A poem written by an anonymous employee at the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW). They and their colleagues are taking industrial action against their own union employer in a dispute over pay.

The poem is provided as an image in order to preserve the structure.

It might surprise you General Secretary, 				the word ‘we’ has many different contexts, 								some you might have forgot. We, as in 	‘We deserve more than pay puffed up by pensions’ 					As in 						‘We do not, will not, accept your offer’ As in 	‘We are discontents’ 				As in 						‘We’ve begun to organise’ As in 	‘We’re being told our demands aren’t rational, 								but the past two years beg to differ.’
As in We
To be honest, General Secretary, 				it’s hard to care what you feel When the only ‘we’ you know 				is a partnership deal. It’s hard not to take 			all your comments to the papers, 								as double crosses When everything you say, 				just so happens 							to sound like the bosses. If you care so much for the members 					whose lives are on the brink 									of poverty Maybe you should try 			asking them what they think, 							if you have the humility. Whilst in corporation boardrooms, 				your trade union plays mother,
you ‘use the plight  of one set of workers  to hammer another’ Another worker’s opinion; 			a rep thinks it’s ‘rock bottom’ What can you call 		this kind of behaviour? 					Rotten. So if you keep on provoking, 				make it us versus you, What else are your workers 			supposed to do? If the unions and the employers 				are too much alike Then there’s only one option left: 				to strike.
So throughout the union, 			by whoever is able Until our employers, 			the gen sec and his mates 								come to the table, Each of us organised, 			is withdrawing our labour. You’ll find us 		on the picket lines, 					the street’s percussion our tabor! We’ll strike 		like matches 				all ready to ignite. What did the old Mohr write in his confessional? 						‘What is your idea of happiness:  to fight.’

Cover image is 'The Strikes of June 1936' by Boris Taslitzky. Photo: © Tate, London 2022

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