Rona Proudfoot describes the Valentine’s letters written for striking posties in Glasgow.
I have recently joined a union and found myself part of the growing group from all walks of life who are volunteering their time on picket lines in support of striking workers. Although I’m new to this, some of my companions have been fighting for years, for decades. Some work for unions and some are lifelong trade unionists, now retired. Some are embroiled in their own industrial disputes and some are supporting other striking workers. It’s both heartening and heartbreaking to see a growing number of young people in this movement. What do their future working lives look like?
Others like myself are feeling their way as they go. We are all fuelled with a common desire for fair and living wages, job security and protecting workers’ rights. I have watched all of these being steadily eroded over my own working lifetime with the introduction of zero-hour contracts, precarious working conditions, unpaid trial shifts, and stagnant wages, with many hospitality workers in particular seeing their gratuities cruelly and illegally taken from them. So here we are with many more thousands falling into debt and misery every day. It is not greed to need a living wage and enough hours to pay your bills. Dignity and kindness are the heart of every picket action or event that I have been involved with. Our recent action on the picket lines has been nourished with love and sustained by solidarity.
In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we learned that the final day of planned industrial action by Royal Mail workers and other members of the CUW had been legally challenged and blocked, leaving the striking members’ morale very low. Born of an idea raised at a Strike Solidarity meeting, a group of us invited people from the local community to come and create love letters to our striking postal workers. On February 14th, at gate meetings, posties from the local distribution centres were presented with the cards and other gifts that folk were kind enough to offer. The appreciation was palpable. I had tears in my eyes as I told them that their community was still 100 percent behind their fight. Posties are striking not only to protect their jobs and wages. They are trying to save the Royal Mail service as we all know it. As I type, it has been reported that CWU members have delivered the biggest ever return in a major strike ballot, turning in an incredible 95.9 percent voting yes and with a very respectable overall 77.3 percent turnout. It has been a huge honour to support them, however small my involvement has been.
We need to unite for a workers’ economy. Now is not the time to succumb to divisions and infighting when the common goal is the same: decent, liveable wages and stable work.
Rona Proudfood is an activist with Southside Solidarity.