Solidarity shopping – a good idea with a damaging affiliation

Mick Rice, Labour candidate for the Scottish Parliament at the last election, is promoting ‘solidarity shopping’ at the website notamazon.co.uk.

The heart of this is trying to start an ethical cooperative controlled by its members, in response to the impact of the mega-businesses in driving down their own prices by continually driving down wages and conditions; and standing against businesses of any scale using tax avoidance schemes to sidestep their social responsibility in making even more profit.

The website linked above is a promotion and recruitment site whose purpose is to raise funds, through the many banding together to launch an on-line store that sells trade union sponsored products.

The aim is, together, to create Solidarity Shopping, not to make money for individuals but to support each other in providing a service, paying taxes and raising funds for good causes.

The target to set up a fully functioning trading web site is £25,000 and the  aim is to raise £50,000 before the end of 2013 through crowd source funding.

This means that they need as many people as possible – and their friends -  to join.

At this stage they are asking those interested  only to pledge the money – as they will call it in only when they reach the £25,000 target.

The enterprise is to be called ‘Union Shop Cooperative Ltd’, an on-line trading site offering a full range of consumer goods and, not quite not Amazon – only different – with  a Market Place where independent traders can display and sell their goods – providing they support fair employment rights.

One per cent of all transactions carried out through the site will be donated to the Global Solidarity Fund – to be used in the UK to promote the Living Wage (currently £7.50p per hour).

The Solidarity Fund will also be used to support those struggling for trade union recognition and basic employment rights in the UK and throughout the world. The Global Solidarity Fund will support the work of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights.

This sort of operation has already been achieved in Australia – you can check out the Australian trading website here as an example – and representatives from the Australian Union Shopper have been invited to visit the UK to help get a British version. on the go.

The difficulty this initiative will now face in attracting the widespread support it will need is the aftermath of Falkirk and Grangemouth on the reputation of Trade Unions today.

Unite’s General Secretary. Len McCluskey, is a headline supporter and his photographer is blazoned on the page you sign to register your interest, which is here. HOs pub;ished quotation here includes the sentence: ‘Unite has been at the forefront of defending members in the workplace.’ – when the toxic reality now around Unite and around Len McCluskey himself is that:

  • Unite – and Len McCluskey – have ‘been at the forefront of defending’ the Union elite’s private interests in vote rigging in Falkirk – at the cost of immeasureable reputational damage to the union and to the Labour party;
  • Unite was ‘at the forefront of defending’ the interests of a single member common to Unite, to the Falkirk and Grangemouth refinery shenanigans, Stephen Deans, on whose behalf it threatened strike action against the entire Grangemouth plant.
  • Unite was ‘at the forefront’ of astonishing irresponsibility in all but bringing down the Grangenouth plant, the local economy of the area around Grangemouth – and the Scottish economy.

Floating Union Shop Cooperative just  now, on the back of Len McCluskey and Unite, is bound to alienate manhy who would otherwise support the enterprise.

The Labour movement needs to recognise that the unions , as most of them still are – have failed to move with the times and, worse, have consolidate a power base of their own which is brutishly totalitarian.

This undermines the fundamental good heart of a labour sensibility. the urge to protect the genuinely needy and vulnerable and the will to stand together to resist wrong. You cannot do wrong and retain any credibility in resisting wrong.

It would be a pity to see the proposed ethical ooperative trading scheme fall by nailing its colours to a union and to a union leader whose ethos has been shown not to be ethical.

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2 Responses to Solidarity shopping – a good idea with a damaging affiliation

  1. This is another one of those things where its a great idea in theory that just doesn’t work in reality – like communism.

    Buyers will be reluctant to leave the sites they already use. They are familiar, probably have clear returns policies, insurance against things going wrong and quite likely cheaper prices as these big companies can buy in bulk.

    Sellers can actually sell for free through Facebook and a whole range of website providers who provide you with the means to build your own website and will host it for you for free if you put a wee bit of their name in your web address.

    If either sellers or buyers wish to donate to the MANY charities asking for money just now, they can do so directly, choosing which one they want to support.

    Not meaning to detract those who would benefit through this scheme, but I personally feel there are a lot of other charities just now in dire need of money to carry on providing aid to those most in need – for example the organisations trying to help the people of the Philippines or those displaced from war-torn Syria.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  2. Seems like newsie is in favour of unions so long as they don’t do anything or try to influence anything. As soon as they try and actually defend their members they’re accused of totalitarianism – in a country with some of the most restrictive anti-union laws in the developed world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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