Saturday, June 28, 2008

Aboard the Union Express

New Zealand has a history of fine trade union newspapers which stretches at least as far back as The Maoriland Worker, the legendary 'journal of industrial unionism, socialism and politics' which was launched by the Shearers Union in 1910 and built a massive readership over the following decade.

Even in this online era, the tradition of quality union papers lives on, thanks in part to the Union Express, the mouthpiece of the National Distribution Union, which represents twenty thousand mostly blue collar workers up and down the country. Edited by the energetic Simon Oosterman, the Union Express not only keeps its readers up to speed with events on the industrial relations front, but also contextualises today's news with forays into New Zealand history. During the furore over last year's so-called terror raids, for instance, the Union Express published long, thoughtful discussions of nineteenth and early twentieth century Tuhoe history, in an effort to help its readers understand why many members of the iwi retain grievances against the Crown, and why Police Commissioner Broad's invasion of the Ureweras caused so much fresh anger. At a time when much of the media seemed about to succumb to the delusion that Osama bin Laden himself was hiding in the central North Island, the Union Express' sense of context was a welcome relief.

I'm pleased that the latest issue of the Union Express includes an edited version of my recent post on the role of the trade unions in the struggle to reclaim stolen land at Bastion Point. Simon Oosterman has shortened my post a little, and added his own introduction:

Thirty years ago, on May 25 1978, police arrived at Bastion Pt armed with bulldozers and army trucks to demolish the Ngati Whatu protest town and remove peaceful protesters who had been on the site for 507 days. The only structure left standing on that black day was a memorial to a protester's young daughter who died tragically in a fire at the site during the protest. Ngati Whatua had been fighting the Crown over eviction and stolen lands for decades before the Bastion Pt occupation. This is a brief story of the union movement's support of Ngati Whatua in the years leading up to Bastion Pt to remind us of the union movement's spirit of solidarity with the oppressed peoples in society.

Union Express isn't published online, but you can read my post on Bastion Point here. I pinched the images at the top of this post from Simon Oosterman. Simon may be best known as an activist, but he also has a passion for photography, and some of his work, which is collected online here, is not only good propaganda but damn fine art.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beyond Maps...

Your Bastion Point piece has also been published in the "Workers' Charter". It deserves all the readers it can get.


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