Teesside, he continued, speaking of how proud he was of them and of his hope that the upcoming generation will achieve real and lasting change.

Ian Taylor spoke about racism he had encountered growing up, saying that in his youth, football grounds had not been safe places for black fans to go.

He also went along to his local BLM demonstration, describing the Manchester gathering as “inspiring” and saying: “I felt I had no choice but to go – I made that conscious decision and I’m glad I went.”

Ali Moosa talked of how the George Floyd killing had “shone a light on racism” and that, terrible though that was, its sheer horror had sparked an energetic movement for change and that it was now “really important as a trade union that we do not let this opportunity go.

“There is no place for racism in civilised society.”

The need for activism in the communities and in the workplace to be supported by education was a strong theme of the discussion about how to change attitudes – and Quincy Raymond made the point that “whether in schools, or in the workplace, educating people and starting to talk about these things is the key – then you can raise awareness.

“Working with education unions, with schools, maybe get our reps in there,” she suggested. It’s Fundamentally about educating – ourselves, our workplaces, and pushing within the TUC to get it in schools.”

The CWU is changing its education programme, said Kate Hudson, and that the leadership training courses which have previously been just provided to reps are now being opened up to the membership as a whole.

“It’s crucial getting involved with our membership and bringing people forward. And making sure they have a say in our union and what we do moving forward.”

On anti-racist education, Kate said that “some of the conversations we need to have are not going to be easy and are not going to be comfortable – but some people out there are being racist and didn’t even know it was racist.”

With ideas and suggestions flowing freely between our panel members and head of comms Chris Webb putting questions to them from the live Facebook audience, time flew by and the session was finally brought to a conclusion after almost an hour and a half.

“It’s been fantastic that six and a half thousand people have joined us on this debate,” said Chris, “so before I ask for some final comments from our panel, can I just ask everyone to buy the new CWU anti-racism football shirt and also, please join us here on CWU FB Live again on Monday at 6pm when we’ll be celebrating Windrush.”

Ali and Quincy both re-emphasised the critical role that education will play in achieving positive change and also the centrality of the CWU and the wider trade union movement in pushing this agenda forward, while Kate gave an example of what needs to happen at work, by citing an anti-racism awareness initiative that a CWU rep had told her about at his workplace, identifying what was and was not acceptable in terms of language and so-called ‘banter’.

Ian reminded us all that change is never something given away by those in power, but something that’s won by being fought for by the people and Curtis commented that the evening’s debate had been “inspiring.

“Education is the key – there’s no doubt about that. We can make changes as individuals and you’re going to do that every day as trade unionists. The fight goes on,” he vowed.

And in his summing up, Dave Ward said: “It’s been brilliant from all our panelists tonight – some powerful stuff. As people were talking, you’re reflecting on your lives, on what we can do to make things better, to make things change.

“This is what we mean about bringing equality into the mainstream of our union. I think this will make our union stronger.”

* CWU Against Racism – next event Monday 6pm Celebrating Windrush


* CWU anti-racism T-shirt – please buy one if you haven’t already. Available here!