A trade union is an organisation made up of members who are mainly workers. One of the main aims of a trade union is to protect and advance the interests of its members in the workplace.
Trade union members also have a long history of taking action to support people beyond the workplace. British trade unions (among others) campaigned against apartheid in South Africa, for the rights and freedom of LGBT+ people, and for voting and reproductive rights for women.
Trade unions can campaign for and show solidarity with oppressed people who are not workers – for example, those barred from working due to immigration control.
There are different trade unions representing different industries and sectors in the UK. Each of these have local and regional branches.
A trade union motion (resolution) against immigration detention is a way of showing popular opposition to the policy, indicates the breadth of interest in a local area or regionally and even nationally, and can be used to encourage political representatives to take action.
Mural by Mike Alewitz
Steps to getting a motion passed
1. Identify the union to be targeted. If you are a member of one of these, that is straightforward. If not, maybe you know someone who is in a workplace where there is a union and ask them to assist. Alternatively look for the email address for the union concerned.
2. Draft the motion, to include background information about the issue and actions that the union branch will take if the motion is passed. You can find a template trade union motion here (this is based on the motion passed by Liverpool TUC).
3. Send this to the union branch secretary and ask for their support (simply – will they agree to support it?).
4. Ask if you could come along to a meeting or similar – and go along to speak to it. Do you know someone who has experience of detention or of being at risk of detention and is happy to speak at the meeting?
6. Go along – speak – win the vote on the motion – and report back and publicise that the branch has agreed to support it!
7. Encourage the union branch to send the motion to all its members (most have a mailing list and should at least occasionally send their members mailings).
8. Encourage the union branch to pass the motion on to its regional and national union structures (these are different in each union but the principle is the same).
9. Encourage the union branch to send it likewise to its local Trades Union Council
10. Unions can also send the motion to local councillors and MPs who may be sponsored or members of the unions concerned. You may want to ask a local councillor to consider passing a council motion against detention (find out more about that here), if they haven’t already. Ask your MP to take action in parliament on the issue of immigration detention. This may be by asking a question in the House of Commons about the policy of immigration detention (and how it affects their constituents); by attending a parliamentary event or debate on detention; and perhaps even voting if the issue is mentioned in upcoming legislation, such as an amendment to an immigration bill.
11. Let us know how you get on! You can share on social media using the #TheseWallsMustFall hashtag, or contact us via the website here. It’s good to share your successes and what you’ve learned, so others are encouraged to try this in their own communities.
With thanks to John Nicholson