Daniel Hannington-Pinto, ‘The Social and Moral Campaigning of Australian Trade Unions, 1960s to 2015’ (PhD in History, 2020)
Although wages and working conditions have long been their ‘bread and butter’, trade unions have frequently campaigned on broader social and moral issues. In the Australian context, however, the labour history literature remains relatively silent on these contributions. Drawing on archival analysis and interviews undertaken with key participants, this thesis examines three case studies of such non-industrial activism by unions: support for Aboriginal rights in the 1960s; solidarity with the East Timorese independence movement; and, most recently, opposition to governmental policy on immigration detention. Critical analysis of the campaigns is informed by the concept of social movement unionism (SMU), a variant of unionism developed by scholars seeking to understand and arrest a global decline in labour’s influence in recent decades. The model is marked by broader issue-based campaigns, high levels of internal democracy, political independence, and the development of alliances with external social movement partners. Widely understood as having developed in the Global South in the 1980s, some have pointed to an earlier campaign in Australia – the NSW Builders’ Labourers’ Federation’s ‘green bans’ against socially-destructive developments in 1970s Sydney – as a historical precedent for SMU. Supporting this assessment, I propose an even earlier Australian example, and argue that SMU has been more evident in Australian history than previously acknowledged.
Supervisors: Professor Sean Scalmer, Dr Jackie Dickenson