Power is more important than principle in today's ALP and sections of the unions
Over the last few months, we have watched the disgraceful actions of the MHR for Dobell, Craig Thomson, unfold before us.
Before Thomson was an MHR, he was the national secretary of the Health Services Union. This union represents health care workers in some states, most of them earning on average about $20 per hour. Thomson, as the national secretary, was paid an annual salary of $157,000, around four times what his average member earned.
The $157,000 wasn't enough for Mr Thomson. Like a poor imitation of Gordon Gecko, he threw union funds around with gay abandon. There was no such thing as the global financial crisis for Mr Thomson, and there were certainly no worries about getting up in the middle of the night to work as many of his members did.
Thomas was in his element as a big-noting union official. Lavish lunches and dinners. Only the best of wines.
As far as we are concerned at "Appeal to Reason", it's a pity he didn't choke on them! The organised working class would not have mourned his departure.
The Russian revolutionary leader Lenin summed up the likes of Thomson when he described a section of social-democratic trade-union leaders as being inveterate traitors to the working class, and in fact the social mainstay of the capitalist system.
Prime minister Gillard's defence of Thomson has been based on legal technicalities - and the fact that, should Gillard cast Thomson adrift, in all likelihood an election will need to be called.
What Gillard may not realise is that the likes of Thomson will make Labor utterly unelectable. For many on the sidelines of the union movement, Thomson's antics confirm every doubt they have about joining a union or voting Labor.
The "Appeal to Reason" calls on the ACTU leadership to condemn the actions of Thomson from a fundamental position of moral leadership. Unionism and its leadership has nothing if it does not have moral authority.
Being a union leader is not about stumbling half-pissed out of the Hilton. It is about fearlessly defending the rights of those in society who have less.
The graph below shows the collapse of union density in Australia. Only about five of every hundred new jobs in the economy is being unionised.
We can argue about the new economy. We can argue about anti-union laws. We can argue about the effects of the age of consumerism on why union density has collapsed and unions in many areas have become non-existent or marginalised.
What there should be no argument about is that rank and file workers deserve much better from the leadership of many unions than what they are receiving.
Until the ACTU Executive and its affiliates heed this call, unionism will continue to decline.