“Several hundred workers at Polarfresh in Truganina have taken on one of the biggest corporate giants in Australia and beat them.
They beat them in a battle of industrial warfare that saw Coles lose millions of dollars and the emptying out of their fresh produce shelves all across Melbourne.
They have won an enterprise agreement that - whilst seemingly small in the grand scheme of things - is an important step forward in the colossal task of rebuilding our trade union movement and a combative left in Australian society.
That road to victory has been hard work for all those involved - it’s been a humbling experience to have been able to provide them with the small amounts of solidarity and support that I could.
For the delegates that have put in hundreds if not thousands of hours of union work at the distribution centre - developing new friendships, creating a culture of workplace confidence, convincing their workmates that the only way those who get kicked in the teeth achieve dignity and respect is to stand up and fight alongside others in a similar position - this proves that old-school unionism is the only way we can turn our side’s fortunes around.
For the workers who have come from all walks of life - some who have seen many strikes, some who have seen their first - there are few character-making experiences greater than that of taking on your class enemies and beating them at their own game.
To hear Rob Geci and countless others tell me on the first morning that all workers - regardless of nationality - are going to stick this out together and fight to the bitter end, precisely because they are “human beings not a fucking number on the payroll, not a fucking finger print clock statistic,” proves that they have more courage and spirit than all the spoilt, pretentious brats on university campuses and in the establishment that think they are the centre of the fucking universe and never shut up about their pathetic fucking feelings.
To hear delegates get up on a podium on the first morning and make speeches demanding dignity and respect for workers everywhere, proves that they can understand and articulate the grievances of the downtrodden better than any politician.
To see workers set up rolling pickets and stop trucks and scabs from moving Coles stock - to see them joined on those picket lines by CUB maintenance workers like Rob Lawrence and Harrie Stanford who have been fighting for 50 days now to get their jobs back - proves that workers have the collective ability and creativity to rise to any challenge that is thrown at them.
To see many prepared to stand up to the legal institutions that were wielded against them during the strike, precisely because they understand they are nothing but a straight-jacket imposed on their capacity to fight, proves - despite what every expert and intellectual will tell you - that they are not mindless dupes incapable of thinking for themselves.
To see the fresh produce section of practically every single Coles supermarket in Melbourne emptied out and workers proudly realising “we did that” proves that it is them, and not the parasites who run these companies, who make the world go ‘round.
To see messages of solidarity and support coming from unions all around Australia, and even as far as Indonesia, proves that it doesn’t matter what industry you work in, what country you live in, what country you’re from, what type of oppression you face, it’s your relationship to how wealth is produced in society that points to who’s side you should be on.
And to hear Egon, Leonard, Trevor and countless others explain to me the structure of profits and competition between corporations, how those profits are created by their bodies, hearts and minds, and how these companies treat them like cannon fodder, use racism to divide them, all sorts of bullying and harassment in order to squeeze as much profit out of them as possible, proves they know more about how the world works than every fuckwit I’ve had to argue with on a university campus that the working class still exists, unions are combat organisations for the exploited and oppressed, that only working class politics and the organisations that stem from those politics have the capacity to truly challenge and overcome all the misery and suffering that characterises the world we live in.
That’s why if you have ever seen, heard, read or experienced what happens when workers stand up and fight you can see what a different world could look like.
One that is planned on the basis of need not profits, and democratically run by these people and all those like them everywhere in the world.
The only way we are going to get there is if we keep on standing up to those that defend this barbaric social, political and economic arrangement we currently live under.
The workers at Polarfresh are working class heroes - you are an inspiration to all those fighting for a better world.” - Robert Narai (Socialist Alternative)
When the going gets tough. Why Get a Loan From Us?