Today I have sent a letter (below) to trade unionists and worker militants in London. I do this because this year I want ULU to be a hub for students and workers to organise together, and a centre for supporting students organising as workers.
We share the same struggles with workers, both academic and non-academic, on our campuses. The department closures, course cuts, and outsourcing that affect our education affect their livelihoods. By fighting together, we stand a better chance of winning.
But student-worker unity is not simply a marriage of convenience between two groups with sectional, if overlapping, interests.
Everything that gets produced in our society (from products coming off an assembly line in a factory to train journeys to cleaning services to a lecture) only gets produced because a worker’s labour power produces it. Workers make society move. That means the working class has a unique power to change the way our society functions.
As more and more students have to work to support ourselves through our studies, the distinction between “student” and “worker” is becoming more and more blurred. ULU’s student worker campaign is not just about helping students link up with campus workers to campaign, or about informing working students about their rights in the workplace, it is about building a political movement amongst students that understands the unique power of working-class struggle.
So – if lecturers or cleaners are on strike on your campus, and you want to know why and how you can support them, this campaign is the place to come. If you’re working a low-paid job (on campus or beyond) and want to know what your rights are and how to organise, this campaign is for you. And if you just want to keep up to date with workers’ struggles across London, this campaign will provide information and resources.
For more information, or to order campaign materials, please get in touch.
I’m writing to you as Vice President of the University of London Union (ULU) to introduce myself and my campaigning plans for the next year, and discuss how I think we can work together.
ULU is the umbrella body for Student Unions of the colleges of the University of London. As such it is an important hub for student movement activism. I want it to be a hub for labour movement and student-worker activism too.
I consider myself to be part of the labour movement and want to develop a wider understanding amongst students that our struggles and those of workers are linked. I am an active member of the GMB, and this year plan to work with the GMB, Unison, and other unions to help working students on University of London campuses organise in their workplaces.
I also want to mobilise students to support workers’ struggles – not just those of workers on our campuses, but wider struggles within London. I want trade union activists in London to see ULU as a space they can use (in terms of booking our facilities for meetings and events) and a point of contact for mobilising solidarity with their disputes.
Unity between workers and students is not simply a marriage of convenience. Particularly at a time when more and more students work to finance themselves through study, the distinction between “worker” and “student” is becoming increasingly blurred. Our interests and struggles are intertwined. I believe that, by working together, learning from each other, and supporting each others’ struggles, we can build a movement capable not only of resisting the government’ austerity agenda but of going on the offensive for a positive set of working-class politics and a struggle for a society in which the needs of people come before the needs of profit.
As an immediate step to developing closer relations between ULU and the wider labour movement in London, please feel welcome to attend our film-showing of “Supersize My Pay”, a documentary about a trade union campaign against low pay in New Zealand by young workers employed by Starbucks, McDonalds, and KFC. It will take place at ULU on Tuesday 6 November at 7pm. For more info, please see tinyurl.com/filmshowing. This meeting will also include discussion of ongoing workplace organising and worker-solidarity campaigns by student activists; your input would be welcome and valuable.
Please contact me if you have further questions or want to discuss more.
Yours in solidarity,
Vice President, ULU
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