Teachers' union joint president Louise Regan looks to new ways of organising
THE labour movement must learn from the successes of fast food workers’ campaigns, a key figure in Britain’s newest union has said.
National Education Union joint president Louise Regan compared the model of local organising that has brought on Britain’s first ever McDonald’s strikes with the tactics of teaching unions.
Ms Regan, who was president of the National Union of Teachers prior to its merger with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers last week, said the walkouts at the burger giant were “really positive for the union movement.”
Ahead of addressing pickets in Crayford this morning, Ms Regan told the Star that both teachers and fast food workers had learned lessons from disputes in the US.
She said unions representing both groups had moved towards action based in individual workplaces and localities, focusing on issues raised by reps at grassroots level.
Teachers in Chicago won a famous victory against layoffs and corporate education reforms in 2010 — which has been partly credited to the unity of the profession in one organisation, as well as the dispute being routed in grassroots activism.
Fast-food campaigns in the US and now in Britain have been focused on taking action where there is industrial strength — in order to spread consciousness of the power workers can wield.
“It’s no good somebody at the top telling you what to do,” Ms Regan said, suggesting it was crucial to build support for campaigns before taking action. “A small win can lead to bigger wins.”
Nottingham-based Ms Regan said the grievances raised by workers in Crayford, south-east London, mirrored the experiences of her daughter, a McDonald’s employee.
“Her hours continue to be variable,” she said. “Last week she worked seven hours in total.”