Thursday, 18 September 2014


This truly is a day destined for the history books, decision day on Scottish self-rule, potentially the first day of an entirely new chapter in history, with all its repercussions for the might and swagger of British imperialism, and its boost to the demands for independence for the likes of the Catalans - who are staging a vigil in hope of a Yes vote in Scotland!
In some ways it's also like most other days. Up in the pitch black of night to start work at 5am. 
But today, making sure I switch my Yes badge to my clean uniform, and double-checking I've got the bundle of Yes leaflets - one in Polish for Tak, the other with the apt message: 'One opportunity - to end Tory rule forever'. 
The first batch of fellow workers I encounter show all the traits that have been noticeable for a while: the sparkle, enthusiasm, talkativeness and straightforward happiness of spirit of those we've convinced to vote YES over recent months, and in contrast (with a couple of rare exceptions) the quiet, subdued, even sullen silence of those sticking to NO.
It will never stop me standing up for their rights and conditions as their union convener, but the NO voters generally display a lack of confidence in demanding improvements in their lives; the Yes voters seem empowered with vastly raised expectations.

While doing my job, people walk past, stopping to chat or comment on my badge. Many of them go away with a leaflet, a reminder of a core reason for YES. As a group of three pass me I shout 'Yes, Yes, Yes?'. All three reply YES in unison, one adding: "It's not even a question any more". 

Another jokes "You can't be wearing that Yes badge alongside your union badge!" He is referring to Usdaw's affiliation to Better Together, without prior debate among the members and branches. "But I knew you had the bottle to make your own mind up." We then discuss what happened with the Usdaw decision and what members can do about it.

A recent recruit to the union describes how he was NO until a few weeks ago, but one of several experiences that changed his mind was a telephone canvass from the NO campaign, somebody up from England.
"I declined to say which way I was voting, repeatedly, and then this guy told me to consider what was happening in Ukraine and our fight against the Nazis. I couldn't believe it. I asked him if he was saying a YES vote would lead to invasions and civil war like Ukraine and Russia, and his reply was 'Stranger things have happened'. That was the end of the call for me!"

A slight majority of the Polish workers I spoke to were going to vote NO. After a five minute chat one of them said she would definitely now think again "because I've never heard the information you've given me before". 
In previous conversations I'd picked up a rumour, so on asking some Polish workers straight out this morning, they confirmed they'd been told that a YES vote would mean they would have to leave Scotland. A dirty lie, systematically spread by at least some of the NO campaign, brutally playing on the fears of migrant workers who have settled in Scotland for a better life. As well as Scotland planning to welcome MORE migrant workers, the only real threat to them staying in the country is a NO vote, a subsequent Tory or Tory-UKIP government at Westminster next May, and then their In/Out Referendum on taking Britain out of the EU.

Two more new recruits to the union this morning.
One woman who spotted my Yes badge and showed how she had a slightly more discreetly displayed one on her uniform!
A man who started in our place recently, who it turned out had been leafleting for Yes at a polling station before his shift. When I introduced myself he said: "Oh, you're the one I've read about debating in the union?". Which he must have read on, a report of our branch members' meeting where, after a brilliant, vigorous debate, members voted 87.5% YES, with ZERO for NO. A debate that has caused a huge buzz at work over the past week, including among people unable to attend who have had reports from members at it, winning round big numbers of NOs and doubters to YES. In the past two days at least 3 of the Undecided voters at our debate have confirmed to me they are now firmly voting YES.

But while we recruit to Usdaw and gain improvements at work for an increasingly strong membership, our UK and Scottish union leadership are driving people out of the union. Several members today again spoke to me about "That letter". The one posted to every one of USDAW's 46,000 Scottish members, from UK general secretary John Hannett, asking us to vote NO - even if we Don't Know! The letter was a rehash of the email all members got from him last week.
It's created fury, and massive threats of resignation, because members were never given the chance of branch debates or a ballot of members before Usdaw decided which side to support.

So while campaigning for workplace improvements, I am also fighting to stop union membership bleeding away.
The fury of members is entirely justified. But resigning from the union - something happening across numerous workplaces on a big scale - would be a terrible blunder, a disastrous mistake in the extreme. It would leave workers defenceless in times of need with their employers. And it would weaken the fight for greater union membership democracy, if critics of the current USDAW leaders' undemocratic methods on the Referendum just walk away from the union.
They should instead stay and demand democracy. And they can opt out of paying money to the Labour party whilst staying in the union. Numerous members in our workplace have asked for the forms to do that. Just home, and a supply of Usdaw Political Fund Exemption Notice forms has arrived in the post.

Off to vote, to apply a pencil to paper as a contribution to the quiet revolution of working class people we are witnessing; then onto the streets for the rest of the day to help shore up the YES vote, so all workers can shape Scotland in our best interests.
Vote YES, vote TAK, and seize the reins of power for the working class majority!

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